Edgerrin James is a finalist for the Football Hall of Fame and his case to make it to Canton might be much easier than you think.
The Indianapolis Colts have three former members of the organization up for the Hall of Fame in 2016. Running back Edgerrin James is heading into his second year of eligibility and is a finalist for the first time. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who should have been in on his first attempt, is also up and by the rules the voters have established should be a lock this season. Former coach Tony Dungy is also eligible again, but he has a bit of an uphill battle to make it in.
James, Harrison, and Dungy represent three of the 15 finalists for this year’s class. There are a few new candidates who might keeps some former Colts out of the Hall for another year, but we’ll focus on James today.
James is an interesting case. Many think of him as just another good running back for a couple seasons during a time when that was a common type of player. It also doesn’t help that the running back position has become so devalued during the past decade. But as the seasons pass, his numbers get stronger and stronger. James’ career began as the league shifted towards a passing focus.
Colts fans are obviously biased and want all the 2000s era players to make the Hall of Fame. But Edge has a pretty good case to be made. Here’s how he stacks up with a number of other running backs
[table id=20 /]
(* denotes Hall of Fame; + still active)
A few notes. Bettis is listed because he was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. Faulk and Allen brackett James on the all-time list and are both in the Hall. Gore and Peterson are included just to give context on the top two active players in the NFL. Three players on this list have played for the Colts.
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Everyone ahead of James on the all-time rushing list is in the Hall of Fame (with the exception of Ladainian Tomlinson, who will be). The three players immediately after James on the list are also in the Hall.
Aside from the raw numbers on James, there are a few other accolades in his favor. He was a four time Pro Bowler and made the First-team All-Pro roster his rookie season (and was second-team the following year). He led the league in rushing his first two years in the NFL, and was well on his way to a third when a torn ACL ended his 2001 campaign six games in (he was averaging over 100 yards rushing a game at the time).
James certainly wasn’t the first running back who was multitalented (Faulk’s receiving numbers prove that). But in an offense that favored passing the ball with Peyton Manning, James was still able to put up huge numbers early in his career. He was also an able and willing blocker when it came to protecting Manning.
One of the knocks against James is that he was never part of a championship winning team. He missed out in Indianapolis by a season (after not being re-signed by the team following 2005). He played in the Super Bowl with Arizona in 2008, but they lost to Pittsburgh.
James’ biggest competition will likely come in the form of former Denver running back Terrell Davis, who was a playoff hero. Davis had a short but impactful career, almost single handedly winning back-to-back Super Bowls for John Elway and the Broncos. That isn’t even much of an exaggeration. In the 97-98 playoffs, Davis had 1,049 rushing yards, averaged 5.6 yards per carry, and had 11 touchdowns over seven games.
Davis had just seven seasons in the NFL, but the final three were injury plagued. From 1996-1998, Davis was First-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. He’s 55th on the all-time rushing list with 7,607 rushing yards, 1,280 receiving yards, and 76 total touchdowns. But that three year stretch might be the most dominant by an NFL running back in history.
Davis has been eligible for the Hall of Fame since 2006 and this is the third straight year he’s been a finalist. This could come down to a vote between a long impressive career and a brief but dominant stretch.
With three former members of the team making the final cut, the Colts should see at least one being enshrined in Canton this August. Edge might not make the Hall this year, but not because he isn’t a worthy candidate. With his impressive resume, James should be a lock for the Hall of Fame in the near future.