Chris Johnson isn’t the only struggling big money back


There are a lot of reasons why teams are hesitant to award big second (or third) contracts to running backs.

The position has a short shelf life, it’s relatively easy to find replacements, and often the running game has more to do with the offensive line and system than the running back.

MDS wrote earlier how Chris Johnson was dead last in yards-per-carry among running backs with more than 25 carries. Johnson has some well paid company at the bottom of the list.

DeAngelo Williams:  Carolina’s starter is second to last with 2.3 yards-per-carry.  His longest run is eight yards.  His teammate Jonathan Stewart has run and caught the ball much better than Williams, indicating that it’s not all about the line.

For now, coach Ron Rivera says the Panthers will continue splitting the workload evenly between the two players.

Frank Gore: Johnson is last.  Williams is second-to-last.  Third worst in yards-per-carry: Frank Gore coming off his extension.  Now Gore is dealing with an injury.’s Michael Lombardi thinks the 49ers should get backup Kendall Hunter more involved and we agree.

Gore used to be able to get to the outside, but it’s not happening for him so far this year.

Reggie Bush: The Dolphins are paying Bush $6 million to do what he did in New Orleans, but worse.  Bush is averaging 2.9 yards-per-carry.  It’s not like he’s lighting it up as a receiver either; Bush has two catches in the last two games.  Daniel Thomas is the best running back on the team.

Three games is too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about the three players above.  But the last decade has proven to us over and over that giving running backs a big contract usually isn’t good business.

48 responses to “Chris Johnson isn’t the only struggling big money back

  1. Don’t know about the other guys, but The 49’ers OL is the worst I have even seen.

    They are not moving anyone off of the line. Gore actually had some really good runs that went for 3-4 yards. All after getting hit at the line.

    Give him some room, and he is still a beast.

  2. DeAngelo Williams is a big-money back in contract only. That signibg was one of the biggest head-scratchers of the offseason. Was Al Davis interning there that day?

  3. It kinda sucks for RB’s because when they are young and contributing a lot, they are usually still on their rookie contracts which just got bit into even further now that they’ve instituted a rookie wage scale. The way I see it, RB’s are paid for what they already contributed, not what they will contribute in the future. Teams would be wise to trade RB’s when their value is high instead of signing them to a huge extension. My suggestion is to get rid of contracts altogether and pay players a base salary based on if they are a starter or bench player and then add a percentage (or bonus) to each player at the end of the season based on how much they contributed to the team’s success.

  4. in all fairness to bush, are you really scared of the dolphins passing game. (please don’t use the pat’s as an example, their d is not really that good, it’s just that tom brady is great)

  5. the good thing for SF is the contract they gave Gore. it pretty mush ensures he plays at a very high level while healthy or he sees almost nothing of that 21 million extension. the 9ers definitely won that contract.

    i wanna see more Kendall Hunter. the kid looks dynamite and he hits the hole quicker than any back SF has. he is shifty and hes more of a threat in the pass game than Gore, not to mention hes a great back in blitz pick up. more 2 back sets with both of them in, please.

  6. Reggie who? I am sure glad to watch Darren Sproles field punts and not Bush who always had me on the edge of my seat wondering if he would fumble it or run sideways and lose yards. It was always one or the other. Sproles can run between the tackles too.

  7. Please don’t forget Marshawn Lynch.

    All those genius couch potato GM’s here on PFT giving Ted Thompson unending grief for not trading AJ Hawk to the Bills for Lynch last year this time.

    Looks like Ted and the Packers made the right decision.


  8. DeAngelo took the money and went to sleep. I think some guys will take that guarenteed portion of their contract and dial it down. Those guys will make it tough for the hard workers to get those big contracts.

  9. What made Miami think that their lousy team could work magic with Bush when a true champion’s team couldn’t? Why do you think they drafted Ingram and ditched his ass?

    On the flipside of that, there is Fred Jackson… one of the top 4 RBs in the league and he’s getting paid slightly more than the fry cook at White Castle.

  10. Arian Foster doesn’t get the big bucks, but last year’s rushing leader is on his way to being irrelevant with his injuries and the play of Ben Tate…

  11. Gore will be off of this list next week when the Niners get to feast on that Eagles defense. And by feast I mean 275-300 total offensive yards…that would be their best all season by far…probably Philly’s best defensive effort as well.

  12. Don’t know what happened to Deangelo. I thought the Panthers overpaid, but I also thought he was very talented and was gonna light it up. There’s still a lot of football though. I belive he started out slow back in 2008 before ending with over 1500 yards and 20 tds.

    Mcfadden is gonna get a nice second contract though. I love the way he finishes runs. He’s got the speed of Chris Johnson with the power of All Day.

  13. You never pay a RB franchise money…no matter if it’s Peterson or whoever. Your 60+ million will give you greater rewards elsewhere.

    Money is better spent at QB (if you can find one), OL, DL, and Cover corners. DO whatever you need to pay your pass rushers.

  14. I was hoping we would let Deangelo walk if we couldnt resign him for a MUCH smaller contract. RB is a position of strength for this team, no need to overpay DWill. I think Stewart is the best back on the team. And Goodson could do what DWill has done (if not more) for FAR less money.

  15. “On the flipside of that, there is Fred Jackson… one of the top 4 RBs in the league and he’s getting paid slightly more than the fry cook at White Castle.”

    I appreciate the hyperbole, but his 2011 cap number is $2,075,000 (base $1.75 million) — that’s a lot of sliders.

    Perhaps a better statement would be to say he’s getting paid kicker money?

  16. This is exactly why you have to go running back by committee. You gotta have your bullpen ready if your top of the order ace starts faltering.

    Teams like the Raiders are super lucky in that they have Michael Bush ready to fill in for DMC in a pinch. He’s currently playing a closing role while McFadden carries the lion’s share of the workload.

    Putting all your eggs in one basket is too risky in this ACL tear crazy day and age. There are very few Dickerson/Payton types in this league anymore.

  17. As a Saints fan i was scratching my head at why EVERY NFL talking head said the Saints be worse this year because of the loss of Bush… The dude cant stay healthy, cant run between the tackles and is good for at least one fumbled/negative play on punts per game.. The Saints could have traded Bush for a cheesburger and a 6 pack of Schlitz and would still have come out on top

  18. Chris JOhnson knew he had the titans over a barrel..

    what were they gonna do?

    if they didnt sign him the whole season ticket base would have bailed in a heartbeat… kenney britt was the only other player with any talent who was a newsworthy player who would attract fans..

    CJ took advantage of that.. and even tho i hate him i cant blame him and im always happy to see a player pull one over on MGMT

  19. I think bush is making bARLY 5 MILLION. Way less then in NO. Also, thomas has come around and my phins cant seem to figure out how to use Bush yet,really?

  20. Who would have thunk Ricky Williams would have been the best RB signing this offseason?

    5.1 yards per carry for $2.5 million.

  21. The NFL rules have started to make true running backs obsolete. It’s basketball on grass now and teams need to throw the ball downfield effectively to open up the running game. Pretty soon you will see teams with two backs: one for catching out of the backfield and one for short yardage. It’s a shame but that is what it is.

  22. “Chris Johnson isn’t the only struggling big money back”…

    perhaps not – but he’s the one i most ENJOY seeing struggle!!! greedy bastard!

  23. cornersss says:
    Sep 26, 2011 7:17 PM
    my phins cant seem to figure out how to use Bush yet,really?


    Speaking as a Saints fan there is no way to use Bush except for keeping the ball out of his hands. Way too fumble and injury prone. I wish you luck but I have seen enough of him.

  24. addendum – am i the only football savvy person/bettor that says “stop cj & you stop the titans” – i know the wins seem to drop that a bit – but there are other factors involved and i think it’s safer to play the odds if your defense is worth ANYTHING!!! ravens=over-rated / denver=not even rated (or shouldn’t be)…just sayin’…

  25. I would NEVER pay a running back big money if I was an owner. LT, WR, QB, MLB, Rush DE, and Safety would be it. Running backs are a dime a dozen. Emmitt Smith ran through holes that were 10 yards wide at times. Anyone could’ve done that… CJ got paid and is now going to take it down a gear… GL with that Tenn.

  26. The Dolphins gave Bush $6 mil?? That’s more than they would have had to pay to keep both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

  27. There is only one running back who is automatic,
    he just hasn’t been able to get on the field. All that anti-awesomness built up in that leg. Damn it be nice to have an Earl Campbell again.

  28. “Chris JOhnson knew he had the titans over a barrel.. what were they gonna do?”

    I’ll take a stab at that one. I’ll say … not pay it? $13 million dollars can buy another decent RB and several other pieces that a rebuilding team could use.

    “Emmitt Smith ran through holes that were 10 yards wide at times. Anyone could’ve done that.”

    And yet, not “anyone” has even sniffed at the nearly 22,000 yards he put up. He was also money at running thru holes that didn’t exist.

  29. jimbobobjr says: Sep 26, 2011 5:54 PM

    DeAngelo Williams is a big-money back in contract only. That signibg was one of the biggest head-scratchers of the offseason. Was Al Davis interning there that day?

    No. He was busy drafting Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Taiwan Jones. Starter, closer, future. Try to keep up with the old man, if you can.

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