Jim Brown faces Green Bay in his final game, the 1965 NFL Championship
What’s the best team in football history? Who’s the greatest all-time hitter ever? The best boxer pound for pound?
You can spark some lively debates with any one of those questions about sports, or thousands of others like them.
But when it comes to the question of who is the best running back in football ever, the answer is easy.
Jim Brown of course.
There are certain, well shall we say, certainties in life.
Water is wet. Fire is hot.
And Jim Brown is the best runner in football history.
Nine Years with Browns
Drafted sixth overall in the 1957 draft, Brown played nine years, all with the Cleveland Browns, and led the NFL in rushing eight times. Playing 12 and later 14-game schedules, he rushed for 1,000 yards every year but two, his rookie year of 1957 when he led the NFL with 942 yards, and 1962, when he lost five yards on his final carry of the season and finished with 996.
The following year, Brown set an NFL record with 1,863 yards rushing in 14 games. He finished his career with 12,312 yards gained rushing yards, which still ranks eighth all-time today.
In his career, he scored 126 touchdowns in just 118 games, averaging 104 yards per game, the only rusher in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game for a career. Brown still holds the career record for yards per carry (5.2).
For comparison’s sake, Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, finished with 18,355 yards — but he played in 226 games in his career, more than 100 more than Brown.
Before Brown, the NFL career rushing leader had been Joe Perry of the San Francisco 49ers, but Brown surpassed Perry’s 8,378 career yards in 1963, on his way to 12,312. Buffalo’s OJ Simpson broke Brown’s season record, rushing for 2,003 yards in 1973, and Walter Payton surpassed the career record during the 1984 season.
Four-Time NFL MVP
Brown was Rookie of the Year in 1957 and MVP in 1957, 1958, 1963 and 1965. Every year he played, Brown was voted into the Pro Bowl. He never missed a game in nine seasons, and earned an NFL title in 1964 when the Browns blanked the Colts, 27-0.
:”For mercurial speed, airy nimbleness and explosive violence in one package of undisputed evil, there is no other like Mr. Brown,” the noted sports columnist Red Smith once wrote.
Or as Sam Huff, former Giants linebacker, once described trying to tackle Jim Brown: “All you do, is grab hold, hang on and wait for help.”
In the summer of 1966, Brown stunned the sports world with the announcement that he was retiring from football to pursue an acting career. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
In 2002, Brown was named by The Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever. Brown was every bit as good a lacrosse player, with the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame stating that he was “widely considered to be the greatest lacrosse player ever.” Sportswriter Bert Sugar named Brown #1 in his book The Greatest Athletes of All Time.