Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Mar 2011

Tiki Barber Plans to Return

Tiki Barber has apparently filed papers to come out of retirement, which just seems like a colossally ridiculous decision. In fact, allow me to colossally ridicule it right here. Barber is going to be 36 in a couple months. Nobody wants a 36-year-old running back who hasn't played in four years. The oldest halfbacks in the NFL last season were Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk at age 34. The former is going to retire and the latter might retire as well. Who on earth is Barber kidding?

By the way, top rushing seasons at age 36+ since 1978:

Marcus Allen: 830 yards, 1996
John Riggins: 677 yards, 1985
Marcus Allen: 505 yards, 1997
MacArthur Lane: 277 yards, 1978

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 08 Mar 2011

61 comments, Last at 18 Mar 2011, 12:50pm by William Lloyd Garrision III

Comments

1
by Mikey :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 3:40pm

He can probably get a job with former coach Jim Fassel.

2
by Alabama ManDance (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:05pm

I smell some sweet-ass reality show brewin'

36
by jds (not verified) :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 11:03am

Who is on Hard Knocks this year?

3
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:09pm

It does seem bonkers, but in fairness Marcus Allen was pretty effective at the same age, and not completely worthless a year later, so it's not entirely without precedent.

Still, the list of backs who have had 500+ yard seasons at age 36 or above consists of Allen and John Riggins.

The list of those with 100+ yards is:

Allen
Riggins
MacArthur Lane
John Henry Johnson
Lorenzo Neal
Ollie Matson

See here for a complete list of running back seasons after age 36.

7
by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:26pm

I sort of agree. Allen's family were genetic freaks, his brother also played forever. Barber's twin is still going at an athletic position. But how much are you going to pay him. I imagine he wants starting 250+ carry back kind of money. Yeah I might slip him the NFL minimum to come to camp, but I'm not paying the price of a starting back. Rickey Williams is probably going to have a hard time finding a roster spot next season, Tiki is probably going to have an even harder time. Really is the injury risk really worth the money difference Tiki would make in the league as oppose to reporting on the league? Just doesn't seem likely.

12
by Travis :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:55pm

Really is the injury risk really worth the money difference Tiki would make in the league as oppose to reporting on the league? Just doesn't seem likely.

Tiki was fired by NBC (along with his $300k-plus salary) for violating the morals clause of his contract. (And it wasn't like he had Charlie Sheen-like success before that - he had already been dropped from Football Night In America and exiled to the final hour of the Today show.) He was doing BBC commentary last year, and I doubt that paid much.

Tiki does have the 4th-most rushing yards of any age-29 player ever, most of any age-30, and 2nd-most of any age-31, plus he's managed to avoid contact for the last four years, so he might not be totally useless in 2011.

18
by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 6:57pm

If memory serves, he was technically under contract to the Today show up until being fired but hadn't actually appeared on air in months--they were literally paying him to stay home. Now, he has no income from his media career but must have hefty child support bills to go along with whatever he lost in the divorce. Throw in some probable losses from the recession, etc. and you're left with a guy who needs money to pay the bills.

20
by BigCheese :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 7:54pm

Well, apparently he's too broke to pay the divorce settlement:

I sincerely hope a classy guy such as he gets treated like he deserves: called into all 31 other NFL teams' offices, shown a rookie RB and told "we were going to go with you, but we found this newer model that we like better."

"He used to be an intern" addendum optional.

- Alvaro

42
by Theo :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 6:49pm

Bottom line:
do the work of a mother and you'll get paid like an athlete.

61
by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Fri, 03/18/2011 - 12:50pm

I am guessing, just guessing, that some of those comps might have used PED's to get back in the game. (But not Marcus Dupree. Never. Never).

4
by alsep73 :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:11pm

It's almost certainly silly. That said, he hasn't endured the pounding that your standard 36-year-old RB would have, given that he's been resting for 4 years. (He's been rusting, too, so YMMV.)

What kind of precedent is there for a comeback after this much time away? Particularly for someone who was playing at as high a level as Barber was at the time he initially retired?

9
by Independent George :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:34pm

I would sign him, just to improve my team's chances at winning a Super Bowl after he retires again while chirping at our young QB.

15
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 6:14pm

Ever, or just in the modern era?

24
by Thok :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 9:38pm

There was a QB that the Eagles signed last year who was out of the NFL for a similar length of time. He didn't turn out badly for them.

Granted that QB was younger when he left (and didn't leave by choice.)

31
by Shattenjager :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 12:38am

Tiki Barber played his last game January 7, 2007. That would be about 55 months between his last game and the first preseason game this year.

Michael Vick went from December 31, 2006 to mid-August of 2009. That's about 32 months.

I'm not sure those are really a "similar" length of time.

33
by Travis :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 9:41am

Bronco Nagurski retired after the 1937 season and came back for one final season in 1943 at age 35.

Also, not quite the same situation, but Roger Staubach didn't play football for 5 years (1964-68) after graduating from Navy due to service committments. Napoleon McCallum (1987-89) and Glenn Davis (1947-49) each missed 3.

40
by zlionsfan :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 6:47pm

Nagurski is probably a good match. I am assuming the Navy players stayed in better shape for their commitments than Barber did for his TV commitments.

48
by Jerry :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 11:10pm

Except that Bronko was returning to a league where many of the best players were away in the armed forces. Tiki's competition will be stiffer.

5
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:16pm

To what league? The UFL might take him, and they are even planning to play football next year.

6
by Marko :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:26pm

What a joke. I can't see anyone wanting him. Although it would be fun to see him on a team that plays the Giants this year.

Reporter to random veteran Giants defensive player: "What do you think about playing against Tiki Barber next week?"

Random veteran Giants defensive player: "CAN'T WAIT!"

8
by slipknottin :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:32pm

If he does un retire, he is under contract with the giants still.

Apparently not having any real media job and paying for a blonde bimbo girlfriend and pregnant (now ex) wife at the same time can be expensive.

What a fail of a person

13
by JasonK :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 6:06pm

Statement from official NYG twitter feed: "We wish Tiki nothing but the best and when able to make the transaction, we will release him from reserve/retired list."

(Note the discrepancy between this and the boilerplate "we investigate every option" that Jerry Reese has repeately given when asked whether the team will try to bring Plaxico back when he gets out of prison.)

10
by Theo :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:40pm

The redskins are always in for some over the hill halfbacks...
Can he do something? During the super bowl, he was a studio commentator and said he was far away from playing.
.
This is a marketing thing or a big joke.
He could play 3rd down back for the Bills or frighten Steelers linebackers by signing with the Browns or something.

26
by JoeD (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 10:56pm

The first thing I thought of was that the Redskins would sign him on.

11
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 4:47pm

Yep ... saw him commentating for the BBC during the Super Bowl ... he had a rather nice sweater ...

14
by big_jgke :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 6:13pm

Something something Al Davis joke...

16
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 6:31pm

Sounds like somebody is desperate to raise their image in the media so they can get a better broadcasting job.

17
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 6:54pm

Nope, totally serious. He's broke and needs the money.

32
by Lance :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 12:58am

This is what I thought. However, all afternoon on ESPN radio (via the internet), this was discussed and amazingly-- or not?-- no one speculated that this was a money issues. And while I hadn't read that HuffPo piece, I figured he was in financial trouble after the scandal broke re him running out on his pregnant wife for some 20-something intern. It seemed obvious that he was figuring on a quick ploy to get $800k+ a year to make ends meet (tough life!), and yet the ESPN talking heads were all clueless-- and wondering why a 36 year-old would want to play back-up RB and play on special teams!

It's pretty lame when the self-proclaimed "World Wide Leader" can't staff its radio broadcast with people who can put together pretty obvious pieces of a pretty easy puzzle on a day when the other major sports news was whether or not Miami Heat players cried after a regulars season loss.

19
by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 7:28pm

His broadcasting career is dead. He put a bullet in it when he got himself fired from NBC but it was on life support way before then. By the end they were literally paying him to stay home until his contract ran out. (His title was "contributor" to the Today show but he hadn't been on air in months.) But we'll always have his "count" Olympics gaffe to remember him by.

He wrecked his marriage, threw away his post-football career and is universally despised by Giants' fans so he can't even open a restaurant like every other former player does.

The only question now is whether his comeback will end with a fumble or him getting hurt. Perhaps he'll manage both on the same play.

22
by Jonathon (not verified) :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 8:49pm

I hope his agent made a mint because getting Tiki a broadcasting job like that had to be one of the great sales efforts of all time. People work their entire lives hoping to make it on the Today show and Tiki got to start out there based on nothing more than a big smile and the fact he'd played in New York. It wasn't even like he was their sports guy; they had him covering actual stories. But he was terrible. And he made the off-color joke at the Olympics. And he twisted arms to get his mistress an internship. Then he ditched his wife when she was basically in the delivery room. Way to throw it all away, loser.

50
by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 03/10/2011 - 6:42pm

I'm not condoning Tiki's behavior, and perhaps this is beyond the scope of this thread, but is anyone else troubled, or at least given pause, by the fact that someone can get fired for leaving his marriage? Granted, public image is perhaps a worthy consideration for the broadcasting industry, and perhaps his being let go had nothing to do with the "morals clause".

51
by dmb :: Thu, 03/10/2011 - 7:29pm

I don't really know anything about those events (or Barber's personal life in general), but my understanding is that his mistress was an NBC intern. My guess is that his termination had much more to do with having an undisclosed romantic relationship with an underling than it did to do with his marital status.

53
by tuluse :: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 12:38am

Most states in the US have at will employment. Your employer can fire you for any reason except a few discriminatory exceptions (race, religion, sex).

54
by Shattenjager :: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 11:24am

He had a contract.

(It's also actually all states that follow the at-will employment rule. Some have not even adopted an exception for discrimination.)

55
by tuluse :: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 4:00pm

Well I don't know what his contract looked like, but it obviously had a release clause which he negotiated. Hard to feel bad for him in any way.

57
by Shattenjager :: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 7:33pm

According to what reporting I've been able to find, his contract ended. He was not released from it.

I'm not saying you should feel sorry for him or disagreeing with your sentiment at all. It's just inaccurate to say that he was an at-will employee when he was a contract employee.

21
by JasonK :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 8:31pm

I saw ill omens for Tiki's broadcasting career early on. Week 1, 2007. Giants had the Sunday Night game-- it was Manning Bowl I v. Indy. Just before halftime, Brandon Jacobs limped off the field with some minor injury. During the halfime show, Tiki was making one of his first appearances in the (then ridiculously crowded) SNF studio, and somebody (probably Costas) asked Tiki about the Jacobs injury. I was ready to hear something reasonably insightful-- Derrick Ward was the Giants' #2 guy at the time, and Tiki had been a teammate of Ward's for a couple seasons. And Tiki says exactly what every other bobblehead would say in that situation: "And now they have to go with the untested Derrick Ward."

I'm not going to say that lead directly to being unworthy even to do puff pieces on county fairs for the 4th hour of the Today Show, but it wasn't exactly a positive sign.

On the other hand, he is still the best offensive player the Giants have had in my lifetime, and pretty close to the only reason the team was watchable from 2001-2005. I have no rancor towards the man, but neither do I have much sympathy for the situation that his decisions have put him in.

23
by Travis :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 9:33pm

Manning Bowl I was in 2006 - Tiki rushed for 110 yards in the game. I think you're thinking of the 2007 SNF opener at Dallas.

Fun January 2007 article on Tiki's broadcast aspirations here.

29
by JasonK :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 12:18am

Ah, you're right. It was the opener at Dallas. I was counting back 4 years from the Giants-Colts game this year, mistakenly counting the most recent season as 2011, not 2010. (A hazard of spending my workday dealing with the (U.S.) federal fiscal year, which has been in 2011 since October.)

25
by slipknottin :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 9:45pm

According to his trainer, Tiki has only been training for two weeks. Im really starting to think this is just a marketing thing.

27
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 11:00pm

Is poster drunk? Why woudl it be makryeing ploy? Who is Barber makreting to?

28
by slipknottin :: Tue, 03/08/2011 - 11:48pm

I feel like hes going to come out with a book or something about his experience. I dont know, it got him into a trending twitter topic, more talk about him than he has had in years.

I just find it pretty insane that after two weeks of working out he decided that hes ready for the NFL again.

41
by zlionsfan :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 6:48pm

Presumably to some idiot with a lot of money.

Fortunately for Barber, there are plenty of those in the NFL.

43
by Theo :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 6:55pm

a real life 'make it into the NFL again' reality show.
Come on, it's not that hard to figure out.

45
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 7:23pm

He'd make moroe money plaing and making a roster if fully focused on football. If wannt to mess around with TV show he going ot fail.
football= good
TV- bad

Hansnt Barber learne d this already?

30
by JasonK :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 12:25am

I'm thinking that it's simply a "really desperate for money" thing. After being canned from NBC, whatever employment he can find probably pays a good deal less than what his child support obligations alone eat up. The NFL veteran minimum (I think he has 10 credited seasons, so it would be the maximum veteran minimum of $860K) would be a substantial raise. He probably thinks that, if his brother can still do it, he can too.

34
by andrew :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 10:04am

John Riggins took a year off, didn't he. Granted in his prime...

Marcus Allen might as well have at the end of his Raiders years.

Would be an interesting article, DVOA pre and post comeback of various backs who have done that (for reasons other than injury).

35
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 10:43am

The problem with that is this is pretty unique situation; he's 36 and has been gone for four years. It's not like you're going to be able to run similarity scores for this. Or, really, for him, because I can't see anyone wanting to pay what would be a pretty high salary for a probably third-string RB at this poin.

38
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 1:34pm

I have no idea what shape he's in. He could be a #2 or situational back with the idea he plays more in the playoffs. I do agree with you. But it only takes one team (Mr Snyder on line 1) to think it's a good idea.

37
by andrew :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 12:03pm

Hey, if Tiki can come back after four years, maybe that means we have to fear Favre for another half decade?

39
by Shattenjager :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 5:27pm

You weren't already? I'm not going to feel free of him as long as he can still walk.

44
by Goodsmilewellspoken (not verified) :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 6:55pm

Sports reporters talk about athletes with bright futures in broadcasting the way unsuspecting neighbors describe the guy next door when the find out he's a serial killer. "He's so polite, well spoken, always smiling, and saying hello, never caused any trouble." Those aren't the qualities of a good broadcaster, they are the qualities of someone trying to market an image, an athlete, or serial killer trying to make themselves safe for endorsement. It's creepy, not praiseworthy, and often indicative of something to hide.

46
by batbatt :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 10:43pm

What I haven't seen anyone mention yet is he's returning to football because he likes to play the ga-...hahaha, sorry, I just couldn't complete that sentence...

60
by Bobman :: Mon, 03/14/2011 - 1:50pm

Yup, we're all cynics and he just wants to have fun out there. I suspect he and Brett Favre will start their own team or league, with the sideline staffed entirely by nubile interns. "Hey Brett, sling me the ball, man. Hurry, I think that blond's looking at me."

"That's not just some blond, baldy, that's may masseuse. Here, have some Wrangler jeans."

47
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 11:03pm

The more I think about it, the more I'm worried. Two words: replacement players. Tiki vs regular players is dumb. Tiki vs replacement players might actually make sense for a few games.

49
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 03/10/2011 - 12:41am

wil nto eb replacement players beucuase this willn be lockout not stirike.

52
by bill (not verified) :: Thu, 03/10/2011 - 7:50pm

Maybe we can get some replacement owners then, and have ourselves a ball game !

56
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 5:33pm

UFL

58
by Theo :: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 9:49pm

This UFL thing could become big. And with the cloning technology as it is today, maybe Johnny Phoenix can indeed have a long 300 million career.

59
by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Mon, 03/14/2011 - 12:42am

This is the real reason there's no new CBA. They're all waiting for Tiki to give up before they bring back the NFL. It might be easier just to add a "no Tiki" clause to the new CBA.

Meanwhile, Tiki's still crying because they're talking about giving Regis's old gig to Michael Strahan.

Is Tiki Barber like Brian Gumbel while Ronde Barber is like his way cooler brother Greg Gumbel? I dunno. But mocking Tiki Fumble-itis Barber sure is fun. Pile on everybody!