Lords Of The Ringless: Running Back Edition

Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson. The King and the Jet. Ernie Nevers and Jim Thorpe and even OJ. Gale Sayers

What a stable of running backs. And they all have one thing in common — they never won a championship.

Some, like Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas got close. Thomas was in four straight Super Bowls — and the Bills lost em all..

Tiki Barber made a Super Bowl once and the Giants lost. The year after he retired, the G-men won the Super Bowl.

This Lords of the Ringless list features the best running backs never to win a Super Bowl, NFL or AFL championship.

Tons of talent here, but light on the jewelry.

 1. Barry Sanders (1989-98) 10 years with Lions; 3rd all-time leading rusher with 15,269 yards; averaged 5.0 yards per carry; four-time NFL rushing leader, 99 rushing TDs, 1997 MVP. 

2. Eric Dickerson (1983-93) 11-year career, primarily with  Rams, Colts: 13,259 yards, 6th all-time; led NFL in rushing in 1983, 84, 86, 88;  rushed for 96 TDs; 5 times first team All-Pro.

3. Joe Perry (1948-63) The Jet, spotted playing service football by pro scouts; played  with 49ers, Colts; 1954 MVP, first to gain over 1,000 yards two straight years,  9,273 yards rushing, 24th all-time.

4. Curtis Martin (1995-2005) 3 years with Patriots, 8 years with Jets; 14,101 yards, 4th all-time leading rusher; at least 1,000 yards in each of first 10 years; 90 TDs; led NFL in rushing in 2004.

5. Gale Sayers (1965-71) Spent 7-year career with Bears; led NFL in rushing in 1966, 69; scored rookie record 22 TDs in 1965; All-NFL 5 straight years; lifetime  kickoff return leader, 30.6 yards.

6. Thurman Thomas  Buffalo (1988-2000) Played in four straight Super Bowls with Bills; led NFL in yards from scrimmage 4 straight years, 1989-92, 12,074 yards, 12th all-time, 5-time Pro Bowler.

7. Ernie Nevers (1926-31) 1925 Rose Bowl hero with Stanford, played with Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals; his 40 points in one game in 1929 still stand as NFL record; All-NFL all five seasons.

8.  O.J. Simpson (1969-79) Played with Bills, 49ers; 16th all-time leading rusher with 11, 236 yards; first to reach 2,000 yards rushing (2,003) in 1973, won MVP; won 4 rushing titles in five years, 1972-76.

9.  Tiki Barber (1997-2006) At 10,449 yards, he’s Giants all-time leading rusher, 21st all-time with 10,449 yards; played and lost in Super Bowl XXXV; led NFL in yards from scrimmage 2004, 05.

10, Jim Thorpe (1915-28) 1912 Olympic decathlon champion; first big name athlete to play professional football, signing with Canton Bulldogs in 1915; first president of NFL, 1920.


Earl Campbell (1978-85) Played with Oilers and  Saints; led league in rushing first three seasons, 9,407 career rushing yards, 25th all-time; NFL MVP in 1978-79; 5- time Pro Bowler and 3 times All-Pro.

Hugh McElhenny (1952-53) The King, played majority of career with 49ers; scored 40-yard TD on first pro play; was Rookie of the Year in 1952; played Six Pro Bowls; rushed for 5,281 yards, right

Ollie Matson (1952-66) Ran for 4 different teams; No. 1 draft pick 1952; All-NFL 4 years, 1954-57; elected to 6 Pro Bowl games; 5173 yards rushing; 9 TDs on punt, kickoff returns.

Eddie George (1996-2004) Played primarily for Oilers; 10,441 yards, 22nd all-time; led NFL in rushing attempts, touches in 2003; scored 5 playoff TDs; played in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Bill Dudley (1942-53) Played with Steelers, Lions and Redskins; led league in rushing in 1942;  won rare triple crown in 1946 winning rushing, interception and punt return titles, was MVP that year.

Previous portrayals of Lords Of The Ringless include:.

Quarterback Edition

Baseball Edition

Hoops Edition


5 Comments on “Lords Of The Ringless: Running Back Edition”

  1. Tim says:

    This is the only site where you’d find Earl Campbell listed as an ‘also ran’ behind Tiki Barber, much less Perry, Martin or Thomas. C’mon Rick, a GM would get canned for picking any of those guys ahead of a player like Campbell.

  2. sportslifer says:

    Campbell was a powerful back, but only lasted seven seasons before being forced to retire. All those mentioned above had more rushing yards than Campbell than the Tyler Rose.

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