- - Tuesday, November 26, 2019

If you are frustrated by much of what you see these days of NFL football — backup quarterbacks, incompetent officiating, tanking teams — the league has an alternative for you that will warm your pigskin heart.

Last week the NFL Network kicked off a series of programs featuring what a panel of experts have determined are the 100 greatest players and 10 greatest coaches in NFL history.

It’s worth the watch, because you likely will see very few that qualify for that list on the field today. Heck, you won’t find many that have stepped on the football field this century.

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Every Friday night from now until Dec. 27 the network will focus on different positions. The first show, which aired Friday night, Nov. 22, started in the right place — the disappearing great running back.

Former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson made a list of 24 finalists for greatest running backs. But he wasn’t one of the final 12 selected for the all-time list, and pointed out that the list, more or less, consisted of dinosaurs. “I’m surprised there are no 21st century running backs on that list,” said Tomlinson, who was an analyst on the NFL network’s reaction show following the program that unveiled the list. “No guys drafted after 1990.”

You could make the case that if the game continues its pass-happy trend of recent years, you could present this same list two decades from now without any changes. The running back may not be extinct, but the position has been diminished and devalued.

Heck, the way the game is going, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson could wind up making the all-time rushers list a decade from now.

No Redskins made the 12 greatest running backs list. That is not particularly surprising. But what was simply wrong was the Redskin who was left off the list of 24 finalists.

Here are the 24 running backs the panel determined were finalists: Tomlinson, Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Earl “Dutch” Clark, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, Red Grange, Franco Harris, Hugh McElhenny, Lenny Moore, Marion Motley, Bronko Nagurski, Walter Payton, Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Emmitt Smith, Jim Taylor, Thurman Thomas and Steve Van Buren.

Who is missing? How about number 44, the Diesel, John Riggins?

How Riggins does not make this list of 24 finalists is beyond me. The Super Bowl XVII Most Valuable Player is 19th on the NFL all-time rushing list with 11,352 yards rushing, but among the top five in running back production after the age of 30, with three 1,000 yard seasons, including 2,586 yards in his final two seasons in 1983 and 1984. Riggins is seventh all time in touchdowns among running backs with 104.

Peterson, who gained 1,042 yards for Washington in 2018 at the age of 33, made the 24 finalist list, but his success is identified with his 10 years with Minnesota. He was not selected to be one of the 12 greatest, despite sixth among all-time rushers with 13,861 yards and fifth all time in touchdowns with 107.

Here are the 12 that were revealed on the NFL network program – Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, Steve Van Buren, Earl “Dutch” Clark, Marion Motley Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton and Lenny Moore.

Smith is the only one of those running backs who played in the 21st century, retiring in 2004 with the Arizona Cardinals. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1990.

They did not necessarily rank the 12 greatest backs, but the network did introduce Jim Brown first, who appeared on the set for the program. There are no arguments about Brown’s place as the greatest running back of all time — nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns, from 1957 to 1965, with 12,312 yards rushing in 118 games, averaging a remarkable 5.2 yards per carry.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was one of the panelists, spoke in awe of Brown. “Jim, I’ve admired you for my entire life,” Belichick said. “When I was head coach of the Cleveland Browns, it was such a blessing to get to know you. … You were certainly the greatest player. You could’ve played anything and did. There’s nobody other than you that should be the first person in this group. … I’d put him in there right now on third-and-1.”

The show also named two of the 10 greatest coaches in NFL history — Paul Brown, who won four All-American Football Conference titles with the Browns, then took them to the NFL and won three more championships, and Belichick, the six-time Super Bowl champion coach. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is listed among the 20 finalists. It would be a travesty if he is not among the 10 greatest.

As far as other Redskins being honored in future programs, I would expect that both quarterback Sammy Baugh and cornerback Darrell Green are both selected among the NFL Network’s greatest at their respective positions.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

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