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Jim Brown, Bobby Boyd, and Retiring Early



Jim Brown is the standard bearer for athletes who retired too young, and for very good reason. Brown led the NFL in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, and total touchdowns in his final season in 1965, all while averaging 5.3 yards per run and 9.6 yards per reception. With D’Brickashaw Ferguson choosing to retire “early” yesterday, on the heels of Calvin Johnson doing the same thing, I decided to run a quick query on the players who were best in the final season of their career.

The table below shows all players who had at least 10 points of Approximate Value in the final season of their career (Megatron had 10 points of AV in 2015; Ferguson had 9) and whose last season came in 2014 or earlier.1  As it turns out, Brown ranks tied for first on this list, next to Colts defensive back Bobby Boyd.

Here’s how to read the table below. Boyd’s last season came in 1968 with Baltimore.  Playing left cornerback, he accumulated 21 points of AV that year at the age of 31. He received a number of awards that season: he was 1st-team All-Conference (that’s what the + sign means) according to the Sporting News, and a 1st-team All-Pro choice by the AP, Pro Football Writers, NY Daily News, Pro Football Weekly, and the UPI.

PlayerYearTmPosAVAgeAll-Pro Honors
Bobby Boyd1968BALLCB2131+SN-1; AP-1; FW-1; NY-1; PW-1; UP-1
Jim Brown1965CLEFB2129+SN-1; AP-1; NE-1; NY-1; UP-1
Ed Newman1984MIARG1933+PW-1; +UP-1; AP-1; PW-1
Tiki Barber2006NYGRB1831
Robert Smith2000MINRB1828+PW-1
Jamir Miller2001CLELLB1728+PW-1; AP-1; FW-1
Norm Van Brocklin1960PHIQB1734AP-1; NE-1; NY-1; SN-1; UP-1
Ken Riley1983CINRCB1636+PW-1; AP-1; PW-1; SN-1; +UP-2
Russ Washington1982SDGRT1636AP-2
Jerome Brown1991PHIRDT1526+PW-1; +UP-1; AP-1; FW-1; PW-1; SN-1
Earsell Mackbee1969MINLCB1528
Tarik Glenn2006INDLT1430
Korey Stringer2000MINRT1426
John Elway1998DENQB1438
Randy Gradishar1983DENLILB1431+UP-2; AP-2
Roger Staubach1979DALQB1437+PW-1; +SN-1; +UP-1
Don Meredith1968DALQB1430NE-2
Leon Searcy1999JAXRT1330AP-2
Barry Sanders1998DETRB1330AP-2
Gill Byrd1992SDGLCB1331+PW-1; +UP-1; AP-2
Yale Lary1964DETRS1334+SN-1
Al Wilson2006DENMLB1229AP-2
Will Shields2006KANRG1235AP-2
Sterling Sharpe1994GNBWR1229+UP-2
Brian Sipe1983CLEQB1234
Robert James1974BUFLCB1227+AP-1; +PW-1; +SN-1; +UP-1; AP-1; FW-1; NE-1
Bill Pellington1964BALMLB1237+SN-1; AP-2; NE-2
Jeff Saturday2012GNBC1137
Kurt Warner2009ARIQB1138
Derrick Brooks2008TAMRLB1135
Jimmy Smith2005JAXWR1136
Domanick Williams2005HOURB1125
David Dixon2004MINRG1135
Bruce Matthews2001TENC1140
Tony Jones2000DENLT1134
Travis Davis1999PITFS1126
Bart Oates1995SFOC1137+UP-2
Phil Simms1993NYGQB1138
Neil Lomax1988PHOQB1129
Dwight Stephenson1987MIAC1130+PW-1; +UP-1; AP-1; FW-1; PW-1
Gary Green1985RAMLCB1130+UP-2
Bill Thompson1981DENSS1135+UP-1
Fran Tarkenton1978MINQB1138
Darryl Stingley1977NWEWR1126
Warren Wells1970OAKWR1128+PW-1; +SN-1; +UP-1; NE-2
Herb Travenio1965SDGLLB1132
Jordan Gross2013CARLT1033
Todd McClure2012ATLC1035
Eric Parker2006SDGWR1027
Marco Rivera2006DALRG1034
Donnie Abraham2004NYJLCB1031
Derrick Thomas1999KANLLB1032
Sean Jones1996GNBRDE1034
Mike Johnson1995DETRLB1033
Andre Tippett1993NWELOLB1034
Mike Munchak1993HOULG1033+PW-1; +UP-1; AP-2
Howie Long1993RAILDE1033
Ed White1985SDGLG1038
John Hannah1985NWELG1034+UP-1; AP-1; FW-1; SN-1; NE-2
Ted Hendricks1983RAILOLB1036+UP-2
Jeris White1982WASLCB1030
Bill Bergey1980PHILILB1035+PW-1; +UP-2
Rolland Lawrence1980ATLLCB1029
John Rowser1976DENFS1032
Ross Brupbacher1976CHILLB1028
Don Perkins1968DALFB1030NE-2
Jerry Kramer1968GNBRG1032AP-2
Jim Ringo1967PHIC1036
Ray Wietecha1962NYGC1034AP-2; UP-2
Dave Webster1961DTXRS1024AL-1; AP-1
Dennit Morris1961HOUMLB1025

Note that this list includes a number of players who did not retire early, but sadly passed away or suffered career-ending injuries. This list simply includes all players (prior to 2015) with 10+ points of AV in their final season. It also excludes players who had 10 points of AV and then retired…. but then came back, ala Ricky Williams.

  1. Note that Patrick Willis had just 3 points of AV in his final year in the NFL. []
  • Ryan

    Ed Newman, a new standout player to me, what a great last season and early retirement.

    Article mentions he was out with a knee injury for the 1985 season, then decided to pursue a successful law career than take the Dolphins terms in 1986:

    Looks like his post playing career has went swimmingly:

    • Yeah, that’s pretty cool.

      I’m not quite sure how good Newman was; his career is certainly unique. His ’84 AV is obviously inflated by Miami’s insane offense that year, similar to Louis Vasquez in 2013 or Matt Light in 2007. Newman was a reserve early in his career, finally becoming a full-time starter at the age of 28 in ’79. By 1980, he had never had any notable distinctions, but then made the Pro Bowl in each of his next four years, and was an all-pro in ’84. He also was part of an insane middle of the line in 1983, playing next to Stephenson and Kuechenberg.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Another unheralded lineman ranked ninth on your list is Russ Washington. Washington made the successful conversion in the pros from the defensive line, and earned five pro bowls.

  • Mat

    Really cool idea, but just one thing:
    Jordan Gross, CAR, played LT, not RDE

    • Weird; fixed that, thanks.

  • As has happened occasionally in the past, you and I had the same idea: Best Final Year For NFL Players. I probably should have included Bobby Boyd.

  • kalinecountry

    Calvin Johnson?