In the 1990s, one of the best barstool debates for NFL fans was whether Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith was the best running back in the league. But while that may have been (and may still be) a fun argument for fans and members of the media, it’s not an argument that Sanders will participate in.
Asked in a radio interview if he was better than Smith, Sanders answered, “I would never say that. He was too great of a player, and I loved competing against him.”
Sanders might not want to get into it, but the rest of us can. The arguments for Sanders are that he was more of a big-play threat than Smith, that he averaged 5.0 yards a carry to Smith’s 4.2, and that he was doing it behind a much weaker offensive line, and without a great passing game to keep defenses honest. The arguments for Smith are that he lasted longer, racked up 3,000 more career yards, was better in short yardage and did much more in the postseason.
At least, those are the bare-bones arguments. I’m sure PFT Planet will go into more detail below. I’ll get things started by saying that my vote, admittedly biased as someone who was a Detroit-area 12-year-old when the Lions drafted Sanders, goes to Barry.