The Emmitt-vs.-Barry poll

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Given that our post on Barry Sanders’ show of humility regarding the question of whether he was better than Emmitt Smith generated more than 200 comments, it’s fair to say that the issue is one about which more than a few of you care.

So as we embark on another day of waiting for white smoke to slowly rise from a New York chimney, cast your vote on which guy you think was the better player.

In 10 seasons, Sanders made it to the Pro Bowl 10 times, rushing for 15,269 yards.  Smith, an eight-time Pro Bowler, gained 18,355 yards in 15 years.

136 responses to “The Emmitt-vs.-Barry poll

  1. Barry was the better runner, Emmitt the better football player, so give me E any day of the week. Barry is Peyton Manning, Emmitt is Tom Brady.

  2. It was a sad day for the NFL when Barry decided he’d rather retire than play for the lions if he wasn’t traded.

    If you put Barry on the cowboys and Emmitt on the Lions people wouldn’t even know who Emmitt was as he would’ve been crushed in the backfield most plays.

    Emmitt was a solid runner who played behind an excellent offensive line his entire career.

  3. Barry is going to win because people like flash, not consistent, steady, reliable results.

  4. And Bo Jackson was probably better than both of them. Sometimes longevity is more important.

  5. Wow… staggering Barry support…

    Better football player? Who was more effective in their role… isn’t that all that matters?

  6. I am going to be honest, as a Redskin fan it was hard watching Emmitt Smith kick are arses year after year but he was a bloody good player.

    Yes, he had a dominating offensive line, one of the best of all time, but he was a very special player. He was very good in small spaces. Always made good yardage and was a punishing runner who punched well above his size and weight. He is one of the all time greats.

    That said, he wasn’t a spectacular runner. He did everything really well but never really did anything which you’d never seen another back do.

    For me the 3 transcedant talents of the 80’s & 90’s were Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders. Emmitt Smith was probably just as effective a player as those three, but I’d rather spend my time watching them than Smith.

  7. Yeah. Hard to compare two iconic players with different styles. I’d have to give it to Emmitt simply because his teams were better. Barry Sanders has more runs for losses than any running back in NFL history. That is a testament to Barry because of his lousy oline AND his greatness with 15000+ yards.

    Slight edge to Emmitt…since Barry quit.

  8. Emmits votes are a little high, I think Cowboy fanboys are voting more than once…

  9. If all he had were the numbers, I might feel differently. If all he had were the rings, I might feel differently. If he didn’t play as well in the playoffs as he did in the regular season, I might feel differently. Emmitt has the numbers, he has the rings, and he stepped up his game in the playoffs against the elite teams of the NFL. You can’t say any of that about Barry, therefore Emmitt’s the man.

  10. Smith had a Probowl QB, Probowl RB, and the second greatest offensive line of all time.

    Sanders only had Sanders. Barry is the superior athelete and football player. Switch both players around and put Sanders in Dallas and Smith in Detroit and Sanders would have 20,000 yards in ten years. Smith only around 5,000, if that.

    Barry Sanders is the most electrofying and greatest NFL player of all time.

    End of Line.

  11. One thing I remember about Sanders is we never saw enough of him. The team was not a prime time draw and in the NE area NFC games featured the Giants and the late game the Cowboys. Barry was the greatest pure runner to watch along with GS from da Bears.

  12. Emmit and Barry are two class act guys.

    Watching Barry run was a thing of beauty. Those saying Emmit benefited from a great line ignore the results the Cowboys had the one season he held out for three games. He was the heart and soul of that team. He gashed some pretty dang good Ds.

    James Harrison, take some notes from these two, sir.

  13. How about an option for “both are all-time greats but slightly overrated”.

    Emmitt played on monster offenses.

    Barry played on some underrated Lions offenses and had too many runs under 3 yards.

  14. Barry Sanders did way more with much less.

    Sanders averaged over 1,500 yards rushing per season…What were his weapon’s around him again? Scott Mitchell? Rodney Peete? That excellent Wayne Fonts coaching staff?

  15. I went back and watched highlights of both players just now, Emmit Smith had huge holes in the line from which to choose, Barry Sanders had to CREATE his running lanes. Barry Sanders had less to work with and a lot more talent!!

  16. I forgot to say this, be prepared for the nonsensical rhetoric to start from the Cowgirl fans, believe me, I live in Dallas and you cannot reason with them.

  17. Barry Sanders was head and shoulders better than Emmitt; it’s not even close. Smith was very fortunate to have played with some of the best offensive linemen in the history of the NFL. All the players were either selected as first team All-Pro, or participants for the Pro Bowl. Some of these players were: Erik Williams (RT), Larry Allen (RG), Mark Stepnoki (C), Kevin Gogan (C), Nate Newton (LG), Mark Tuinei (LT), and Jay Novacek (TE). Plus, Emmitt had Daryl “Moose” Johnson blocking for him at fullback.

    Sanders never had a all-pro line blocking for him; most of the time, it looked like Sanders was running for his life. No one ran like Barry Sanders on the football field.

  18. I voted for Barry, but the comments from the Emmitt supporters are giving me pause. And if you knew just how great I think Barry is, that’s an amazing compliment to Emmitt Smith.

  19. I’m a Packer fan and remember plenty of scary games (many losses) with both of these guys.

    Though the Cowboys had the more dominant team, I felt like if the Packers applied themselves (they had a good defense), they could contain Emmitt. Even if it meant getting scorched by Irvin, Novacek, etc.

    However, no matter how well the Pack played, usually the unexpected happened with Barry. You’d hold him all game and then he’d wow you with a 60-yarder. He’d dance in the backfield and make Reggie White look like a rookie. I’m going with Barry.

    Of course the Pack did shut him down once…. -1 yard, wasn’t it?

  20. Barry Sanders had more talent, and if he had chosen to continue playing would have destroyed rushing records, even playing on the Lions. Bashing Barry because he chose to quit the game is foolish. He was under contract to a team he felt was not focused on winning. That shows integrity, not a quitters mentality. Nothing against Emmitt, he had a great, great career and was a talented player. But between the two, Barry was a far more special talent. Nobody moved like him, nobody. Even among the players who shared the field with those two, Barry was the more feared player, simply because of how ridiculous he could make them look.
    10 Pro Bowls in 10 seasons. He missed only 7 games in his entire career, 5 coming in one season. Over 1500 yards in five of those 10 seasons, with two seasons being very close (1470 and 1491 his final season). For those of us who watched him, we all know that not all those yards came from 60 yard runs, but from quite a few 4 or 5 yard runs that few could have made.
    I hated that he quit the game, but I respect his reasons for doing so. Don’t blame the man, blame the team and ownership that he played for.
    Emmitt Smith never eclipsed 2000 yards in a season, he never he went over 1800 in a season. Barry did it twice, on a far less talented team. Everybody KNEW the ball was going to Barry, and he still got the job done in record breaking fashion.

    Barry was a better pure running back, by a large margin. Emmitt was more versatile, but was never viewed as the threat Barry was.

  21. The thing that amazes me is Barry’s numbers. 15,000 yards in 10 years. Emmitt played 5 more years, and only got 3000 more yards. I think it is fair to say that Barry could have averaged 600 yards per season for 5 more years…Hell, if Sanders had played 15 years, he would have topped 20,000 yards, behind a horrendous OL. I will take Sanders any day of the week, he could always take nothing and turn it into a TD, Emmitt needed 5 Pro Bowlers in front of him…

  22. barry was the better player. he would have been the all time leading rusher if the lions hadn’t taken the will to play away from him. although you can’t go wrong with either back, they’re both hall of famers, top 5 at their position.

  23. twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jul 14, 2011 7:54 AM

    Barry is going to win because people like flash, not consistent, steady, reliable results.
    15K yards year after year after year for 10 years, sounds pretty consistent, steady, and reliable to me

  24. 3% tie? Who are these people?

    They probably couldn’t decide between Mussolini and Gandhi (Hey, Mussolini made the trains run on time and Gandhi look like death warmed over….I can’t decide – OK, we’ll call it a tie).

  25. “Barry was the better runner, Emmitt the better football player, so give me E any day of the week. Barry is Peyton Manning, Emmitt is Tom Brady.”

    This comment by tbpdog was dead on. A majority of u disliked it? 100% correct.

    You vote Barry over Emmitt because of his electricity. You say” if he had the line Emmitt did, his numbers would’ve been better” Not true. Barry had a style where he didn’t bust through holes, he manipulated linebacker and linemens first moves.

    If they were both free agents and I were a Super Bowl contender, I would take Emmitt over Barry any day. Ran down hill, ran for tough yards, caught the ball out of the back field, blocked and was unstoppable at the goal line. Most importantly he was a winner and never gave up.

    Emmitt is the back of choice. It’s a shame a majority had a biased vote because you hated the steam rolling Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s

  26. The early results are not looking promising, Dallas faithful.

    Like we tried to tell you, Barry, by a mile.

  27. i hate the cowboys,but emmitt smith was the best running back of his payton and jim brown were the best ever,but emmitt was a close 2nd! i saw him run over the giants one game with a dislocated shoulder,and he was breaking tackles by LT,harry carson,and one of the best ever defenses in league history.barry sanders got all his yards behind crappy lines,but i’d take emmitt every time! i saw him run all over the redskins so many times he’d star in my horror movie.but really,he ran all over every team!

  28. semperfi24 says: Jul 14, 2011 9:00 AM

    twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jul 14, 2011 7:54 AM

    Barry is going to win because people like flash, not consistent, steady, reliable results.
    15K yards year after year after year for 10 years, sounds pretty consistent, steady, and reliable to me

    Is this a team game? Did Barry lead his team to a playoff win? A Superbowl win? Did he execute a single pass block?

  29. if barry doesnt retire out of the blue, he has the rushing record.
    emmit didnt deserve the record.

  30. blah blah blah

    Barry Sanders quit.

    He quit on his team.

    He did it so close to the start of the season that the team couldn’t make alternate plans- and any players that signed or re-upped with the Leos that year got screwed too.

    And he mailed in his Quitirement from afar- didn’t even dare show up to do it in person.

    He was probably more talented that Emmit, but Emmit never quit on anybody, and always kept trying to prove he could do it- even when he couldn’t anymore. I respect that passion and commitment a lot more than Barry’s selfish run-and-hide crap.

  31. Love how the picture is Barry. Obviously we know what the author thinks 😉

    Barry by a landslide!

    Great player but Emmitt isnt even top 5 all time. C’mon people! cough cough..I mean Cowboys fans

  32. bwisnasky says: Jul 14, 2011 7:53 AM

    I’d take Walter or Jim Brown over both of them.
    twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jul 14, 2011 7:54 AM

    Barry is going to win because people like flash, not consistent, steady, reliable results.
    You guys are both right on the money.

    Like American Idol, the most popular person wins, not the best.

  33. If I list the top 5 running backs of all time, Emmitt doesn’t even make the list:
    1. Walter Payton
    2. Jim Brown
    3. Gale Sayers
    4. Barry Sanders
    5. Eric Dickerson tied with Tony Dorsett tied with Marshall Faulk
    Somewhere in the next level would be Emmitt Smith, with Thurman Thomas, Marcus Allen, etc….then after that I would put guys like Riggins, Franco Harris, Curtis Martin, etc….
    Great article great debate topic!!

  34. Both great running backs but Walter Payton was the most complete back to ever run the ball in the NFL. Niether one of these guys can touch him when it comes to blocking and recieving and I sure never saw them return kicks or punt for that matter. Never die easy baby.

  35. Sanders, Sanders, Sanders – put Barry on TODAY’s Lions team, and he blows away Smiths numbers.

    Plus, I’d much rather listen to Barry during interviews~

  36. If barry played for the Dallas Cokeboys… I mean Cowboys, he would of got the record 2or3 yrs faster than emmitt did. This isnt much of an argument.

    Side point, Barry also said in an interview that if Bo Jackson never got injured, he would have a record that could never be passed, too bad.

  37. The Detroit Lions had winning seasons 5 of the 10 years he played there. The 11 years following and preceeding Barry has a total of 2 winning seasons. 12 years before and after Barry has yielded 3 winning seasons.

    Emmitt Smith has 7 winning seasons out of 15 in the NFL and 12 years before his arrival in Dallas and the 8 after his exit the Cowboys have had 13 winning seasons. The Cardinals he had no impact.

    The numbers above show that the Lions are far worse without Barry while the Cowboys have had better success without Emmitt.

    Barry was the far superior player. Not only was he the flashier player he was more effective in the passing game and averaged more yards per carry on a severely inferior team.

  38. Barry Sanders once shook a fellow HOFer (Rod Woodson) so hard that he blew out his new and moved him from a corner to a safety!

    No mas, No mas!!!!

    Game Barry!

  39. Between these two players its not even close. Barry Sanders was a better running back, hands down.

    Emmitt Smith did have a better line, but you cannot fault him for that, he did well with what was put in front of him.

    Barry Sanders offensive line for many years resembled swiss cheese. Yet he still averaged over 100 yards per game, despite many teams loading up the box to stop the one true weapon that the Lions had.

    Don’t fault Emmitt for having a great team, I’m a Skins fan and those Cowboys teams were great, but Sanders was the better of the two.

  40. It’s not close; Barry by a mile.

    Emmitt was great, but he ran behind one of the best offensive lines in history. Moose was a great blocker, and the Cowboys used a TE (sometimes two). Barry ran out of a one back set without a TE and his offensive line wasn’t nearly as good as the Cowboys’ line.

    Also, Barry was extremely humble. Barry once gave a rookie a chance to play in the last game of a season rather than stay in the game and possibly break 2000 yards for the season. Emmitt would have NEVER done that. Barry retired at his peak, and Emmitt played a few seasons too many. Heck, Emmitt wasn’t even as good as Walter Payton.

  41. Look, both these guys will go down as “great” running backs, and deservedly so.

    Barry Sanders was the better back. Emmit Smith played on better teams than did Sanders. Everyone wants to talk about what Sanders would have done behind the Dallas OL. It might be worth considering what Smith would have done behind Detroit’s OL, and quite frankly, there’s no way in hell Smith is as productive as Sanders in that instance.

    Smith was surrounded by superstars during the prime of his career; Sanders was not. That’s why Smith’s numbers are better, and why he has three SB rings.

    But like it or not, Sanders was the better back.

  42. “Emmitt was a solid runner who played behind an excellent offensive line his entire career.”

    Well, if you’re going to use that logic, “any player who had a great supporting cast is not as good as other players that didn’t”.

    So Joe Montana wasn’t really good, he just had excellent receivers.

    And Terry Bradshaw wasn’t a good QB because he had Lynn Swan, Franco Harris, and the Steele Curtain carry him through the 70’s.

    Troy Aikman stunk because he had Emmit, Michael Irvin, and Dallas defense.

    Football is a team sport. Every record, “individual” (which really isn’t because how many SBs can any team win without the sum of it’s players) and team, is contributed by everyone on the team.

    You want to say Barry is better than Emmitt or Emmitt is better than Barry, that is fine. But all the “what-ifs” and shoulda-woulda-coulda”s are ridiculous.

  43. Barry Sanders was the only reason you picked the Lions when playing Madden, the same cant be said for Emmit. Case closed.

  44. I’ve always liked Barry more. Barry was so good at what he did it made some of us forget how terrible the Lions were.

  45. Walter Payton and Jim Brown. Barry Sanders was freakish with his moves. Absolutely amazing. Emmitt was an all around back and was always moving forward. He saw a seam and took it. Barry created seams. Hail!

  46. Sanders – 15,269 yards in 9 seasons
    Smith – 18,355 yards in 14 seasons

    The fact that Sanders got that many yards and only played 9 years between 1989 and 1998 should be enough to prove who the better back is.

    He did that with no OLine and on a team without much else in offensive weapons.

    Hell, as it stands there’s only a poxy 3,086 yards between the two and Smith played a few years longer.

  47. Barry Sanders, shouldn’t be a discussion. Some of the Pros/Cons comments are completly wrong about these guys. Sanders was just as dangerous of pass cather as Emmitt was. Plus, Barry had touched the Ball 1500 times less than Emmit, take that and factor in his YPC and you could cap him with the posibilty of hitting 22000 yards for his career. Also, look at the system. The Lions ran alot of 1 back sets in Barrys day, where the Cowboys ran alot of Power-I and dual back formations. Barry was the better back, hands down, and was the model of consistency at the running back position for the ’90’s.

  48. 1. Barry Sanders
    1A. Jim Brown
    2. Bo Jackson
    3. OJ Simpson
    4. Walter Payton
    5. Gale Sayers
    6. Emmit Smith

  49. Anyone who actually watched both of them play knows the answer. While Emmitt was certainly a very good RB, he wasn’t in the class of Barry Sanders. You add up the actual yards Barry ran (including sideways and backwards), he far surpassed Emmitt. This poll isn’t close and shouldn’t be.

  50. Some above have said they would take Emmit’s consistency over Barry’s ability. Don’t quite get that one.

    Emmit- 15 seasons, 18,355 yds= 1223.66 per season avg.

    Barry- 10 seasons, 15,269 yds= 1526.90 per season avg. 1526.90 avg. X 15 seasons= 22903.50 career yards. If you even figure for decline, he would have had at least 20,000 yards for his career.

    Emmit- great offensive line for all but two season of career.

    Barry- horrible offensive line for whole career.

    Can’t buy into the consistency vote for Emmit.

  51. Barry.

    Barry played half of his career in the run and shoot offense, never had a dominant offensive line and NEVER had a FB in front of him.

    He was never asked to block because that was not part of their scheme.

    Emmitt was a good player, but had a ton of talent around him.

    The big question is how would either one do in today’s game, since the traditional RB position is diminishing.

  52. This is a question of substance over flash/style and the ability to be on SportsCenter.

    All the Barry supporters can have SportsCenter.

    I’ll take the guy with the MVP, the SB-MVP, the overall rushing title, the 3 rings in 4 seasons and something that Barry never had……heart and willingness to block and do whatever it took to win (including winning the 2nd Super Bowl on his own and playing with a separated shoulder “no pain, no pain”).

    All the video game players and sportscenter guys can have Barry.

    I’ll take Emmitt.

  53. Sanders led the NFL in rushing yards four times. 1990, 1994, 1996, and 1997.
    Most Seasons, 1,100 or More Yards Rushing (10) tied with Walter Payton
    Most Consecutive Seasons, 1,100 or More Yards Rushing (10)
    Most Seasons, 1,300 or More Yards Rushing (9) tied with Walter Payton
    Most Seasons, 1,400 or More Yards Rushing (7)
    Most Consecutive Seasons, 1,400 or More Yards Rushing (5) tied with Emmitt Smith, 1991–1995
    Most Seasons, 1,500 or More Yards Rushing (5)
    Most Consecutive Seasons, 1,500 or More Yards Rushing (4)
    In 1997, he set an NFL record by rushing for at least 100 yards in 14 consecutive games and became only the third player to reach 2,000 yards in a single season. He shared the NFL MVP award with Brett Favre.
    During the final 14 games of the 1997 season Sanders rushed for exactly 2000 yards on 310 carries (6.5 yd./carry), a figure which bears comparison with O.J. Simpson’s 14-game mark of 2003 yards on 332 carries (6.0 yd./carry).
    NFL record 25 games in which Sanders rushed for 150 yards or more. Brown is second with 22 games.
    NFL record 46 games in which Sanders had 150 yards from scrimmage or more. Walter Payton is second with 45.
    15 career touchdown runs of 50 yards or more, most in NFL history. Brown is second with 12.
    At the time of his retirement, Sanders’ 15,269 career rushing yards placed him second behind Walter Payton’s 16,726 yards. At Sanders’ then-current yearly yardage pace, he would have eclipsed Payton within one or two years. Payton died from liver cancer at age 45 just months after Sanders’ sudden retirement.

    also the only player to rush for over 2k in both college and nfl. Its not even close, look at the records he holds over brown and peyton. he is the most consistant back there was. best production per season. oh and the most fun to watch. Barry is the best ever and stats dont lie. Best college player ever (fact) and the best running back ever!!!

  54. Barry Sanders did way more with much less.


    “With much less”… maybe. “Did way more”… not even close.

  55. The fact that Sanders got that many yards and only played 9 years between 1989 and 1998


    Buy a calculator.

  56. oh and some more stats, barry had 8.3 ypr and emmitt had 6.5 so as far as this arguement that barry wasnt good out of the back field, emmitt avg. 2 yards less per reception so……. barry had 5 years where he avg. 5+ yards a carry one of which he avg. 6.1, emmitt only had 1…yes 1 and had 4 years where he avg. less than 4. barry never had less than 4 yards a carry. if you showed someone the stats in 20 years and asked them who they thought had an all pro line no one would say smith. fact is he was and his stats look like doo doo when you look at them both. The only thing he did was play five seasons more to get 3k yards ahead, something on avg. would have taken 2 years for barry to gain……….. (crickets)

  57. The early results are not looking promising, Dallas faithful.

    Like we tried to tell you, Barry, by a mile.


    haha you are like Obama, entirely poll driven!



  59. The numbers say it. The Film says it.

    I thought this was a no brainer. You don’t even need to say the whole “barry didn’t have as much help,” because he was STILL BETTER than than Emmit! I guess it takes a PFT poll for people to realize #20(greater than)#22

  60. I’m a long time Lions fan and the answer is hands-down Emmitt Smith. Sure, Barry was the most exciting running back to watch, probably of all time, but people who say they would rather have Barry as a RB to build an NFL team around than Emmitt just don’t understand the game of football.

  61. Barry was a spectacular runner, with many long runs. He danced around in the backfield in an attempt to make people miss. This translated into many negative yardage plays and poor time of possession for the Lions. They would be three and out, three and out, then Sanders would rip one off for sixty yards. Sanders would get his hundred yards, but the Lions could not sustain drives, and would lose in time of possession. I’d take Payton or Emmitt or Sayers or Campbell any day.

  62. I find it interesting that Emmitt supporters are citing substance, team accomplishments, and championships over (perceived) “flash” and lack of championships.

    Yes, football is a team game, so it’s hard to judge players on their own.

    The Cowboys were a great team and won three Super Bowls, and they’ve more than gotten their due. Emmitt was a great RB for those teams. No question.

    But if teamwork is so important, then it follows that one man cannot win a championship on his own.

    Barry Sanders was a better running back. Just because he was “flashy” (read: athletic and evasive) and poetry in motion, that shouldn’t count against him.

    I also think it’s unfair to say “Emmitt had the better O-line,” since that O-line went 0-2 with a scrub when Emmitt held out in ’95.

    And oh by the way: Barry had 352 catches and an 8.3 YPR. Emmitt: 515 receptions over 15 seasons (roughly the same per year), 6.3 YPR. Barry picked up 2 more yards per catch.

    They fumbled at roughly the same rate per season as well.

    Easily the biggest difference is that Barry averaged 5.0 YPA rushing – for his CAREER.

  63. Why is this even a poll? As with most things in the NFL, stats have very little to do with this. Comparing Sanders to Smith is ludicrous. Doesn’t even belong in the same conversation.

    You could, however, compare Sanders to Sayers. Or Sanders to Walter Payton, or Sanders to OJ Simpson, or Sanders to Dickerson, or even Sanders to Jim Brown.

    Emmitt Smith was durable and played on great teams. He has no business being in any conversation about the best RB’s in NFL history. One could compare Smith to Franco Harris. Another good, durable RB, on a great team.

    Bottom line — put Smith or Harris on a mediocre team and they look like any one of hundreds of RB’s who have played in the NFL. Put Barry, or Sayers, or Simpson, Brown, or Dickerson on a bad team and they would still have been great. In fact, most of those guys DID play on bad teams.

  64. I’m always amazed that people don’t understand football when this discussion comes up. When a running play is called, the idea is to have an the OLine open up a hole for the RB so that they can gain positive yards. Sanders rarely followed the running plays that were called, and this is not because his line was bad, it’s because of his play style. He style was to constantly look for the Home Run play, and to constantly give up the five yard run. I watched his line open up holes, he just wouldn’t run through them. He’d survey the hole, then bounce the run outside, then bounce it back inside. If I were a coach, I’d want to choke him. Can you imagine trying to coach any other player to ignore the play that’s called and force your teammates to hold their blocks 2x as long as any other line in the game? I loved watching his exciting carries, but every time he ran for negative yards, and it was the majority of his runs, he killed his teams ability to keep drives alive. How hard is it to be in second and tens, or third and eights, when your trying to get first downs? He killed his teams with his inability to consistently keep drives alive, and that’s where the first down stats need to come into play. For all of you that didn’t watch the game as it developed, Sanders was the reason why his teams were horrible, but all your “highlight reels” people don’t watch football, you watch the highlights. Fine.

    But understand why the Lions were a bad team, and it’s not because of the the OLine, it’s because of a reckless running style that forced all the pressure for sustained drives off to the passing game, which is why the Lions had 2 1000 yard recievers like 4 years in a row. Barry Sanders was a ghost on the field, but his running style isn’t conducive to winning games or championships. He’s a homerun hitter that went the way of all homerun hitters, and struck out 3/4s of the time he went up to bat. You can’t win football games like that.

    Again, I’m a Bears fan, and I got to watch the greatest RB of all time play, and Emmitt Smith was much more like Payton than Sanders was. Two totally different styles, and while I loved watching Sanders play, except against the Bears, as a football fan, I understood why the Lions were horrible. Why is it that people don’t understand the game? Please tell me that you all understand time of possession, touchdowns in the redzone to finish off drives, and consistency of forward movement? You can’t coach what Sanders did, but why would you want to?

  65. Let’s put it this way: If you had put Barry Sanders behind that early 90s, monstrous O-line the Cowboys had, he’d probably have gained 200 yards every game…

  66. It was a sad day for the NFL when Barry decided he’d rather retire than play for the lions if he wasn’t traded.


    It was, and it was a testament to his heart. Or rather, his lack of heart. He wanted to be traded to a winner, rather than do it the hard way.

  67. Easily the biggest difference is that Barry averaged 5.0 YPA rushing – for his CAREER.


    I wonder wat Emmitt’s average would be if he hadn’t played in all those short yardage situations?

  68. I hope they don’t drug test at Kappy32’s employer! If so, he better go on vacation and dry out! I have heard the Barry Sanders and Jim Brown over Payton argument before, but BO and O.J…..come on! That is a first!

  69. Payton was on some of the worst bears teams in the modern era. Look at how many pro bowlers emmitt had and how many Payton had. I rest my case.

  70. You could, however, compare Sanders to Sayers. Or Sanders to Walter Payton, or Sanders to OJ Simpson, or Sanders to Dickerson, or even Sanders to Jim Brown.

    Emmitt Smith was durable and played on great teams. He has no business being in any conversation about the best RB’s in NFL history.


    I guess the obvious question is why you want to include Jim Brown in the discussion? He played on some great teams, too. Emmitt arguably ran behind just one Hall of Famer… Larry Allen, if he ever gets in. Do you even realize who Jim Brown played with? Dick Schafrath, Mike McCormack, Lou Groza and Gene Hickerson. Three are in the Hall of Fame and the fourth probably should be.

  71. @melonhead

    You do realize thats where alot of his TD’s came from right? Sanders also toted the rock on the goalline, its not just an ‘Emmitt Smith” thing. Sanders was a HR hitter, but his style of play wore defenses down. Emmitt was a bit of a bruiser and alot of yardage came late in games, after the defense softened up.

  72. Bottom line — put Smith or Harris on a mediocre team and they look like any one of hundreds of RB’s who have played in the NFL.


    They did put Emmitt on mediocre team. In fact that team was just bad. 1-15 the year before Emmitt was drafted, 3-13 the year before that. Enter Emmitt and they go 7-9… then 11-5… then 13-3 and a Super Bowl win.

    The Barry-equipped Lions went 5-11 and were 20th in points scored in Sanders’ last season. As soon as he left they improved to 8-8 and were 14th in points scored. It is what it is.

  73. I voted for Barry easily, but in the arguments, let’s not discount or minimize the accomplishments of Emmit Smith. He played on great teams, but did what was asked of him and excelled to become ONE of the best ever. You couldn’t just stick any RB on those Dallas teams and expected a Hall of Famer. Smith was an HOFer and deservedly so. That said, I’d still choose Barry over Smith.

  74. And Bo Jackson was probably better than both of them. Sometimes longevity is more important.


    Since Jackson couldn’t even manage 25 NFL starts, I’d say it’s really important in his case.

  75. One guy nobody’s mentioned, is the guy that I’ll remember as being the most dominant back I’ve ever seen for a 5 year period.

    When you look up the word “Beast” in the dictionary, you should find a picture of Earl Campbell. He’s the only running back I’ve ever seen that defensive players actually feared. And I know his career was short, but so were Sayers; and Bo Jackson’s.

  76. Barry Sanders is better than Emmitt Smith, but Walter Payton is better than both of them. Payton did amazing things and had a horrible offensive line for most of his career. If he had Emmitt Smith’s OL, Walter could possibly have made 20,000 yards.

  77. I keep reading these comments that say something to the extent of “If Barry had Emmitt’s line, he’d be at 200 yards a game…” etc. This is a confounding thing to say. Barry’s running style wasn’t to hit the hole, or to follow a fullback through the hole, and when he was forced to follow a very good fullback (Tommy Vardell) through holes by his coach Bobby Ross, and that his days of ignoring his coach and doing whatever he wanted to do on each play were over, he decided to quit instead.

    Barry Sanders was never interested in playing the way that Emmitt Smith played, or in the type of offense that Smith played in. He’d take too much punishment, and he was never a bruising RB, so whether or not your willing to give Smith credit for making the most of his talent, he was incredibly effective in every aspect of the game, and relished the contact, especially in short yardage situations.

    Sanders never showed an ability to hit the hole on the play that was called, and was never, in his whole career, effective in short yardage or goal line situations; the true measure of greatness as a running back is your ability to not just make open field runs, but to finish off drives with touchdowns, all on your own shoulders. Emmitt Smith and Marcus Allen were the two most fearsome RBs to ever line up in the redzone, and you couldn’t keep from scoring a touchdown on you. Barry Sanders was totally ineffective from the ten yard line on in, which tells you all you need to know about why he wasn’t the greatest or even the better running back in this discussion.

    Sanders had a great year in 1997 in Ross’s offense (which was similar to the Cowboys offense,) but fought with his head coach over playcalling or his desire to not use the two back system or run through the holes that were called. Sanders took more punishment in that year than he ever took in his career, and he knew that Ross would continue to employ the two back system, as long as he was there, a la Natrone Means when he was with the Chargers. This system calls for a different type of running game than Sanders was interested in playing, and the drafting of Charlie Batch again showed that the “run Barry twice for negative yards, then chuck and duck on third down” was long gone in Detroit.

    Also, the release of the fantastic Center, Kevin Glover, showed that Sanders’ belief in the cheapness of the Lions organization was well founded. All in all, Sanders wasn’t, and wouldn’t ever be your typical positive yardage RB, and he knew in that type of a system, he couldn’t run in the style that made him famous, even if Ross had shown that it was the way to get to the Super Bowl. Sanders was a thing of beauty to watch, but in the game of football, he sold tickets and made highlight reels, while Emmitt Smith scored touchdowns and won championships. Let’s call it what it is instead of dancing around the subject, Sanders was never interested in playing like Emmitt Smith, and he quit to prove it.

  78. Put Barry on the Cowboys he gets 2000 yards a year. Put Emmitt on the Lions, he doesn’t break 1000. Quite possibly one of the most ludicrous poll questions ever

  79. juggrnt1, Barry’s favorite play was the Lead Draw. What do you mean his style wasnt to hit the hole or follow a lead back? That’s ridiculous. A RB whos style ISNT hitting holes..I’d like to see how effective that is.

  80. Emmit could not fake any one out of their ACL’s let alone their shorts


    It wasn’t Emmitt’s style to dance around anybody. He’d rather run them over.

    “He is #1 on all the time list and trust me-the guy deserves it. You can say he played on great teams… but he made those teams great” – Barry Sanders, today on Twitter.

  81. You do realize thats where alot of his TD’s came from right? Sanders also toted the rock on the goalline, its not just an ‘Emmitt Smith” thing. Sanders was a HR hitter, but his style of play wore defenses down. Emmitt was a bit of a bruiser and alot of yardage came late in games, after the defense softened up.


    Oh I see, Barry wore defenses down, Emmitt didn’t. How do you think those defenses got “softened up”?

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but while Sanders did get SOME goal line carries, he was more or less routinely pulled out of the game when the Lions got close to the goal line, and that’s a fact whether Fontes or Ross was the head coach. C’mon. Fontes even said on TV that he didn’t want Sanders to take the pounding that a RB gets in short yardage situations. If you don’t remember, then you have no standing in this discussion.

  82. Have this conversation when they were both playing and it wouldn’t have been close. And it still isn’t, as evidenced by this poll. The whole “Emmit vs Barry” argument didn’t even exist until 6-7 years after Barry retired.

    People were watching Lions games just to watch Barry play. He was unlike anyone I’ve ever seen play the game, and I’ve been watching football since about ’75. It’s absurd to compare him with older (pre-80’s) RBs too, because defensive players were about half the size and speed. Barry played against modern defenses and absolutely dominated them. ALL of them. By himself. Sometimes all of them on a single play (Viking fans are still crying). The fact that I still remember that play and who it was against, and yet I can’t recall a single specific play for Emmit, really says something.

    Barry wasn’t just the greatest RB of all time, he was the greatest player of all time.

    Dallas fans should go back to the early 90’s when they were saying Aikman was better than Montana and Elway. At least you wouldn’t get laughed at.

  83. “He is #1 on all the time list and trust me-the guy deserves it. You can say he played on great teams… but he made those teams great” – Barry Sanders, today on Twitter

    None of us should be surprised at that…. There is no argument that Barry Sanders is the most humble man of all sport.

  84. None of us should be surprised at that…. There is no argument that Barry Sanders is the most humble man of all sport.


    Man, now you’re calling Barry a liar?

  85. I’ve typed waaaaaaay too many words on this subject, but I’d like to ask the question……

    This has to be in the Top-3 of player-to-player arguments and comparisons (who’s better?) when you look at NFL history and there has been a lot of valid arguments on BOTH SIDES.

    The only argument I can think of that can generate this kind of response is about Brett Favre’s (Fav-ruhhh?) place in history.

    Aside from the passion and vitriol, the Barry-Emmitt argument has been fun to watch and read.

    P.S. – Emmitt was better!!!!!!

  86. For the uninformed! Emmitt ran behind John Gesek. Most of you haven’t heard of him. Plan B free agent Guard. Nate Newton, USFL reject who developed under Hudson Houck, who deserves the credit. Erik Williams, 3rd round draft pick. Your teams passed on him more than once. Don’t knock what your team couldn’t see! Mark Tuinei, converted Defensive Lineman, who, god rest his soul, was SLOW footed! At Tackle.. We all know about Larry Allen who was a rookie in ’94! That’s 4 years after Emmitt started. And those 1st 4 years Emmitt was hot! Derek Kennard? Have you heard of him? Of course you haven’t! Most of you! Ray Donaldson.. 15 year veteran. Mark Stepnoski, undersized is an understatement of his height and weight! Kevin Gogan, journeyman OL who began in the Landry era.
    Lions had Glover and Lomas Brown. They were pro-bowlers. Don’t even suggest Barry didn’t run behind talent.. You uneducated couch potatoes!!

  87. Very well said, doublestar71! Here are a couple more points to educate the Emmitt haters.

    1). Daryl Moose Johnston – He, not the O-line, was perhaps the single greatest factor in Emmitt’s success other than Emmitt himself. If you’re gonna give credit to someone else, haters, give credit where credit is due. The Moose sold out on every play where he blocked for Emmitt, and that’s why Emmitt gave him such a heartfelt thank you on the sideline after breaking Walter Payton’s rushing record.

    2). The Run-and-Shoot – I know that the Lions didn’t use that offense for long, but when they did, Barry reaped the benefits. After all, it was a pass first, run second offense, where after spreading the defense with the passing game, large chunks of real estate were open for Barry to run free. Imagine Emmitt running in that offense!

    3). YAC – Although I’ve yet to see this stat as it pertains to rushing yardage, I would dare say that more than half of Emmitt’s rushing yardage came after contact. All you have to do is watch his 29 yd TD run against the Atlanta Falcons from MNF back in 1992, where LB Jesse Tuggle had him wrapped up, and Emmitt broke the tackle, dashed right, and beat Deion to the pylon. O-line you say?

    4). Cowboys vs. Giants, Meadowlands, Jan. 2, 1994 – All Emmitt did was rush 32 times for 168 yards with 10 catches for another 61 yards and a TD, gaining 41 of 52 yards on the game winning drive in OT. Cowboys won 13-7, won the division, locked up home field advantage, and won the 2nd of back-to-back Super Bowls. Oh yeah, he played the whole 2nd half and OT with ONE FREAKING ARM thanks to a separated shoulder. Can you say Warrior?

  88. It’s rare to find educated people on the subject, jimidom! And jimidom, the fact Emmitt broke down the giants with one arm is something these empty barrel uneducated couch potatoes can’t understand. The most physical thing theyve ever done is ballet dance. It would be nice if they could bring some meat to the discussion but they never do.

  89. Read the 1990 SI article on Detroit’s 1989 Run and Shoot/Offensive Line…to paraphrase, it was a joke. Sanders made yards in any offense (Run and Shoot, Two Back, Single Back, etc…).

    Imagine Emmitt in the Run and Shoot? I don’t have to…we all have evidence of him running behind one of the best O-lines ever. And, also, a great blocking fullback, as you mentioned. With lots of real estate. Emmitt did a legendary job at it, too. Anyone who would try to diss Emmitt is a fool, but anyone who would try to argue that Sanders and Smith had comparable team situations is being a bigger one.

    YAC? I’m sure Emmitt picked up big time yardage after contact, but here’s the thing:

    So did Sanders. Barry detractors point to the yards lost and completely IGNORE the innumerable times Sanders created something out of nothing. It was a normal occurrence to watch at least one Lion O-liner get waxed on a play, a defender break into the backfield, and Sanders somehow shedding that tackler a split second after taking the freaking handoff. Talk of the -1, -2, and no gainers all you want…I remember the plays Sanders should have lost three and ran for 20. It has been stated multiple times that the Lions scheme often allowed for at least one unblocked defender (ie: “don’t worry, that’s Barry’s man”). That Emmitt vs Atlanta/Tuggle play was so commonplace for Sanders, it’s funny (Lions vs Bears ’92, Lions vs 49ers ’96, Lions vs Bucs ’93, Lions vs Cowboys ’92, etc…, etc…,etc…)

    Emmitt vs Giants? No doubt, a great example of the type of player Smith was. Smith was a gamer, a legend, one of the best of all time.

    So was Sanders. Again, some point to Sanders and say he never did it in the playoffs. They point to the debacle in GB (13 for -1) and conveniently ignore that Sanders ran for 169 yards on 27 carries the year before. In a playoff game. Which happens to be more yards than Emmitt ran for in any one single playoff game.

    Once again, if you don’t respect Emmitt Smith, you don’t respect football. Same goes for Barry Sanders. I feel glad to have grown up in the 90’s and had the privilege of watching some of the best backs ever:

    Barry, Emmitt, Thurman, Faulk, Davis, etc…

    But, Barry Sanders did more with less than any of those guys, including Emmitt Smith.

  90. Smith had the best offensive line ever assembled. Sanders had, at best, a top 20 line for his entire career. If Sanders played behind the Boys’ line, he would have rushed for 3000 yards in one of those seasons. If Smith played behind the Lions’ o-line he may have cracked 1200 yards 2 or 3 times.

    Let’s not forget that Smith also had a hall of fame QB and a defense that got him the ball back regularly. There’s just no comparison. Smith had all of the tools to be great, and he was. Sanders was given nothing and he was better.

    Let’s also remember: one day, there will be a running back who runs just like Emmit Smith did. There will not be another Sanders. He was a freak.

  91. @doublestar71 and jimidom

    Ben Roethlisberger led a comeback win against the Ravens–good defense–with a broken drop-foot and a broken nose. By your logic, would he be the greatest of all time? The broken arm was impressive, no doubt. But that doesn’t make his case. Sanders never had the defense, o-line, fullback, or QB that Smith did. And he often out performed Smith.

  92. I saw both players for their entire careers and while Emmitt was a great player and a deserved 1st ballot HOFer, Barry Sanders was simply in a class by himself.

    They didn’t exactly have a level playing field yet Sanders still consistently outperformed Emmitt with far less talent around him. Smith was driving a Ferrari while Sanders in comparison was driving a Ford. If Barry had the same good fortune to land on a winning program like Jerry Rice or Emmitt he would have put records so far out of sight they would be untouchable.

    Stop Sanders and most of the time you stopped Detroit. Dallas even tried that in the ’91 playoffs and got crushed when Erik Kramer had the game of his life. Smith was just one of the main cogs on a great team, a well-oiled machine. Roger Craig and Franco Harris were also main cogs in great teams too and have won 3 and 4 rings respectively yet aren’t anywhere near as good a player as Emmitt. So using the ring argument is weak. Great teams win championships and Smith, Craig and Harris were part of dynastys surrounded by HOF QBs, HOF WRs, great OLs (Dallas were a Top 3 unit all-time) and great defenses (maybe the greatest ever in Harris’ case). Emmitt also had Pro Bowlers in Jay Novacek and Moose Johnston blocking for him while Barry was the lone back for most of his career. Barry also never had a franchise QB to balance the offense while Emmitt had a HOFer in Troy Aikman. That was crucial because defenses could afford to key on Barry more than they could vs Emmitt and force the likes of Gagliano, Peete, Ware and Mitchell to beat them through the air.

    Lets compare their offensive teammates.

    Barry’s 10 seasons: (15,269yds and 5.0 ypc)
    13 career Pro Bowls among 3 players – Moore and 2 OL (Brown and Glover).
    6 Pro Bowls from Lomas Brown (who never went to the Pro Bowl in the 4 seasons before Barry was drafted. What people forget also is that Brown moved to Arizona in 1996 as a free agent, a year BEFORE Barry’s 2,053, 6.1 season). So Barry loses his best lineman and someone who went to 6 of the 13 Pro Bowls of Barry’s teammates and he still rushes for over 2,000. Wow!
    0 Pro Bowls from the QBs
    4 1st team All-Pros among 2 players – Moore (3) and Brown (1)

    Emmitt’s first 10 seasons: (13,963yds and 4.3 ypc)
    40 career Pro Bowls among 10 players (6 of them on the OL)
    22 career Pro Bowls alone from those 6 Offensive Linemen.
    6 Pro Bowls from the QBs
    10 1st team All-Pros among 5 players
    8 of those All-Pros between 3 OL – Larry Allen, Erik Williams and Nate Newton).

    By 1995, the year Emmitt led the league in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns, he was playing behind four Pro Bowl linemen and the fifth was a four-time Pro Bowler in the prime of his career. His tight end, a strong blocker, would make the Pro Bowl for the fifth straight season, too. His fullback had made the Pro Bowl the prior two seasons, and only missed it in ’95 because Larry Centers had 101 receptions that season. So Smith was playing with an insane seven Pro Bowl caliber blockers that season, in addition to having a HOF QB and HOF WR on his team, too. Only one player in the starting eleven — WR2 Kevin Williams — would not make a Pro Bowl in his career. In fact, the ’95 Cowboys had 10 offensive players who would make 55 Pro Bowls in their career, the most in NFL history.

  93. When Dallas were dominant (91-95) it coincided with Smith’s prime years for a RB. But Smith’s numbers dropped off a cliff when the talent around him faded away. His ypc fell from 4.7 in 1995 (Dallas’ last SB title) down to 3.7 in 1996. TDs dropped from 25 to 4 in just two seasons (95-97). The rest of his career from 1996 Smith’s ypc was 4.1, 4.2, 4.2, 4.1, 3.9, 3.8, 2.8 and 3.5. He did bounce back with two good seasons aged 29 and 30 but they still pale in comparison compared to what Sanders and Payton did at the same age.

    Sanders had FIVE seasons where he averaged at least 5 yards per carry, including a 5.7 in 1994 and an incredible 6.1 in 1997. His worst season was 4.3 in his last year (1998) and 1992 when his OL collapsed because of injuries and tragedy (Utley paralysed and Andolsek killed in an offseason accident.) And despite being on a mediocre team with a mediocre OL, and a carousel of poor QBs, Sanders was an All-Pro in every one of his 10 seasons (6 1st team, 4 2nd team), was twice OPOTY, MVP, had 4 rushing titles, was a Top 2 rusher 7-times and was never out of the Top 5 in rushing (even when he missed 5 games in 1993).

    By comparison Emmitt had just ONE season where he averaged at least 5 ypc. Sanders averaged 5 ypc for HIS ENTIRE CAREER. Emmitt only had FOUR seasons where he averaged at least 4.3 yards per carry, which matched Barry’s worst season. That means Emmitt had 11 seasons out of 15 where he averaged 4.2 yards or less, including SIX seasons with an average of LESS than 4 yards. And for a good number of those years he did it behind one of the most dominant O-lines in NFL history with a HOF QB, HOF WR, Pro Bowl TE and Pro Bowl FB clearing his path. Despite playing 5 more seasons than Barry, Smith was selected to 2 less Pro Bowls and 2 less 1st team All-Pros and 5 All-Pros in total.

    10 seasons
    10 Pro Bowls
    10 All-Pros (AP)

    15 seasons
    8 Pro Bowls
    6 All-Pros (AP)

    Look at the above and tell me who was more consistent? And which RB was the only unanimous choice for the official 1990s All-Decade team? Barry Sanders, who was one of 5 players given that distinction. Jerry Rice and Reggie White were two of the other 4.

    In his last 9 seasons, from 1996, when the Cowboys began to be hit hard by free agency, to his final season in 2004, Emmitt had 0 rushing titles, 2 Pro Bowls, 0 All-Pros and a 3.9 ypc.

    From 1996, when he was aged 28, to 2004 Smith was never more than a 1996 2nd team UPI All-Conference pick. Sanders was an All-Pro every year of his career and was rushing for 2,053 and 6.1ypc aged 29 while the great Walter Payton was in his 30’s when he had seasons of 1,684 and 1,551.

  94. The critics said Barry could not run at the goalline. Well Sanders is the first and, still I believe, only RB in NFL history to score all of his team’s rushing TDs (excluding QBs) in 5 separate seasons. He scored 47 TDs in the first 3 years of his career and 21 of them came from 1-4yds with 8 of them from 1 yard. Quite clearly he could run close to the goalline. It was from 1992 onwards that Fontes decided to not use Barry so much at the goalline. I have read a quote from Fontes where he said at times he had to resist giving Barry the ball on every offensive play. Fontes’ thinking was that Barry had a very heavy workload (when he retired Barry had the 2nd most carries ever after 10 seasons) and put a bigger bruising RB like Vardell to keep Barry fresh. For Barry at the goalline, it was a case of ‘didn’t’ for most of his career rather than ‘couldn’t’.

    * Another myth is that Sanders was not a good receiver. While he was definitely not going to remind anyone of Marshall Faulk, he was not a bad one either and certainly no worse than Smith.

    In Barry’s 10 seasons he had:
    352 catches, 2,921 yds, 10 TD’s with an 8.3 ypc.

    Emmitt’s first 10 seasons:
    442 catches, 2,728 yards, 11 TD’s with a 6.2 ypc.

    Emmitt had 90 more receptions, but Barry still had nearly 200 MORE yards and just 1 less TD. The ypc gives Sanders a clear 2.1 yard advantage. Heck, Emmitt finished his career with 3,224 yds receiving…that’s barely 300 more yards than Barry and it took him FIVE seasons longer. So why is Emmitt labelled a much better receiver than Barry?

    * Sanders was often labelled as a guy who could not run anywhere near as well on grass as he could on turf. Lets look at the numbers though.

    109 games
    11,105 yards
    5.0 avg
    101.1 yards per game

    44 games
    4,254 yards
    5.0 avg
    96.7 yards per game


    77 games
    7,933 yards
    5.0 avg
    103 yds per game

    76 games
    7,336 yards
    5.0 avg
    96.5 yds per game


    95 games
    9,461 yards
    5.0 avg
    99.6 yards per game

    58 games
    5,808 yards
    5.0 avg
    100.1 yards per game

    Barry’s numbers for home/away, and indoors/outdoors are again almost identical. On all 6 categories he averages at least 96.5 yards per game and exactly 5.0 yds per carry. I guess if a lie is told often enough people will begin to believe it.

    * Most 100 yard rushing games in an NFL career

    1- Emmitt Smith 78 in 226 games
    2- Walter Payton 77 in 190 games
    3- Barry Sanders 76 in 153 games

    Barry rushed for more than 100 yards in almost half (49.7%) of the games he played in the NFL. He had one less 100yd game than Payton in 37 fewer games and 2 less 100yd games than Smith in 73 fewer games.

  95. Barry’s average TD distance was 19.6 yds compared to Smith’s 8.4 yds. Only OJ Simpson had a larger average TD distance of all RBs with over 40 TDs. Smith comes 48th. When you look at median distance of TDs Barry is a clear #1 of all-time at 11yds. Emmitt Smith’s median distance of TDs is 3 yds.

    Sanders had the most TD runs of more than 10 yards (51), 20+ yards (30) and every 10-yard increment up to 80+ yards. He scored a record 15 TDs of 50 yds or more from his 99 rushing TDs. Jim Brown had 12 and Emmitt 6 from 50+. Barry also had an NFL record 25 games of 150+ yds rushing, Jim Brown is 2nd with 22 despite playing 5 and 6 seasons less than Emmitt.

    Jim Brown and Sanders are 1st and 2nd for yds/game and yds/carry for the 73 RBs with over 6,000 career yds rushing. Smith is not in the Top 10 for either. Even if you took Smith’s 10 best seasons they still do not compare with Brown/Sanders. Payton and Sanders both proved they could totally dominate for longer with far less talent around them. (In 1977 Payton rushed for 1,852 yds in 14 games despite the Bears having a QB rating of just 61.8.) They would dominate on any team in any era no matter how bad their teammates were imo. I’m not quite so certain the same can be said for Emmitt.

    How many rings, MVPs, rushing titles, Pro Bowls and All-Pros would Smith have had he played his career in Detroit in the 1990s? Would Emmitt have achieved what Barry did under those circumstances? Does he average 1,500 yds per season at 5ypc for 10 years with an MVP, a 2k season, two OPOTYS and 10 All-Pros like Barry did? IMO he doesn’t come close.

    Now ask yourself that same question only this time with Barry in Dallas during the 90s. Barry with those Cowboys would have been utterly ridiculous. Emmitt got dealt a royal flush landing in Dallas and fair play he took full advantage of it. But he didn’t even come close to Barry’s numbers even with that huge advantage.

    Or what if the Jets had taken Emmitt instead of Blair Thomas in the 1990 draft at #2 overall and Smith ended up playing the 90s under Bruce Coslet and Rich Kotite and 7 different starting QBs instead of 1 HOFer in Troy Aikman. That’s a similar situation to what Barry found himself in as his starting QBs in Detroit were a revolving door of Eric Hipple, Bob Gagliano, Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer, Andre Ware, Scott Mitchell, an old Dave Krieg and Frank Reich. With the exception of Krieg, who was at the end of his career and played in 1994 when Barry rushed for 1,883yds, all the rest of those QBs were backup calibre and not exactly Troy Aikman.

  96. Q: How many extra games did it take Emmitt to get to where Barry finished on 15,269 after 10 seasons? A: In his 12th season and 173rd game – 20 games more than Barry.

    Emmitt fans can point to longevity but Barry was DOMINANT for longer (10 seasons, 10 All-Pros vs 15 and 6) Consider what Emmitt did in those last 5 seasons, where he added 4,392 yards on 1,166 attempts (3.77 YPC), finishing 13th, 15th, 20th, 61st, and 21st in the NFL in rushing. Those are hardly numbers which are going to elevate him above Barry, who outperfomed him by 1,306 yds with 181 less carries in those first 10 seasons. Playing longer than everyone else simply does not make you a better player. Sanders and Brown retired at the top and in their prime. Payton played 13 seasons and retired as soon as the decline started. Smith hung around way past his best because he was motivated in breaking individual records in a team sport. Arizona were the only team interested in signing Smith after Dallas released him, and lets face it, he didn’t go there with any Super Bowl aspirations.

    If you honestly think Emmitt could have achieved what Barry did in Detroit with 15,269 yds in 10 seasons, 99.8 ypg, 5,0 ypc, 4 rushing titles, 7 Top 2 finishes, 10 All-Pros, 2 OPOTYs, a 2k season and an MVP you are deluding yourself. Now ask yourself that same question only this time with Barry on those juggernaut Dallas teams. What would Emmitt’s postseason record be like under such a scenario? Does he even have a postseason record? Remember Gale Sayers never played a playoff game in his career and still finished ahead of Smith in the NFL Network’s Top 100 series and in the Sporting News publication – ‘Football’s 100 Greatest Players’

    Every player poll during that era had Barry clearly ahead. The Sporting News book, which polled a wide variety of experts including HOFers, had Barry ranked #12 best player ever while Emmitt wasn’t even in the Top 50. Barry also finished ahead of Emmitt on the recent Top 100 series on NFL Network.

    Ask nearly all of their peers from the 1990’s, the likes of Terrell Davis, Curtis Martin and Robert Smith. Ask the defenders who faced them both. Every player/executive poll I have seen from that era had Sanders a clear winner. Davis, Martin and Smith have said Sanders is not only better than Emmitt but is the greatest ever. Jim Brown, not one for giving out praise lightly to say the least, said Sanders was simply fantastic with ”god-given talent”. An ESPN poll ranking all-time RBs and which included Don Shula and Raymond Berry had Brown/Sanders/Payton as the clear top 3.

    Like I said. Why not ask the NFL players themselves.

    Based on a survey of 354 NFL players in 2004.

    Who Is the Greatest Player You Ever Saw?

    Barry Sanders 30%
    Running Back, Lions

    Walter Payton 20%
    Running Back, Bears

    Joe Montana 8%
    Quarterback, 49ers-Chiefs

    John Elway 7%
    Quarterback, Broncos

    FAST FACTS: Only one active player, Ravens CB Deion Sanders (fifth, 7%), was among top eight vote-getters. He got 11% of the overall vote from defensive players…. Barry Sanders, who retired in 1998 at age 30, got 42% of the vote among players with eight or more years experience.

    And that is greatest PLAYER, not just RB. And Sanders got 42% of the vote from those vets who would have played against both. Emmitt didn’t even register. How can you argue against their peers with such an overwhelming result.

    I’ll leave the final word to Gale Sayers: Its worth noting that Sayers’ comments came just weeks before the start of the 1997 season when Barry had his greatest season ever.

    “I wish Barry had a better line to run behind. I’d like to see what would happen then. Many times when you see him, he’s making moves behind the line of scrimmage, trying to get away. A lot of times Emmitt isn’t touched until he’s five yards past the line. When Barry’s five yards into the secondary, he’s gone. People talk about whether Barry can gain 2,000 yards in a season. Well, if he had Dallas’ line, we’d be asking how many years he’d be gaining 2,000 yards. Look at his stats now: He’s gaining 1,500 or 1,600 yards anyway. I think Emmitt is a good second-effort runner, a strong runner, but I go with Barry.”

    Basically there are two camps in the Barry v Emmitt debate.

    Emmitt – Dallas fans
    Barry – Everyone else.

    Barry has about 85% of the vote here. I’m surprised its as close as that.

    Case closed.

  97. Sanders faced Bears defenses with Singletary, Dent and Hampton – all 3 are HOFers. Hampton mentioned on NFL Films he broke some of his fingers trying to tackle Barry. Singletary got turnstiled on one of Barry’s most famous runs at Soldier Field in 1992. In fact Barry told NFL Films it was the favourite run of his career. The Bears D early 90s were still Top 6 in the NFL. (1993 – 3rd in pts and 4th in yds).

    He faced the Vikings who had the best DL in football at one point with John Randle, (HOF), Chris Doleman (150 sacks and future HOFer) and Keith Millard (2 All-Pros and 18 sacks in 1989 which is insane for a DT) not to mention Pro Bowlers like safety Joey Browner. They had the NFL’s #1 D in 1989 and 1993. Sanders rushed for 220yds and 4 TDs at the Metrodome in 1991.

    The Bucs had Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks (future HOFers) and Pro Bowlers like Lynch and Barber. They were ranked #2 in pts conceded and #3 in yds in 1997 when Barry rushed for 215 yds and 3 TDs at Tampa Stadium.

    The Packers won the Super Bowl in the 1996 season and were always serious SB contenders with Reggie White, maybe the greatest defensive player ever, on the DL. They were #1 in yds and pts in 1996. They were 9th, 5th, 4th, 1st and 5th in points conceded from 93-97 and 4th best in yds in 1998, 2nd best in yds in 1993 to go with their #1 rankings in 1996.

    And Barry also went to Dallas in 1994 and rushed for 194 yds at Texas Stadium when the Cowboys were back-to-back defending Super Bowl champions. The Dallas D that season were ranked #1 in pts and #3 in yds.

    From 1992-99 Dallas’ D was ranked as follows in pts: 5th, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 13th, 3rd, 5th. In yardage they were ranked #1 in 92 and 94, #2 in 97 and #3 in 96. So not only was Emmitt getting help from a legendary offense loaded with Pro Bowlers the defense was consistently Top 5 and had the likes of Haley, Deion (HOF), Norton, Lett and Darren Woodson.

    By comparison not only did Barry have a mediocre OL and backup calibre QBs for most of his career the Defense was also very average. The Lions D from 1989-98 was ranked as follows in points conceded: 19th, 26, 11, 20, 15, 19, 14, 22, 10, 24. In yardage they were: 18th, 28 (dead last in 1990), 15, 20, 6, 24, 23, 20, 14 and 15.

    Detroit’s D had just 1 Top 10 ranking (#6 in 1993 yardage) out of both categories (pts and yards) in Barry’s entire career. From 1992-99 Dallas’ D had 11 rankings in the TOP 5 from both categories.

  98. @juggrnt1: I also am amazed that people don’t understand football when this subject comes up. We all know how a running play works. The reason that sanders didn’t appear to always follow the play was that there was either rarely a hole to follow, or somebody was busting through seemingly unblocked, which people who know football realize that this blows up the design of a play. Emmits line, however, rarely had people blow through unblocked so it was easy for him to appear to just run downhill everytime. And on the rare occasion that someone did bust through, he went down like a sack of potatoes. Also, you say that the majority of his runs were for losses…..hmmm….interesting math skills you must have, because its a little odd that his yards per carry average was 5….for his CAREER. To say that the Lions were bad because of the running style of Barry reveals your lack of football knowledge, not that of everyone else. And then you compound this obvious flaw when you say that Emmitt was more like Payton that Barry. How ridiculous! And as a Bears fan no less! Don’t give us all that time of possession stuff and sustaining drives stuff. The Lions ran a run and shoot offense. They didn’t have an all pro o-line with a hall of fame qb making good decisions. They had an average line at best, Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer, who you know as a Bears fan, winging the ball around. I’m sure those elements never had anything to do with the lack of sustained drives. Or what about the Lions tenacious defense? Also probably had nothing to do with time of possession, eh? You say yourself that you loved watching Barry play except when he played your Bears….well if he was such an obvious detriment to his team, and was the reason they were such losers, why wouldn’t you love watching him get stopped behind the line “the majority of the time”? That would mean your team was going to win, right? Your assumption that all of the Barry supporters are the ones that lack knowledge of the game is just plain ignorant. I stand by the comments of the reasonable people that mention that without that all pro o-line that Emmitt had, he would have been an average RB at best.
    And as regards the Emmitt supporters that are saying that championships make the player, well, you are dead wrong. Football is a team sport more than any other. If one area is a weakness, it will be exposed. E.G. 2010 Patriots…no deep threat at WR. Exposed by Jets. All I am saying is that, on a vastly inferior team, with a pass first offensive philosophy, Barry did more than Emmitt would have ever done. Therefore Barry is the superior player and running back. So quit trying to make excuses for why Emmitt is getting crushed by Barry in this poll and just realize that it is ok to be wrong once in awhile.

  99. Someone said above that Emmitt played 5 years longer and has just over 3,000 yards more than Barry. Ok, when Barry was closing down his career, he was approximately 1,200 yards more than Emmitt. Barry started a year BEFORE Emmitt, as well! That difference is equal to one season of yardage! It was Barry’s 2,000 yard season that stretched it, perhaps, a bit further than one complete season!
    Now ‘boknows34’ obviously has been doing a ton of research! More than any diehard would go! Your argument is about NUMBERS! mine is about reliability, consistency and going North and South consistently! I’m from Michigan which means we get Lions game every Sunday! I’ve watched Barry’s entire career if the Cowboys werent coinciding at the same time as Lions games! Barry could hit the jackpot at anytime but he also spent far too many times losing yards because he was always doing what came natural for him, which was stopping and starting instead of doing what Emmitt did naturally, which was running head on running the play that was designed. Lead draw! Straight ahead regardless if someone was in the way! I will take North/ South anyday over flash and minus yardage when there was daylight available straight ahead! My dad loved Barry was often frustrated when he would try and make more and found less when there was a hole he disregarded and chose to run side to side because his legs thought about doing something before his brain actually controlled his natural instincts! Again, Emmitt did what was designed and he did it extremely well! I dont pay attention to numbers because they don’t tell the whole story! When you run 14 years in this league, as a running back, you are going to getvworn down! If Barry played 14 years, bet on it that his numbers would have slipped! Bet on it!

  100. Why would Dallas fans go against Emmitt? Why? Thats a dumb observation! Emmitt went out into the flat and was extremely reliable as a receiver and he made the first guy miss. He did what was expected! Barry wasnt! He wasn’t a reliable receiver! He dropped the football again and again because he was looking where he shouldn’t have been. Emmitt was an exceptional blocker for a RB! That’s tough! That’s in the category of Walter Payton, the greatest RB, IMO. I’ll take a COMPLETE back over flash anyday! That’s why I loved Payton! Slow like Emmitt but a heart equalled to Emmitt!

  101. doublestar

    Someone said above that Emmitt played 5 years longer and has just over 3,000 yards more than Barry. Ok, when Barry was closing down his career, he was approximately 1,200 yards more than Emmitt. Barry started a year BEFORE Emmitt, as well! That difference is equal to one season of yardage!


    Barry after 10 seasons (89-98) was more than 1,300 yds ahead of Emmitt after 10 seasons (90-99) despite having 181 less carries over the same timespan. Saying Barry started a year earlier is therefore totally irrelevant. It took Barry 153 games to reach 15,269 yds. When Emmitt overtook Barry into 2nd place on the all-time rushing list it took him 173 games – 20 games more.

    Running backs, even the very good/great ones, are made to look better when they have a great OL. Don’t underestimate what a good OL can do for a team’s offence. Common sense says more holes are created for running backs and QBs have more time to throw. See Larry Johnson’s career before and after Roaf/Shields as a case study. LJ had seasons of 1,750-20tds in 2005 and 1,789-17tds a year later. In 2007 with Roaf and Shields retired he dropped to 559-3tds and never rushed for 1,000 yds again.

    Case study 2 is Shaun Alexander, who often went untouched into the endzone behind Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson. Once Hutch left for Minnesota in 2006 and Jones was past his prime Alexander’s numbers dropped off a cliff. Alexander had seasons of 1,435-14tds, 1,696-16tds and 1,880-27tds from 2003-05. Hutch then departs for the Vikings and Alexander sinks to 896-7tds in 2006 and never again runs for 1,000 yds.

    Funnily enough when free agency began to tear apart the Dallas dynasty Emmitt’s numbers dropped too despite still having Larry Allen in his prime blocking for him. In 1995 Emmitt had 1,750 yds and 25tds with a 4.7 ypc on the last of Dallas’ great teams. A year later the ypc had crashed to 3.7 and by 1997 it was 4.1 while his rushing TDs had fallen from 25 to 12 to 4 in that 3-season span (95-97). When the Cowboys struggled in the late 90s Emmitt wasn’t able to lift his game any more without his Pro Bowl OL and Troy Aikman getting knocked out with concussions. Emmitt’s last NINE seasons: 0 All-Pros, 2 Pro Bowls, 0 rushing titles and a 3.9 ypc.

    Those Dallas teams were loaded from top to bottom. QB, RB, FB, TE, WR, OL, defence, coaching, cheerleaders, 😉 everything was good/great. It would be like picking a team of Pro Bowl calibre players today and throwing them together as a regular NFL franchise.

    Case study 3: Even Marshall Faulk’s numbers before and after his Colts/Rams trade are a real eye-opener to what can happen when surrounded by talent.

    Faulk’s early years as a runner with the Colts was an almighty struggle. Whereas Sanders was elite and All-Pro every season on a mediocre team Faulk didn’t quite find it quite as easy under similar circumstances in Indianapolis. During his 5 seasons at the Colts, Faulk’s yds per carry was a disappointing 3.8. His ypc in those 5 seasons in Indy were 4.1, 3.7, 3.0, 4.0 and 4.1. Peyton Manning was a rookie in Faulk’s 5th and last season in Indy and Faulk’s receiving numbers jumped from averaging 50-500 in his first 4 seasons to 86-908 with a franchise QB. Faulk also had 1,319 yds rushing with Manning compared to 1,054 yds the year before with Jim Harbaugh.

    As soon as Faulk goes to the Rams in 1999 that career 3.8 avg jumped to 5.5, 5.4 and 5.3 on the Greatest Show on Turf teams from 1999-2001. Obviously having another elite QB, two elite WRs and running behind an OL with future HOFer Orlando Pace in his prime opened up far more holes than the likes of Kipp Vickers, Tony Mandarich, Jason Mathews and Eric Mahlum ever could.

  102. Boknows34, I commend your efforts and time researching this but again, I’m not you. I enjoyed the success the Cowboys had with Emmitt in the backfield and if I had to do it all over again, I’d take Emmitt and all the hardware, the titles, the warrior toughness he displayed! The heart! I’ll take #22 again and again.

  103. doublestar

    When you run 14 years in this league, as a running back, you are going to getvworn down! If Barry played 14 years, bet on it that his numbers would have slipped! Bet on it!

    Brown and Sanders retired in their prime. Payton had 12 elite seasons then retired after his 13th as soon the decline started. Emmitt played 13 seasons in Dallas and was allowed to leave as a free agent. I felt he should have retired as a Cowboy and not played those last 2 seasons in Arizona. He had nothing left to prove and didn’t go there with any Super Bowl aspirations like so many veterans do in their twilight years. He simply went to the Cards to pad his stats because they were the only team that offered him a contract. He didn’t need the money and his legacy was already guaranteed. Brown/Sanders retired 3 years too soon. Smith retired 2 years too late. Payton got it absolutely right when he walked away and the Bears already had a good replacement in Neal Anderson.

    Would Barry have worn down after 14 seasons? History suggests he would have but he’d have racked up so many more yds in Yrs 11-13 that Emmitt would never have caught him. Sanders was still in his prime and on pace to break Payton’s record in just his 11th season. It took Emmitt 13 seasons to eventually overtake Sweetness, by which time he was already long in decline and no longer a Top 10 RB. Barry himself said he was still in great shape when he retired and felt he had another 3 elite seasons left in him.

    When Steve Sabol asked him about walking away from the career rushing record Barry’s reply was ‘Yeah, but Jim Brown could have the record too’. Brown retired at age 29 after 9 seasons compared to age 30 and 10 seasons for Barry. Even though both had still plenty left in the tank (3 more seasons) I’d rather see a superstar retire in his prime than as a washed up bum (Namath, Unitas).

  104. Btw, boknows34, do you have the stats of how many times Emmitt carried the ball in short yardage situations compared to Barry? Curious since you ‘corrected’ me when I said Emmitt was approximately 1,200 behind with one less season. And you basically said Barry had 100 more yards. Short yardage runs could very well defuse your argument. We know Emmitt was used immature yardage situations more often than Barry..

  105. Larry Allen, a future 1st ballot HOFer, was in his prime in the late 90s. He was a 1st team All-Pro every year from 1996-2001. Erik Williams was All-Pro in 1996 and a Pro Bowler in 96, 97 and 99 when Emmitt was in decline.

    Sanders lost his most decorated lineman in Lomas Brown (6 Pro Bowls) to free agency in 1996, then led the NFL in rushing for the next two seasons including his historic 1997 season of 2.053 yds and 6.1ypc.

    And if you really want to compare how Sanders would do compared to another HOFer behind the same offensive line then Thurman Thomas is a good comparison. I know its college, but the comparison is between two elite players on the same team behind the same OL, just 1 year apart.

    Thomas 1987 – Oklahoma State
    11 games
    1,613 yards
    17 touchdowns

    Add on the 157 yds and 4TDs in the Sun Bowl to get 1,770 yds and 21TDs.

    Sanders 1988 – Oklahoma State
    11 games
    2,628 yards
    39 touchdowns

    Add on the 222yds and 5tds in 3 qtrs of the Holiday Bowl to get 2,850 yds and 44TDs in 12 games. Sanders had 1,080 more yds and 23 more TDs in 12 games compared to another future HOF RB.

    Thomas played 4 seasons at Oklahoma St, was a starter for 3 seasons and finished with 4,595 yds rushing and scored 44 career touchdowns. Sanders alone scored 44 TDs in ONE SEASON if you include the 1988 Holiday Bowl.

    And Thomas ain’t no chump. He was a league MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, has 5 All-Pros (2 1st team) and was a 2nd ballot HOFer.

  106. Boknows already showed Sanders was capable of running in short yardage situations. I never undertsood the big deal with the goalline argument…the Bears started using the freaking Fridge at the goalline instead of Walter Payton. Why? Because Payton was crap in short yardage?

    Am I saying Barry was an equivalent short yardage back to either Payton or Smith? No. But, his detractors use the Lions strategy of pulling him in those situations as some sort of proof that he absolutely couldn’t pick up a tough yard. Which is nowhere near true. Sanders didn’t care about his numbers…he didn’t save every one of his TD footballs…damn, the guy tried to return to the official the football he carried to break 2000 yards!

    Emmitt was a great, great back and deserves all the accolades. But some of the arguments against Sanders are weak. Very weak.

    One more thing…Sanders played 10 years as an NFL RUNNINGBACK. Arguably, the most brutal position in the sport. He also carried the ball over 3000 times in his career. Emmitt’s heart should never be questioned. Neither should Sanders’. Some of these posters should try running into a brick wall at full-speed 10 0r 11 times every Sunday….do that for 10 years…and then speak of Sanders’ heart.

  107. @boknows34, tabs2020.

    You guys make some pretty compelling, educated, and valid points about Barry Sanders. His numbers certainly don’t lie, and his production during his 10 years in the NFL can only be compared to perhaps Jim Brown. He was THE Human Highlight Reel.

    My earlier points were mainly directed at those who attribute Emmitt Smith’s production solely to the offensive line and that Barry Sanders would somehow better Emmitt’s had he run behind that line. Yes, the Cowboys line was stellar, but by that rationale, not only would Barry have run wild, but also Curvin Richards, Derrick Lassic, Lincoln Coleman, Sherman Williams, or even Moose Johnston

  108. jimidom

    Like tabs said Emmitt deserves the accolades and is clearly one of the all-time greats. Anyone who says otherwise does not know football. Curvin Richards, Derrick Lassic, Lincoln Coleman, Sherman Williams did not run wild behind the Dallas OL because they were journeymen and not elite talents like Emmitt or Barry. When Emmitt held out in 1993 the Dallas O had no balance without a running game and opposing defenses could concentrate on just stopping the pass.

    And people forget who they actually played in those two games. Week 1 was on the road on MNF to the Redskins and as everyone knows the NFL formbook can always be thrown away on national television when on the road to a divisional rival. Washington scored 35 points and rushed for 171yds while Mark Rypien threw 3 TDs. How was Emmitt going to stop that playing on offense? Week 2 was home to the Buffalo Bills, who were on their run of 4 consecutive AFC titles. They lost to an excellent team. Big deal. Dallas lost games with Emmitt too. Even when Emmitt came back in Week 3 of 1993 he had only 8-45 yds while Lassic had 14-60-2TDs in a victory over the Cards. But Emmitt gets the credit?

    Don’t forget that in 1988 when Dallas were 3-13 Herschel Walker rushed for 1,514 yds and 5 TDs with a 4.2 ypc. Walker added 53 catches for 505 yds. The OL featured a young Nate Newton and rookie Kevin Gogan, 2 of the 6 Pro Bowlers on the OL during the 90s when Emmitt was the star.

    And why were the Cowboys 3-13? Their QBs were Steve Pelleur and Kevin Sweeney, not Troy Aikman. Michael Irvin was a rookie, Jay Novacek played for the Cardinals and Moose Johnston was at Syracuse. The starting TE was someone called Thornton Chandler who had just 18 catches that season and 29 for his entire career.

    The defense was ranked 25th in points and 20th in yardage in a 28 team NFL. Compare those defensive numbers to 1992-99 when Emmitt was in Dallas. Its ironic that it was the Walker trade that gave Dallas the Vikings’ #1 pick in 1990 (among a bucketload of other draft picks) which Dallas used to trade up and draft Emmitt.

    He was a great player no doubt but there’s also no doubt he was dealt a royal flush and landed in the right place at the right time. Sanders never had that luxury or luck.

  109. Those who say that numbers don’t tell the whole story are really reaching for some poor excuse to hang on to Emmitt as their hero. Those who say that Emmitt was better because he ran north and south are grasping at straws because it was obvious to anyone that watched the cowboys in that era that they had an amazing o-line. But to say that the o-line argument is moot because that would mean that “Curvin Richards, Derrick Lassic, Lincoln Coleman, Sherman Williams, or even Moose Johnston” would have run wild is simply ridiculous. Thats to say that those players were even remotely close to Barry in talent. The o-line arguments merely state that without said o-line of cowboys, Emmitt would not have been known as anything more than an average back. Lets be honest, every back does what they have to with what they have for teammates around them. It just so happens that Emmitt had better teammates, in a game where teammates can make or break you. Now, as for those that say that championships and playoff success make Emmitt the better player, i am completely flabbergasted. Again, without a good team around you, how can 1 player take a team to the superbowl? This argument basically suggests that Trent Dilfer was a better QB than Dan Marino just because he won a title. Or maybe Brad Johnson was better than Marino too. Lets just quit grasping for straws here when we try to compare these two players. Nobody is saying that what Emmitt did wasn’t special, just that Barry was better and did it with less. Boknows has provided more that enough factual evidence to end this thing, and yet it still continues. You can say Emmitt is your favorite player of the two, but don’t say he is the better. Its just silly.

  110. I am a huge Cowboy fan, so I would be biased answering this question. The thing i can say is it was much more exciting to watch Sanders play. He was electric. Emmitt more or less just ran behind the tremendous blocks from his O-line. He got results, Sanders got highlights.

    I must say though Im seeing some really crazy comments on here about Sanders being the best RB of all time. Are you guys nuts? Neither of these two guys compares to Walter Payton, let alone the greatest player of all time which was Jim Brown. Go watch some of the old film. The guy was a machine. Cant compare anyone to that man

  111. I’d still take Sweetness over anyone. Not only a great runner (with both power and speed), but a superior blocker, great receiver (both for YAC on dump off and over-the-shoulder deep receptions), AND he could throw from the backfield.

    To me Walter Payton is simply the most exciting player I’ve ever seen. And I’m NOT a Bear’s fan.

  112. Emmit Smith, why you ask; because he was a hard nosed old school warrior. Barry could have been better had he played longer but in my eyes Emmitt was the better all around player.

    Pure talent-Barry, pure football player-Emmitt.

    Both were amazing.

  113. I have to agree with alot thats been said here so far…Emmitt had a better o-line, team etc and Barry was the more shifty, home run threat. I look at it this way Emmitt had almost 200 all purpose yards in the ’91 game against the Giants with a seperated shoulder. And he was the heart and soul of those Cowboys Championship teams. Barry Quit…end of story.

  114. This whole article is pretty bad. To begin, I’ll state this. Emmitt was a more valuable player than Barry Sanders. Do you feel your high pressure rise? Emmitt’s oh so great Cowboys were 1-15 the year before he arrived, then in the next 5 years they win 3 SBs. Barry never accomplished that feat even thought he went to the playoffs 5 seasons to Emmitt’s 7 seasons. Barry played in a run and shoot, meaning he only had to chose to either go left or right. This is why people believe he had a bad line(he had 2 pro-bowlers), its not they weren’t good enough to block for him its that they didn’t know where he was going because he improvise every single time he’s ran a football. Emmitt always fell forward and knew the value of a 3 yard gain unlike Barry who hindered his team by losing yards. He had multiple season where 2 receivers got over 1,ooo yards and where they had over 3,ooo yards. Barry also played a pee-wee style of football, that’s why there’s nobody like him today. Any coach would scold you for running 1 yard behind the LOS. Emmitt played in a norv turner formation, with 2 backs in I formation. He mostly ran a Lead Draw, his signature play, to compile over 12,ooo yards over the course of his career. In 1997, Barry tried this formation in his first to games. He had 70 yards total and his daddy started to cry about this isn’t what he should be doing and the coach doesn’t know how to use him right. They switch back to spread offense, he gets 2,000 yards. Emmitt was a tough runner that rarely went out of bounds. Barry ran more from east to west than north to south. Emmitt has many more TDs than Barry because he wasn’t good running inside the redzone due to his inability to take contact. Barry wasn’t nearly as good as Emmitt was at blocking. Barry was a better receiver than Emmitt. Barry played in the weakest division of the 1990s while Emmitt played in the toughest division of the 90s. This is further proven by the fact that Barry’s post season stats are pure garbage because he plays vs. the best teams. Emmitt was a post season monster and destroy Barry in every single categorie. If Barry was so valuable, why did his team go to the playoffs the 2 years after he retired? The Cowboys haven’t won a SB since Emmitt was in his prime. Also Emmitt didn’t have a pro-bowl linemen till he arrived in Dallas. Yes his line was great but only for 5 years (Stepnoski was traded to the Texans, Williams got into a car accident and Tuinei and Newton were in their mid-30s. If you want a runner that can get you 99 yards but not score a TD, Barry is your guy like Javale McGee is Shaq’s main man. If you want a runner that can’t make a 99 yard run but score from anywhere in the redzone, Emmitt is your guy. Both are top 5 RBs, but Barry isn’t as near Emmitt as a football player. Emmitt played to win while Barry sacrificied his team to get stats. Emmitt got into a contract dispute in 1993 and didn’t play the first 2 games. Then when it was settled the Cowboys went 13-3 and won the SB. That is the impact he has that Barry didn’t. The Cowboys W/L record revolved aroung Emmitt, but the Lions W/L record didn’t revolve around Barry. The GOAT of all backs isn’t Emmitt Smith, its LaDainian Tomlinson. The fastest player to reach 15,000 scrimmage yards and 150 TDs in NFL history. His first 7 seasons are the best seasons that any runningback has ever had. He averaged 1,500 rushing yards and 1,800 scrimmage yards. He also had around 100 TDs. Barry isn’t close to being a winning running back. Terell Davis went 2,000 yards in the regular season just like Barry. Only difference is that he averaged over 160 Y/G in the playoffs unlike Barry who average like half of that. LT>Emmitt>Barry “Circus Clown” Sanders. (I call him that because people rather remembered him for is entertaining highlights instead for his accomplishments, he’s the Ochocinco of RBs)

    I forgot to mention this, in week 17 of the 1993 season, Emmitt dislocated his shoulder vs. the Giants, No.1 ranked defense of the league, and had over 200 yards with less than 40 touches. He then proceded to the playoffs and won the SB. Only after that he got his surgery. Emmitt had way more heart than Barry. If you think heart is bogus for a Football player you very mistaken. Emmitt forced himself to endure big hits and running straight into the D-Line where as Barry gave up a before accomplishing the greatest career feat for his position.

    If you read this far I applaud you. You can try to prove me wrong with your know-it-all attitudes, but I proved facts and I stated my opinion. If you disagree, I’m fine with that. If you say I’m wrong give me a decent argument to why. I’ll proceed to dismantle what ever scraps you try to defend you ringless lord and savior (I’m being kinda of a hypocrite since mine doesn’t have one as well). Thanks for reading, give me a dislike if you Love Barry and give me like if you have common sense and accepted my argument. (Funny how all the post that say Barry is good/great have positive Like/Dislike ration and the ones that say what Barry is have a negative Like/Dislike ration, hun)

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