Terrell Davis: Peak vs. Longevity

Terrell Davis: Peak vs. Longevity
Terrell Davis: Peak vs. Longevity
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

No skill position has more representatives in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than running back. While the NFL was a run-dominated game for decades, the total of 29 backs has been padded by a few of Canton’s more questionable inductions.

Sports Illustrated’s Dr. Z once called Detroit’s Doak Walker the most undeserving member of the Hall of Fame. That’s a great choice, just as Paul Hornung or Floyd Little would be. John Riggins, selected on his second ballot, is the only Hall of Famer to start his career after 1950 and not be recognized as a Pro Bowler or All-Pro at least twice.

While it seems like voters will put any running back in, there’s a trio of backs who may still be waiting after shoo-in LaDainian Tomlinson appears on his first ballot in 2017:

  • Roger Craig -– 15 years of eligibility, five-time semifinalist (2009-13) and one-time finalist (2010).
  • Terrell Davis –- seven years of eligibility and seven-time semifinalist (2007-13).
  • Jerome Bettis -– three years of eligibility and three-time finalist (2011-13).

The knocks against these players can be a bit harsh. Bettis was a "compiler" who could not catch the ball. Craig benefited from the innovation of Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense and generational talents like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Davis was a product of Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking scheme in Denver.

Voting history suggests they will all get in eventually, but that does not mean we cannot question why they have been waiting. Davis was inarguably the most dominant of these players, being named a First-Team All-Pro as many times (three) as Craig (one) and Bettis (two) combined, but he’s the only one of the three yet to crack the finalists. Craig and Bettis are the only modern finalists at running back to not get in.

With criticism ranging from a lack of longevity to too much stat-padding, let’s see if we can find a happy medium in sizing these three up for Canton.

Terrell Davis’ Career: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of

Terrell Davis’ career followed the type of Hollywood screenplay that the media usually eats up.

Davis starred as "The Little Back Who Could" in his rags-to-riches story. Just a sixth-round pick (196th overall) in 1995, he made a name for himself as a rookie in the preseason with a crushing tackle on special teams. The only running backs drafted in the sixth round or later to rush for more yards than Davis (7,607) are Earnest Byner (8,261) and Terry Allen (8,614).

Game Rewind: Relive every NFL moment…subscribe to Game Rewind.

Davis quickly helped the Broncos to the top of the AFC and soon the NFL in an era when the NFC ruled the league. He became the focal point of an offense with aging legendary quarterback John Elway, who owes much credit to Davis for capturing those elusive Super Bowl rings.

Davis was dominant in the regular season, winning league MVP in 1998 when he rushed for 2,008 yards. Picture Denver rookie Montee Ball coming in and deservingly taking the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands and winning MVP in 2017 as Manning enjoys his swansong in leisure. That’s about what Davis accomplished in Denver with Elway.

Finally, if the postseason and "precious rings" are as damn important as some want us to believe, then those people should be building a shrine for Davis as one of the NFL’s greatest postseason players. He was consistently great, with seven straight 100-yard rushing games (a playoff record), including a Super Bowl MVP performance against Green Bay. He rushed for 157 yards and three scores (that includes a game-winner) that night while battling a migraine headache. There’s your signature game requirement. In eight playoff games Davis rushed for 1,140 yards, scored 12 touchdowns, and averaged 5.59 yards per carry (another playoff record) to help Denver repeat as Super Bowl champions.

But there is one problem with this script: it did not include a happy ending. Davis tore his ACL and MCL four games into the 1999 season attempting a tackle on an interception. He only made five starts in 2000 due to a stress reaction in his lower leg. Davis had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in 2001, but still played half the season. With his knees failing him, Davis walked away from the game while he still could.

Our protagonist never made his heroic return for the third act. Instead, Denver drafted his replacement, Clinton Portis, in 2002. A historic start by Portis, with consecutive 1,500-yard seasons, quickly made fans forget about Davis and focus their concerns on finding the next Elway.

The following table looks at Davis’ career stats, along with where he ranked in Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics. "SR" is indeed Success Rate and "YFS" is yards from scrimmage.

Terrell Davis' Career Stats
Year G Runs Yards YPC TD YFS DYAR Rk DVOA Rk SR Rk
1995 14 237 1,117 4.71 7 1,484 263 3 16.6% 4 52% 7
1996 16 345 1,538 4.46 13 1,848 376 3 16.0% 7 52% 6
1997 15 369 1,750 4.74 15 2,037 526 1 24.3% 3 56% 2
1998 16 392 2,008 5.12 21 2,225 602 1 26.5% 1 52% 3
1999 4 67 211 3.15 2 237 -1 - -8.8% - 37% -
2000 5 78 282 3.62 2 286 19 - -1.9% - 45% -
2001 8 167 701 4.20 0 770 44 26 -2.3% 28 47% 14
Totals 78 1,655 7,607 4.60 60 8,887 1,829 - - - - -

While Davis’ backups, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson, put up very respectable numbers, they never sustained success or matched Davis’ efficiency. Anderson’s 14.2% DVOA in 2000 was lower than any of Davis’ first four seasons. Gary’s 4.6% DVOA in 1999 only ranked 12th that season.

Davis essentially played at an elite level for four years before playing in just 17 games in his final three seasons combined. While his performance nosedived, it is commendable that he still rushed for most of his 701 yards in 2001 after having surgery on both knees. His metrics that year would be better had he found the end zone a few times instead of putting up a bagel.

Is this really that different from Gale Sayers, who played seven seasons and only 68 games? He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His career was practically five seasons, unless you want to count 1970-71 when he played four games, touched the ball 37 times, gained 84 yards, and fumbled once.

Sayers also never played in a postseason game. Factor in what Davis did in his eight playoff games, and he essentially had 4.5 seasons of elite play along with the gutsy half-season effort in 2001.

Yes, Sayers was more explosive and scored eight return touchdowns on just 118 opportunities, but this is not about who was the better back. It is about understanding why a career ending early due to injury matters for Davis while it never did for Sayers. Denver did have Elway, but it was drenched in mediocrity before Davis helped rejuvenate the running game. That success should count for something. We know it usually does in the eyes of voters, because without four Super Bowl rings, Pittsburgh wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann are never elected to the Hall of Fame.

Denver running back Floyd Little is in the Hall of Fame as well, making it as a senior candidate in 2010. When you look at his career in comparison, it would be a slap in the face if it takes a senior vote to get Davis in. Davis did much more in fewer games, and like Sayers, Little was on bad teams (awful at times) and never played in the postseason. He even averaged less than three yards per carry twice in his nine seasons.

Part of Little’s case was presented by the Denver Post’s Jeff Legwold, who noted that Little was first-contacted roughly 30 percent of the time behind the line of scrimmage on about 1,200 runs. That’s only amazing when used completely free of context. If we had something to compare that to, it might matter. What is it with Denver players having stats counted a special way only for them and no one else?

For Davis, we do not have to twist things to showcase his achievements.

A running back has rushed for at least 1,750 yards 26 times. Davis has done it twice. He and Emmitt Smith are the only players to win a Super Bowl the season they did. Davis is one of five running backs to win a rushing title, MVP, and Super Bowl. The other four (Jim Taylor, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen and Emmitt Smith) are in Canton. Only Davis and Smith achieved all of those feats in the same season. Davis has the only 2,000-yard rushing season that led to a playoff win. Most of the time, teams with a poor passing game have an imbalanced offense, which is a fine recipe for getting exposed in the postseason.

Including the playoffs, Davis holds the NFL single-season record with 2,476 rushing yards in 1998. Second place on that list is ... Terrell Davis, with 2,331 yards in 1997. When looking at yards from scrimmage, Davis again holds the record with 2,762 yards in 1998.

NFL's Single-Season Rushing Leaders (Including Playoffs)
Rk Player Age Year Team G Runs Yards YPC TD Result
1 Terrell Davis 26 1998 DEN 19 470 2,476 5.27 24 Won SB
2 Terrell Davis 25 1997 DEN 19 481 2,331 4.85 23 Won SB
3 Eric Dickerson 24 1984 LARM 17 402 2,212 5.50 15 Lost NFC-DIV
4 Adrian Peterson 27 2012 MIN 17 370 2,196 5.94 12 Lost NFC-WC
5 Jamal Anderson 26 1998 ATL 19 480 2,122 4.42 16 Lost SB
6 Barry Sanders 29 1997 DET 17 353 2,118 6.00 11 Lost NFC-WC
7 Shaun Alexander 28 2005 SEA 19 430 2,116 4.92 29 Lost SB
8 Ahman Green 26 2003 GB 18 403 2,105 5.22 17 Lost NFC-DIV
9 Jamal Lewis 24 2003 BAL 17 401 2,101 5.24 14 Lost AFC-WC
10 Emmitt Smith 26 1995 DAL 19 451 2,071 4.59 31 Won SB
11 Emmitt Smith 23 1992 DAL 19 444 2,049 4.61 21 Won SB
12 Earl Campbell 25 1980 HOIL 16 400 2,025 5.06 14 Lost AFC-WC
13 Chris Johnson 23 2009 TEN 16 358 2,006 5.60 14 No Playoffs
14 O.J. Simpson 26 1973 BUF 14 332 2,003 6.03 12 No Playoffs

No running back has ever meant more to a Super Bowl-winning team than Davis, and he proved that twice. It may just be an unfortunate coincidence, but after 951 carries in 38 games in 1997-98, it’s no surprise Davis ended up with chronic knee problems. Denver literally broke this bronco on a ride to the promised land.

Terrell Davis vs. Roger Craig: Longevity Is a Losing Argument

What’s interesting about the running back position is how most people continue to focus on rushing yards and ignore the contributions made in the passing game and as a blocker. Backs like Bettis and Earl Campbell provided little-to-no help as receivers while even today’s studs like Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster just had very poor receiving seasons in 2012. Davis was not a particularly good receiver.

The lack of receiving attention could be what has held back Roger Craig in the voting process. His total of 8,189 rushing yards does not stand out, especially given the fact he played 165 games. However, he caught 566 passes for 4,911 yards and 17 touchdowns, making him one of the most prolific receiving backs and giving him 13,100 yards from scrimmage.

[ad placeholder 3]

Yet if you’re not named Marshall Faulk, who Craig really helped pave the way for, most Hall of Fame voters just are not that interested in running back receiving numbers. It also would stand to work against Craig that he mostly compiled these numbers in Bill Walsh’s innovative West Coast offense, which showed the league it was okay to throw short to the back and let him make plays.

In 1985, Craig produced the first season in NFL history with over 1,000 yards rushing and over 1,000 yards receiving. He was targeted a team-high 118 times in the passing game. Three years later he was a first-team All-Pro and the Offensive Player of the Year, once again going over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. That season Craig (111) was targeted just 10 times fewer than Jerry Rice (121). Yet after Rice emerged as the best receiver in football and Joe Montana continued his ascension, Craig never could do better than the third wheel in the mighty San Francisco machine.

Craig did help the 49ers win three Super Bowls, yet a big part of his legacy is the fumble in the 1990 NFC Championship against the Giants that stopped a 49ers’ three-peat. New York went on to drive for the game-winning field goal. Despite his unorthodox high-knee style of running, that fumble is really his signature play, which is a shame. Craig had some bad luck with fumbles in his career and was already having a rough season, but that was his final play for the team.

After leaving San Francisco, Craig was a part-time player with the Raiders (1991) and Vikings (1992-93) to end his career. We have advanced stats only for those years as of this writing:

Roger Craig's Career Stats (1983-90 49ers, 1991 Raiders, 1992-93 Vikings)
Year G Runs Yards YPC TD YFS DYAR Rk DVOA Rk SR Rk
1983 16 176 725 4.12 8 1152 - - - - - -
1984 16 155 649 4.19 7 1324 - - - - - -
1985 16 214 1050 4.91 9 2066 - - - - - -
1986 16 204 830 4.07 7 1454 - - - - - -
1987 14 215 815 3.79 3 1307 - - - - - -
1988 16 310 1502 4.85 9 2036 - - - - - -
1989 16 271 1054 3.89 6 1527 - - - - - -
1990 11 141 439 3.11 1 640 - - - - - -
1991 15 162 590 3.64 1 726 27 25 -4.3% 24 45% 24
1992 15 105 416 3.96 4 580 77 21 5.2% 15 53% 10
1993 14 38 119 3.13 1 288 -12 - -16.4% - - -
Totals 165 1991 8189 4.11 56 13100 92 - - - - -

Some would say Craig exhibited longevity with 11 seasons and 165 games played. Yet, did Craig really help himself after winning his third ring in 1989? In his last four years (1990-93), Craig averaged 40.6 yards from scrimmage per game, 3.51 yards per carry, scored eight touchdowns, and fumbled seven times.

That sounds like subpar play being masqueraded as longevity. Had Craig called it a career after 1989, here’s how his seven seasons would stack up to Davis’ seven-year career:

Roger Craig vs. Terrell Davis: First 7 Seasons
Player G Runs Yards YPC TD Rec. Yards TD YFS TotTD
Craig 110 1,545 6,625 4.29 49 483 4,241 16 10,866 65
Davis 78 1,655 7,607 4.60 60 169 1,280 5 8,887 65

In 32 fewer games, Davis had better rushing numbers across the board. Craig still holds a considerable receiving advantage, but both players scored 65 touchdowns. Adding in the playoffs would give Davis a bigger boost even though Craig’s receiving advantage would grow. Craig had 63 receptions for 606 yards in the playoffs, but only rushed for 841 yards in 18 games and scored nine total touchdowns to Davis’ 12. Craig averaged 4.04 yards per carry, which is equal to Davis’ worst playoff game.

Given the tendency to focus on rushing yards, few would argue against Davis as the superior back at this point. If Craig had more longevity, then that must be praise for what he did in 1990-93. As we have already seen, that was not a stretch worthy of praise, let alone Canton.

We need to quantify longevity beyond just playing. Assuming the goal remains to play well and help your team, Craig was not much help beyond seven years.

Terrell Davis vs Jerome Bettis: Bus Ride Through the Peaks and Valleys

Jerome Bettis was one of the most relied upon running backs in NFL history. He seems to have an advantage over Davis and Craig in the eyes of the Hall of Fame voters; he’s been a finalist in all three years of eligibility, making it to the top 10 selections last year before missing on the final cut. The feeling is that Bettis’ induction is inevitable, so we will not spend much time advocating his case. Instead, let’s look at his career with all of its peaks and valleys:

Jerome Bettis' Career Stats (1993-95 Rams, 1996-05 Steelers)
Year G Runs Yards YPC TD YFS DYAR Rk DVOA Rk SR Rk
1993 16 294 1,429 4.86 7 1,673 371 2 21.2% 3 60% 3
1994 16 319 1,025 3.21 3 1,318 -101 38 -16.3% 34 45% 26
1995 15 183 637 3.48 3 743 -53 38 -15.5% 39 39% 41
1996 16 320 1,431 4.47 11 1,553 384 1 20.3% 4 53% 3
1997 15 375 1,665 4.44 7 1,775 280 4 8.9% 9 54% 4
1998 15 316 1,185 3.75 3 1,275 46 26 -6.1% 27 43% 24
1999 16 299 1,091 3.65 7 1,201 138 13 2.0% 19 47% 11
2000 16 355 1,341 3.78 8 1,438 250 6 9.4% 8 50% 6
2001 11 225 1,072 4.76 4 1,120 135 10 5.8% 11 46% 16
2002 13 187 666 3.56 9 723 86 19 0.6% 15 49% 17
2003 16 246 811 3.30 7 897 -31 38 -11.6% 37 48% 13
2004 15 250 941 3.76 13 987 135 11 6.4% 12 52% 10
2005 12 110 368 3.35 9 408 81 18 8.5% 13 51% 6
Totals 192 3,479 13,662 3.93 91 15,111 1,721 - - - - -

Despite playing 13 seasons, Bettis’ career DYAR (1,721) is actually lower than that of Davis (1,829). Imagine that. As you can see, he had three bad seasons that bring the numbers down. He also did not rack up a lot of touchdowns, though part of that had to do with poor quarterback play in Pittsburgh. When Bettis played with Ben Roethlisberger for two (not even full) years, he scored 22 touchdowns.

The attack on Bettis’ numbers is usually reserved for his 3.93 yards per carry. It must be remembered he did play with the body of a fullback –- in later years more of an offensive lineman -– so getting the long runs to boost the average was always a problem. He also played with asthma his whole career, which seems like a noteworthy feat. The low average never seemed to be a problem for John Riggins or Curtis Martin when it came time for Canton.

Bettis started off in elite fashion, winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Rams in 1993 and finishing in the top three in our advanced metrics. Then things went south in a hurry. Bettis had one of the worst 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history in 1994 when he averaged just 3.21 yards per carry. Eddie George, eat your heart out. Bettis ranked next to last in DYAR and then ranked dead last in Success Rate in 1995 despite his reduced role on the pass-happy Rams.

Fortunately for Bettis, Pittsburgh’s Bam Morris loved weed, opening the door to fill the void in coach Bill Cowher’s smash-mouth attack. A draft-day trade to Pittsburgh in 1996 -- on April 20th no less -- changed everything. Bettis was the perfect fit as he returned to the level of his rookie season, leading the league in DYAR in 1996 and earning four MVP votes in the 1996-97 seasons. The next two seasons were tough for Bettis as Pittsburgh fell behind and could not rely on the run as much. He had a resurgence in 2000 and hit on some bigger runs in 2001 before an injury shortened his regular season.

Injuries would continue to slow and reduce Bettis’ role. The 2003 season, played behind a pathetic offensive line, again put Bettis near the bottom of the league in advanced metrics. Duce Staley was the projected starter in 2004, which allowed Bettis to post inconceivable stat lines like "five carries for one yard and three touchdowns." An injury to Staley paved the way for Bettis’ last ride as a full-time back in Roethlisberger’s historic rookie season. "The Bus" managed six more 100-yard rushing games, but the Steelers came up short again at home in the AFC Championship against New England.

With players urging him to return for one more go, Bettis -– did you know he was born in Detroit? –- played behind the young Willie Parker in 2005 and mostly was used as a short-yardage specialist. He scored nine touchdowns and was fairly efficient at getting the tough yards the Steelers needed. He even provided a signature play with a demolition of Chicago’s Brian Urlacher on his way to the end zone in his final 100-yard performance.

However, things could have ended in epically bad fashion had Roethlisberger not made the tackle on Nick Harper in Indianapolis in the Divisional playoffs. Bettis fumbled away the goal-line carry that could have ended the Steelers’ season had Harper, who was stabbed by his wife the night before, gone down the sideline. Instead, kicker Mike Vanderjagt did what Mike Vanderjagt does and Bettis could relax and go on to retire after a win in Super Bowl XL.

Without Roethlisberger’s tackle, Bettis would have had an all-time blunder in the clutch. His career would have been a deluxe version of Earnest Byner's. Hell, at least Byner won a ring with the Redskins in 1991. For Bettis, there would be no ring, no going out on top, and the lasting memory would always be this play. So he should be eternally grateful to Roethlisberger. Craig is vilified for his playoff fumble, while Bettis usually avoided big ones, but he did lose three in the playoffs in his final two seasons (2004-05). Davis lost one fumble in his career in a game Denver lost.

The trump card for Bettis is his volume. He rushed for 13,662 yards, which ranks sixth in NFL history. Given the state of veteran running backs, Bettis will rank sixth for several years to come. A 30-year-old Steven Jackson sits 3,527 yards away. We will learn soon how voters feel about Edgerrin James, but every eligible 12,000-yard rusher is in Canton but Bettis.

Despite debuting two years later and missing most of the 1999 season, Davis made the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team over Bettis. The same Hall of Fame voters decide these teams. This means the voters gave Davis the edge over Bettis for what happened from 1993-99. There is no denying Bettis wins considerably for 2000-05, but was that really a great enough stretch to make him a three-time finalist and to never vote Davis into the top 15?

Bettis’ reputation as a compiler really is not fair. He did have a few bad seasons, but usually he played well when on a team that was competing. At the end of his career, he was productive as a specialist. He just did not have the volume of elite seasons as his peers, including Davis.


Ideally, most people would agree greatness is what deserves to be rewarded for the Hall of Fame. That does not mean one play or game, in the cases of Timmy Smith, David Tyree and a slew of others, or a one-year wonder like Ickey Woods. But a streak of elite performance that few ever achieve as done by players like Davis, Sterling Sharpe and Kurt Warner should be recognized.

All three running backs profiled here won at least one Super Bowl and made noteworthy achievements as individuals. It is hard to ignore that Davis’ individual achievements stand out the most.

Hanging around for a few more years as a lesser player to pad the stats should not make someone more eligible for the Hall of Fame, but perhaps unbeknownst to the voters, that is what happens in some cases. We have to focus on a player’s peak. Few in history can match the four-year run Davis had to start his career before injuries ended it prematurely.

If Davis does not enter Canton by 2020, I will personally steal Floyd Little’s bust and swap it with one of Davis made out of Play-Doh. Okay, that’s probably not going to happen, but only due to a lack of artistic ability and dreading the awkward visit to the type of store that sells Play-Doh. There will always be Hall of Fame inconsistencies, but let’s limit the injustices.

Terrell Davis did just about everything a running back could, except it only took him four years. He should be rewarded, not penalized, for that.


129 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2017, 11:06am

#1 by Dean // Aug 09, 2013 - 12:09pm

The really sad thing is that Bettis is the one clearly undeserving back of the three, yet the one most likely to be inducted.

And on an unrelated note, while we're talking about the Hall of Fame, when is someone going to take a serious look at Chris O'Brien?

Points: 0

#2 by JIPanick // Aug 09, 2013 - 12:55pm

"If Davis does not enter Canton by 2020, I will personally steal Floyd Little’s bust and swap it with one of Davis"

I volunteer to drive the getaway car.

Points: 0

#4 by Karl Cuba // Aug 09, 2013 - 1:52pm

This is a nice article but I think I'd reject the premise. I don't see how Davis having a better case than two guys who shouldn't really make it into Canton sures up his candidacy.

I thought Scott put the argument to bed in the first section, Davis' play stands as a HOF career when judged on its own.

Points: 0

#50 by Dean // Aug 10, 2013 - 8:06am

You can make a case for Craig as a borderline candidate. He certainly wouldn't be the least worthy guy if he ever made it, but on the other hand, it's no travesty that he's not.

I think the other two get rebuked because they get more sympathy from the general public. There isn't nearly as much backlash from the general public about someone like Bettis as there is Davis. Or maybe I'm just creating a straw man? I dunno.

Points: 0

#3 by Topher Doll (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 1:52pm

There are some issues, mostly the fact you included playoffs, this just benefits backs on good teams. If OJ had been on a playoff team in the modern 16 game season (so 19 games total like TD) he'd have 2718 yards, just blowing away the competition. Also you talk about the benefits of being a good blocker and receiver but don't mention that TD only averaged about 180 receiving yards a season. Compare that to the likes of Priest Holmes (329 yards per season), Edge James (306 per season), Ricky Watters (425) or J. Lewis (313) and he was hardly an impressive receiver.

You are right that a players greatness should be rewarded but being great for 10 years is just as important, if not more important, as 4 top tier years.

Also your argument perfectly applies to Shaun Alexander as well, a player who set the TD rushing record (though it was broken a year later). And even if you break it into a per year average (that way rewarding, not hurting, shortened careers) Alexander has a higher rushing yards per season, receiving yards per season, TD's per season, higher percentage of 1,000 yard seasons out of total seasons, and also has an NFL MVP award. Like TD, Alexander also had an amazing 5 year stretch, in many cases 5 great years is considered better than 4 great years:
- 1899 total yards per season for TD and 1770 total yards per season for Alexander
- 15.3 total TD's per season for TD and 19.6 total TD's per season for Alexander
- 4.78 YPC for TD and 4.54 YPC for Alexander
So about 120 more total yards and a slightly YPC for TD and about 4 more TD's per season for Alexander. Oh and Alexander did it for 5 years.

Just saying.

I do think Bettis is overrated compared to TD though and would rather see TD in than Bettis.

Also, great first article for FO!

Points: 0

#6 by Topher Doll (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 2:02pm

Hah you are right, I didn't take nicknames into account. I think with the TD debate we tend to demonize guys who actually stay healthy and are exceptionally productive for 8-10 years instead of just lights out for 3-5. If I'm a GM I'm taking the 8-10 years guy because I know I don't have to worry about RB for a decade and I'm still getting a Pro Bowler. I think TD was the more talented back, but Bettis topped 1,000 yards 8 times and made the Pro Bowl 6 times, he was a very good back for a long time.

Like I said though, I think TD should get in before Bettis, but I also think Ricky Watters, Priest Holmes, Edge James, and Shaun Alexander should get in before Bettis so there's that...

Points: 0

#17 by FanZed // Aug 09, 2013 - 4:13pm

I agree in regards to Priest Holmes and would go so far as to say that there's no justification for rejecting his candidacy if Terrell Davis ultimately gets in.

Priest Holmes had a handful of similarly brilliant campaigns cut short by injury. The one thing he doesn't have is playoff success, but I think the KC defense of that era should bear the brunt of the blame.

Points: 0

#98 by armchair journ… // Aug 12, 2013 - 2:05am

I also think any vote for TD should be a vote for Priest. Priest didn't need a nickname, and had a better "rags-to-riches" story by a mile.


Points: 0

#120 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Aug 13, 2013 - 11:19am

Right, I think if you put in Davis, you need to start asking the question: Is Priest Holmes a HOF'er. Is Larry Johnson? Is Chris Johnson? Is Arian Foster one more season away from being a HOF'er?

The bar is just too low with only 3 good seasons.

Points: 0

#35 by dbostedo // Aug 09, 2013 - 10:15pm

First, I wouldn't call using someone's initials makes for a good nickname, even if the initials are football related.

Second, no one said it didn't make sense, just that it wasn't as good a nickname as "The Bus", which I think most people would agree with.

Points: 0

#37 by Karl Cuba // Aug 09, 2013 - 10:21pm

I'm just astonished that somebody, even on the internet, thought that I was trying to suggest that one nickname could outdo the other.

Points: 0

#52 by dbostedo // Aug 10, 2013 - 9:39am

Well someone made a case for TD over Bettis, and you said "But Bettis had a cool nickname".

To me there's an implication that you're saying TD did NOT have a cool nickname.

So clearly you're saying "The Bus" nickname outdoes "TD".

So now, what does this have to do with the real argument about Bettis' and Davis' relative worth? Nothing at all, as far as I can tell.

Points: 0

#55 by Karl Cuba // Aug 10, 2013 - 10:36am

OK, the first comment was a joke. All I was trying to say is that I think that Bettis gets a lot of attention and hype because he has a nifty nickname and while it's silly I do think the Hall voters (of whom I do not have a high opinion) are likely to put him in because of it. I didn't expect someone to start arguing the merits of both nicknames.

Does any of this have anything to do with their worthiness? Clearly not.

Points: 0

#65 by dbostedo // Aug 10, 2013 - 4:19pm

FWIW, I've thought this whole thing with nicknames was a joke for all involved. I don't think we were arguing the merits... except that "The Bus" is clearly a better nickname than "TD". :)

Points: 0

#69 by Raiderjoe // Aug 10, 2013 - 5:40pm

Are posters drunk? TD not nickname. TD is Terrell davis' initials. Calling someoene by initials is not really nickname.
The Bus sucks as nickname. Can easily list 100 better NFL nickanmes in league hsitory.The only type of bus that yellow and black are tard carts. Tard carts are small schol buses that could be described as plump or fat. Jerome "Tard Cart" Bettis bettetr ring to it

Points: 0

#13 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 09, 2013 - 3:27pm

You're probably right that OJ Simpson would have demolished rushing records with 16-game regular seasons and then 3-4 playoff games. However, I think I've shown in this article and in others recently that many of the great rushing seasons are the result of a piss-poor passing game. If Christian Ponder played better in MIN last year, Peterson might not crack 2,000 yards. When these teams get to the playoffs against better competition, that's when the QB gets exposed, they fall behind and there goes much of the threat of the running game. I think Davis should get credit for helping to lift the offense in two big games (GB Super Bowl, 98 AFC-C vs. Jets) where Elway was just not that good at all.

I did mention TD was not a good receiving back. I just didn't quantify it.

For me on Alexander, I think that's a case where the talent trumps the system. Running behind Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson certainly helped. I also think Matt Hasselbeck is a little underrated for how well he played circa 2002-07. That set up quite a few TD opportunities for Alexander.

Points: 0

#15 by Topher Doll (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 3:43pm

I do think both Alexander and TD benefited from good QB's and good OL's. TD did have three Pro Bowlers in front of him in 1998 in Nalen, Schlereth and Jones, which can't be discounted. Though that will always be an issue, an elite RB can make his OL look better just like a good OL can make a RB look better.

Again, great article, lots of discussion to have.

Points: 0

#16 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 09, 2013 - 3:47pm

Thanks. I wanted to display the receiving stats for each player in the table, but I wasn't sure it would fit the page then. Now I see it can. Good to know.

Points: 0

#20 by Topher Doll (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 5:08pm

Thanks again, and in reality there isn't just one argument here, there are a few:

- Whether Sayers deserves to be in the Hall
- Whether Craig deserves to be in the Hall
- Whether Bettis deserves to be in the Hall
- Whether TD deserves to be in the Hall
- Whether TD is better than Sayers/Craig/Bettis
- Which is more important, a players peak or longevity, or is there a balance.
- Should the Hall use it's members as the litmus test or should candidates be compared to peers of their same period

And many more.

Points: 0

#128 by JOL13 // Jan 31, 2017 - 11:00am

With that in mind, it's also worth noting Denver had a great passing attack when Davis racked up the 1st AND 2nd most regular+postseason yardage: A first ballot HoF QB who even in his final two final seasons posted an 87.5 (7th best in '97) and 93.0 rating (5th best in '98,) a first ballot HoF receiving TE in his prime, a Pro Bowl WR and arguably the best undrafted WR ever.

For me, Davis' playoff performance are what really sits him apart, precisely because the level of competition, and defense in particular, rises dramatically in the playoff and only gets better the deeper a team goes. Yet when the stakes rose and the competition got tougher, Davis did the same just as steadily, culminating in his 3 rushing TDs in SB XXXII against an excellent defending champions D. He's STILL the ONLY person with 3 rushing TDs in a single SB, and likely to remain so as passing dominates the NFL more and more. The only other RB I know of to similarly raise his game in the playoffs is Riggins, but he only did it once, in the '82 strike season, and with much lower season totals and averages even in full seasons. He also made it into Canton on his first ballot.... ;)

Davis' problem is that his extraordinary performance gets lost in the clutter of several successors who were merely very good in the same system (and perhaps he's overshadowed a bit by Barry Sanders being exceptional much longer on teams that had nothing else.)

Points: 0

#18 by DisplacedPackerFan // Aug 09, 2013 - 4:19pm

If you want to make an argument against Davis (which I'm not saying you were and I'm not trying to do) you throw Ahman Green into the comparison you just did. I'll just use his 5 year peak from 00 - 04. Though his 06 season after returning from injury was similar. I'm grabbing your numbers for the other stats for Davis and Alexander I didn't recalc those. I'm throwing total DYAR (run + rec) per year during the peaks in there too, because that helps show off the difference between them better. I've also got their best total DYAR seasons in there (98 for Davis, 05 for Alexander, 03 for Green). Of course for hall voting it's still generally just standard stats that are looked at, they wouldn't look at DYAR.

YFS/S . . 1899 . . 1770 . . . 1807
TD/S. . . 15.3 . . 19.6 . . . 12.2
YPC . . . 4.78 . . 4.45 . . . 4.66
DYAR/s. . 464.8. . 258.6. . . 237.6
Peak DYAR 646 . . .434 . . . .499

So Green is in the middle on yards from scrimmage (Rush + Pass in this case does not include return numbers). Clearly behind on TD's and in the middle on YPC. I don't think anyone makes an argument that Green should be in the hall of fame and if you weight scoring more heavily then you have some justification there too.

If you add 06 to Green his numbers dip to 1745, 11.1, 4.56, 225.3 but then you have 4 years vs 5 years vs 6 years. Green had 6 additional junk years on his 12 year career, some of them injury riddled, some of the mostly riding the bench in Seattle. He also had some fumble issues, though his fumble rate wasn't that different from Alexander, Davis was clearly better. Touches per fumble Davis - 91.2, Alexander 77.5, Green 65.8. Again Green doesn't belong in the Hall in my opinion. But he was a pretty solid blocker as well, and he was penalized only 5 times in his entire career.

And just to throw some more data out there.
Total career DYAR (rush + rec)
Davis - 1913 (7 seasons) No seasons of overall negative value
Alexander - 1113 (9 seasons) 3 seasons of overall negative value
Green - 1479 (12 seasons) 1 season (rookie @ -6) of overall negative value

I'm still borderline on Davis in the Hall. His peak was huge, look at the DYAR a stat I give some merit to though really it was only a 3 year monster peak as the 249 combined in 95 isn't anything really special 200+ is a great year, but lots of backs hit that range. But again I'm not sure that is enough. I also have no issues with saying Sayers doesn't belong if you only look at his running back play. Add in the return numbers and his case gets a lot stronger. I'm not going to be upset if Davis makes it, but 3 amazing years and 1 very good year is still borderline, I'm fine with throwing away the 3 junk post injury seasons.

Points: 0

#7 by usctrojan11 (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 2:07pm

ill make a longer reply later, but TD is nothing but a JAG that happened to be on denver when they had their best passing qb, best oline, and an excellent blocking scheme. if portis(and any number of non-hof caliber backs) had been in the system 1995-98 they too wouldve put up "TD Numbers"

Points: 0

#8 by Topher Doll (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 2:14pm

I do think TD is exceptionally talented and very successful but there is a common thread between Mike Shanny RB's, they have Shanny. His blocking scheming of offense tends to create exceptional backs out of average to good backs. Clinton Portis was a good back in Washington, he was an elite back in Denver. Alfred Morris last year is another great example, I think he'd be a fine back on most other teams but in Washington he was just amazing.

Shanahan makes backs better and that should be included in the conversation. If a person is will to take away from a back being in a WCO team or being on a really talented team, that should apply for TD as well.

TD was great, system helped.

Points: 0

#9 by usctrojan11 (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 2:24pm

Id be more inclined to believe td had exceptional talent if he was better in college or did something with another nfl team, but unfortunately his career ended too soon.

Points: 0

#129 by JOL13 // Jan 31, 2017 - 11:06am

Portis et al. WERE in that system when Elways retirement made Denver MORE dependent on their RBs: None ever came close to matching Davis' pre-injury production. Especially not in the playoffs, where rushing yards are hardest to gain. Davis is still the ONLY person with 3 rushing TDs in a single SB, and he did it against a very good defending champion Packers D despite missing a whole QUARTER due to a blinding migraine.

Points: 0

#10 by Silm (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 2:39pm

If Jerome Bettis played for a team other than the Steelers (except maybe Dallas), he would not even be a finalist. The best backs in the NFL now with 5 seasons played all outproduce his 5 years - having 2 of your prime years with negative DVOA is pretty damning. MJD? Ray Rice? Adrian Peterson? All 3 of them have better 5 year production and the first two are absolutely devastating in the passing game and superb pass blockers. I checked RR's stats for instance: No negative rushing DVOA seasons, his 2011 receiving was +30% DVOA, two season with 2000 YFS, and this is all with sharing the backfield with McGahee and others for much of it.

Bettis is getting the Lynn Swann/John Stallworth benefit. He played for a signature franchise, who won a Super Bowl (to cap his career no less which adds to the "lore" of it). Its telling that Davis outdid Bettis' DYAR in just 7 years. Yet who's the finalist?

Bettis has 4 good seasons above 4.0 YPC, but 4 seasons with negative DVOA where he logged significant carries.

Again, if he played for a team like the Tampa Bay Bucs (we'll even give him a Super Bowl in '02 hypothetically) and performed the same way, would he even be in the conversation? We'd probably be comparing him to Michael Turner - 1 dimensional one-time ankle-breaker turned plodder who had a few good seasons mixed with really down seasons before dropping off a cliff.

Kacsmar is a great writer and his research is great - I won't say that his Steeler tendencies are affecting this because he's shown to be better than that. But the same can't be said for the Hall voters who think averaging 602 yards receiving over 9 seasons and 47.5 yds a game on a 4-ring team are HOF-worthy (Swann) but that WRs with 130 total TDs and averaged 1031 yards a season with MIN while practically inventing the Slot WR role need to wait almost as long (Carter).

Bettis was the guy you turned to when you needed to get to 2nd and 7. Its more important who you play for than how you played it would seem. Sure he'll get in eventually, but he'll just be RB #30 in a long line of average backs.

Points: 0

#12 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 09, 2013 - 3:14pm

To be fair, Stallworth (10 years) and Swann (14 years) were among the longest waits ever for anyone inducted into the HOF as a non-senior candidate. Carter waited as long as Crazy Legs Hirsch and one year longer than Biletnikoff, Lofton and Joiner. Most WRs wait.

Again, I don't worry too much about Bettis' YPC as he was a bigger back. If you look at the guys with a similar size, then 3.93 YPC is right in line with Natrone Means (3.7), Ron Dayne (3.79), T.J. Duckett (3.92), Pete Johnson (3.78), Duce Staley (4.05), Bam Morris (3.91) and Christian Okoye (3.93).

Backs like that rarely go above 4.0 YPC, and if they did, they probably weren't a workhorse with the volume of carries Bettis often had.

The knock on Bettis should be for how bad it went with the Rams in years 2-3 and some of his other mediocre years in Pittsburgh.

Points: 0

#14 by Silm (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 3:29pm

Yeah I think that's the crux of it - Most backs peak in their early years and we know they don't exactly hold up well so they kind of need to. I also don't worry much about Bettis' poor mid 2000s, few are producing so late in their careers. But to have such awful years in what should be his prime showing (Y2, Y3) to me is the most damning.

I was aware of the two Steeler WR's long wait but still the fact that they got in with those dreadful numbers....I just looked up Stallworth: avg 623/yards over 14 seasons, with avg of 4.5 TDs a season. I guess he played longer at least than Swann but you demonstrated why longevity is a poor metric by itself. Sure they could maybe have had more stats had the 70s not been a run and defense kind of league but the #'s are what they are.

Its not hard to draw some comparisons that WHO you play for is a massive contributor to your HOF case. But he'll luck into a year where there's a weak 5th modern era candidate and he'll sneak in eventually if only because people eventually feel sorry for him like they apparently did Swann and Stallworth.

Points: 0

#25 by RickD // Aug 09, 2013 - 7:15pm

MJD? Ray Rice? Adrian Peterson? All 3 of them have better 5 year production and the first two are absolutely devastating in the passing game and superb pass blockers.

AD is practically a Hall of Fame lock already, and the other two will probably have good resumes when all is said and done.

Points: 0

#49 by Jerry // Aug 10, 2013 - 7:22am

Bettis "rushed for 13,662 yards, which ranks sixth in NFL history." Whether he did that for the Rams, Steelers, Buccaneers, or any other team, that would certainly be enough to make him a legitimate candidate.

Points: 0

#11 by Will Allen // Aug 09, 2013 - 2:56pm

I need to go back and compare, in detail, Davis to Gale Sayers, who to me is deserving HOFer with a very brief career. It seems to me that in such a brief career, being more explosive counts for a lot.

Points: 0

#21 by nweb (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 5:17pm

Context is important, Sayers played on awful teams, with awful QBs and horrible lines. Davis played with a HOF QB and Offensive Tackle. A defense could easily key on Sayers with NO threat of an alternative, so while D's keyed on Davis, they had to at least consider that it was John Elway back there. Also, in addition to Zimmerman, Davis had a number of other very solid pro-bowl caliber blockers to Sayers' none.

Stallworth is absolutely a stretch, but Swann I do think has to be viewed in the context of peaking in the all-time dead ball era. We think there's been a straight line progression of improving passing games but the 50's and AFL 60's were relatively easier passing eras than the mid 70's. Honestly, if I had an overlooked wideout for the HOF it would be Harold Jackson.

Points: 0

#22 by Mr Shush // Aug 09, 2013 - 6:12pm

This. Sayers belongs in the Hall. A number of backs are in there who really shouldn't be. Davis is, to my mind, a marginal candidate: it wouldn't be a travesty if he got in, and worse players at his position are already there, but it would also not bother me in the slightest if he never made it. Craig and Bettis are in the same category, but lower down it. Holmes, if anything, played behind even more insanely awesome offensive lines than Davis or Alexander (who I really would hate to see inducted, ever). Most importantly, Brown, Reed, Shields, Strahan, Bryant Young, Aeneas Williams and probably more besides all need to get in before any running back not named Tomlinson is considered.

Points: 0

#24 by RickD // Aug 09, 2013 - 7:12pm

By what metric did Swann have a better career than Stallworth? The Super Bowl MVP?
A small number of spectacular catches in the playoffs? (Stallworth had some of those, too.)

Swann and Stallworth entered the league at the same time, at the same age. In 1984, Stallworth had the best season of career, gaining 1395 yards. Lynn Swann was already working for ABC by then.

Swann is in the Hall of Fame because he was integral in how the NFL "took the leap" in the 1970s to pass baseball to become the most popular sport in the US. I think there's something to this argument. But as a receiver, he's certainly the weakest player at the position to be in the Hall. The Hall is not big enough to take every receiver whose stats end up better than Swann's.

Points: 0

#95 by Steve B (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 12:26am

Swann was named first-team All-Pro by at least one major voting organization of the time three different years (1975, 1977 and 1978). He was also named to the first-team of the All-70s team. I think O.J. was the only one who got more votes. Boiling his career down to those SB catches and nothing more tells me that somebody hasn't done their homework.

Now, if the response is "well then Harold Jackson, Cliff Branch and Drew Pearson all all deserving, too", I agree.

Points: 0

#34 by young curmudgeon // Aug 09, 2013 - 10:07pm

It's "shoo-in," not "shoe-in."

Which has now been fixed. Thanks.

Points: 0

#23 by RickD // Aug 09, 2013 - 7:03pm

For Davis, we do not have to twist things to showcase his achievements.

When you combine different stats like you do, that is itself a kind of "twisting."

Consider this:

A running back has rushed for at least 1,750 yards 26 times. Davis has done it twice. He and Emmitt Smith are the only players to win a Super Bowl the season they did.

I'm sold! Terrell Davis and Emmitt Smith are the best two RBs in the history of the NFL.

But that's not really an argument that passes muster. So obviously you are cherry picking some stats while excluding others to favor TD over other RBs who are far more accomplished, like Walter Payton, Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, OJ Simpson, Barry Sanders, etc. What does this mean? It means that the combination "winning the Super Bowl while achieving this arbitrary number of yards rushing" isn't that important.

Then there's this:

Davis is one of five running backs to win a rushing title, MVP, and Super Bowl. The other four (Jim Taylor, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen and Emmitt Smith) are in Canton.

Again, the Super Bowl criterion is thrown in simply to confuse the issue. Are we supposed to believe that Jim Taylor is a more accomplished RB than Jim Brown or OJ Simpson or Barry Sanders or Eric Dickerson?

TD had a very nice four-year run. But the more I see arguments like this, the more I think that it was a mistake to induct Gale Sayers based on his own 4-year career (padded with 3 years of virtually no production, just like TD).

If you stripped his name off his career stats, nobody who looked at Sayers total production would dream that he should be a Hall of Famer. A career total of 6263 yards from scrimmage? That's less than half of what Roger Craig has.

There is more going on here. The league has tripled in size since the 1960s and the rate of induction has stayed constant. I don't think Sayers would get in today based on his limited production.

Points: 0

#28 by theslothook // Aug 09, 2013 - 7:41pm

Having done a fair amount of draft analysis, I think its often undersold how much of an accomplishment it is to remain in the league as a starter for a long period of time. Omitting special teamers and undrafteds, since 1978, only 17.53% of draft picks managed to start 6 years or more. I think the hall of fame has to balance longevity and peak performance. After all, while we might brush off several additional years as stat padding, truth is, its hard to even get those opportunities in the first place. Once you're past your prime, the nfl tends to get you off the field pretty quickly. I remember how the end of LT's career played out. The moment he ceased being great, he almost overnight became a committee back with the jets and then out of the league the year after.

Points: 0

#33 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 09, 2013 - 9:30pm

You mentioned Tomlinson. I think we're experiencing a change with older running backs and teams not investing much at all into them anymore. That's why Cedric Benson, Michael Turner and Willis McGahee are unemployed right now. Teams would rather just go young and fresher by committee.

But that's for next week's article.

Points: 0

#32 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 09, 2013 - 9:26pm

First, the point was never to argue TD as being better than Payton/Brown/Dickerson. It was never to put Taylor over them either. It was to show the type of company he was in with his peak performance, which is a small list of elite backs.

When I talk about the HOF, I base things on the standards the HOF have used. I don't blow the whole thing up and start over, because if I did, then my HOF would look a bit different from the one we have. But that's irrelevant, so I look at the voting history and which players have been allowed in and excluded and go from there. What you or I find important for the HOF is not going to be the same as the voting committee.

That's why I said at the beginning about the reasoning being right or not. Based on past HOF criterion, TD belongs. We know they put a lot of value into SB rings, so why wouldn't the RB who was the most important to two SB teams not even make the top 15 finalists in seven tries? If Paul Hornung can get in the HOF for being the 3rd best player in his backfield, then Craig and TD should get more love for their larger contributions to multiple championship teams.

And if you think I fought hard for Davis here, then wait until Kurt Warner's eligible next year. I think Warner should be first ballot.

Points: 0

#38 by theslothook // Aug 09, 2013 - 10:51pm

This isn't relevant to TD necessarily, but the standards to get in have obviously ben raised, as they should be. These days, there are a slew of good runners, but very few elite ones. The same could be said about every position in the nfl. in addition, nostalgia has been slowly replaced by statistics and information from sites like FO. In that sense, I'm not sure the hall's prior standards should be the basis for who deserves to get in anymore. It should be, does TD merit a spot over the incoming class of players. In my mind, he's a borderline case. I definitely DO NOT think Bus should get in at all.

Points: 0

#87 by RickD // Aug 11, 2013 - 11:29pm

"Based on past HOF criterion (sic), TD belongs. We know they put a lot of value into SB rings, so why wouldn't the RB who was the most important to two SB teams not even make the top 15 finalists in seven tries?"

Evidently you're not really correctly reading what the "past HOF criteria" are. You've found some stats where TD is similar to some Hall of Famers. But you seem to be intentionally ignoring how short his career was. That's what's holding him back. And that's why Bettis is getting further in the voting than Davis. Total production matters to the voters.

Points: 0

#106 by Steve B (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 3:25pm

I don't think the Broncos win those SBs without Davis and that running game, but Elway was the most important player on those teams. Think about it. The running game didn't exactly suffer after Davis tore his ACL, but Shannahan had only one more playoff win during his time with the Broncos. What was the main reason for that?

Points: 0

#107 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 12, 2013 - 4:14pm

Well, Denver's defense getting lit up brighter than the Christmas tree in Batman Returns didn't help.

Points: 0

#112 by Mr Shush // Aug 12, 2013 - 6:05pm

They had some good defenses again around 2004. Reuben Droughns, the Bells et al weren't Davis, but I think the fact that Plummer wasn't Elway was more significant.

Points: 0

#48 by Jerry // Aug 10, 2013 - 7:13am

The thing about Sayers (and Swann, too, since you mentioned him above) is that he was such an exciting player to watch. A more recent example is Barry Sanders (who put up big numbers as well), where you knew that on any play he could make a couple defenders miss in a way that other backs couldn't. That kind of special player gets extra consideration from the voters, who actually saw him play.

Points: 0

#26 by RickD // Aug 09, 2013 - 7:26pm

Given the tendency to focus on rushing yards, few would argue against Davis as the superior back at this point.

That seems to be a bit of a circular argument. The only way to rate Davis ahead of Craig is to weigh the rushing yards more highly than the receiving yards. But why should anybody do that? Why do people say "Sure, Craig had a lot of receiving yards, but that was with the 49ers, so that makes it less impressive." Um, huh? Craig should be dinged for total productivity of an offense of which he was an integral part?

Somehow you're sweeping nearly 2000 more yards from scrimmage under the rug. So I'll have to argue "against Davis as the superior back at this point." I would take Davis for his four-year peak, but not for a 7-year vs. 7-year comparison.

Points: 0

#27 by theslothook // Aug 09, 2013 - 7:39pm

This isn't necessarily an argument against weighing rush yards versus receiving yards, but I think a big reason why Craig isn't a hall of famer is because so much of his production is judged based on context, and rightfully so I would add. I didn't watch craig so I won't specifically make a case against him, but I think of players like darren sproles and danny woodhead and even randal cobb to a large extent. They are useful in space players with multifaceted roles, but take them out of a system where such hybrid skills are valuable, and their flaws become magnified. I think at the end of the day, it boils down to what your definition of hall of fame is. To me, hall of fame implies you either defined the context you played in, or you could fit any system at any time. If neither is the case, then you're more of a great ancillary piece, productive but fortunate because of circumstances beyond your control.

Points: 0

#88 by RickD // Aug 11, 2013 - 11:33pm

You're comparing Roger Craig to Danny Woodhead and Darren Sproles?

I guess they played the same position. But I think Craig is much closer to Marshall Faulk than to those two mostly-backup RBs. No, he's not Marshall Faulk, obviously. But he's leagues ahead of Woodhead and Sproles.

Points: 0

#121 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Aug 13, 2013 - 11:31am

"They are useful in space players with multifaceted roles, but take them out of a system where such hybrid skills are valuable, and their flaws become magnified. I think at the end of the day, it boils down to what your definition of hall of fame is. "

Take any player out of a system that values his skills, and his flaws will be magnified.

Put Tom Brady in a chuck-it-down-the-field type offense (sans Randy Moss) and he'd look pedestrian. Put (in his prime) Favre in the offense Brady runs, and he'd look pedestrian.

The idea that you can separate player from scheme and judge talent is a bit silly. Its also a bit silly that we assume a player's skills are being efficiently used.

Points: 0

#31 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 09, 2013 - 9:13pm

I don't think weighing the rushing yards more is the only way. There's a difference of 32 games (two full seasons) in that 7-year comparison. Yet in the equivalent of two fewer seasons Davis had just as many TDs and better rushing numbers. I think the usage rate can't be ignored. Craig contributed to a prolific offense, but Davis was even more important to his offense.

Points: 0

#36 by Karl Cuba // Aug 09, 2013 - 10:17pm

While I agree with most of what you have said (and like that you are engaging with the commentariat, though I expect the delightful pedantry on this site might grind you down:-)), I think that Roger Craig was also a very big part of that 49er offense, just in a different way.

Points: 0

#30 by MarkV // Aug 09, 2013 - 9:06pm

I think that looking at direct comparisons from old players to new is deeply problematic.

I have seen many sayers - davis analogy arguments, and every time I do it makes me groan. Hall of Fame is a relative achievement. There are ~8 More NFL teams playing in Davis's era than in Sayers. That means similarities should not be a strong argument, especially when the hall voters have not changed the # of players they let in.

I do think that Davis has a somewhat decent case, and I don't think that Bettis should stand a chance at making it. Regardless, I would prefer to not see any running backs make it until LT does.

Points: 0

#44 by td (not verified) // Aug 10, 2013 - 1:37am

there's no way sayers gets in if he wasn't also the most electrifying kick returner of his time. It is what made him mythic. Having said that, how many league MVPs aren't in Canton? (I'm sure Mosely isn't in, and Gannon and McNair aren't getting in either, but having been the best player in the league at some point seems like a pretty strong credential)

Points: 0

#47 by Raiderjoe // Aug 10, 2013 - 6:57am

A bunch arnent in. Bert Jones, c. Conerly. RomN Gabriel, k. Anderson, J. Theismann, earl morrall, Brodie, Larry brown.

Sayers 5 time all pro but only paly 5 full sdaosns. Gerat kick returner and rjnnjgn back. Davis not a kick reyienr And had one less full seaodn than Sayers. Sayers transcendent plauer. Davjs, gerat as he was, was not very much knwon by peolple outside of footbLl fans.

Points: 0

#51 by Dean // Aug 10, 2013 - 8:13am

But how much of Sayers' fame outside football circles is really a rub from Brian Piccolo?

If Hollywood had made Elway's Song in 2000, and everybody shared a good cry over the relationship between QB and RB, would this make Terrell Davis a more qualified player?

I'm not saying that Sayers doesn't belong. I'm saying Davis does.

Points: 0

#59 by BaronFoobarstein // Aug 10, 2013 - 1:16pm

Even if the movie were a major contributor that would be okay. It's a hall of fame. It's supposed to tell the story of football. That usually means the very best players, but it doesn't always.

Points: 0

#39 by Go pats (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 11:05pm

My two cents:

Craig and Davis yes, bus no way. No way Elway sniffs those two rings without TD. Craig was stud. If only Walsh had not retired, the niners easily win 4 more SB's, IMHO.

Points: 0

#89 by RickD // Aug 11, 2013 - 11:37pm

Just saying, there's a high likelihood you'll be wrong on all three.

Guys on the NFL network are already talking about how Bettis is a shoo-in.

Points: 0

#40 by deflated (not verified) // Aug 09, 2013 - 11:48pm

People seem to have a problem dealing with TD's short career and how to weight his post-season stats. Easy solution - treat his 8 playoff games as another season. That is 1,140 yards at 5+ ypc, a very solid return. Now we're looking at 1 superb season, 2 excellent seasons and 2 very good seasons followed by the injury-plagued decline.

No RB has ever performed in the post-season like TD. Not everyone get the chance but when he got the opportunity in the biggest games you can play he dominated and no other RB comes close. Put him in the HoF already.

Points: 0

#41 by Alternator // Aug 09, 2013 - 11:59pm

The only reason any rational person would oppose Davis's candidacy would be career length; an incredibly dominant four years is great, but he's got nothing after it. With such a short peak, questions like "How much was it Mike Shanahan selling his soul to the devil for his power over running backs?" Would Davis have (merely?) been very good, instead of Hall of Fame caliber, for those four years with another coach?

The future player I'm interested in will be Wes Welker, and he's similar enough to Craig in my eyes. Ridiculously good at what he does, but how much is the player and how much is the situation?

Points: 0

#43 by theslothook // Aug 10, 2013 - 12:32am

Outside of ne, there are pretty much only 2 other teams that would've been able to seamlessly(I assume) integrate welker as ne did; denver and GB. He went to one of them. That means he's essentially playing the bulk of his career with two of the top 5 greatest qbs who have ever played this game. I don't think there is another receiver that can ever make that claim. I think wes has a good case, will probably get in because of the tough little white guy reputation, but I don't think leaving brady for manning will do much to alter his perception as system product.

Points: 0

#90 by RickD // Aug 11, 2013 - 11:40pm

If Welker has four years in Denver that look like his six in New England, he'll have a very strong case to make, esp. if the Broncos win a Super Bowl.

My gut feeling is that he'll have a monster season this year and Belichick will end up looking stupid, except among that subset of Patriot fans who think the loss of a Super Bowl is all Welker's fault.

Points: 0

#42 by thok // Aug 10, 2013 - 12:07am

This is a foolish article, like all Pro Football Hall of Fame articles that argue that player X has received a soul-crushing insult of biblical proportions of having to wait a few years. The backlog for the Hall of Fame is so ridiculously overloaded that most players will have to wait a couple years unless they start inductee 15 people a year for a few years.

Points: 0

#46 by Subrata Sircar // Aug 10, 2013 - 4:57am

Comparing TD to Gale Sayers does both a disservice. Few here are old enough to remember Sayers as a player (I'm not) but contemporary commentary paints him as the most explosive player anyone had seen since Red Grange. If it really is about understanding why a career-ending injury disqualifies Davis and not Sayers, we should look at what their contemporaries said. People described Sayers as the kind of player who made you hold your breath when he touched the ball, because someone amazing could happen at any moment. That explosiveness and sense of electricity is why he's in the Hall, despite the bolt-of-lightning career. (It helps that Sayers was a college football legend before he hit the league, too.)

TD's pro accolades are more nuanced, perhaps befitting a more subtle, sophisticated age; we know more now then we did. We have more and better ways of measuring value based on observation. Most of those observations paint the same picture - TD was a great running back for four years and then was gone. Without something extra to boost his case (and his signature game mentioned above isn't enough for me), something to put him on the same level with today's voters as Sayers was with his, he's not going to make it. I'm OK with that.

TL;DR: Gale Sayers is in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the best open-field runners football had ever seen. TD doesn't have that kind of reputation to counteract the shortness of his career.

Points: 0

#74 by Dennis // Aug 11, 2013 - 12:10pm

I think there are more than a few players in the HOF who if you removed their names from their stats, you'd say there is no way they should be in. Sayers is one. Namath is another off the top of my head. But these guys built up the "fame" part of it and that's why they are in.

TD was a great running back for four seasons, but he never had the fame or aura of Sayers, fairly or not. IMO four great seasons without anything else doesn't merit a HOF spot.

Points: 0

#113 by Mr Shush // Aug 12, 2013 - 6:16pm

I've actually seen pretty convincing stat-based arguments for Namath as belonging. They just involve more sophisticated stats (ones that factor in sacks, which he was great at avoiding, and adjust for era). There's a great article in the old PFR blog (by Lisk, I think).

Points: 0

#77 by DRohan // Aug 11, 2013 - 1:37pm

The myths and legends around Sayers are what makes him a special case, and deservedly so in my view. And I think a better comparison is not Davis, but Bo Jackson.

Points: 0

#54 by Ken C. (not verified) // Aug 10, 2013 - 10:14am

My question, is the bar set to low or to high to get into the HOF? Sometimes I think we are watering down the what it means to be a Hall of Famer based on the the players some of the lesser great players that are inducted. I know that one can compare TD to others who are already in the HOF, but is that the best course of action or should the bar be set higher.

Points: 0

#60 by BaronFoobarstein // Aug 10, 2013 - 1:17pm

It's too low. It may have been more befitting a time when the league was half its current size.

Points: 0

#91 by RickD // Aug 11, 2013 - 11:49pm

The number of players hasn't changed since the 1960s, when the league was less than half its current size. So it's definitely gotten harder to get in. Are we ever going to see a team like the '70s Steelers, who got 10 Hall of Famers. The Patriots from the last decade won't see half as many (even if we count Randy Moss as a Patriot).

Points: 0

#56 by Tripucka (not verified) // Aug 10, 2013 - 10:52am

To take a shot at Floyd Little within this article demonstrates a real lack of understanding of context and football history. Some people are chronologically snobbish and chronologically challenged.

Points: 0

#57 by Johnfrum (not verified) // Aug 10, 2013 - 12:14pm

It's not like Floyd Little walked on water. He was reasonably in the discussion for HOF, but certainly wasn't a sure thing. And I watched AFL football in the 1960s, so I have a little context.

Points: 0

#63 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 10, 2013 - 3:21pm

This feels like stoking a 3-year-old fire, but the plight of Floyd Little as "Denver's franchise-saving back who played with the worst teams ever" is hyperbolic revisionist history to justify his induction.

While the HOF standards have gone up, the fact that Little was voted in three years ago shows that the height of the bar varies by case for no good reason. Not all senior candidates get in. See Jerry Kramer or Claude Humphrey for two good examples of players who, unlike Little, were also finalists in the past.

Points: 0

#92 by RickD // Aug 11, 2013 - 11:52pm

I think senior candidates are far more likely to be voted upon based on publicity campaigns (as happened with Little). I say this not to disparage Little. But it seems obvious.

At least things aren't as bad as they were with the Baseball Hall of Fame when Frankie Frisch was inducting all of his buddies from the Cardinals.

Points: 0

#58 by JonFrum // Aug 10, 2013 - 12:26pm

As an anti-compiler guy, I enjoyed this article. Multiple mediocre years should not contribute to a HOF candidacy in any way, so career totals mean nothing to me. My standard for the HOF:

How many years was he the best at his position in the league?
How many years was he second best at his position?
How many years was he third best at his position?

If you come up with a goose-egg to these three questions, how can the player be in the discussion? If the answer to the first question is zero (he was never the best in his era), you need an extraordinary argument to justify the HOF. If he wasn't in the top three in multiple years, you can't be serious. We're talking about the best of all time. If you're not right at the top (and not top 5) during your best years, then you're Hall of Very Good.

It's perfectly reasonable to say that two or three great years aren't enough. Four is borderline. As much as I like TDs numbers, four years really is a short career at the top. If he had played another two years at a high level (top 5-8 in the league), he's be a shoe-in to me. He certainly was deserving during his active career, it just didn't last quite as long as I'd like to see.

Gale Sayers got in for style points. There was no one else like him in the league. Sayers was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders - he just didn't do it long enough. Sayers does justify Davis, but I'm not sure Sayers really belonged by the numbers. And I watched him play.

Points: 0

#61 by Will Allen // Aug 10, 2013 - 1:25pm

If one were to accept this reasoning, one would have to conclude that any receiver not named Jerry Rice, whose best years mostly overlapped for about the, oh I dunno, 12-14 years Jerry Rice was in his prime, needs an extraordinary argument to get in. It means any pass rusher not named Reggie White or Bruce Smith between about 1985 and 1996 needs an extraordinary argument.

This is not a sound criterion.

Points: 0

#62 by theslothook // Aug 10, 2013 - 2:55pm

pretty much spot on. Not too mention, people are taking career longevity completely for granted. When I mentioned above that only 17 percent of players drafted ever start 6 years or more, I thought that was a pretty big surprise. If you push it to 8 years or more starting, it drops to 10.6 %. To brush it off as mediocre is wrong.

Points: 0

#122 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Aug 13, 2013 - 11:40am

Of that 83% that don't make it to 6 years, probably 50-60% don't make it to 2 years, so its not really that impressive. Most of the fallout prior to that point is guys who either never made the roster, or never made it into a game.

Points: 0

#124 by theslothook // Aug 13, 2013 - 3:40pm

Not true. There are plenty of players who start some number and then hang around for 8 additional years. Starting 6 years itself, regardless of position, is very hard to do. It implies that you're likely not just a replaceable part. Remember its starts, not just years in the league.

Points: 0

#64 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 10, 2013 - 3:23pm

I agree. Never been a big fan of the "was he the best at his position?" thing. When has the best QB not been Manning, Brady or Rodgers since 2003? Doesn't mean Drew Brees shouldn't be a first-ballot HOFer.

Points: 0

#72 by Sifter // Aug 11, 2013 - 4:10am

The 'best at position' criteria definitely shouldn't be as strict as JonFrum suggests, but I feel it's still a good guide, and helps to thin the herd at certain positions. It also helps adjust for stats and eras. Obvious example would be modern QBs like Josh Freeman passing for over 4000 yards. He would be well down the lists if we're looking at best at this position - it's just a reflection of the era as the quality of his play. That's an area where Pro Bowls and All-Pro team stuff helps as well, since only a certain number of any position can be honored that way.

I also back up intropy's comment in #59 - it's a hall of FAME to tell the story of football. I think once a player reaches a minimum level of performance, then the final factor should be his impact on the game of football. Prime example being Gale Sayers. What that level of performance is can be argued, but if you'd made multiple All-Pro teams, you're obviously good enough - it's just a matter of how important you were in football's history. That's ultimately why Bettis will probably get in first, as he's more recognizable by fans (rightly or wrongly...)

Points: 0

#93 by RickD // Aug 12, 2013 - 12:07am

I agree with this sentiment. I often find that it's useful to look at MVP voting and position on All-Pro teams to measure how good a player was relative to his peers. It annoyed me for years that, in baseball, Tony Perez was in the Hall while Jim Rice wasn't. (Sense a Boston bias?) Nobody ever thought Perez was the top player on his own team, much less in the league overall. OTOH, Jim Rice remains the only player in the American League with 400+ total bases since Joe DiMaggio. (The NL numbers are a bit inflated because of a)steroids, and b) Coors Field.)

Excuse the baseball tangent.

In the current context, this should work against Roger Craig and Jerome Bettis. TD was definitely atop the RB field at his peak, and his peak included competition from Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith at their peaks. While Bettis and Craig also had All-Pro honors, I never really felt they were elite in the same way.


Thinking about the mid-90s, I really miss the rushing game of the NFL.

Points: 0

#101 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 12, 2013 - 11:19am

" TD was definitely atop the RB field at his peak, and his peak included competition from Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith at their peaks."

Sanders and Davis played for four common seasons. Sanders had the better season in three of the four years, surpassed only in his final season, after which he retired in disgust.

For the rest of his career, Davis only rushed for 1100 yards more than a retired Barry Sanders.

Points: 0

#68 by young curmudgeon // Aug 10, 2013 - 5:23pm

I fixed it for Scott a day or two ago, so I'll fix it for you, too:

It's "shoo-in," not "shoe-in."

I'm beginning to feel like I have a "shoo" fetish.

This was a reply to number 58.

Points: 0

#70 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 10, 2013 - 7:49pm

I've actually seen "shoe-in" three times since yesterday. I take zero blame for that.

Points: 0

#71 by Duff Soviet Union // Aug 10, 2013 - 10:09pm

I wouldn't be inclined to vote for any of these guys. If I had to vote for one, it would actually be Craig, because his influence on his teams passing game was way higher than Davis and especially Bettis. But no more running backs please. I'd vote yes for LDT but I think even he's a lot more borderline than people think and is massively overrated by fantasy football fans.

Bettis as a HOFer is a total joke. Here's an experiment. Take away the seasons where he's below replacement level. Not below average, below replacement. Two things happen. 1) He's a better player and 2) he has absolutely no chance at making the Hall because you've just chopped off over 2,500 yards from his career totals and that's all he's got going for him. It's a real indictment on his case that removing his WORST seasons actually makes him a worse HOF candidate. He was a plodding two down back who hung around for a while and was never great (his rookie year was pretty close though. Finishing second in the league in rushing value for those Rams teams is an excellent accomplishment, even if he did have no receiving value). Yeah, he looked better behind a better offensive line, but you could say that about any running back and that's why Dermontti Dawson's in the Hall isn't it?

Points: 0

#96 by Steve B (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 1:02am

So were the lines that Craig ran behind chopped liver?

Stats mean nothing if you don't put them into context.

Rich Brooks tried to turn Bettis into a blocking fb his last season with the Rams.

The lines that Bettis ran behind from 1998-2000 were not as good as the ones he ran behind in 1996-97 and 2001. He didn't have a qb close to as good as Montana or Elway until Roethlisberger arrived in 2004, by which point he was over a decade into his career and no longer the primary starter at rb. Even at that, he managed to reel off 5 100+ yard rushing games after Staley was injured in '04 and the game vs. the Bears (in which he ran for 100+ and had that signature td over Urlacher) was what started the Steelers' SB run in '05.

Points: 0

#73 by Lance // Aug 11, 2013 - 9:02am

Given that it is a Hall of Fame, and that Davis was the prime driver of a two-time championship team, and crossed important statistical thresholds (e.g. rushing for 2000 yards), it seems hard to imagine why he wouldn't make it. The longevity thing is an issue, but as the article notes, it's not like Davis languished in obscurity for two or three years, THEN had a short streak of greatness, all before again regressing to mediocrity. He started off on fire, did fame-worthy stuff, and then tried to recover from injury.

I played fantasy football from about 1991 through 2004. Davis was certainly a very talked-about guy and may have been an MVP (awarded to the guy who scored the most points while starting). To me, those guys are the ones worthy of "fame" even if their true statistics may not measure up. (This includes guys like Andre Reed, who don't seem to measure up to the stats people, but who, in my mind, through a combination of numbers and team success, were always at the forefront of football conversation.)

This applies to Roger Craig, too. He was bigger before my fantasy football days, but when you talked about the Niners, he was on the list (Montana, Rice, Lott, Craig, etc.).

Points: 0

#75 by Dennis // Aug 11, 2013 - 12:16pm

Given that it's the Hall of Fame, I don't see how a basically four season career (as great as it was) earns a spot without having something extra to go with it. As mentioned earlier, Sayers had an aura/mystique around him. Davis doesn't have anything like that.

Points: 0

#76 by Cuenca Guy // Aug 11, 2013 - 1:03pm

Heaven help us when we use fantasy football popularity and statistics as a criterion for Hall of Fame Induction.

Points: 0

#79 by Lance // Aug 11, 2013 - 2:50pm

My fantasy football comment was simply to demonstrate in an anecdotal way someone's "fame" (which is inherently difficult to measure) among people who sort of paid attention to the sport. I couldn't tell you who the feature RB was for most teams in the late 90's, but I knew who Terrell Davis was and what team he played for. Hard to miss, actually, given how successful he was. Which is sort of the point.

Points: 0

#80 by Cuenca Guy // Aug 11, 2013 - 3:39pm

While my comment was in response to your statement, I stand behind it as an indictment of many fans in this day and age. Instead of really following football, it's all about NFL RedZone and how many fantasy points they can accumulate. While advanced statistics, in-depth play analysis, and the ability to watch every NFL game has certainly helped educate many fans, I find there to be an overwhelming discussion and reliance on fantasy football when judging a quality football player.

With the ridiculous amount of fantasy analysis, I finally gave in and played fantasy football for one miserable season last year. I gave up on it about halfway through the season because it took so much enjoyment and analysis from watching the games. It led to watching one or two players or being so distracted by fantasy totals that it became difficult to really watch games. I still almost won the league I was in, losing in the final, but that ridiculous, horrible pastime is something I will never play again. I disliked fantasy coverage before I played, but now it frankly sickens me.

Okay, thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Points: 0

#82 by Lance // Aug 11, 2013 - 4:11pm

Feel free to stand by your comments. I'll defend myself by saying that as a 40 year old, I was watching the NFL in the 80's and 90's without the benefit of NFL Red Zone or whatever (I still don't have that), and played fantasy football before whole magazines and websites existed that were devoted to such a thing. (Indeed, as commissioner in college, part of my job was to get a USA Today on Monday morning and spend an hour in the library manually on notebook paper-- when, then I got back from class in the evening, I'd call everyone (no email until ca. 1994) to let them know how they were doing in anticipation of the Monday night game.) I no longer play and even when I did I watched more to watch than how so-and-so was doing in relation to my fantasy team.

I agree with you that nothing is more annoying that listening to sports radio Sunday morning where someone has a fantasy football "guru" on to tell listeners who to start, and watching a game with a stat scroll along the bottom all to please the fantasy crowd.

Again, I brought it up to indicate some measure of "fame" (it's the Hall of Fame, after all, not the Hall of Stats), not to suggest that fantasy football is necessarily something that should be included in typical HoF conversations.

Points: 0

#85 by Cuenca Guy // Aug 11, 2013 - 6:53pm

Perhaps I should then blame you for helping turn fantasy football into the monster it is today. In all seriousness, I don't think you need to defend yourself for playing. I needed to vent a bit, and you provided the opportunity.

In my other comment I addressed this, but while I'm not looking for the NFL to change its name, I think it should be at least thought of as the Hall of Greatness rather than the Hall of Everybody Knows Me. While it's tough to use stats when we're talking about Walter Jones, with running backs, stats are one of the most important considerations.

While Davis had a great 4 years, I don't think he meets the level of "transcendent greatness" like Sayers or Koufax (if you'll allow the baseball comparison) to make up for the very short time he played. I don't feel he's "undeserving" per se, I just don't think he quite cleared the hurdle.

Points: 0

#86 by Raiderjoe // Aug 11, 2013 - 8:24pm

Gantays football is getting less fun recent years. Still play it but not as many leagues as used to. Was gerat fantsya player 2000-07 like Willie Brown, Art Shell king level. From 2008-current am still good like Tim Brown level. But think winding down nkw like Cliff Branch playifn in Arena League. Like still want to play but not as excited as used to be.

Getting sick of these fntsy shows on TV, fantasy questions on SiriusXM fantasy channel and fantasy questions being asked on regular sports talk shows. Also sick of seeing fantasy stat scrolls on NFL game.s liked 1980s better when NBCwould occasionally show all the scores on screen at one time.

Hate having Rodgers and opponent has gore and I want 49ers to win becauuse picked 49ers in office pool but if Gore scores TD it hurts my fantasy team and I need Rodgers to get good stats but I pickd packers to not cover speard and it gets all convulted and stupid

Points: 0

#105 by Steve B (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 2:07pm

Is this a serious post?

Everybody knew/knows how great Sayers was with or without "Brian's Song".

Points: 0

#78 by Lance // Aug 11, 2013 - 2:47pm

Again, he was the main cog in a two-time Super Bowl winning team. He rushed for over 2000 yards in a season. He was Offensive PotY twice. He was an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP.

Points: 0

#81 by Cuenca Guy // Aug 11, 2013 - 3:45pm

I agree with other posters that I find that to be too little. While Davis was excellent for a couple of seasons, I personally expect a bit more. Sayers separated himself by his Barry Sanders qualities and his amazing return game - Davis succeeded in a system that many others (Portis, Morris, et al) have in as well.

Okay, here's a hypothetical. Let's say Montee Ball rushes for 3,000 yards in the regular season with 30 touchdowns. He rushes for another 500 yards and 5 touchdowns in the playoffs. Next training camp, he blows out his knee and never plays another down in the NFL. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

Points: 0

#83 by Lance // Aug 11, 2013 - 4:25pm

It's an interesting thought experiment, but the situation is obviously completely unprecedented and I have no idea how to consider it. If a guy truly rushed for 3,000 yards, that season would be the most talked-about of all time. So perhaps that alone would merit inclusion in a club devoted to honoring, well, the sports most famous performers.

I'm not sure how much weight the "he was a product of a system" line carries. If Steve Young and Jeff Garcia can be incredibly successful for the 49ers, does that mean we should diminish Joe Montana as some sort of "system" guy?

In the end, for me, it's not just about 4 really productive seasons and then a few afterwards where he tried to recover from injury. You can look at guys like Billy Simms or Charlie Garner or Robert Smith and see similar numbers. But once you're also getting some Super Bowl rings (and an MVP) plus a few other end-of-season awards (e.g. Offensive PotY twice in three years) it bumps one up in my mind from just a guy who had some really good years to something worthy of true "fame".

Points: 0

#84 by Cuenca Guy // Aug 11, 2013 - 6:42pm

The Offensive PotY award is important to me, and I do agree with the premise of greatness over longevity. To me, Davis doesn't meet that measure, but I wouldn't have a problem with him in the HoF like I will when Bettis undoubtably gets in. I, for one, don't pay attention to Super Bowl rings because for all of the impact that Davis had on the team's championships, it required a whole team to get it done. Using that as a criterion, perhaps the long snapper and punter should get into the Hall of Fame.

It sounds like you're advocating a literal definition of the Hall of Fame. By that definition, perhaps Davis should be included. Of course, maybe Brian Bozworth should get in as well. Certainly Bo Jackson belongs. While it is called the NFL Hall of Fame, I think it is supposed to be a "Hall of Greatness". I think Davis has a legitimate argument for inclusion but because he was a great player, not because everyone who followed the NFL knew who he was.

Points: 0

#103 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 12, 2013 - 11:23am

Yes; absolutely.

Here's a comparison -- let's say The Natural was a documentary instead of a fictional work. Roy Hobbs would absolutely belong in the baseball HOF.

Points: 0

#94 by RickD // Aug 12, 2013 - 12:15am

He was the best player on that offense, but that offense also had a great O-line and had John Elway as his QB.

I think Barry Sanders had far higher hurdles to jump (as does Peterson these days).

Points: 0

#97 by armchair journ… // Aug 12, 2013 - 1:55am

"The only running backs drafted in the sixth round or later to rush for more yards than Davis (7,607) are Earnest Byner (8,261) and Terry Allen (8,614)."

How many undrafted RB's outrushed TD? I know the Priest did.


Points: 0

#114 by Mr Shush // Aug 12, 2013 - 6:25pm

Foster will probably (though by no means certainly) get there too, by the time he's done.

Points: 0

#104 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 12, 2013 - 11:26am


Points: 0

#110 by justanothersteve // Aug 12, 2013 - 4:48pm

Seriously? Do you honestly believe that where a player was drafted should be taken into account as to their being in the HoF? I thought the FFL impact was the worst thing I'd see in this thread.

Points: 0

#119 by armchair journ… // Aug 13, 2013 - 3:11am

No, I don't, I was responding to an explicit piece of the argument. I thought it might be cherry-picked a little, since it didn't include undrafteds.


Points: 0

#100 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 10:24am

"dreading the awkward visit to the type of store that sells Play-Doh."

You could order the Play-Doh online if you're afraid to go to Target.

Good article. I can honestly say that my opinion of Terrell Davis' HOF candidacy was changed by the case presented here. I was slightly con, and would now consider myself slightly pro.

Points: 0

#108 by John Johnson (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 4:28pm

I do want to point out that getting into the Hall of Fame isn't strictly about the numbers.

In my opinion there are three categories that can get a player into the Hall of Fame.

1.) Did you re-define the position you played at?

2.) Can the story of the NFL be told if you're not part of it?

3.) Pure skill.

I think some of the Steeler players mentioned in this conversation get in because of #2. They were part of one of the all-time great dynasties in the NFL and as such it's really hard to keep them out. In the context of this discussion I think TD belongs in the Hall because of #2. His playoff performances were legendary and his SB MVP performance was one of the greatest performances I've ever see in a SB. Also without Davis' efforts would the Broncos have won those games, thus cementing Elway's legacy? I also think he belongs in the Hall because of #3.

If Sayers can get into the Hall based on 68 regular season games I think Davis deserves a spot based on 78 regular season games. (Speaking of short careers that deserve to be in the Hall--when is the Hall going to vote in Sterling Sharpe?)

Points: 0

#109 by justanothersteve // Aug 12, 2013 - 4:43pm

First, I want to say I'm neutral on Terrell Davis being in the HoF. But since it hasn't been brought up yet, I feel it needs to be. It's possible some of the voters may vote against him because the Broncos cheated the salary cap during their SB run. Al Davis claimed the Broncos SB wins should have an asterisk next to them. I know Packers fans who feel much the same way. That's two fan bases where some may have their own reasons to be against TD. (Elway would likely have been in the HoF even without the 1997-98 seasons.)

I'm not going to argue the validity of the claims. I'm just pointing out there may be those hostile to TD being in the HoF for reasons unrelated to the brevity of his career.

Points: 0

#116 by justanothersteve // Aug 12, 2013 - 7:22pm

No. I also don't think it's relevant to the discussion on TD. Just pointing out that some voters may take it into consideration even if they don't say it publicly.

Points: 0

#115 by Davisbacker (not verified) // Aug 12, 2013 - 6:56pm

TD's first four (pre-injury) seasons (and playoffs) compare favorably or surpass the performances of the Hall of Fame running backs active during that same time:

Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith: These two are no-braoner first ballot Hall of Famers, both for their peak seasons of greatness and for their consistency of productivity (e.g. consecutive 1,000 yard seasons). TD's rookie year was Emmitt's best season (1995) and TD's (1998) are fairly comparable as the article enumerates. In '96 - '98 Davis is the superior back to Smith (who, at that point, while still steady, was past his '91 - '95 peak). Both TD and Smith found the endzone with frequency and were reliable playoff performers, two characteristics that might be used to criticize Barry Sanders' otherwise glorious career. Sanders is the one back from this group one might argue was better than TD during TD's 4 seasons. Even in that case, they were exhibits 1 and 1A. That TD delivered in the playoffs at a rate consistent with or even surpassing his regular season rate is a point in his favor when one considers the mediocrity that some other luminary regular season performers have shown on that heightened stage (e.g. Sanders). Longevity and consistency separate Sanders and Smith from TD; however, TD would be in the conversation for best RB in league for '96 and '97 and would likely exceed Sanders in '98.

Curtis Martin: Entered the league in the same year as TD. Consistent performer. Solid playoff performer. Ten consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Nevertheless, with the exception of their rookie campaigns (during which TD was not made the starter till a quarter of the way through the season), TD well eclipsed CMart. Anecdotally and subjectively, I never thought of CMart as the best RB in the NFL. And from '96 - '98 CMart was solid while TD (and Sanders) were spectacular.

Marshall Faulk: Came into the league a year before TD and CMart. Very difficult to compare with TD, as the Greatest Show on Turf did not fully until '99. Definitely the best receiver on this list (TD was actually a fine receiver, he just was not used in the scheme that way...Shannon Sharpe gets a good number of those receiving looks in that offense). The Indy Colts Faulk vs. TD during their overlap? It's TD, and it's not very close.

I do believe all 4 of these backs are deserving hall of famers (CMart being the toughest call). While overlapping with all of them, Davis surpassed all but Sanders for three consecutive seasons and was a premium playoff performer as well. One would think that in at least one of those three seasons TD spent as a full-time starter ('96 - '98), that at least one of the Hall of Fame backs from the group of Faulk, Martin and Smith would have put together a superior season to TD's. They did not.

Loved the article. Hope Davis does make the cut at some point, especially before Bettis!

Points: 0

#117 by Karl Cuba // Aug 12, 2013 - 7:34pm

I would never have put Martin in but I do think that the NFL was more concerned with stopping the run in the nineties than they are today, maybe that skews our thinking a little.

Points: 0

#118 by TacticalSledgehammer // Aug 13, 2013 - 2:49am

That's a good point that I never considered. Today JAGs can easily get 4 ypc with decent blocking, but it may have been more difficult 15 years ago.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

Points: 0

#125 by larry_MK (not verified) // Aug 13, 2013 - 4:51pm

Id be more inclined to believe td had exceptional talent if he was better in college or did something with another nfl team, but unfortunately his career ended too soon.

Points: 0

#126 by Puddin' Patterson (not verified) // Aug 15, 2013 - 9:53am

the league has almost doubled in size since I was a kid, it's well past time to expand HoF classes by at least 2.

lots of deserving players are being held-up by this log jam.

Points: 0

#127 by Dean // Aug 15, 2013 - 10:24am


While the league may be growing, the "importance" factor diminishes. The first time a back rushed for 2000, it was otherworldly. The second time, it was still spectacular. By the 90s, it was still significant, but not something that left the sports page and transferred to the front page. Nowadays, every couple years somebody does it.

A greater percentage of the pioneers SHOULD be enshrined, simply because their accomplishments are more important.

It took the greatest collection of intellectial talent ever assembled to build the first atomic bomb. Now, it can be done by a competent machinesmith. The hard part now is just obtaining fissionable material.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Scott
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and . Use promo code WRITERS to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Scott.