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A quick data dump today. Since 1960, players who record 20+ carries in a game were on the winning side of things 72.7% of the time. Steven Jackson, however, is just 30-31-1 in his 62 games where he has had at least 20 carries. Given that we would “expect” a player to win 45.1 games given 62 games with 20 carries, Jackson’s 30.5 wins falls 14.6 wins shy of expectation. That, perhaps not surprisingly to regular readers, is the worst record relative to expectation among all running backs since 1960.

The table below shows all running backs who had at least 20 games with 20+ carries over the last 55 years, including the postseason. Thurman Thomas is on top of the table because he had 71 games with 20+ carries, and his teams went 63-8 in those games for an incredible 0.887 winning percentage. That gave Thomas 11.4 wins over expectation, the most ever. If you want to sort by a different category (say, win%), you can: the table is fully sortable and searchable.

RkRunning BackGWLTWin %Win Ov Exp
1Thurman Thomas7163800.88711.4
2Franco Harris77661010.86410.5
3Terrell Davis5649700.8758.3
4Emmitt Smith1311032800.7867.7
5Tony Dorsett63531000.8417.2
6Edgerrin James97772000.7946.4
7Michael Turner3229300.9065.7
8Jim Taylor3128300.9035.5
9Frank Gore5142810.8335.4
10Chuck Foreman3631410.8755.3
11Ottis Anderson62501200.8064.9
12Jim Brown4737640.834.8
13Jamal Lewis69551400.7974.8
14Sammy Winder2925310.8794.4
15Garrison Hearst3429500.8534.3
16Lawrence McCutcheon3529510.8434
17Wilbert Montgomery3328500.8484
18Rob Carpenter2018110.9254
19Eddie George84651900.7743.9
20DeMarco Murray2522300.883.8
21Calvin Hill2522300.883.8
22Antowain Smith3227500.8443.7
23Earnest Byner2824400.8573.6
24Mark van Eeghen2824400.8573.6
25Leroy Kelly2824400.8573.6
26Ahman Green50401000.83.6
27Jamal Anderson3126500.8393.5
28Curt Warner4234800.813.5
29Warrick Dunn4032710.8133.4
30Ray Rice3428600.8243.3
31Natrone Means3730700.8113.1
32Joe Cribbs2219300.8643
33Marcus Allen51401100.7842.9
34Larry Brown3830710.8032.9
35Pete Johnson2521400.842.8
36Ricky Watters61471400.772.6
37Terry Allen48371010.7812.6
38Larry Csonka2420400.8332.5
39Roger Craig2017300.852.5
40Deuce McAllister3729800.7842.1
41LeSean McCoy2923600.7931.9
42Marshall Faulk58441400.7591.8
43Lydell Mitchell3930900.7691.6
44Jim Nance2418420.7921.5
45Willie Parker3527800.7711.5
46Neal Anderson2318500.7831.3
47Joe Morris3426800.7651.3
48Barry Foster3023700.7671.2
49Rudi Johnson3728900.7571.1
50Ken Willard2015410.7751
51Duce Staley2418600.750.5
52Dorsey Levens2418600.750.5
53Cedric Benson3324810.7420.5
54Brian Westbrook2015500.750.5
55Jerome Bettis89652400.730.3
56Marshawn Lynch52381400.7310.2
57Gary Brown2216600.7270
58Lamar Smith2921800.724-0.1
59Chris Johnson36261000.722-0.2
60Larry Johnson36261000.722-0.2
61Christian Okoye2316610.717-0.2
62Delvin Williams2115600.714-0.3
63John Brockington2618710.712-0.4
64Shaun Alexander68491900.721-0.5
65Ron Johnson2517710.7-0.7
66Stephen Davis48341400.708-0.9
67John Riggins70502000.714-0.9
68Adrian Murrell2215700.682-1
69Mike Rozier2215700.682-1
70James Stewart2920900.69-1.1
71Freeman McNeil38261110.697-1.1
72Priest Holmes43301300.698-1.3
73Jamaal Charles2013700.65-1.5
74Rodney Hampton42291300.69-1.5
75Anthony Thomas2718900.667-1.6
76Floyd Little2717820.667-1.6
77Tiki Barber49341500.694-1.6
78Robert Smith34231100.676-1.7
79Errict Rhett30201000.667-1.8
80Ricky Williams52361600.692-1.8
81Thomas Jones62431900.694-2.1
82LaDainian Tomlinson80562400.7-2.2
83Greg Bell2415900.625-2.5
84William Andrews27171000.63-2.6
85Walter Payton106743200.698-3.1
86Mike Pruitt25151000.6-3.2
87Maurice Jones-Drew36231300.639-3.2
88Chris Warren28171100.607-3.4
89Matt Forte42271500.643-3.5
90Arian Foster41261500.634-3.8
91Willis McGahee47301700.638-4.2
92Herschel Walker31181300.581-4.5
93Julius Jones26141200.538-4.9
94George Rogers43261700.605-5.3
95Earl Campbell54342000.63-5.3
96Fred Taylor68442400.647-5.5
97Adrian Peterson58362110.629-5.7
98Corey Dillon59372200.627-5.9
99Billy Sims32171500.531-6.3
100Travis Henry35191600.543-6.5
101Curtis Martin103683500.66-6.9
102Eric Dickerson87563100.644-7.3
103Clinton Portis63382500.603-7.8
104O.J. Simpson55302410.555-9.5
105Barry Sanders82503200.61-9.6
106James Wilder34112300.324-13.7
107Gerald Riggs43172510.407-13.8
108Steven Jackson62303110.492-14.6
  • Here’s a tough trivia question: who has the most games with 20+ carries in losses? As it turns out, the answer is Curtis Martin.
  • James Wilder somehow won less than one-third of his games when he had 20+ carries. That’s almost hard to fathom. In 1985 and 1986, Tampa Bay went 3-13 in games where Wilder had 20+ carries. Of course, Leeman Bennett’s Bucs went 4-28 over that period.
  • In 1984 and 1985, there was a stretch where the Atlanta Falcons somehow went 3-17 over 20 consecutive games when Gerald Riggs recorded 20+ carries.
  • Among players with 50+ games with 20+ carries, Jackson is, of course, the only player to win fewer than half of his games. Only other other player — O.J. Simpson — won fewer than 60% of his games.
  • Rob Carpenter never lost a game when he had more than 20 carries, going an incredible 17-0-1 with the Giants and Oilers. That covered a span of 8 years beginning in ’77, althouhg most of those games came with the Giants in ’81, ’83, ‘or ’84. From ’81 to ’84, Carptender averaged just 3.5 YPC, but was a key cog of the New York offense.

What stands out to you?

  • sacramento gold miners

    James Wilder is the best RB the Bucs ever had, but had the misfortune to play on horrible teams, and was overworked. His career was shortened, and some Tampa Bay fans don’t remember #32. Wilder could run with power like Mike Alstott, but had speed and elusiveness like Warrick Dunn, and was a good receiver. If there was a game which summed up his career, it was at Pittsburgh in 1983. Wilder rushed 42-126, also catching six passes, but the puchless Buc offense managed only four field goals in a loss.

  • Kibbles

    I always underestimate just how much Curtis Martin’s Jets sucked.

  • Ryan

    It seems like most teams run the ball a lot when they have the lead. I wonder if most players ran 20+ times partly because they had the lead. That would make a back like Jackson look bad because he has played on pretty bad teams. It seemed like he would get 20+ touches regardless of he was going to win or not. You would be comparing his bad team to an expectation based on teams who are likely to win. Really you would want to ask, “Given the context of the game is Jackson improving the team’s chance of winning above what would be expected?

    • Richie

      Yeah, this is the basis of what Football Outsiders was founded on. “You run when you win, not win when you run.”

      Now, when a guy like Steven Jackson seems to be such an outlier, it makes me wonder if maybe part of the reason the Rams were so bad was because they were having him run the ball too much.

      It seems like the list above is basically a list of which players were on good teams.

  • John

    We have seen countless games where the passing offense of a team overwhelms the other squad in the first half. Then in the second half with a huge lead the team ends up just running out the clock.

  • Clint

    Out of over 100 backs, it’s amazing that only 3 of them have losing records when getting 20+ carries.

    It reminded me of the 2013 Browns. When Willis McGahee had 15 carries or more, we won. He did it 3 times, and we had 4 wins total.

    His lines:

    15 car 46 yards

    26 car 72 yds 1 td

    21 car 31 yds

    Rough, but the coaches talked about how helpful it was just to be able to run, even if the yardage wasn’t there.


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