Unbreakable

More

Calvin Watkins on the barriers arrayed against breaking Emmitt Smith's record:


The current specialization of the NFL -- where teams now use two and three running backs and pass more often -- will likely add longevity to Smith's possession of the record. Even Smith's former team, the Cowboys, primarily use two running backs in Marion Barber and Felix Jones. 

 In today's NFL there are just a few teams using one main running back: St. Louis (Stephen Jackson), Minnesota (Adrian Peterson), Baltimore (Ray Rice), Jacksonville (Maurice Jones-Drew) and Tennessee (Chris Johnson). The use of more backs provides fewer opportunities for players to get more yards. 

Last season, eight different running backs had games with at least 30 carries. In the 2002 season, when Smith broke Payton's record, 21 players had games with 30 or more carries. "The trend now is you get more and more guys splitting time with other people. Sometimes that will help extend their career," said Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete. "That's a lot of yards [Smith] got. Who knows?

I really thought LT would do it. It really seems like backs who do carry the load are getting worn down much faster. I'm thinking of Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes. It's such a physically demanding position. 

One reason why Payton is my number one all-time (or maybe tied with Jim Brown, I don't know) is because he set that record while carrying an offense for years. Emmitt was the indispensable piece of the Cowboys. But I can barely remember the Payton's offensive team-mates. Matt Suey? Willie Gault?
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In