NFL Network discussed the decline of featured running backs the other night, and since the Bengals are going to take a back by committee approach. I decided to take a look. The results I found were really interesting.
Here are the season averages for the Super Bowl winning teams leading rusher. There are only 3 seasons to go by this decade, but you can see the obvious decline:
2010’s – 718
2000’s – 1098
1990’s – 1339
There hasn’t been a 1,000 yard rusher on the Super Bowl winning team since Brandon Jacobs ran for 1009 during the 2007 season. Why is there such a difference? Daryl Johnston points to the rule changes that make it easier to pass. He also said that one player’s mistake can blow up a running play, but with passing you can have a mistake and there is still an opportunity for the play to succeed. Whatever the reason, the shift to passing is evident. Even Pittsburgh is throwing it around. They were the ultimate ground and pound team, and now they are throwing the ball like the Klingler led Houston Cougars. Another point could be that there hasn’t been the kind of backs there were in the 90’s. Emmitt Smith and Terrell Davis had some of the best seasons in NFL history.