Jim Brown Dead at 87

Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown
Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - Jim Brown, considered one of the greatest players in NFL history, passed away today at the age of 87. They say that Brown may be the only man who was the greatest ever at two different sports. He was a legendary lacrosse player at Syracuse. In the modern world, I don't think any of us would choose a running back as the greatest player in NFL history but the position was more important in Brown's time and he definitely may have been the greatest. Brown is the only player to average over five yards per carry with a minimum of 1,500 attempts (5.22, to be exact).

No review of Brown's life would be complete without a discussion of his social activism as a prominent civil rights advocate after his early retirement from the NFL. He was also an actor in more than 30 films including "The Dirty Dozen" and "Any Given Sunday."

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83 comments, Last at 30 May 2023, 3:31pm

#1 by theslothook // May 19, 2023 - 3:37pm

When you first start to follow the game, certain names ring out over and over. It could be argued he had the highest esteem and reputation than any single player in NFL history. 

Points: 2

#3 by guest from Europe // May 19, 2023 - 4:26pm

I would say Jerry Rice. He is way ahead of his peers and modern competition.

Points: 1

#4 by theslothook // May 19, 2023 - 4:48pm

I personally think Jerry Rice is the greatest football player of all time for the reason you listed out.

But the reason I think Jim Brown in particular holds this kind of reverence in a way. Jerry Rice does not comes down to the position he plays.

Football Is marketed as the ultimate tough guy sport. And running backs have that unique position of receiving punishment and doling out punishment.


Add to the fact that wide receivers are compliments to the quarterback at least in terms of narrative. So Jerry Rice's production is always tied to Hall of Fame quarterbacks whereas at least in that era, Jim Brown's production was perceived to be of his own making. 

Points: 4

#9 by guest from Europe // May 20, 2023 - 3:26am

Jjim Brown was the best player of his era, where he was "the ultimate tough guy".

Rice was the best of his era.

Add to the fact that wide receivers are compliments to the quarterback at least in terms of narrative. So Jerry Rice's production is always tied to Hall of Fame quarterbacks 

I don't agree with this narrative. Some examples of great pass catchers without HOF QBs: L. Fitzgerald and T. Gonzalez. 

On a general level, QBs can't do great without good pass catchers. It's not a sport of QBs and ball boys. The main reason why i started writing these comments is because i got tired of reading that QBs are everything, which devolved into memes such as Cousins LOL and Brady GOAT.

Jim Brown in his era compared to his peers was probably better than any QB in this era. It was another era with other rules and other style of play.

Points: 1

#21 by theslothook // May 21, 2023 - 8:47pm

So just to be clear, I'm basing my comments not on my personal opinion, but my reading of conventional wisdom and perception by the common fan and standard media talking head. Jim Brown is perceived as a more physical player and more in control of his production than a wide receiver. You don't have to cite counter examples because this isn't how I view things.

Answer the topic of quarterbacks. I simultaneously think they're overrated and underrated at the same time. I think they're overrated in the sense that people have a very skewed view of how much any one game is determined by the quarterback. That player needs a supporting cast and good coaching to get anywhere meaningful.

Where QBs are underrated ties into their longevity and their consistency. Quarterbacks are able to maintain their primes longer than just about any position other than kicker or punter maybe and they are more consistent, weak to weaken game to game than any position, including punter and kicker. If you have ever had a chance to look at charting stats for cornerbacks receivers and other positions, you'll see how much variability there is week to week and year to year. Quarterbacks have variability as well, but it's far less than other positions. 

Pat and I agree on a lot of things and disagree on a few things quite loudly, but even he agrees with me that the only pattern for sustained winning unless your team name is the Ravens is to have a quarterback. 

Points: 1

#25 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 3:21am

I agree about variability of positional play, QBs being more consistent, the most important player and also overrated on winning a particular game.


only pattern for sustained winning 

Here you are looking at decade+ probably. Over that time span only the QB and kicker are on that same team. Others retire, age, have shorter peaks. So it's not a team of players, it's a team in name only. Everything rotates, QB and kicker stay. And only very good QBs that aren't injured are in this sample.

If QBs are the pattern for sustained winning, they should be a pattern for sustained losing, as well. If you look like that, than the reason for Lions losing more than winning was Stafford and the reason for Giants being .500 was E. Manning. Both were very good QBs, had a long career and there wasn't much sustained winning over decade+. In my opinion if they were on a better team, there would be sustained winning. These are examples from the top of my head. Somebody can look at A. Smith's career without seeing him play and claim he was developing slowly when he was young and later became the reason why 49ers and Chiefs were winning 2011-2017. 

I think a team should be looked at 4-5 years windows. That's the career top levels of most players assembled in a good team. So Shanahan's 49ers or McVay's Rams or Harbaugh's 49ers, even 2017-2022 Eagles, Fisher's Titans. Not only Ravens. Cowher's Steelers didn't have great QBs, but had sustained winning. I don't think Aikman was the reason for 90's Cowboys success. If you look at decade+ all teams decay and just a few outliers remain. Outliers are no pattern.

I guess you don't want Shula's Dolphins or 1970's Rams or Brown's Browns because that was a different era.

To exaggerate: teams could be looked throughout NFL history and they are all around 0.5 win-loss ratio and it's just noise without a pattern.


Points: 0

#35 by theslothook // May 22, 2023 - 10:50am

Both were very good QBs

This is why I prefer tiers because very good is too course a statement. Tier 3 QBs tend to need proper roster construction for them to sustain winning. Note I use the word sustain winning to distinguish between winning a super Bowl as that's much more a function of luck than we care to admit.

In that context, most QBs only afford a team 4 years if they are fortunate. Better QBs in the tier 2 range offer a longer window of time, like Roethlisberger or Rivers or Allen at the moment. 

And tier 1 QBs almost always are threatening to at least make the playoffs even with heavily flawed rosters.

In a way, that's kind of why a highly drafted quarterback ending up just a tier three player is perceived as a disappointment unless they win a super Bowl. Kirk Cousins gets absolutely no respect around here for that reason.


Points: 0

#51 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 5:51pm

Here is a career DYAR list of QBs:


You can see how high Stafford is. Now, a year and a half later he is around Palmer, Romo. When he ends his career, he may be close to Ryan, Roethlisberger. And you say he is clearly below those players. I disagree and DYAR disagrees. They were better than Stafford. Maybe Stafford, Palmer and R. Wilson were in a Tier 2B (you need something like that). DYAR doesn't know he is only one on this list to be on losing teams with a high degree of difficulty of game-situation to perform well.

Similarly, Brees. He should be in your Tier 1  (at least DVOA, DYAR says so). But Saints had a lot of 0.500 -type of seasons. I see small difference between Brees and Brady. Brady was slightly better, Brees was mostly indoors.

Also, what is the explanation for pattern of sustained losing? There are such teams. If a QB causes sustained winning, why not sustained losing? 

Points: 0

#52 by theslothook // May 22, 2023 - 6:36pm

Big Ben has nearly double the amount of DYAR that Stafford has. Philip Rivers even more so. 

The only reason he is around the same areas as Romo is because Romo kept getting hurt and didn't throw as much. A look over the DVOA of both players paints a pretty clear picture that Romo at least by the numbers is better. 

As for Brees, it took an epically awful set of defenses every year to push the Saints down to 500. Otherwise, the Saints were almost always threatening on offense. It sticks out like a sore thumb precisely because Brees got so little help from the other side of the ball. Given just a run of below average defenses and the saints are likely in the playoffs every year. 

Sustained losing is easier to understand if a team keeps whiffing at QB. 

Points: 0

#53 by guest from Europe // May 23, 2023 - 5:00am

As for Brees, it took an epically awful set of defenses every year to push the Saints down to 500. Otherwise, the Saints were almost always threatening on offense. It sticks out like a sore thumb precisely because Brees got so little help from the other side of the ball. Given just a run of below average defenses and the saints are likely in the playoffs every year. 

Yes. In another words,  total team, including defense is more important than MVP-level QB. Brees was at that level for many years but the Saints didn't win as much as they should. Similar with Rodgers and Packers. I am not claiming that the QB position isn't most important, most valuable to team success. If a team doesn't have a brees, than a flacco or a stafford or a palmer or e. manning or a cousins is good enough. If you say a pattern for winning is to draft a brees or a brady, to me that's no pattern, just a few outliers. Most teams draft e.manning and have to find a way to win with that.



Big Ben has nearly double the amount of DYAR that Stafford has. Philip Rivers even more so.

Stafford and Wilson are still playing and can accumulate this counting stat number. Rivers had 62.7 DYAR/game. Roethlisberger 60.7 Palmer 49.2 Stafford around 47, R. Wilson around 49, Romo 56.7 

I think Stafford and Palmer are close to Roethlisberger, closer than Roethlisberger to Brady. If Brady and others is your Tier 1, Rivers, Romo and others Tier 2, than Stafford deserves at least Tier 2B label, not Tier 3 with Bridgewater and Tannehill and tens of other players. Just that. 

Hypotheticals about what happens if Roethlisberger switched teams with Stafford (or E. Manning or Palmer) i won't write.


Points: 0

#29 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 22, 2023 - 9:07am

You really need to era-adjust for a guy who entered the league in 1957 and whose longevity was a personal choice due to a contract dispute -- he won MVP in his final season and led the league in rushing in all but one season.

\he also had a bunch of receiving value

Points: 2

#45 by serutan // May 22, 2023 - 1:52pm


You really need to era-adjust


   Which is why I think the concept of a GOAT in any sport is ridiculous.   'All Time Great' is a reasonable designation.  I'm more iffy on 'Greatest of their time' but I can at least see it since you're comparing like to like.

Points: 0

#47 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 3:12pm

i agree and am happy that somebody besides me wrote this. This is a team sport. No individual stats can be totally disentangled from team: RB from o-line, QB from WRs and o-line etc... it should be talked about on a team basis. Different positions can't be compared and than to compare all of that over eras, it's impossible.

Why people are so obsessed with individual players and rarely write about teams, i really don't understand.

Soon, somebody will write about Mahomes in these GOAT arguments. 


Points: 0

#49 by theslothook // May 22, 2023 - 3:52pm

Why people are so obsessed with individual players and rarely write about teams, i really don't understand.

Because humans are curious about distilling things down to their atomic and subatomic levels. There is deeper meaning that you get when you try to parse down things to their individual level. Fundamentally, a GM has to decide how much credit or blame a player deserves when it comes to decisions about free agency and extensions. Also we have individual awards that require further endeavors into parsing out credit from supporting casts.

That said, I have had to be content with the idea that at some level this is completely unknowable. We really don't know how much Patrick Mahomes is benefiting from Andy Reid until Andy Reid is gone and that may never happen. We won't what would happen if Brady swapped places with Manning. It's still fun to try and reason it through.

Points: 1

#50 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 4:21pm

There are so many individual sports. Tennis is a beautiful sport.

This one is a very complex team sport: 22 starters+backups. So, the only stats that i completely accept are team ones. All the individual  stuff is just too imprecise.

I think it's because fans want to identify themselves with individual players. Then individual player awards happen + all this hype industry.


Points: 0

#54 by barf // May 23, 2023 - 11:16am

"Soon, somebody will write about Mahomes in these GOAT arguments."

They should be.

5 straight AFCCG at home, 2 time NFL MVP, 2 time SB MVP, absurd TD/INT ratio and pretty much dominating the AFC when it is the strongest conference by far. Do I need to go on? 

Points: 0

#55 by guest from Europe // May 23, 2023 - 1:39pm

At the moment Mahomes is among QBs what T. Davis is among RBs. The highest stats (traditional or DYAR) per game, but a short career.

Usually people prefer long careers. If you care only about 4-5 year peak, than it's between Mahomes, early 00's Manning and 2007-2012 Brady. Mahomes with more team success. Peaks were

Mahomes 2018-2022 had 8191 passing DYAR and 330 run DYAR.

Brady 2007-2012 (in 2008 injured) had 10633 pass DYAR and 128 run DYAR (sneaks).

Manning 2003-2007 had 9999 pass DYAR and -39 run DYAR.

Brees 2009-2013 had 8154 pass DYAR and 109 run DYAR or 2008-2012 pass 8147 DYAR.

Marino 1984-1988 (4 games less in 1987) had 8360 passing DYAR.

How much each one was influenced by teammates, pass catchers, coaching, scheme, playcalls nobody can tell.

Points: 1

#76 by RickD // May 30, 2023 - 10:17am

You would need to go on if you thought that was enough for GOAT.  

Right now Mahomes is the GORN.  Greatest of Right Now. 

Points: 1

#82 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 30, 2023 - 3:25pm

So long as no one constructs a bamboo cannon, he should be in good shape.

Points: 0

#66 by SandyRiver // May 25, 2023 - 11:18am

IMO, Jim Brown stands farther beyond his positional peers, at least as a rusher, than any other player, at any position.  His rushing YPG of 104.3 is just 4.5 above that of 2nd-place Barry Sanders, but compared to his contemporaries in his rush-heavy era, there's no real comparison.  Gale Sayers' average YPG was 72.9 but only 1965 saw both players in the NFL.  Steve Van Buren averaged 70.6 a decade-plus prior to Brown's career.  Top contemporaries are Cookie Gilchrist at 66.0 for only 6 years (62-67), all AFL/AFC, and Jim Taylor (58-67, probably closest contemporary) had 64.6 YPG.  No other contemporary rusher topped 60.

As a (then) NYG fan, I feared Brown far more than any other opposing player.  Therefore, I treasure the 2 games against Cleveland that brought the Giants to the championship game with Baltimore.  The first game was the season finale, with the Giants needing a win to force a playoff.  First play from scrimmage, Brown broke through the middle and outran everyone for a 65-yard TD.  The Browns could only score 3 more points that day, with Pat Summerall's 49-yard FG in the snowy dusk giving NY the 13-10 win.  A week later, Sam Huff and company held Brown to almost nothing (10 carries, 12 yards, IIRC) in the 10-0 win.  (Other than those two, Brown/Cleveland ate the Giants' lunch game by game.)

Points: 1

#69 by guest from Europe // May 25, 2023 - 5:00pm

This is a compelling argument. I checked Sayers and Taylor biographies and they had good yards per attempt, Taylor 4.8-5.4 in years 1960-1964, but less rushes per season and per game. Brown 280-300 per season (20-21/game) and Taylor 230-250 attempts (17-19/game). Sayers topped 200 rushes only twice. He was 15-16 attempts/game. Was Brown much bigger than everyone else in those years? His weight is larger than those other RBs.

Was Jim Brown's style similar to D. Henry nowadays?

A week later, Sam Huff and company held Brown to almost nothing (10 carries, 12 yards, IIRC) in the 10-0 win.

8 yards on 7 carries i found in some article. Why only 7 carries? What happened?

Points: 1

#70 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 26, 2023 - 9:05am

They only ran 40 plays. Everyone on the Browns played like crap that game.



Points: 1

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 19, 2023 - 3:49pm


End of an era.

Points: 0

#5 by Boots Day // May 19, 2023 - 10:58pm

Jim Brown was probably the greatest rusher in NFL history. But Walter Payton was a better receiver, better blocker, and better passer, and wasn't too far behind as a rusher, so I'd call Sweetness the greatest running back in NFL history.

And so far as we know, Walter never threw a woman out a window. 

Points: 0

#6 by theslothook // May 19, 2023 - 11:04pm

I've been told, although I don't believe it, that Walter Payton is considered more beloved than Michael Jordan

Points: 0

#19 by bravehoptoad // May 21, 2023 - 6:35pm

I think that's mainly because of his nickname. "Sweetness" is just a better one than "O.J." or "Barry." 

Points: 0

#77 by RickD // May 30, 2023 - 10:31am

Brown was so much a better rusher than Payton I don't see how the other categories matter.  

Payton had a great career and certainly had great career totals, but there were also periods of his career when other RBs were considered better.  Campbell, Dickerson, Allen...

He only led the NFL in rushing once in a 13-year career.  Brown led the NFL in rushing 8 times in a 9-year career.  We haven't seen any other RB dominate like Jim Brown did.  


Points: 1

#7 by Will Allen // May 20, 2023 - 1:57am

I would have been content to simply note Brown's perhaps unparalleled greatness as a football player. If we are going to take time to praise his social activism, however, let it also be noted that Brown was a creep who habitually beat women.

Points: 2

#8 by guest from Europe // May 20, 2023 - 3:08am

I agree. All of this was written about in the ESPN article. 

Points: 0

#10 by theslothook // May 20, 2023 - 11:13am

I didn't want to mention it as it would sound unseemly, but yes, I am glad you brought this up. All I ever knew of him was his esteem as a player and his activism for social justice. The ESPN article laid bare that he had perpetual issues that continued seemingly throughout his life.

Once more, the media tends to be ultra selective with who deserves our praise and who our scorn.

Points: 0

#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 20, 2023 - 12:02pm

Much like fighters, Brown somewhat gets a pass from society for his violent transgressions because his appeal was based on his transgressive violence. Fighters are expected to fight.

His social activism is in part tethered to his behavior with women in a manner that cuts both ways -- you can't raise that he defied social norms with women without also acknowledging that he defied social norms with women. (Either way you want to sort that) He's an interesting guy to handle from an intersectionality standpoint.

Points: 1

#12 by theslothook // May 20, 2023 - 2:37pm

I'll try to keep this to one comment. I was completely ignorant of Brown's past. But Brown's checkered history of acts that continued for decades is stunning to me.

Points: 0

#78 by RickD // May 30, 2023 - 10:33am

Sadly, Brown didn't "defy social norms with women".  He was raised in an era when his behavior was not outside the norm.  

Points: 0

#13 by BroncosGuyAgain // May 20, 2023 - 8:22pm

Will, your comment is, as usual, relevant and completely reasonable.

All my life, the conventional wisdom has been that Jim Brown was the greatest football player, ever.  It might be true.  There are reasonable arguments for others, mostly Sweetness and modern quarterbacks.  But there really isn't an argument against Brown (other than, perhaps his early retirement to make the Dirty Dozen). 

But if we consider the off-the-field record, and laud his leadership and impactful voice on issues of equality and fairness in an era of social upheaval, then we must also consider his troubling record of physical abuse toward women.  Forgive me, as I will probably fail to be articulate on this dicey subject.  His positive impact is not diminished by his failings; the positive impact stands alone.  Also, his failings are not polished by his accomplishments.  The failings, also, stand alone, undiminished. 

He was a human, with strengths and weaknesses, each perhaps of greater magnitude than those of us mere mortals. 

For my sports "heroes", I try to be agnostic regarding off-the-field matters.  I appreciate them for their greatness in sport, but do not ascribe to them any greatness beyond that.



Points: 4

#14 by BigRichie // May 20, 2023 - 8:52pm

The argument against Jim Brown as the 'greatest football player ever' is that he was the worst ever at blocking, as he refused to do it. He was the worst ever at running fakes (play-action or other types), as he refused to do it.

Jim Brown was the greatest runner of the football ever, in some part greater than others like OJ/Sweetness/Barry Sanders/Adrian Peterson/etc because unlike them he wasted no energy blocking for teammates or running fakes for teammates. Which made each of them, along with additional guys like Ladainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk, better football players than Jim Brown. Whatever their team needed them to do on whichever particular play, they tried their best to do it.

Points: 1

#15 by guest from Europe // May 21, 2023 - 4:19am

It is difficult to compare players across eras. From Brown to Faulk it's a different playing style, almost another position.

Does anyone know of a good comprehensive article comparing careers of all these RBs? Probably  many were written about anecdotes, total yards etc.

Points: 0

#16 by theslothook // May 21, 2023 - 11:20am

I don't think there is an analyst or film watcher alive that can accurately rate all of these rbs. You are taking about a period of time stretching from the 1950s to at least the year 2000. Sure, some born in 1940 could in theory have spanned the period to do so, but that feels unlikely.

But more to the point, once again I refer to something Zach Lowe said. When he discussed the Jordan versus LeBron debate he said, most pundits who are writing and analyzing or are scouts and coaches in the NBA came of age during the Jordan era. Jordan "felt" indomitable whereas they are analyzing Lebron in a more emotionally detached manner. Jordan was a larger than life figure to these people. I missed all but the tale end of Jordan, but his name rang out so much that everyone everywhere knew his name. I didn't follow the NFL or the NBA then, but I was always struck by how I knew practically 0 NFL players, but I knew the name Michael Jordan. You know that's going to color people's opinions.

The same has happened for Jim Brown and Walter Payton. Even though emmitt Smith won the rushing title, everyone sort of just brushed past him. Maybe right, maybe wrong; but mythology is playing at least some role in this.

Points: 1

#17 by guest from Europe // May 21, 2023 - 1:12pm

It can be 20 years old article or analysis or football site. Obviously for J. Brown there isn't enough film left, so it would have to be more data analysis.

By YPC and MVPs Brown is the best, by highlights Sanders is an out-of-this-world, by running-and-catching Faulk is the best, by single season peak Simpson 2000 yards in 14 games... E. Smith isn't really in this.

There is career AV since 1960, but that misses Brown's first 3 great years (2 MVPs) so Faulk comes on top: 132 AV to Brown 108. With all his years Brown would be around 160 weighted career AV.



So, i found following articles:

old football outsiders, only rushing, B. Sanders is on top by career z-score (many comments in the article, check out #59)


An article combining many statistical categories rushing+receiving (Payton on top), including career attempts, not favouring Brown:


An older article, many traditional stats/game rushing+receiving, Brown on top:


The last two articles aren't statistically finest, but they include receiving production. Hopefully somebody can find something better.

Anyway, Brown and Sanders are probably 1 and 2, Payton third.

AV, which includes receiving does have Faulk and Tomlinson above Payton and Sanders!

Career DYAR (rushing+receiving):

Sanders 2673

Faulk 3702

Payton 1301, incomplete data, only 1981-1987

Brown no data


If anybody is interested, here are some z-scores per decade 1980-2020, McCoy best in 2010s:



(Of course, these stats are actually for a particular player in a particular offense with that o-line, it's not describing independent player quality)





Points: 0

#18 by BigRichie // May 21, 2023 - 5:43pm

Walter Payton was the best blocking tailback ever. Walter Payton helped Matt Suhey look like a good rusher. The Bears felt so confident of Payton's blocking ability that they let him pick up a blitzing Lawrence Taylor. (OK, that didn't work out well; at all)

Jim Brown refused to block.

20-some plays a game Payton did his job as well as any player of his position ever has. 20-some plays a game Brown took the play off, resting up for when HE! would next get the ball while letting his offensive teammates play 9-on-11.

Why would I put an ounce of faith in any analytical framework that tosses out 20-some plays each and every game??

Points: 0

#20 by BroncosGuyAgain // May 21, 2023 - 7:14pm

You have made clear your assertion that Jim Brown refused to block.  What is the basis of this assertion?

Points: 2

#22 by BigRichie // May 21, 2023 - 9:03pm

All you gotta do is Google it, Dude.

(Brown's confessional line regarding Liberace and his piano is pretty cool)

Points: 1

#23 by Vincent Verhei // May 21, 2023 - 10:16pm

Found plenty of anecdotal criticism of Brown's blocking ... but in his nine NFL seasons the Browns had a league-best record of 79-34-5 and scored 2,934 points, second only to the Johnny Unitas Colts. So I'm skeptical that it really affected the game that much. 

Points: 1

#26 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 3:28am

Does DYAR really count that modern receiving RBs (Faulk, Tomlinson...) are on aggregate better than 20th century rushing RBs (Sanders, Payton, E. Smith...)?

Points: -1

#32 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 22, 2023 - 9:17am

Sanders, Smith, and Faulk were all mutually contemporaries.

You also need to account that Smith, Faulk, and Tomlinson spent most of their career with HOF QBs (or HoVG at minimum) whereas Sanders and Payton did not.

\Brown is harder to assess here; his QBs weren't amazing, but the rest of the roster was

Points: 0

#48 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 3:52pm

My question was about DYAR as a pure stat. Any stat for an individuadal player is limited, it includes that RB with his particular o-line, scheme, playcalls. So we have to accept it with an asterisk. 

Anyway, on that basis that old F.O. article from 2005 compared all-time best RBs using z-scores (compared to their peers for each season) and found for career aggregate:

Last Name      Career Rush Yds.  Z-scoreRush Yds.

SandersBarry  15,269                     18.88

PaytonWalter  16,726                      17.31

BrownJim        12,312                      16.97

SmithEmmitt   18,355                       14.13

SimpsonO.J.   11,236                       11.76

This is only comparing rushing stats, no receiving. The 2 best individual seasons were by Simpson. Guys like Faulk and Tomlinson wouldn't be that close on this list. Brown is lower because he had less total seasons, with 1 more year he probably equals Sanders.

Now, DYAR accounts for both rushing and receiving. Sanders had 2376 total rushing DYAR and about 300 receiving DYAR. Faulk had 1792 rushing DYAR over career but also 1909 receiving DYAR. Does this mean that DYAR counts Faulk as a better total player than Sanders? It's a theoretical question for editors on this site.


Points: 0

#79 by RickD // May 30, 2023 - 10:41am

"Jim Brown refused to block."

Who was he supposed to block for? 

Your comments display a huge chip on your shoulder.  Brown didn't "take plays off".  He certainly didn't force the Browns to play "9-on-11". 

You want an analytic framework to insert your judgment calls on RB blocking?  Good luck with that.  

Points: -1

#31 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 22, 2023 - 9:11am

For what it's worth, Barry thought Jim Brown was better than he was.

\but Barry was a humble guy

Points: 0

#80 by RickD // May 30, 2023 - 10:42am

Brown was better than Sanders.

Sanders may have been a great open field runner, but so was Brown, and Brown could also blow through tacklers a la Earl Campbell. Sanders couldn't.

Points: 0

#83 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 30, 2023 - 3:31pm

Sanders could truck guys and very occasionally did. He also almost never needed to. How often did you see a defender square Barry up and hit him solidly?

They don't give you extra points for running a guy over, and it's faster to go around them.

Points: 0

#75 by BroncosGuyAgain // May 29, 2023 - 6:46pm

"worst ever at blocking".  "worst ever at running fakes".

Your take is that in the history of the NFL, none of the thousands of running backs who played were less skilled than Jim Brown at these particular tasks.  You clearly have an axe to grind. 


Points: 0

#27 by Pen // May 22, 2023 - 3:29am

I'm a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty. He went on trial, he was found innocent. In three other incidents, no charges were filed. In one, the officer said his wife only called to have a report filed in case something ever did happen, ie. nothing actually happened. In the "threw a woman out a window" case, the woman said she fell. In the third case, the woman dropped the charges.

He never backed down on his innocence.

You can choose not to believe him or think the women lied, but you don't get to assert with authority that he's guilty.

Points: 1

#34 by Will Allen // May 22, 2023 - 10:36am

The "innocent before proven guilty" standard only need apply with regard to the state punishing a citizen for a criminal offense. Private citizens are ethically allowed to make their own reasonable conclusions. Hell, the state enforces civil judgements based upon a mere preponderance of the evidence.

O.J. Simpson was found not guilty at trial, of murdering Nicole Brown. That has nothing to do with the fact that he did slash her throat, nearly decapitating her. 

Jim Brown habitually beat women. 

Points: 1

#36 by theslothook // May 22, 2023 - 10:55am

I'm definitely one of those people who prefers not to pass judgment until the full facts and verdict are available. However, much like Deshawn, when the pattern keeps emerging in the same way over and over and over again, it becomes really hard to give the person the benefit of the doubt. 

Points: -1

#28 by Theo // May 22, 2023 - 5:52am

So this site is going all "uuh Watson, dont want to talk about him!"

But when Jim Brown dies, we say nothing about what happened with the women that he encounteed. 

See. This is why I take all that "holier than thou" talk with a grain of salt.

Points: -1

#33 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 22, 2023 - 9:36am

There is a substantial gulf between Deshaun Watson and Jim Brown on pretty much any axis you care to name.

But when Jim Brown dies, we say nothing about what happened with the women that he encounteed. 

We are in fact talking about it. No one ever accused Brown of being an angel. But he is not the first great man who had a troubled personal history. Few are the men who do not.

Points: 0

#37 by Theo // May 22, 2023 - 12:23pm

I disagree. 

Most men behave well. Thats why the ones that dont stand out. 

Or I live in a very different society than yours. Could be. 

And with "this site" I meant the FO editors. 


Points: 2

#38 by theslothook // May 22, 2023 - 12:45pm

Milton Friedman had a great line. "People are people, some are good, some are bad, most are in between".

In my history class, we went through a lot different materials covering the horrible history of the gas chambers in WW2. My teacher bravely asked us not to simply write off the story as the results of evil men. That would be missing the point. Was there something about the culture, the environment, and the institutions that enabled otherwise good people to become participants to one of the worst atrocities ever committed by human beings?


Points: 2

#40 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 22, 2023 - 12:53pm

Philippe Petain was the hero of WWI and the villain of WWII. History is a tricky thing.

Points: 1

#46 by guest from Europe // May 22, 2023 - 2:48pm

Was there something about the culture, the environment, and the institutions that enabled otherwise good people to become participants to one of the worst atrocities ever committed by human beings?

You may want to read Hannah Arendt's work on this topic. Banality of evil. Moral, conscience, habits, will...

They did what they did because laws were like that, others did that etc. Very banal.

To simplify, what we call civilized behaviour is just a surface and we are capable, almost any of us, to do almost anything.

Points: 0

#39 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 22, 2023 - 12:52pm

Every man who founded this country was a traitor.

MLK was a womanizer. Malcolm X was a felon. Leaders are those who lead; they aren't angels.

Points: 0

#41 by theslothook // May 22, 2023 - 12:54pm

Washington literally started the French and Indian War and he did it by killing some people for the purpose of land acquisition. I still have him well regarded. 

Points: -1

#81 by RickD // May 30, 2023 - 10:44am

I disagree that being born into a colony makes it so that a person who rebels against colonial status is a "traitor".  

That would be a neat trick for colonialists. 

Points: 1

#42 by Eddo // May 22, 2023 - 1:15pm

There are more comments on this thread about Brown's off-field behavior than his on-field play, so I'm not sure where this sentiment is coming from.

Points: 1

#44 by Mike B. In Va // May 22, 2023 - 1:37pm

There is nothing to argue about with his on-field play - the man was virtually an unstoppable force of nature, refusing to block or not.

His off-field behavior was troubling at times, and inspiring at times. Doing what you feel is right and being good at football doesn't remove your faults.

Points: 0

#56 by guest from Europe // May 24, 2023 - 3:18am

i wanted to know how "DVOA" or this site evaluates careers of these all-time great RBs. So i added their rushing DYAR and receiving DYAR, similar to Verhei in Quick Reads. I am very surprised, almost shocked by what came out:

Name        Rush DYAR   Receiving  DYAR   total career DYAR (rushing+receiving)    total DYAR/game

Faulk             1792                   1910                      3702                                                                 21.0

Smith, E.       2859                    -156                      2703                                                                 11.96  (16.4 for first 11years)

Sanders         2376                   297                       2673                                                                  17.5

Tomlinson    1832                  356                       2188                                                                    12.87

Peterson       1462                   215                       1677                                                                   9.11

Payton (incomplete data, 1981-1987)         1301, if his first 6 years are added, probably he has total DYAR around Sanders

Faulk in only 4 years 1999-2002 is around total 2500 DYAR, more than careers of Peterson and Tomlinson! His total career is far ahead of everyone else, about 1000 DYAR more than Sanders and Payton. For comparison E. Smith in 1992-1995 had about 1750 total DYAR. It looks that this site values Faulk's career as the best among all RBs. I don't think this gap can be explained by teammates, scheme. According to DVOA/DYAR Faulk's career  was the most valuable among RBs due to his enormous value as a receiver. This is far off from "conventional wisdom". 

Similarly in 2020, DYAR valued Kamara ahead of Henry because of Kamara's receiving although Henry had huge rushing value.

Surprising to me: Peterson is quite behind other great RBs, whereas Emmitt Smith is about equal to Sanders. His last 4 years, Smith was negative DYAR, so his career production comes from first 11 years. Too bad there is no such data for Jim Brown.

Points: 0

#57 by Theo // May 24, 2023 - 10:52am

As both a runner and a pass catcher, many do consider Faulk to be the best.

Not many will list him near the top of running back lists though, that is correct. 

Points: 2

#58 by theslothook // May 24, 2023 - 12:14pm

Marshall Faulk goes on my very very short list of players who transcended the sport and revolutionized what you thought was possible from the position.

For me, that short list also includes Randy Moss, JJ Watt, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Donald to rattle of some names off the top of my head. Maybe Darrell Revis too.

Quite honestly, if I had to pick the most impactful non QB offensive player ever that I have personally seen(I only saw late career veteran Jerry Rice for the record) it would be a really hard choice between Moss and Marshall. Probably Moss has the bigger upside but Marshall fits more types of rosters and is far less of a headache.

Points: 0

#59 by guest from Europe // May 24, 2023 - 1:52pm

What is shocking to me is the difference from Faulk to Smith and Sanders. It's 1000 of total DYAR, almost 40% more. That's worth of another all-pro RB career: Gurley had 1085 total DYAR (and he was good at receiving, not just running). Faulk, Smith and Sanders were contemporaries. Faulk didn't have some super long career. His stats were great on both the Colts and the Rams.

A great receiving RB such as Kamara has total 1569 DYAR in 6 years and a pure rushing RB Henry has 1341 total DYAR in 7 years. They are much closer to each other and close to Peterson.

Only Rice has such a distance to all other players at his position (5398 receiving DYAR Rice, 17.8/game, total DYAR 18.8/game; 3944 receiving  DYAR Moss, 18.1/game; 3480 DYAR Owens, 15.9/game)  like Faulk does. Shocking.

Points: 0

#60 by theslothook // May 24, 2023 - 3:42pm

Its worth noting a few things. 

1) Faulk wasn't working in isolation. That was one of the most talented offenses of all time. It currently has 1 HOF left tackle, 1 HOF QB, and 1 HOF WR in addition to the hall of fame Marshall Faulk. And in a few years, it will be adding another HOFer in Tory Holt. That would bring the total to 5 Hall of famers on one offense. 

2) DVOA and DYAR are compared against a baseline average. IIRC, Running back receiving DVOAs are normalized by the average receiving production of an average running back. What that implies is its harder to be exceptional as a rusher and much easier(at least statistically) to be exceptional as a receiver from the rb position. That basically makes sense - its a position that's primarily used for rushing. Thats why Faulk being good at both makes him such an outlier. But it also means mechanically adding them up together doesn't imply Faulk was twice the RB that some of these other guys were/are

Points: 1

#61 by guest from Europe // May 24, 2023 - 4:29pm

Faulk wasn't working in isolation. That was one of the most talented offenses of all time.

The same is valid for Emmitt Smith. Faulk had a great year stats-wise on 1998 Colts. You can see above (#56) that just his career rush DYAR is above Peterson and very close to Tomlinson.

What that implies is its harder to be exceptional as a rusher and much easier(at least statistically) to be exceptional as a receiver from the rb position.

I agree.

But it also means mechanically adding them up together doesn't imply Faulk was twice the RB that some of these other guys were/are

I am not making any arguments which RB was better. You can see in the original comment i wrote that "this site" or "DVOA/DYAR" "values" their careers like that. So, according to DYAR Faulk was MVP, most valuable among RBs. This isn't my opinion, it's how DVOA/DYAR "see" their production. It's best to have no prejudice opinion on such matters. My opinion is that Sanders was better than Smith and Faulk. DVOA-metric doesn't like his boom-or-bust style.

Barnwell wrote in 2008:

That's led to a bit of a backlash against the idea that a metric like Defense-Adjusted Yards Over Replacement (DYAR) underrates boom-or-bust runners like Reggie BushRyan Grant or Barry Sanders, with the thought being that their big-play ability makes up for their inability to pick up consistent yardage and move the chains. It's also led to discussions about Sanders being a player who is frowned upon by context-based systems like DYAR.

Anyway, Verhei adds up DYAR like this for RBs in Quick Reads articles. So did i. Example, Henry and Kamara:


I guess it's another implication of "passing is valued higher than running".

Points: 0

#62 by theslothook // May 24, 2023 - 4:55pm

I guess it's another implication of "passing is valued higher than running".

Pat is going to argue that you can't look at passing and rushing in isolation, above and beyond the fact that he doesn't particularly like the labels pass and run when it comes to separating plays.

Without wading down that rabbit hole, I tend to be on the side of passing is better than running. Even inefficient passing appears to be better than good running. In the NBA, it took a long time for the league to come to grips with the three point revolution. 

I have long wondered if a team might be better served treating all but short yardage situations as pass only downs. Let me be clear, this comes with the caveat that you aren't in bleed the clock mode, you aren't in a horrible down and distance situation, or your isn't some rushing maverick who opens up the rest of the run game. This is strictly for traditional QBs. In that case, I might prefer a pass first, pass always approach.

To the extent that you need changeups to the pass; screens, dump offs, and end arounds serve as nice compliments and approximations to the running game. 

Essentially, keep the ball in Mahomes' hand at all times. If he builds an insurmountable lead by the 3rd quarter, go ahead and lean heavy on the run game. But at this point, given the numbers, thats how I am inclined to treat things. 

Points: 0

#63 by guest from Europe // May 25, 2023 - 3:19am

Pat is going to argue that you can't look at passing and rushing in isolation

On an academic level i agree with Pat. That would mean changing the baselines or assessing all plays together and having only 1 baseline for a play, no distinction between run and pass. Run  would be a "conservative, less worth" type-of-play and pass a "riskier, possible higher reward" play. All players, RBs and WRs would have the same baseline. WRs would get a higher receiving DYAR, RBs would get probably negative receiving DYAR. RBs would be less valuable.

However, these are the data with separate baselines for run and pass. DYAR tries to assess both to get a total value of a player. And the difference between Faulk and rest is gigantic. Sanders and Payton were good at pass catching, they just didn't have the volume that Faulk had. E. Smith wasn't good at that.

Maybe the baseline for pass reception of a RB can be changed some, but that wouldn't bring Faulk's DYAR by 40% down. I certainly didn't expect him to be No. 1 by production. Another shocker: in 1998 Faulk and Colts o-line had 647 total DYAR, exactly the same as MVP T. Davis and Broncos.

For what it's worth, a simple yard per touch (run+reception) has Faulk and Sanders equal at 5.3 and Jim Brown (29% smaller volume than Faulk) No. 1 at 5.7. That doesn't include pass attempts that weren't caught nor opponent adjustment nor yearly adjustment to baseline 0. All these adjustments DYAR does make and gives out that Faulk (with his o-lines and QBs) had by far the highest production. It thinks Sanders' style with Lions o-line was unsustainable and slightly prefers E. Smith with Cowboys o-line in terms of volume. Payton with Bears o-line is probably close to them. Sanders is ahead in rate: DYAR/game.

In the few years that there are o-line data, 1996 and onwards, it is distinguished that Lions o-line was average, 10th, 13th and 29th at run blocking (adjusted line yards) while Sanders was clear No 1 in open field yards, whereas Cowboys' o-line was better than Lions' line at adjusted line yards but Cowboys RBs had 0.1yards per carry less than Cowboys o-line yards. So, E. Smith ran what Cowboys o-line made for him. 1999-2001 Rams line was the best at run blocking for Faulk and average, around 10-15th at pass blocking. 2002 bad o-line. 1998 Colts bad o-line run blocking for Faulk, but No. 1 in pass protection for rookie Manning.

Points: 0

#64 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 25, 2023 - 10:45am

I'm curious what DYAR thinks of Faulk if you treat him as a WR.

Points: 0

#65 by guest from Europe // May 25, 2023 - 10:57am

I guess his receiving DYAR plummets down (he had 6.8 yards/target compared to someone like Wes Welker  7.8Y/target) and running DYAR skyrockets.

Points: 0

#67 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 25, 2023 - 2:04pm

Probably. That's basically how it shook out when we rebaselined Cordarrele Patterson and CMC.

Points: 0

#68 by guest from Europe // May 25, 2023 - 3:53pm

Maybe all of Faulk's DYAR becomes negative. Deebo Samuel has more yards per carry and yards per target than Faulk. That is the only WR who had regular carries that i can think of and he has only 123 rushes. The other WR "runs" are mostly a few plays per season (end-arounds ...) with 6-7 yards per "run". It would be unfair to compare Faulk to those. Then all RBs must be compared to that. I think Faulk mostly lined up in the backfield behind or next to QB, so he is a RB.

What would Gronkowski or Kelce be if they are compared to WRs? Another Edelman? The only one that would be a HOFer is Gonzalez. And TEs are much closer to WRs than RBs are.

Points: 0

#71 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 26, 2023 - 9:08am

Don't forget Jim Brown's old backfield mate, Bobby Mitchell.

He basically played the Deebo role for the Browns.

There is precedent for what's basically a TE playing WR.

Or even Don Hutson, who lined up as a quasi-TE a fair amount of the time.

Points: 0

#72 by theslothook // May 26, 2023 - 12:12pm

To me, there is a difference between guys who run routes over the middle and or are the designed 2nd/3rd option and guys who play from the outside. It's a totally different skill set and teams don't go into passing games where everyone has an equal opportunity to catch the pass. Plays are designed intentionally to throw somewhere contingent on what the defense is doing.

DVOA always favored throwing in the middle versus throwing on the outside. But that doesn't mean a team should therefore abandon throwing to the outside and drafting and acquiring only players who fit in the slot and and at tight end. NE I suppose made this strategy work for a time, but they had an ace offensive line and Tom Brady.

Circling back. I don't think it makes sense to judge Faulk to a receiver's standards. He's not a wide receiver and frankly, what he did was such an outlier that he deserves the eye popping DVOA stats.

And while I don't favor mechanically adding up his DVOA or DYAR and presto declaring him the best player ever, I do think his sterling metrics suggest he is an all timer and one of those guys that deserves to be recognized above and beyond the typical hall of famer.

Points: 1

#73 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 26, 2023 - 2:49pm

DVOA always favored throwing in the middle versus throwing on the outside. 

Era-specific, I think. Before the rules made pass defense illegal, it was quite dangerous to throw over the middle. Bad passes got picked, which is one reason throwaways occur to the sides.

Points: 1

#74 by theslothook // May 26, 2023 - 2:59pm

Ya thats true. I would really love to see pass defense get a boost from the rules in some capacity. 

Points: 0

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