This weekend, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was announced, and among the five modern era members are two running backs: LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis.
The fact that Tomlinson and Davis made it this year is very good news for former Colts running back Edgerrin James’ chances at making the Hall of Fame one day, too.
Firstly, the two of them getting in clears the running back discussion considerably. Tomlinson was a no-brainer selection this year, and that’s likely the main reason why Edge wasn’t even a finalist this year. So with Tomlinson getting in, it once again means that Edge is the best eligible running back not in the Hall of Fame. He’s 12th on the NFL’s all-time rushing yards list, and of the top 15 the only players not in the Hall of Fame now are Frank Gore (who’s still active) and Edgerrin James. Thanks to Tomlinson getting in Edge is now the best running back who’s eligible but not yet voted in, which is only good news for James.
Secondly, Davis getting in is also good news for Edgerrin James. Davis generated a lot of discussion over the years about his candidacy, and mainly because of the brevity of his career. He was tremendous for a four-year stretch, one that included three first-team All-Pro selections, three Pro Bowls, two Offensive Player of the Year awards, an NFL MVP award, two Super Bowl runs, and a Super Bowl MVP award. Though his main production came just in those four years, he was so dominant during that time that it made him a Hall of Famer. But here’s the thing: without diminishing Davis’ candidacy, the truth is that James’ career resume trumps it.
James rushed for 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns in his career, while also catching 433 passes for 3,364 yards and eleven touchdowns. Combined, he recorded 15,610 total yards, and 16,746 total yards if you include the playoffs - while he totaled 91 touchdowns, plus six more if you include postseason numbers. That’s far better than Davis’ career numbers, as you’ll note the comparison to James:
- James rushed for 4,639 more regular season yards than Davis (12,246 compared to 7,607)
- James rushed for 20 more regular season touchdowns than Davis (80 compared to 60)
- James caught 264 more regular season passes than Davis (433 compared to 169); had 2,084 more regular season yards than Davis (3,364 compared to 1,280); and caught six more regular season touchdowns than Davis (11 compared to 5).
- James totaled 6,723 more regular season yards than Davis (15,610 compared to 8,887).
- James totaled 26 more regular season touchdowns than Davis (91 compared to 65).
- Including playoffs, James totaled 6,588 more yards than Davis (16,746 compared to 10,158).
- Including playoffs, James totaled 20 more touchdowns than Davis (97 compared to 77).
- James had three more seasons with 1,000+ yards rushing than Davis (seven compared to four).
- James had one more season with 2,000+ total yards from scrimmage than Davis (three compared to two).
Furthermore, Edge also was a two-time first-team All-Pro and a two-time second-team All-Pro, while he was a four-time Pro Bowler. Davis was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler, and while his individual recognitions clearly trump those of James (including his MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards), James certainly has his fair share of recognitions as well.
The problem for James is that he never had the playoff runs that Davis had, but his career resume is tremendous and in fact statistically superior than Davis’. None of this is trying to diminish the candidacy of Terrell Davis, but my point is simple: if Terrell Davis is a Hall of Famer, then so is Edgerrin James. Davis had to wait a while and Edge might too, but at some point the former Colts’ running back should join the league’s all-time greats in Canton. His career resume makes him more than deserving.