LaDainian Tomlinson: No one will ever break Emmitt Smith’s record

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Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson are two of the Top 5 rushing leaders in NFL history. But LaDainian Tomlinson says neither of them has a prayer of catching No. 1.

Tomlinson said on NFL Network that Emmitt Smith’s all-time record of 18,355 yards will never be broken. It wasn’t broken by Tomlinson, who retired with 13,684 yards, and he says it won’t be broken by Gore, who has 15,347 yards, or by Peterson, who has 14,216 yards.

“No one will ever break this record,” Tomlinson said. “There’s not enough opportunities that running backs will get. We know the shelf life is a lot shorter for running backs. I just don’t see guys getting a lot of opportunities. That’s a lot of yards for a guy to amass and I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Given the way the game has changed, Tomlinson is probably right. Last year, Derrick Henry led the NFL with 303 rushing attempts. Smith had more than 303 rushing attempts in seven different seasons of his career. NFL running backs just don’t pile up carries like Smith did, and until that changes, Smith’s record appears safe.

28 responses to “LaDainian Tomlinson: No one will ever break Emmitt Smith’s record

  1. “No one will ever sit sulking at the end of the bench in a playoff game like I did,” Tomlinson said.

  2. Smith’s record will be difficult to break, but someone some day someone probably will.
    When I was a kid Gordie Howe was the Best Hockey player of All Time. He had 801 Goals and 1858 total points ( Goals & Assists) Those numbers would be Impossible to break. 20 Goals was a good season, you would need 20 goals a year and have to play for 40 years etc.
    Then Wayne Gretzky came along and the Unbreakable was broken. There will be a Bo Jackson, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, OJ Simpson type who stays healthy and keeps playing that will break the record.

  3. It will be broken; it will just take time. Barry Sanders would have crushed it had he not retired early.

  4. There are a lot of records that won’t be broken due to the salary cap and free agency. Dallas, Pittsburgh, and San Fran drafted well and were able to keep their players together. That isn’t able happen now, which makes the Patriots 20 year run the greatest dynasty is sports history.

  5. ricko1112 says:
    “… which makes the Patriots 20 year run the greatest dynasty is sports history…”

    Too bad it’s tainted. * * *

  6. Never is a strong word, but it does seem very unlikely that anyone will even come close for a long time. NFL offenses are too wide open now, and few teams rely on the idea of a feature or bellcow RB.
    I guess you can’t count out Gore or AP just because nobody figured they’d even get this close but I’m thinking both will probably run out of opportunities long before they truly threaten Smith’s record.

  7. I wonder if a 17- or 18-game season would help, or actually hurt a RB’s chances at a record, given the higher number of opportunities to both rack up yards and get hurt.

  8. With the reduced focus on RBs and their short shelf life, I don’t think it will be broken anytime soon.

    Emmitt had a perfect situation of a great line, strong QB, WR and TE play and he was a damn good runner to boot.

    No record is ever unbreakable, but this one will take a special back and situation to top.

  9. Somebody will break Smith’s record someday, it just will not be from this group. Tomlinson is correct to say that generally RBs get fewer opportunities in today’s games. But at some point circumstances will create the opportunity: A RB with Barry Sanders’ skills, a big line and a strong passing game so that teams cannot stack the line. If an RB like that stays healthy long enough he will break the rushing record.

  10. While I tend to agree that the record is unlikely to fall, I do think that Adrian Peterson *had* a good shot.

    He basically missed the entire 2014 and 2016 seasons.

  11. joetoronto says:
    May 16, 2020 at 7:13 am
    Josh Jacobs has a shot.

    He has no shot. He’s fragile.

  12. Smith was an above average back blessed with a great Offensive line and great durability. That said, I never said, “wow”, when watching him run. One day someone will break Smith’s record…but, maybe not in our lifetime.

  13. Emmitt also said he would like to see his record broken in his lifetime. Hopefully someone will oblige. Emmitt running behind that line, with a QB like Aikman and a receiver like Irvin, is why I still consider Walter Payton’s record to be more impressive. Guy had just about nothing on his team for years before the 80s brought some good players on the team.

  14. He’s probably right unless future rule changes make running the ball with one back 300 times sexy again. Think about the math. 300 carries at 5 yards averaged is 1,500 yards a year. A great year and a heavy carry load. Now do that 12 times to get to 18,000 yards. Few running backs are good for half that many years.

  15. Emmitt is the greatest player the NFL has ever seen…He has untouchable records…and there’s not an accolade he doesn’t have…Please quit it with the Jerry Rice talk…he’s close…but did Rice ever win an MVP…? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Emmitt Smith wasn’t a flashy runner like Sanders. He was simply a very dependable RB that anchored his team. He averaged 4.1 Yds/carry over 15 years. He wasn’t flashy, but his dependable running allowed the Dallas passing game to thrive.

    Any one of today’s teams would love to have a guy like Smith.

  17. Emmitt was amazing. No other player had his ability to play hurt. That is why he has over 18k rushing yds. If Emmitt’s record gets broken then it will be a guy not on the radar, or playing yet, that does it. Gore is 37 and his production has faded in each of the last 3 season to 599 yds in 2019. AP has a better shot but he’s 35 and would need 4 more 1000+ seasons. Not likely.

    Will someone do it? Maybe. It will be difficult in this era. Look at Emmitt’s numbers in his first 5 season which would be a rookie contract now. For the Cowboys to be able to resign him after that kind of production means that they would have to franchise him, and probably with the exclusive tag, at least once unless he were to agree to a team-friendly deal. A second tag would cost them dearly as he would get at least a 20% pay raise and a 3rd tag would be unthinkable. A long-term contract? In today’s numbers? I’m not sure there are enough zeroes.

    So for a team to keep an Emmitt-caliber RB means that they would have to show him so much money that Fort Knox may have to be involved. Any contract would have a hefty signing bonus with some significant guaranteed money and backloaded sky-high yearly salary figures. So the incentive for the team would be to give him 350+ carries in the first 3 years and then jettison them if at all possible unless they’re still putting up ungodly numbers.

    If we look at Emmitt’s career his phenomenal seasons were in years 2-6. He was still really good after that but those were his outstanding seasons when he won 4 rushing titles. After his 10th season (9 straight 1000+ yds rushing), which would be his second contract now, he had 2 more consecutive seasons over 1000 yards. now here’s the rub. Would any team think that he, or any other RB, could rush for 1000 yards in their 11th and 12th seasons? And be willing to pay up commensurately? I doubt it.

    Then there’s the durability issue. I’m a Giants fan. I watched many a game in which he shredded us. In many games he was hurt and still went off to have huge performances. He was like a God amongst mere mortals. There were games which he literally had body parts held on by duct tape and still rushed for over 100 yards with 2 rushing touchdowns. And he would have 3 or 4 receptions too. Unbelievable. Defenders are so much bigger, stronger and faster now. A RB has a much tougher time getting yards and staying healthy while doing so.

    So the short story is this. First, the cap and salary structure is such that no player will ever get the chance even if they should have the talent. Second, no player has ever demonstrated Emmott’s pain threshold and ability to play hurt. So while all records are made to be broken this record never will be.

  18. I always felt Emmitt Smith’s record if it was broken would be by Tomlinson or Peterson because they were both workhorse backs that avoided major injuries. That being said I’m starting to think it won’t be broken because of the way backs are used and spit out these days. Everyone focuses on the early years with Emmitt which were outstanding but those last three years from 33 to 35 where he still averaged a 1,000 yards a season is why no one will catch him.

  19. Emmitt’s greatest ability was durability, his desire to be the best is what set him apart..

    I know people like to say Barry would have blown the record out of the water had he not retired(quit), but I say he did choose to retire(quit). .so thats that

    Can the record be broken?? maybe but consider

    10 yrs at 1835 per year
    12 yrs at 1530 per year
    14 yrs at 1310 per year
    16 yrs at 1150 per year

    only averages but with the league becoming a passing league more and more I highly doubt that this record will ever be touched, Peterson and Gore may realistically be the only two to even remotely challenge it to some degree..

    We’ll see

  20. LT could be right, the league has changed and the pocket passer is slowly going away. You never seen Troy Aikman running around like you do these QB’S now days. Actually when Steve Young replaced Joe Montana in SF was the first time I actually noticed this change happening. Heck now days they about to have a dual threat on the field. Almost like a video game. The game is faster now all the way around in my opinion. We will see going forward.

  21. Yes, someone will break it. Emmitt Smith isn’t in the top 25 RB’s of all time. Imagine if a player like Tomlinson or Barry Sanders played on a team like those Cowboys teams.

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