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Barry vs Emmitt

So Emmitt Smith is now in the Hall of Fame and the ongoing debate is once again brought to the surface. Who was better, Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith? Recently at Mlive.com, I came across an article saying that Barry Sanders was the best to those who live in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Michigan. The fact is, Barry was the better of the two simply because he was better than Smith. No other reason!

So Smith holds the record with 18,355 yards in his career. So what? This means he had to play five more seasons than Sanders did to get a measly 3,086 yard more than Barry's 15,269. Let us continue to compare Emmitt's 15 years as a running back to Barry's 10 years. Emmitt averaged 1,223.66 yards a season. Sanders averaged 1,526.90 yards. Receiving yards? Emmitt averaged 214.93 yards and Barry averaged 292.10 yards. With 5 more seasons than Barry, Emmitt never hit the 2,000 yard plateau, but Sanders did once. Both of them broke the 1,700 yard marker twice. In 15 seasons, Smith went over 1,400 yards 5 times. Sanders did it 7 times in only ten seasons. In fact, the only place Emmitt actually outshines Barry as a running back is in touchdowns. Emmitt averaged 10.9 rushing TDs a season. Sanders averaged 9.9 TDs. Only a one touchdown difference each season and Emmitt was on a Superbowl caliber team and the Lions did not use Sanders in goal line situations out of fear he would get hurt.

What did Emmit Smith have to work with? Emmitt Smith always had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in front of him. Go watch tape of Smith and you will often see him running through holes that Oprah could run through without being touched. Emmitt also had Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin keeping defenses honest.

What did Barry Sanders have to work with? Barry had QB's who were never known as special and one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL when he played. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people try to say that the Lions line was pretty good then and they would state how many yards Sanders got as proof. Let me make this clear folks. That is a line of pure unintelligent crap! I watched every game through Sanders entire career. I remember very well how bad that line was. People try to blame Sanders for the multiple one yard losses he had, but it was the fault of his offensive line. I cannot tell you how many times I screamed at that TV because Barry was being hit as he was taking the hand-off. Barry did not have a habit of dancing around when there was a hole to take. No, instead, Barry often had to find his own hole that to the normal eye did not exist. Every game you would hear the announcers exclaim how Sanders literally found a sliver of an opening in the line and got through it. Barry often had to make tacklers miss before he even reached the line of scrimmage.

Seriously, if there was ever a legitimate case in the NFL of a single player carrying a team on his back, it was Sanders. If there was ever a case of a running back who had to gain his yards on his own, it was Barry Sanders. He had a terrible team around him, he had an awful offensive line and yet his numbers per season blows Emmits out of the water.

But Emmitt Smith won three Superbowls! Um, yeah. That's exactly my point! Emmitt had a great team around him. Barry had a bad team around him and still had better numbers than Emmitt.

I recently heard someone on 97.1 the Ticket saying he would rather have Emmitt because when it came to that one yard for a first down, you could count on Emmitt getting it and Barry would often lose a yard. Again, unintelligent crap! Do you really think that if Barry's offensive line opened up a hole for him, that he would still lose the yard? Does anyone truly believe that Smith would have been dependable in short yardage if he was behind the Lions line? If someone was to say that they would rather have had the Cowboy's offensive line than the Lions line, I would say that was right spot on. There, you would have a case. But to give Smith all the credit for what his line did is ridiculous. To blame Sanders for his bad offensive line is ridiculous. If we could go back and switch the two players around, where Sanders played for the Cowboys and Smith played for the Lions, what do you think would happen? Do you still think that Smith would have three Superbowls? Without his great offensive line, I would not place money down that Smith would even win one rushing title in his career. Not if he had the Lions offensive line blocking for him. What about Sanders? Seriously, if Sanders had the holes to run through that Smith always had, I would not doubt that he would have had at least two more 2,000 yard seasons.

The fact is, Emmitt Smith was a very good running back and maybe even a great one. But with a much more superior team and blocking line in front of him, he still did not out perform Barry Sanders who had a terrible line and team around him. There is just no way that anyone can argue that Emmitt Smith was a better running back and use any real stats to back his argument up. I'm sorry! You can love a player all you want, and that gives you the right to believe he is the best, but if you really want to argue it, then you need evidence, and the numbers back up Barry Sanders!

It is not because I am a Detroit Lions fan that I say this. Trust me, I have no problem stating that other players are better than what we have had here in Detroit. The ONLY reason I will say that Barry Sanders might have been the best running back of all time and was absolutely head and shoulders better than Emmitt Smith, is because he did more than Smith with less around him.


  1. Now we know why Detroit football sucked for so long.......excuses.

  2. Detroit Football sucked because they had so little talent. Which happens to be another excuse. But notice a truth and a real fact here.... sometimes excuses are legitimate.

    I also notice that this article was written a year and a half ago and you come make a remark like this after the Lions beat the Cowboys. I make legitimate excuses and you make remarks as a poor sport.