The road to Canton likely will be more difficult for running backs, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders said in an interview with Shutdown Corner.
Sanders, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for each of his 10 NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions, realizes that the path to the Hall of Fame is more difficult for today's running backs than even those from just a decade ago.
The league has not only become more of a passing league, but the increased use of shared backfields means that the workhorse running back who would get 25 carries per game are long gone. Now, many teams use two, if not three, backs with a featured back who at times might not get half the carries for his team in a game.
For instance, In 1998, Sanders' final year in the league, he accounted for 76 percent of his team's rushing offense and 77 percent of his team's carries. Those are percentages of a bygone era and without as many carries, the modern running back might not be able to put up the big career numbers that can lead to a Canton nod.
“It will be difficult, probably more difficult. But if you look at guys like Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles – the last couple of years they've put up comparable numbers to Hall of Fame backs,” Sanders told Yahoo! Sports. “You may not see as many running backs in the Hall but there will be some.”
Currently, Sanders remains busy as the national ambassador for Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the largest traveling exhibition in the history of the Hall of Fame. Fittingly, the exhibit has debuted at The Henry Ford, the renowned museum located in Dearborn, Mich. Just minutes from where he sliced and diced during his Lions career, Sanders spoke about the state of the NFL's current running backs as part of his ambassador duties for Gridiron Glory.
That a “featured” back today has to split carries with another running back (or two) as well as possibly a few plays out of the Wildcat is part of the NFL's recent love affair with a backfield rotation. The idea is to not only keep the running back fresh, but wear down a defense by throwing fresh legs at the defensive line and linebackers in the third and fourth quarter.
All of which means that the gaudy statistics needed for the Hall of Fame are now out the window. A résumé for Canton will be hard to build as long as a running back must share his carries
Last year, the running back who had the most carries in the league was LeSean McCoy, who had 314 rushing attempts (no other running back had over 300 attempts last season). Seven times in his career, Sanders had more than 300 rushing attempts and in five seasons, Sanders topped McCoy's carry total from 2013. The times, they are a-changin'.
Although the task for current running backs someday joining Sanders in the Pro Football Hall of Fame might be steep, he says it isn't impossible.
“I think you look at yards per carry, you look at the impact they've had during their time and the impact they've had on their team,” Sanders said. “All-purpose yards — in the same way that Roger Craig was more of a dual threat — in some ways, that is what the members of the decision committee will have to look at.”
By Kristian Dyer | Shutdown Corner | October 14, 2014