By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — We’re in the throes of the NFL offseason, a football-starved period of time that leaves a major entertainment void for millions of Americans. There’s just not much happening. Free agency is weeks away from kicking off. The draft is even more distant. If you can’t get your fill of watching men exercise at the gym, then you’ve got the combine coming up soon. But that’s pretty much it.
Sometimes in the course of this football wasteland known as late February, one might be inclined to put in a little bit of research on different topics. And in the process of that research, you sometimes find some things you weren’t necessarily looking for. That happened to me with LeGarrette Blount.
The 30-year-old running back is an interesting case, as there seems to be nobody who lacks an opinion on the man. I can’t recall a contributing player to two Super Bowl teams inspire so much negative comments from fans regarding his abilities. Not all fans, of course, but many fans.
For an example, here is a sampling of the comments on the 98.5 The Sports Hub Facebook page from a story I wrote in September, which asked simply, “Why the hate?”
Paolo said … “He’s f—— terrible. A 250lb back who’s afraid to hit people he would rather zig zag everywhere and get fumbles. He’s not the Blount we remember in that Indy game he’s a soft slow and boring back.”
Carlos said … “Blount doesn’t suck. But that stat is misleading. Most of his big runs come in garbage time when the game is out of reach and no one wants to risk injury tackling that massive freight train of a back.”
Kyle said … “Was in the building on Sunday night. How many times did he get stopped at the line of scrimmage or for a loss against the Cardinals? Plus that poorly timed fumble got them back into the game. Not the first time he’s had a game like that. He’s frustrating.”
Bobby said … “Well he sucks might be why, the negative runs are a killer. Sorry if you beat guys like him personally but football is about results and not popularity in the locker room…”
Chris said … “Because his YPC is inflated. He’ll have 99 one yard runs in a row and then rip off an 80 yarder that masks how terrible he really is.”
Jacob said … “His stats are so embellished and inflated by the VERY occasional big run he breaks off. Slowest RB behind the line of scrimmage in the league. Overrated.”
Bobby said … “He’s only good on goal line everyone he runs he gets a yard he’s only good when there is no one in front of him he can’t go through the middle with out getting tripped up I like him but he has to figure it out.”
Joe said … “Yes he busts off a cpl good ones but damn it, seems like he always runs into the back of his O line and falls on his face for like 1-2 yards.”
Josh said … “Hey geniuses, its cuz hes f—— fat as f—. Same hate for sulinger and sandoval, we don’t sympathize with pro athletes who cant put down the snickers.”
Ernie said … “Because his colts games really inflate his overall effectiveness… He’s a mediocre RB.”
In fairness, comments like these aren’t the majority. But they’re still common. And it’s strange.
It’s strange because he’s been a very effective back in the system for the past four years (minus the brief respite in Pittsburgh). It’s strange because they’ve won two Super Bowls in that time after not winning a Super Bowl for the previous decade.
And it’s strange because of the information I stumbled upon this week.
On the all-time rushing list in NFL history, Blount ranks 126th.
On the all-time list of leaders in rushing touchdowns in NFL history, Blount ranks tied for 75th.
On the all-time list of leaders in yards per rushing attempt, Blount ranks tied for 51st.
OK, so 126th, 75th and 51st, what’s the big deal?
Well, for one, considering every NFL team employs at least two running backs, and considering that most other offenses in the league put a stronger emphasis on running than the Patriots do, those are pretty high rankings for a “mediocre running back.” Those are all-time rankings
Second, Blount is coming off the best season of his career. If he repeats that performance next year (wherever he may sign), then he can move into the top 75 rushers of all time. He won’t break off 18 touchdowns again next season but if he scores even half as many times next year as he did this past year, then he’ll be approaching the top 50 in touchdowns.
He already has more rushing touchdowns than Jamaal Charles, Brian Westbrook, Ray Rice, Reggie Bush, Warrick Dunn, Jonathan Stewart, Jamal Anderson, Cedric Benson, Jim Nance, and DeMarco Murray. If he runs for 12 more touchdowns in his career, he’ll end up passing Terrell Davis, Roger Craig, Chris Johnson, Arian Foster, Larry Johnson and Matt Forte, among others.
If he’s able to put together two more 1,000-yard seasons — or, the equivalent of two more 1,000-yard seasons, spread out over however many years — then he can crack the top 60 in all-time rushing yards.
And if he increases his career mark for yards per attempt by just 0.2 yards, then he’ll find himself in a tie for 27th all time.
For a bum who apparently can’t put down the Snickers, that’s pretty good.
Of course, many fans have appreciated Blount for what he does. The majority of comments in that aforementioned Facebook post were reflective of that. And when Blount carries an entire football team on his back for almost 10 yards …
Despite plays like that, though, Blount has been the recipient of a heap of criticism from all corners … including from prominent sports talk hosts who shall remain nameless (but not faceless) for the time being.
(This really is Michael Felger’s hill to die on. Just this week, I heard Felger stubbornly repeat his insistence that Blount is “just a guy” and that people want to make him out to be Earl Campbell. Neither of those things are true, for the record. And, most notably, we have some pretty convincing data to support the inaccuracy of the former point. But anyway. I’m just here to provide some information.)
The facts are here: LeGarrette Blount has won two Super Bowls. That’s two more than most running backs, and one more than a whole lot of running backs. In just 49 games, Blount has worked his way to the top 10 of Patriots all-time rushers. He’s fifth on the franchise’s all-time list of touchdowns. Among Patriots running backs with at least 400 carries, he’s first all time in yards per rush.
He’s 500 yards away from cracking the list of top-100 rushers in NFL history. He’s 10 touchdowns away from joining the top 50 in that department.
It is all, at the very least, interesting. Obviously, nobody’s arguing that the guy is on a path to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But surely, seeing Blount rank so high on the list, when thousands of running backs have been employed over the years, shows that he’s already had a very successful career.