If you took out a 30-year loan to buy a home the year Emmitt Smith entered the National Football League, then let me be the first to say congratulations on finally paying it off! That’s a big accomplishment. Home ownership is a big financial investment and it....
Sorry, I got off track for a second.
Any-who, the point is, it’s been three decades since the Dallas Cowboys were so fortunate to land Smith in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft. And it just so happens that Friday marked the 10th anniversary of Smith’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What Smith did on the field was incredible. To some, Smith’s accolades have planted him as the very best player in the game at his position. However, many don’t see it that way. It’s funny, when someone asks who is the greatest wide receiver of all-time, without thinking, the answer is Jerry Rice. There is an overwhelming consensus that the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns is hands-down the best ever to play his position.
But the same love is not granted to the league’s all-time rusher leader. No player in the NFL has more career yards or rushing touchdowns that Emmitt Smith. Both Rice and Smith were scoring machines as they are the only two non-kickers in the NFL to score 1,000 points in their career.
When it comes to Jerry Rice, he wasn’t an athletic specimen by any means. You won’t find a highlight reel of phenomenal “how did he come up with it” catches. Nor will you find him in the conversation as one of the fastest receivers in the game. But what you will find is such a remarkable fundamentally-sound player whose work ethic and resiliency is unmatched by any other. In a position where separation was key, no one could distance themselves like Rice. And his love for the game was unrelenting as he played 21 seasons in the league. Even when his time was up in San Francisco, he still hung around the west coast and played four more seasons with Oakland and then one with Seattle.
What’s funny is some of these same qualities of Rice are also true with Smith. There is nothing flashy about Smith as a runner, but he is arguably the most complete running back the game has ever seen. He can run with power, shiftiness, pass protect, scurry off in the open field, catch passes, and his vision has allowed him to maneuver through the creases of his blockers. He has the same level of resiliency and he’ll play with only one shoulder if the division is on the line and you need him for five quarters. His passion for the game even saw him spend his final years in Arizona after his time in Dallas ended.
It’s been argued that Smith is just the benefactor of an amazing offensive line in Dallas and that if blah blah was running behind that line, then blah blah would be the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Okay, well that’s a hypothetical we’ll never know the true answer to, but let’s not pretend that Jerry Rice’s career didn’t span from one Hall of Fame quarterback in Joe Montana to another in Steve Young. That’s a pretty good environment for Mr. Rice.
It just seems a little artificial to discount Smith’s GOATness for reasons that also apply to Rice. And I didn’t really want to be the one who brought this up, but Rice finished second the year he was on Dancing with the Stars, whereas Smith took down the trophy his season.
Who is the greatest running back of all-time?
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