Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Running Backs Get No Respect

Back in the day a featured running back was a commodity. Most teams coveted a back that was durable, physical, and capable of being the focal point of an offense. Today's NFL is different. In a pass happy league a dominant running back is a nice bonus, but not a necessity. As the emphasis on the running game has changed there have been several casualties.

1,000 yard rusher Cedric Benson is getting little interest. Maurice Jones-Drew was responsible for 40% of Jacksonville's offense last season, yet the Jaguars refuse to reward him with long term security. Matt Forte is one of the league's most versatile players, but Chicago signed Michael Bush in the off season as an insurance policy. Why is this trend so prevalent?

There is a fear that running backs will break down. NFL teams would prefer to replenish the position with young talent rather than take the chance on an aging veteran. After 5 years in the league running backs are considered over the hill. There is no loyalty and past success means absolutely nothing. Running backs can be replaced on a whim because most organizations don't want to take the risk on an asset they assume will have diminishing returns in the future.

The dominant running back is a dying breed because the game has become so physical. The players are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before and running backs simply can't endure the weekly pounding for very long. It is the nature of the sport and not the players themselves that warrant the change in philosophy. There will still be great running backs, but their window of greatness will only be open for a short period of time. Don't get too attached to these guys, especially if the NFL expands to an 18 game season. The moment you bring them into your hearts they'll be gone like the wind. Rest easy Emmitt Smith. Your record will never be broken.

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