Bo Jackson: I’d average 350-400 yards a game today

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Bo Jackson was a phenomenal talent running the football, averaging 5.4 yards a carry during his brief NFL career while playing for the Raiders part time and playing Major League Baseball full time. But Jackson may be overestimating how well he’d do in today’s game.

Jackson said on Deion Sanders’ podcast that he is not impressed with the way modern players tackle, and he thinks if he were playing in 2020, he’d be averaging 350 or 400 yards a game.

Nobody wrap up and tackle no more,” Jackson said, via “With me being a ball carrier, my coach taught us, number one, he said, ‘I know you can run, but I’m gonna teach you how to carry that football.’ He said, ‘that football is like your newborn baby, don’t ever put it on the ground. And keep it away from the enemy.’ It’s like this – and I watch technique – I don’t see nobody hitting or wrapping up. Everybody’s running into each other and trying to use their shoulder pads to knock the ball carrier down. And I’m like, if I played during this era, man, I’d be averaging 350-400 yards a game . . . because nobody wraps up anymore. They run into each other with their pads.”

Jackson was one of the best athletes ever to play the game, but he averaged 73.2 yards per game in his 38-game NFL career, so it’s probably safe to say he’s slightly exaggerating when he says he’d now average 350-400 yards.

92 responses to “Bo Jackson: I’d average 350-400 yards a game today

  1. He’s right. The tackling in this era is absolutely horrible. It’s all a biproduct of the slowly eroding original rules of the game. Football was designed to be a physical game. It’s a real shame what the slanting of the rules to favor the offense has done to the game. I fell in love with this game watching a great RB and Oline take control of a game in the 2nd half and just wear down a defense. You don’t see that anymore. Nowadays the media just oohs and aahs when it’s one game after another with some mediocre QB throwing for 500 yards and 5 TDs in that week’s comeback of the century.

  2. He must have been watching the Cowboys play, more specifically Jaylon Smith. Worst tackler in the league.

  3. I don’t know about 300+, but I think he could equal or exceed what Henry is doing now without much trouble.

  4. Sorry Bo. Not ALL teams play that way.
    There are some teams that teach solid fundamentals regarding tackling.

    OH, and by the way, it was a tackle from behind with someone using sound technique – grabbing your leg and not letting go… that ended your career. So… Ponder that.

  5. He is so right. I been saying this for a long time. Nobody wraps up. Even Troy Polamalu just flew in and hit with his shoulder. I watched Jack Lambert and Jack Ham tackle. Ham was the best he always wrapped up with both arms. I was taught to always wrap up and if you are tackling from the side instead of head on always go in with your head in the front of the player not behind him.

  6. He is, but the game has changed. The average QB throws for over 3000 yards, in the 90’s, maybe a handful did.

  7. Tecmo in 1991 he averaged double that amount. So even in his 50s now.. yeah, 350-400 sounds about right.

  8. Bo is exactly right as far as tackling in the NFL goes. Guys don’t wrap up they just try to knock each other down. Half the tackling in the league seems to be like this. It’s real shame Bo’s career was cut short by a freak injury. I still think he can be argued as the best athlete of the last 50 years, he’s at least in the conversation. But there is no way in hell he averages 350-400 yards a game. This ain’t Techmo Bowl.

  9. Maybe he was being serious, but from reading the quote it sounds like he was using hyperbole to make a point about poor tackling – but it does kinda come off as an old man telling kids to get off his lawn.

  10. Bo Jackson was the most gifted athlete I’ve ever seen. Too bad a hip injury cost him a career. One of the most violent runners I’ve ever seen. He’s right about the tackling, every body trying to get a whoo hit and make the highlights. Take Bo at his prime throw him into today’s game he may not run for those exaggerated numbers but I’d be willing to bet he could average 5 yards a tote and make the highlights trucking people.

  11. Bo was one of the great athletes of all time and he might well do this today if he only played football as he is absolutely right about the sorry tackling… AND, one of our businesses had him for a customer once and he is totally unlike most of the professional athletes we dealt with — only special treatment he asked for was that employees not spread it around when he was coming (totally reasonable request if you have ever seen what happens under the circumstances); oh, and one other thing, one day he brought a “basket” of baseballs and signed them for a bunch of grade school kids!

  12. Yeah, the tackling sucks but it’s more of a finesse game now. Today Bo would get 30% fewer carries a game and would come off the field on 3rd down while some scatback or slot receiver you don’t have in fantasy checks in.

    He wouldn’t have played the 2nd half of games for the last decade while the Raiders chased points. Deflation and specialization of RBs is real.

  13. Different philosophies for defense. Some coaches prefer the “big hit” – it’s more effective in stopping runner’s forward momentum and possibly create a turnover. Also, with wrap-and-tackle, runners can fall forward for an extra yard or two, which could be the diffence between 4th down or a new set of downs. The “big hit” also you’re at full speed and you don’t need to slow down to get the angle, which could mean a few more inches for the runner.

    Wrap-and-tackle is more effective, while the “big hit” is riskier with better possible results (turnovers, less yardage for runner).

  14. Bo Jackson was, without a doubt, the best running back ever, and perhaps the best player ever. Like Sayers, who also had his career cut short. You have to watch tape on these guys to fully appreciate how good they were. Stats are meaningless. Watch Emmitt Smith, and then watch Bo. Then there isn’t any argument. Imagine Bo playing in Jim Brown’s era with linebackers running 5.0, and DBs 4.8. So Bo was the best in any era

  15. Some things to keep in perspective. Derrick Henry is about 245. Bo was 230 pounds, so not as big as Derrick Henry. But oh was he ever fast… He used to run under 6.2 in the 60 yard dash. Now mind you that is not world-record or anything, but he would certainly be competing (and winning quite a few) in indoor track at the collegiate level.

    So how would Bo do in today’s NFL? Assuming he had the same level of blocking as Henry and no injuries, mathematically that puts him at about 129 yards, but as fast as Bo was at getting to top speed, in a modern zone-blocking scheme, my eye test tells me that that tops out at about a 150 yard per game average.

  16. Another player of the past bitter and jealous trying to demean the players of today . Jackson’s claim is ridiculous because there have been plenty of talented backs who would have put up numbers like Jackson’s bogus claim if it was possible due to the lack of tackling . He wasn’t so much better then them that there would such a large difference between their actual numbers and his dubious claim . Bo don’t know .

  17. So let me get this straight…the game is no fun anymore because players can’t violently throw their bodies at someone, nor can they wrap up and tackle? I guess no one plays defense. Just a bunch of offensive guys slipping and tripping on their own feet.

  18. I think he’d only average about 200 yards per game in today’s game. He is 57 years old, after all.

  19. Many “Athletes” come and go averaging 3 yds per rush. Bo had toughness, heart and vision like a true RB. He just had bad luck with his hip and the whole baseball thing.

  20. He ain’t wrong about tackling. I remember when DeMeco Ryans came into the league and he was a great classic solo tackler.

  21. IDK what Bo Jackson would have averaged, but he would have lead the league every year, if he wanted. Football was a hobby to him. While I’m sure he loved baseball, I think he played to maximize his earnings potential; football players didn’t make what they do nowadays. He knew he’d have a much longer career if he concentrated on BB. There hadn’t been(and still hasn’t, in my mind), a RB with his combination of strength, speed. elusivness and ball skills like him. Watching him run away from DB’s or over bigger guys(Robertson and Bosworth come to mind)was unlike any player, before or since. And he could hit a baseball 500′, had a cannon-arm and practically invented the art of robbing homers. His career-ending injury was a deprivation; up there with Gayle Sayers, another supernatural player. Indeed, Bo knew football.

  22. Anybody else find it ironic that Bo Jackson was complaining about modern tackling to… checks notes… Deion Sanders???

  23. I love Bo… but the best thing that happened to his legacy was the injury as he has become almost mythic in the “what ifs” category.

    Sounds like he believes his own legends…

  24. Him and Joe Namath are 2 players who should not be in the Hall of Fame

    You are right about Namath the guy was a hack and is only in the Hall due to a single game. Bo though if he played full time and not had the short career due to injury would be the leader in all stats for RB probably. He was a man among boys even in a era when the game was still played by men.

    He’s right in the fact that tackling is a lost art in todays game. Players like him and Earl Campbell or Jim Brown etc would run through most of these arm tackles or attempts at just hitting with the sholder pad. You see small back just bounce off tacklers. A player like Bo was hitting you with more force than you hit him and he was larger. So the tackler would just bounce off now to the ground.

  25. Says the man whose career ending untouched. Appreciate your era, now it’s time to appreciate the new one. I am sure, men who played in Leather helmets probably saw the protection people like Jackson had when he played and probably thought the same thing. The only difference is, they kept that opinion to themselves.

  26. There are still a lot of good tackles, but it’s mostly shoulder bumps these days, which seems to work most of the time.

    But it’s easier for a guy to miss a shoulder bump tackle, or for the ball carrier to spin out of it.

    Another part of poor tackling is guys spearing with their helmets. It’s dangerous to the tackler and ball carrier, but the tackler loses sight of the target and can miss. Every time you see a ball carrier hurdle a tackler, that guy usually has his head down and is just diving at the ball carrier.

  27. He must’ve been watching Packers tape, and I’m a Packer fan. The Packers have a very good bend-don’t-break defense and they’re effective in the red zone too. But: They are not good tacklers. They arrive fast, on-time, but rarely bring somebody down on the first try. Sorry… it as I see it.

  28. Bo, you would get hurt week 2 with a career ending injury. You couldn’t hang 30 years ago and you couldn’t hang now.

    Sorry to interrupt your “glory days” rambling Bo.

  29. Well, all I know is Bo Jackson is 57 years old and I still wouldn’t take the league minimum to tackle him. What he did to Brian Bosworth is just legendary

  30. Well, Jackson’s most famous run was against the Seahawks and the incompetent and overrated Brian Bosworth, so not everybody knew how to tackle back then, sorry…

  31. I swear Eric Kendricks is the only player on our defense that knows how to tackle aside from Harrison Smith.

  32. I don’t think he meant 350-400 yards now. Pretty sure he meant during his prime and before he was injured.

  33. Bo never even ran for 1k in a season. He never even played in 16 games! Bo was remarkable for sure, but he couldn’t stay healthy. His best season was 950 yards over 11 games, which would be almost 1400 yards over a full season. Thats a very respectable, if not great season, but I mean Eric Dickerson had 3 1800+ yard seasons, including a 2100 yard effort during the same era. So if Bo runs for 450 a game, I guess Eric Dickerson is running for a 1000 lol.

  34. Bo Jackson weighed 230 lbs and ran 4.13 40 yard dash!!!

    Let that sink in – at 230 pounds he has run the fastest EVER recorded 40 yard dash.

    He was faster than Tyreek Hill and just 15 lbs lighter than Derrick Henry

  35. Bo just talking sarcastic to prove a point about the poor tackling today. Butkus approves of this message.

  36. Given the incredible success of Derrick Henry in High School and College I would say it’s at least a fair comparison to how a rare talent at running back like Bo would do today. Certainly in some games he has been unstoppable, but some teams do tackle him well. Henry is averaging around 106 yards per game in the last two seasons. I think Bo could do better possibly, but it wouldn’t be 3 or 4 times better.

  37. Yet, just about every game tou see a guy break or elude arm tackles or even break free from two arm tackles, and the commentators saying how you just can’t bring them down like that.

    You can’t grab guys by the pads like they used to…and if you attempt to grab them low, they slip through.

    So guys try to decleat….it’s effective enough and it allows the defender to protect himself from certain hand injuries. I think.

  38. He’s right about the tackling, but forgetting that players are significantly bigger, stronger and faster than even 30 years ago. Even a shoulder hit today packs a lot more kinetic energy.

  39. a fresh out of college bo would be the best back in todays league for maybe 2 or 3 years. and while hes correct about tackling technique getting worse, hitting has got a lot more intense and players are much bigger and stronger now. Bo would still be a freak athlete but he would get worn down far quicker in todays game. I bet rookie Leonard Fournette saw sloppy hit stick style NFL tackling and thought hed be able to avg 300 yds a game.

  40. wobblyballz says:
    October 28, 2020 at 8:18 am
    I think he’d only average about 200 yards per game in today’s game. He is 57 years old, after all.
    Thank you for that laugh.

  41. Millennials who post here have no ida who this guy is.


    Bo Jackson would be the best back in the league right now and it would not be close, but I think his number is also insanely high.

  42. Bo’s playing Super Tecmo Bowl! The only guy more fun to run the ball with than Bo Jackson was Christian “The Nigerian Nightmare” Okoye because he could run over just about everybody.

    I think there are a couple of reasons why tackling is different than it used to be. 1. Players are taught to rugby tackle which is to lead with your shoulder and then wrap up. It used to be you led with your face mask. You could see what you were tackling the entire time; your hit went straight through your opponent, hit with your shoulder and you wrapped up. With a rugby tackle your not as centered making it easier for an opponent to make a move out before you wrap up. 2. Tacklers now have to worry about hitting the opponents head or going to too low. In the old days you aimed for the chest or waist but where ever your hit ended up…it ended up and then you made the tackle. Now as the tackler comes it he has to make adjustments to make sure he isn’t going to illegally hit the opponent…those adjustments on the way to making the tackle makes him a less sure tackler

  43. Nothing more pathetic than a washed up athlete talking about how good he’d be now. Only thing worse is when they cry about how little money they made compared to today.

  44. If CMC put up 149.5 yards (2392 total yards) in 2019, I’d say if Bo played in a similar O, getting 25 touches a game he’d put up 175 to 200 a game.

  45. How many of you actually saw him play ? He was a great back with an occasional spectacular play but he wasn’t this unstoppable force as he claims and many here agree with . If he was such a dominant force why does his best season at Auburn rank 97th on the alltime list for most yards in a season . If the tackling was the same for many on the list why did they gain more yards then Jackson ? Easy answer he was capable of the spectacular play but he didn’t dominate consistently like he claims he would do now and obviously didn’t do during his career.

  46. Not quite an Uncle Rico moment, but what Bo states is highly accurate. Defensive players want that highlight where they blow up the ball carrier, not wrap up the ball carrier. ESPN, NBC, CBS and FOX aren’t showing wrap up highlights. It’s the vicious hit that they like to show.

  47. Ok, now let’s put Barry Sanders in today’s NFL and see what kind of yardage he gets.

    Honestly, he may be right, but they’d be passing yards more than rushing yards the way QBs just take everything shotgun these days more than actually getting under center.

  48. I don’t think he’d run for that much for the simple reason that I don’t think he’d play RB in the modern NFL. Jackson was a transcendent athlete, and RB is arguably the most replaceable position in the game. You just don’t have a guy with that sort of talent play a position where you can have an effective game with a mediocre talent.

    Honestly, if he was coming up now, with his physical skill set, he’d probably be a QB. In which case combining his rushing yards and passing yards, he might actually be right.

  49. The Raiders were a good team under Art Shell during the first half of the 1990s going to the playoffs 3 times from 1990-1994. If Bo hadn’t suffered his career-ending injury in the 1990 playoffs then those Raiders teams would’ve been even better and may have put in a Super Bowl appearance during the ’90s.

  50. Bo never even ran for 1k in a season. He never even played in 16 games! Bo was remarkable for sure, but he couldn’t stay healthy. His best season was 950 yards over 11 games, which would be almost 1400 yards over a full season.

    Wasn’t allowed to report to the Raiders until the baseball season ended. Some seasons the NFL started before Labor Day, so thats at least 4 games missed, if not 5.

    No training camp. Ever. Dude went from a 7 month season on the diamond right to the gridiron. No chance to get his timing down, or to be ready for ‘NFL’ contact.

    His claim is absurd, and probably exaggerated to make a point, but there is no way to downplay his accomplishments.

  51. I was probably one if only 53,000 at that Cincinnati vs LA Raider game when he messed up his hip. Sad day for sure. Having Simone grab him from behind (just due to the angle they had on him) was enough force to actually have his muscles over power his skeletal system causing the injury. I bet henery isn’t even strong enough to do that!
    Bo was special. AL Davis was smart. Everyone else was jealous.

  52. He’d be a nightmare for today’s undersized linebackers. When Bo played an average linebacker was about 240-250, today there are a lot of linebackers short of 230. He was a s fast as any back in today’s game and bigger than most, he would average much more than the 73 he averaged with the Raiders and remember 73 per game was sharing time with Marcus Allen and fullbacks got carries back then too.

  53. Bo was great but most of you commenting are exaggerating just as much as BO is. Nobody is going to avg 200 yards rushing per game. PERIOD. That’s 3200 yards. Stop dreaming.

  54. Bo doesn’t know DIDDLEY if he really thinks he could gain SIXT-FOUR HUNDRED YARDS A SEASON. Jackson was an otherworldly athlete,combining sprinter speed with great power,but really,Bo,these NFL players of today are infinitely bigger,stronger and faster than those you ran over and by (hello,Brian Bosworth) in the 80’s and 90’s.
    (Jackson averaged about 75 yards per game during his career and would likely have a similar 2020 average.

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