LaDainian Tomlinson is surprised no 21st Century running backs made all-time team

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The NFL unveiled the running backs on its 100th anniversary all-time team on Friday night, and the league may have inadvertently revealed that the running back position has been devalued in recent years.

LaDainian Tomlinson, who appeared on NFL Network as an analyst of the all-time team, admitted he was a bit disappointed not to make the list himself, and he noted that recent running backs were excluded.

“I’m surprised there are no 21st Century running backs on that list,” Tomlinson said. “No guys drafted after 1990, so Emmitt Smith was the [most recent] guy drafted.”

Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Dutch Clark, Eric Dickerson, Lenny Moore, Marion Motley, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Emmitt Smith and Steve Van Buren. Smith, who retired after the 2004 season, was the only running back who played in the 21st Century, and he was past his prime in his last few years and was chosen for his greatness in the 1990s

Three recent running backs made the list of finalists but not the final All-Time Team: Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson and Marshall Faulk.

77 responses to “LaDainian Tomlinson is surprised no 21st Century running backs made all-time team

  1. I’m not familiar with Lenny Moore, other thn I think he played for the Colts, and I don’t know anything about Steve Van Buren.

  2. He’s miffed because he’s not on the list but they were all clearly better than he was and they didn’t sulk at the end of the bench in a playoff game because it was cold outside.

  3. So…Belichick and those guys have seen tape on Steve Van Buren and Dutch Clark? Or they’re evaluating players that they’ve never seen play even on film and they’re just looking at stats? How are they going to evaluate linemen of the 50s and 60s–by reading about them?

  4. IDK how you can have a list of the greatest running backs and not have guys like LT, AP, Faulk, and Gore.

  5. Hope to see this trend go into all the offensive positions Such as QBs, and WRs. Due to their inflated stats due to rule changes that promote offensive production making it a penalty to touch a QB or WR anymore, The game has gotten too soft. Don’t get me wrong, TB12 is the best QB in his generation, but how long do you think he’d last being hit the way QBs were hit in the 80s and before?

  6. Sorry LaD, but there have been a lot of really great RBs over the years, but as great as you and some other millenial guys have been, you ain’t in Jim Brown’s league – and it ain’t close.

  7. Jim brown is by far the most overrated rb if not player in NFL history. He was bigger than the average defensive lineman at the time and he was faster than everyone. It was a professional playing against a bunch of college/high school players

  8. I’m a fan of the list in general, but I also agree with LT. not having a rep from this generation of backs feels like they are saying they are interchangeable to some degree. I could also see there being a bigger outcry on snubs if one got it and the others didn’t, so maybe that’s a factor, too, I dunno.

    If it were up to me, I’d find a way to put Faulk up there. He has the stats and the accolades that at least make it easy to justify, even if guys like LT are also deserving. He was just a different breed. He laid the foundation for guys like McCaffery today.

  9. The fact of the matter is that players like Dutch Clark, Van Buren, Sayers, Moore, Motley, and Brown performed well when ALL that teams did was run the ball so defenses knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop these RBs.
    Since the 90s, passing sets up the running game so it’s easier for 21st century RBs to pile up stats due to the high volume of passes, which cause the defense to loosen up for the run.
    Context people.
    Google it.

  10. Dutch Clark led the league in rushing TDs one year with 5. Tomlinson scored 31 one year. Which is more impressive?

    Should’ve picked the best player from every decade so you get equal representation.

  11. This list is a complete joke….some of the players never heard of. If that is the case, why is some of the 21st players in the top 5 or 10 in all time rushing? I understand that the league has expanded, the game has changed. But you can’t tell me that some of those that are listed are better than Faulk and Peterson in their prime. AP is still putting up numbers and was league mvp.

  12. There’s probably not a more overrated player in history than Adrian Peterson. He couldn’t catch, he couldn’t block, and he couldn’t hang on to the football. A little somatotropin got him over 2,000 yards and people got all excited about that, but overall he’s just not a great player. Definitely not 100th anniversary team or hall of fame worthy.

  13. Did anyone else hear Troy say Emmitt Smith is the number 2 RB behind Jim Brown? Absolutely ridiculous.

  14. “The fact of the matter is that players like Dutch Clark, Van Buren, Sayers, Moore, Motley, and Brown performed well when ALL that teams did was run the ball so defenses knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop these RBs.
    Since the 90s, passing sets up the running game so it’s easier for 21st century RBs to pile up stats due to the high volume of passes, which cause the defense to loosen up for the run.
    Context people.
    Google it.”

    Yeah, that’s a bunch of BS. Running backs in the 30s didn’t have to learn blitz pickup or handle 25 touches a game. They didn’t play against 300 pound defensive lineman. Some of them played in a segregated league or against a diluted talent pool when the league’s best players went off to fight in the war.

    LaDainian Tomlinson carried the Chargers offense on his back. What Marshall Faulk did was so rare no one’s done it since.

  15. We can be honest, yet fair, to the voters on this…and still be constructively critical. The fact is that “old timey” players tend to be overlooked, but at the same time people need to be VERY discerning when judging the excellence of players before a sport crystallizes into its “modern” era. Just as baseball was not the same sport before 1900, and basketball transformed in the mid-20th century, even as late as Jim Brown you can see that some player excellence came from having guys who were so talented that they would thrive in the modern game playing against many slower, smaller, weaker talents who would not sniff a roster today.

    So you have to find the balance between including guys who innovated or were truly excellent during the pre-modern (and, due to much less overall talent, weaker) era and knowing where to draw the line. Perhaps the toughest part of judging these older talents is dealing with their relatively short careers.

    Clark was an early NFL star, but he also only played 6 seasons and was also something of a quarterback too (250 career passing attempts to 600+ rushing attempts). Van Buren was an absolute force for 6 seasons, but then quickly dropped off and out. Motley was a FB and LB who also posted a career 5.7 yards per carry and was a terrific blocker. Moore is perhaps the toughest call, as he was a terrific all-around player but also had his career perfectly coincide with the great Johnny Unitas, who probably had a lot to do with Moore having significantly more career receiving yards than rushing yards – is it even fair to call him a RB at all?

    And that perhaps reveals the biggest weakness of this NFL exercise: lumping dissimilar players into today’s modern categories. The NFL should have perhaps made additional categories, to honor more names and be fair to both older multi-role players and newer single-role players, or perhaps should have split the team into older and newer groups. Honoring pioneers or all-around great FOOTBALL players who played a lot of RB is all well and good, but when it locks out guys who somehow display true greatness at a time when their position is otherwise diminishing and when the level of talent and competition makes the margin for greatness that much tougher, well…that’s a shame. Faulk is a deserving finalist but also does not belong in the final winning group given that his excellence required the Greatest Show On Turf supporting cast, but Peterson was a bulldozing rocket who had an impact like a Brown or Campbell at a time when that shouldn’t have been possible anymore, and Tomlinson was basically an upgraded-in-all-areas Curtis Martin, impacting all areas of play that the modern RB touches and all while spending much of his best years stuck on some incredibly bad teams (and yet thriving anyways).

  16. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. If Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and all those greats were playing today they would still be considered great players but since the runningback position has been devalued so much in modern day football no way we would have looked at them with the same reverence as we do now. The list says much more about how the game of football has changed and evolved then it does about any individual player or their generation.

  17. The running game isn’t as important now as it was then, so that’s why the greatest list is from the 20th Century.

  18. “If Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and all those greats were playing today they would still be considered great players but since the runningback position has been devalued so much in modern day football no way we would have looked at them with the same reverence as we do now.”

    People don’t like Tomlinson’s personality. That’s it. It has nothing to do with the kind of player he was.

  19. Bigger surprise to me is no Tony Dorsett or Franco Harris, both of whom were great backs for some of the best teams of the 70’s to mid 80’s, and both of whom were near the top of the all time rushing list when they retired. Plus they played at a time when running backs actually carried the ball probably on 60-70 percent of the plays, and the defenses were geared toward run stopping.

  20. I don’t think O.J. Simpson should be above Ladainian or Peterson. Not because of his legal issues. But just because of his stats. He had about four really good years in the middle of his career. The rest of his years were pretty average. Outside of being the first to ever reach 2,000 yards in a season, any number of backs should be above him.

  21. Much harder to get to 2000 yards these days. One reason, the clock is restarted after going out of bounds so that shortens the game some. Not trying to discount O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson but watching Adrian Peterson in 2012 was something special.

  22. Jim Brown ran against defensive linemen that were on average smaller than today’s LBs and slower than the average backup o-linemen in today’s NFL. They also weren’t full-time athletes, and held jobs in the offseason delivering mail, working construction, etc. A lot of these guys never trained year round, smoked regularly and were more or less just bodies in an upstart league. There’s no comparison between who Jim Brown competed against and the “bred from birth” athletic monsters on the field now.

  23. No Marcus Allen. Are you kidding me?!!!! Heisman, National Champion, NFL Offensive POY, NFL CBPOY, NFL MVP, Super Bowl Champion etc…Some things speak for themselves. Don’t think there is a RB that can match ALL of those accomplishments. Plus Greatest SB run ever! And his name was brought up multiple times from the TV host/panel, former players, and was #1 on Eric Dickerson RB list.

  24. Fact is these are opinions and can’t compare the game now to 20,40 and 75 years ago…Brady might throw for 2400 yards in 85, and Montana might push 6000 today. Jim Brown would be a 900 us runner today and Frank Gore (the joke of a mention on the list)would be a perennial 2500 a yr in 10 games in the 60s… So who knows

  25. 7 of these guys were on the 75th Anniversary Team at RB as well so it can’t be all that surprising for them to be included for the 100th.
    Dutch Clark was QB for 75th Anniversary Team, so I wonder why they changed that.
    The 3 “new” era additions being Barry, Emmitt, & E.D., which is pretty accurate & then threw Campbell in there for good measure. That may be the only argument. Not good enough for the first big anniversary team (picked in 1994) but good enough for the next???

  26. If you put payton, sanders, or brown or any other truly great back on those dallas teams wit that oline, moose, and novachek, smiths numbers would look pedestrian…..

  27. Also, look at average stats over compiled stats due to different amounts of games.
    Jim Brown is only player to average over 100 ypg & left as all-time leader in many categories, which he still has records for some.
    Motley has highest avg YPC for RBs
    Van Buren was 1st at doing a lot & left as all-time leader when all said & done
    Lenny Moore was first real duel threat
    Lastly, they all had great playoff statistics too, & most multiple championships.

  28. OJ was certainly deserving. Obviously I have first hand knowledge due to exposure, but OJ was a generational talent and played on some really bad Buffalo teams. There are guys on that list i’d take off in favor of LT or Faulk, but Simpson is definitely not one of them.

    The comments here really show that most fans of NFL ball are fair weather at best. Marion Motley was fantastic. Steve Van Buren as well. Those guys are all deserving.

  29. People create these lists for controversy rather than accuracy. Marion Motley was a fine player and helped break the color barrier, lauding him for that would be great. Pretending he was on the level of someone like LT only makes him the subject of valid counter-arguments. One simple example is he played in an era of FAR less passing and ended his career with 4700 yards, led the league in rushing ONCE and made a single pro bowl. c’mon.

  30. dryzzt23 says:
    November 23, 2019 at 8:38 am
    Since the 90s, passing sets up the running game so it’s easier for 21st century RBs to pile up stats due to the high volume of passes, which cause the defense to loosen up for the run.
    Context people.
    Google it

    Between 197-1989 teams averaged 4.01 YPA. Between 1990-2019 teams averaged 4.09 YPA. Seems like piling up stats on the ground hasn’t gotten as easy as you seem to think.

  31. upnorthvikesfan says:
    November 23, 2019 at 10:33 am
    I don’t think O.J. Simpson should be above Ladainian or Peterson. Not because of his legal issues. But just because of his stats. He had about four really good years in the middle of his career. The rest of his years were pretty average. Outside of being the first to ever reach 2,000 yards in a season, any number of backs should be above him.

    You have to realize that Buffalo had nothing but O.J. the whole time OJ was in Buffalo. Also an era where the run set up the pass, in Buffalo a run set up another OJ Simpson run. Defenses knew what was coming and almost anything was legal to bring the ball carrier down, horse collars, helmet to helmet, clothelines etc…OJ was arguably the best in a running back era along with Payton.

  32. Peterson has an argument but Faulk and Tomlinson although dominating in their day, their day just wasn’t long enough. And for the knucklehead who said that he really wasn’t familiar with Lenny Moore and Steve Van Buren you might want expand you knowledge of the NFL a little further than your own teams bandwagon.

  33. The ongoing dismissal of Emmitt Smith’s brilliant football career is one of the most consistently sad and ignorant things amongst the majority of football fans. The man did everything that made that dynasty work. I could make an argument for Walter Payton over him but no one else. But just keep chalking up the 18,000+ yards to the greatest offensive line ever assembled (even if it was only good for about 4 of Smith’s 15 seasons)

  34. Idk about Smith. He was really good but if anyone at any position is, not over rated but overvalued it was him. What would Thurman Thomas’s total yards from
    Scrimmage stats have been, or Barry Sanders. He played behind maybe the best line ever

  35. Don’t really see how Faulk and Tomlinson were left off the team

    I’d pick Thurman
    Thomas snd Sanders over those two. Thurman was the dual threat well before Falk. In fact, Falk was good before he went to the Rams when he blew up.

  36. skmad2014 says:
    November 23, 2019 at 9:26 am
    Frank Gore is NOT a HOF RB, let alone an all-time RB.

    55 30 Rate This
    ——————-

    Dude…he’s 4th ALL TIME on the career rushing list, he has almost 20,000 YFS, almost 100 career TDs, and has a career rushing average of 4.3…to even try and make an ignorant statement like that is pure lunacy. He’s going to be a 1st ballot HOFer deservedly and he is objectively one of the GOAT RBs in NFL history.

  37. I can’t believe the names I’m hearing like Frank Gore and Thurman Thomas, they aren’t even HOF worthy.

  38. All due respect to him but I don’t understand why you would put Gale Sayers on this list considering how short his career was. Him being on this list is (to me) as ridiculous as having Terrell Davis in the HOF. There should’ve been AT LEAST 1 21st century RB on this list.

  39. LT, AP, and MF 100% deserve to be on this list. You can go ahead and remove the hipster dinosaur selections. Also, where is Curtis Martin?

  40. The arguments trying to downplay Jim Brown because of who he played against are some of the dumbest of all time.
    No other running back who played at the same time as Brown, against the same people, did anything close to what Brown did.
    You people act like Brown didn’t face Hall Of Famers and some of the best defensive players of his era.

  41. You got to realize this a made for TV event. Leaving off some 21st Century guys gets people taking about it. Nobody is going to go around the water cooler saying, “boy that Marion Motley got hosed”. But LT, Faulk, Dorsett, that gets people talking.

  42. Please stop with arguments that if so and so had the cowboys oline bs. Barry Sanders didn’t have an oline and was still the best I’ve ever seen. That argument doesn’t hold water.

  43. Anyone who is okay with Tomlinson or Faulk being left off the list is just ignorant and knows nothing about football. In Tomlinson’s first seven years he averaged (AVERAGED!!) 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 18 TDs a year! Faulk was one of the best (maybe the best) dual threat RBs of all time. On top of that they were both excellent in pass-pro. This list is just plain idiotic!

  44. Got to see every one of those guys play except Van Buren and Clark.They got it right. I see no 21st century running back that I can say was better than the 8 I remember seeing. Tomlinson and Marcus Allen would replace the other two I didn’t see. What made those other 8.special,they controlled an.entire game they were straight workhorses. Brown never missed a game,no other player that has ever played this game can say that.If they played in today’s game they would still.dominate.You have to remember offensive lineman couldn’t use the hands like they can now,all 8 of those players had to create a lot of those yards on their own. Everybody on that list were some of the most dominating players to play in this league.

  45. If LT played for the Cowboys instead of the Chargers he would be known as the best ever. Everyone talks up Emmitt and how he was so good, but he did play with 4 HOF lineman, a HOF TE, a HOF WR, and a HoF QB for a majority of his career. When it comes to these things you have to define what you are grading them on. To me a great running back should be able to catch, run, and block. There are only 2 running backs in history I can think did all three at a hall of fame level. Those 2 are Faulk and LT. Both should be in the discussion for top 5 running backs of all time.

  46. artic19 says:
    November 23, 2019 at 10:38 am
    Much harder to get to 2000 yards these days. One reason, the clock is restarted after going out of bounds so that shortens the game some. Not trying to discount O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson but watching Adrian Peterson in 2012 was something special
    ———————————–
    where does this happen? if u go out of bounds the game clock stops.

  47. So 10feethigher thinks Jim Brown is the most overrated player in NFL history?? That in itself should get him banned permanently from the World for just being ignorant.

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