The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Running Back the Clock


Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner are the current elite running backs in the NFL, along with Frank Gore and LaDainian Tomlinson. They are great players who in the 70's and 80's would have been huge marquee draws with legions of fans and millions of dollars in endorsements. They would also be the work horses of their teams who would carry the balls 25 plus times per game, and place their team's fortunes upon their broad shoulders all the way to the Super Bowl. The great running backs of days gone by forced the opposing teams change their defensive strategies just to keep up with them.

I became a football fan during that golden era of great running backs - the time of Earl Campbell, OJ Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders. Back then, the running back position was believed to be the second most critical position on a team, behind only the quarterback. Teams utilized the running back to win championships, set up the passing game and put fans in the stands. All fans of the game wore their favorite running backs' jerseys with pride, and these players were revered as heroes and celebrities.

For many reasons, the running back position's importance has diminished over the past 20 years. Teams are now placing more emphasis on acquiring cornerbacks, pass rushers and left tackles. This is evidenced in the running back's lower salary and the fact that many teams are running the ball "by committee."

The key to increasing the running back's visibility would start with a de-emphasis on the passing game, and a return to the power-running offenses of yesteryear. Part of the position's perceived decline is a result of the change in rules that favor the passing attacks, which in turn increases scoring and excitement in games. The NFL is a "copycat" league where teams will always use the current offensive tendencies that are winning games. If teams would revert back to the utilization of power running backs in the vein of John Riggins or Jerome Bettis, then players like Peterson and Turner would see both an increase in their contractual remuneration as well as their off-field endorsement income. Teams would also see an increase in their winning percentages with this positive "back to the future" attitude. As the great Woody Hayes once said, "There are three things that can happen when you throw throw a football, and two of them are bad."

By Peter Schaffer  |  December 18, 2008; 9:12 AM ET  | Category:  Peter Schaffer , Running Backs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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