Running backs are the backbone of the offense in football. If it wasn’t for these guys, who else would have taken the ball down the field and run for their lives? The NFL has seen so many tremendous running backs over the past couple of decades that I had to make a list of the best backs in history.
These running backs made the list based on the following: rushing yards, career seasons, all-purpose records, and the timeless effort they put into being some of the best at their position.
The Bus Is Coming
As a rookie with the Rams, Jerome Bettis excelled under head coach Chuck Knox’s ground-oriented offense. His 13,662 rushing yards is sixth all-time amongst running backs, and spent several seasons as a short-yardage role player and goal-line hero — the exact role he had with the Steelers en route to the Super Bowl. He was almost impossible to leave off this list.
The King Of New York
No running back had a remarkable career quite like Curtis Martin. He only missed eight games out of the 168 he started in, and when he retired, he was the fourth leading rusher in NFL history. Martin is one of three guys on this list who ran for 1,000 yards or more in 10 consecutive seasons, but in his final season, Martin couldn’t make it over the hump for the first time.
Chargers Struck Gold
Using a mix of vision, quickness, and power, LaDainian Tomlinson was one of the most durable running backs of his time. Chargers fans will never forget 2006, the season where he carried the ball into the red zone 73 times, then scoring 24 of his 28 from inside 20 yards. He was named to the NFL’s 2000 All-Decade team as one of the best running backs to kick off a new millennium.
Manning’s Partner In Crime
After the Colts drafted Peyton Manning in 1998, they needed an all-purpose rusher and receiver — cue Edgerrin James. He led the league in rushing yards in his first two seasons, rushing for over 1,500 yards four times. It’s unfortunate he didn’t stay with in Indianapolis when the Colts reached the Super Bowl in 2006. To their credit, the Colts selected James over Ricky Williams, which proved to be a wise investment.