Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis. The first two are the one’s you’d want on your team, right? Take ‘em! Recent history says you don’t need a great running back to play on the NFL’s final Sunday.
The phrase that has become poison to fantasy football players: Running back by committee, has become a key to success in the NFL postseason. Perhaps not a key, but a demonstration that’s a team doesn’t need a workhorse stud back to win big.
Here are the Super Bowl teams (winners on left, losers on right) and their lead backs for the last 10 years:
Green Bay: James Starks Pittsburgh: Rashard Mendenhall*
New Orleans: Pierre Thomas Indianapolis: Joseph Addai
Pittsburgh: Willie Parker Arizona: Tim Hightower
New York: Brandon Jacobs New England: Laurence Maroney
Indianapolis: Joseph Addai Chicago: Thomas Jones*
Pittsburgh: Willie Parker* Seattle: Shaun Alexander*
New England: Corey Dillon* Philadelphia: Brian Westbrook
New England: Antoine Smith Carolina: Stephen Davis*
Tampa Bay: Michael Pittman Oakland: Charlie Garner
New England: Antoine Smith St. Louis: Marshall Faulk*
*- finished season with more than 1200 yards rushing. Just 7 of 20 did, but only two were on the winning team.
Only Corey Dillon and Shaun Alexander finished in the top 3 rushing that year. I would say only those two, plus Marshall Faulk could be considered elite running backs.
Ray Rice (#2) and Frank Gore (#6) would both be unique in the modern era of football, where passing and using multiple situational running backs has become the norm.
Most teams resemble the Giants with 2 backs, Bradshaw and Jacobs, and there are some even more extreme like New England that employs as many as 5-6 different runners per game. Investing a lot of money into that position instead of others appears to be ill-advised. Only Frank Gore is collecting a big pay check of the remaining backs.
So while Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, and Chris Johnson got huge paydays this offseason, and Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Arian Foster are all looking for that this offseason, keep in mind while they may deserve it, and may be the best at what they do, winning a Super Bowl doesn’t appear to require the services of a big-time tailback.