We have been putting together the Colts All-Time 53 list this off-season, having a chance to look back as fans at the best players at each position in Colts history. We’re not the only ones who have been taking a look back during this time of year.
NFL Hall-of-Fame voters Rick Gosselin, Clark Judge, and Ron Borges worked with NFL historian John Turney to compile a list of the top 10 running backs of all-time. It turns out that two former Colts backs were included on the list and that fans voted both of those players onto the all-time 53 team as well.
The list in order is as follows:
- Jim Brown
- Barry Sanders
- Walter Payton
- Gale Sayers
- Emmitt Smith
- OJ Simpson
- Eric Dickerson
- Marshall Faulk
- Earl Campbell
- Ladainian Tomlinson
With regard to Marshall Faulk, John Turney said,
I have Faulk and Tomlinson higher than most people have them because, in my opinion, they added top-notch receiving pass protection and goal-line running.
While there is no doubt that Marshall Faulk is one of the most dominant running backs in history, the bulk of his production happened with the St. Louis Rams. In 5 seasons for the Colts he produced 5,317 rushing yards, 297 receptions for 2,804 receiving yards, and 51 total touchdowns. These are fantastic numbers but he also had a total of 23 fumbles, with 15 resulting in turnovers.
Once he left for the Rams, Faulk generated 6,962 rushing yards, 470 receptions for 4,071 receiving yards, and 85 total touchdowns. Over his final seven seasons he fumbled only 15 times and lost 10. He earned all three of his first team All-Pro bids for the Rams where he also played with one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL, played in two Super Bowls, and won a championship to cap the 1999 NFL season.
For some reason, there was something about Faulk that just didn’t fit in Indianapolis. I had the opportunity to meet him in person as a boy during one of the early Colts training camps at Anderson University. He was easily the biggest player on the team and I hope to get an autograph from him on a Marshall Faulk pennant that I purchased.
The whole thing started out badly when another player for the Colts, who I mistook for Faulk, walked out and signed the pennant, instead of the Colts team pennant I had for everyone else to sign. When Faulk finally did appear, he had an attitude and clearly didn’t have any time or interest in interacting with a young football fan on his walk back to the dormitories where the players stayed.
This same kind of attitude is part of what led to the end of his time in Indianapolis when he pouted about his contract and essentially demanded a renegotiation after his first two seasons in the NFL. While Colts General Manager Bill Polian completely understood Faulk’s frustration, there was little the team could to to immediately remedy the contract he and his agent originally negotiated.
The trade resulted in Faulk going to the Rams and the Colts shocking the NFL world by drafting Edgerrin James ahead of Ricky Williams.
The New Orleans Saints and Mike Ditka were so blown away by the Colts passing on Williams that they leveraged the team’s future to pick him — sending the 12th overall pick, along with their third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh round picks in 1999 and their first and third round picks in 2000.
The Colts made the right pick at running back in the draft, the right choice to trade this all-world running back with attitude problems to the Rams, and were rewarded with a perennial Colts player who was the exact opposite of Faulk with his fans, the community, his teammates, and who also handled himself with more of a humble dignity than an insufferable arrogance.
To give fans an idea of how ridiculously arrogant Faulk is, when he was asked about getting traded by the Colts he said,
I think what happened needed to happen. Basically, for Peyton to mature and grow into what he did -- it would have been my team. We somewhat shared the team in a sense. Me leaving, it allowed for him to really take over and be the guy that he is now.
That comment is absurd. Faulk complained about his contract after playing for only two seasons under the terms he negotiated and then became a headache for the front office who no longer wanted to play for the Colts without a new deal the team could not immediately offer. Manning was the unquestioned leader for the team the moment he arrived in Indianapolis and if anything, Faulk could have been a great compliment to the Colts and saved them a draft pick on Edgerrin James if he had it in him to fall in line and be a great teammate.
He didn’t have that in him and is rewriting history to tell a story about how leaving the Colts did Peyton Manning some kind of favor.
As for Eric Dickerson, he also spent his prime years with the Rams — the Los Angeles version. Ron Borges called Dickerson,
The most underrated runner in NFL history, a workhorse who could run outside or inside and got better as the game wore on.
During his time with the Rams, Dickerson generated 7,974 rushing yards, 137 receptions for 997 yards, and 66 total touchdowns. He also had 53 fumbles in 5 seasons, due to his upright running style that left the ball wide open. In Indianapolis, Dickerson accumulated 5,194 rushing yards, 138 receptions for 1,082 receiving yards, and 35 total touchdowns. His fumbles dropped to 35 during his four and half seasons with the Colts.
He was named a first-team All Pro in three and a half seasons of his professional career with the Rams and a first-team All Pro in one and a half season with the Colts. Similar to Faulk, Dickerson had real issues handling media, the fans, coaches, NFL front offices, and his teammates. Sadly, much of his horrible attitude off of the field cheapened his amazing accomplishments on it.
I don’t know what it is about great NFL running backs, the Colts, and bitter relationships but the history is there. Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk may be higher in the all-time NFL running bank rankings, and deservedly so, but I’ll take Edgerrin James, Lenny Moore, and Lydell Mitchell on my Colts team ahead of these two headaches.