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Top Running Backs Rarely Play For Just One Team

With the Vikings and Chiefs moving on from Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, respectively, it’s a reminder that even the best running backs rarely finish their careers with one team.

Currently, there are 31 running backs in NFL history who have at least 7,000 rushing yards and have rushed for at least 70 yards per game.  Among that group, Peterson and Charles are two of just six players to spend their entire careers with one team — and that is likely going to change.  Can you guess the first 4?  Take a second.

Those thresholds aren’t insanely high.  To put some scope on those thresholds, drop them to 6500/65 and you bring in Robert Smith of the Vikings, and a pair of Giants in Tiki Barber and Rodney Hampton.

Who are those four?  They are all Hall of Famers: Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, and… Terrell Davis.

For comparison’s sake, there are 30 wide receivers who have at least 6,000 receiving yards and a career average of at least 60 receiving yards per game. Even excluding the six receivers who are still active, Don Hutson, Charley Hennigan, Steve Largent, Sterling Sharpe, Michael Irvin, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, and Calvin Johnson all retired and played for just one team; they represent nearly half — 9 of 19 — of the retired players in the 6000/60 club.

I don’t have much to add to that, other than I find it kind of interesting.

  • It’s interesting to see how many people fit this description if we eliminate their final season — Tony Dorsett, Franco Harris, Eddie George, Shaun Alexander, Earl Campbell. It seems it’s more common for good running backs to play all but one year with a team than it is to play their entire career with a team.

    It must be hard to let go — until you absolutely have to.

    • Makes Emmitt’s time in the desert look good!

    • macatawami

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Peterson and Charles fall into that category a year from now.

  • Richie

    I was surprised Tiki is under 7,000 yards. I thought he was one of the answers. I thought about Davis, but didn’t think he had 7,000.

    I already considered William Andrews and Ray Rice, but they’re only around 6,000.

    • Tiki is well over 7,000 yards, but he doesn’t meet the 70 Y/G threshold (67.9). Early in his career he was only the “receiving back” while guys like Gary Brown and Ron Dayne got the bulk of the carries. So it’s a bit of a misleading stat, as once his role changed he was averaging much more than 70 Y/G.

      • Richie

        ahhh….that makes sense. I see now that Barber had 10,449 rushing yards.

        • sacramento gold miners

          After retiring from the Giants, Barber tried a comeback with your Dolphins. But he lost the momentum and talent from his Giants days, and that was it. I do remember talk about Barry Sanders possibly coming out of retirement to play for Miami, but nothing came of it. .

          • Richie

            I don’t think Barber was ever signed by the Dolphins. Just a try out.

      • LightsOut85

        Y/G is definitely a tricky threshold for RBs. In this first 3 years Tiki averaged only 5.7 carries a game (& a 25% starting-rate), but after that he averaged 17.9 carries per game (& 89% starting rate), where he had 86.5 Y/G. 11% of his career carries came in 28.5% of his career games (in those first 3 years).