Jamaal Charles isn’t satisfied just being one of the best running backs in the NFL today. He wants to be one of the best running backs in NFL history.
Charles told the Associated Press he that wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders.
“It’s all about staying consistent,” Charles said. “I want to be in the Hall of Fame when I retire. I want to win a championship. That’s what it’s all about.”
If a running back’s only job were breaking long runs, Charles would already be among the NFL’s all-time greats: Charles has averaged 5.6 yards a carry in his career, the highest average for any running back in NFL history.
But what keeps Charles from joining the all-time greats like Sanders and Smith is that Charles hasn’t handled anything close to the kind of workload that Sanders and Smith managed. Sanders wasn’t just a great producer of highlight-reel runs, he was also remarkably consistent: In 10 NFL seasons, he led the league in rushing four times, was second in the league three times, was third once, fourth once and fifth once. Smith also led the league in rushing four times, and he was third once, fourth once and fifth once. Charles, meanwhile, has never led the league in rushing and has only been in the Top 10 three times.
Charles was only a part-time player early in his career and missed all but two games in 2011 because of a knee injury, and even in his most productive season he only carried the ball 285 times. Sanders and Smith each had seven seasons of more than 300 carries.
If Charles continues to play over the next few years like he has for the last couple of years, he may accomplish his goal of making it to the Hall of Fame. But Sanders and Smith are a notch above even most Hall of Fame running backs. That’s the kind of rarefied air that Charles isn’t going to reach.