As the NFL season wrapped up earlier this year, the Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos were welcomed home by a variety of fans, executives, former coaches and players. Standing at the front of the line to meet the team as they arrived home from Santa Clara was Broncos all-time leading rusher, Terrell Davis.
As a sixth round pick of the 1995 NFL draft Davis was a relatively unknown player, who found himself merely fighting for a roster spot as a rookie. However after monstrous hit on a special teams play in a preseason game, the man fittingly known as T.D. was born and blasted onto the radar of every Broncos fan nationwide.
Continuing into the regular season Davis mounted an impressive rookie season accumulating over 1,000 yard rushing along with 7 touchdowns on just over 200 carries. Davis continued on to shoulder the load of the Broncos offense for the next six years accumulating some very impressive accolades. Accolades that have landed many other players into the prestigious NFL Hall of Fame. Many, myself included, have wondered why T.D has been snubbed for a nod into the hall himself.
The Argument Against
Following four seasons that compare to just about any back that is already in the hall, Davis fell victim the common ‘Injury Bug’ that is every athlete’s worst nightmare. After only playing in 16 games through his final three seasons in the league and capped by a gruesome knee injury, Davis’ career was cut short after just 7 seasons.
On the mere fact of longevity sits the only reason that T.D. does not already own a gold jacket. An argument that in fact could discount several NFL greats from wearing the Jacket themselves. If we were to classify hall of fame inductions by how long players were in the league than the likes of many such as the great Gale Sayers would be turning in their jackets tonight.
The Argument For
Aside from the creation of the Mile High Salute.
In an article on footballperspective.com Adam Harstad breaks down the statistics of all 15 running backs that have been elected into Canton in the modern Super Bowl era and uses Davis as a comparison. A comparison that provides hard statistical evidence that even though his career was short, Davis matches his number extremely well against all others in the hall.
Out of every NFL alum that is Hall eligible, Davis remains the only player that has won an AP regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP award that had not been elected.
Only seven players throughout league history have rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season. Out of the five players to accomplish this impressive feat that are eligible for the hall Davis remains one of two that has not been elected.
Out of all seven 2,000 yard rushers Davis was by far the most prolific scorer of the group, amounting a total 23 touchdowns in his 2K season. To put this into perspective, Chris Johnson was second in scoring with 16 touchdowns during his 2,000 yard campaign.
The NFL community often states that the post season is where legends are born. Davis himself stated “you can be the best in the league, but if you don’t win championships something is missing.”
That being said T.D. has one of the most outstanding post season resumes of any football player, running back or otherwise. Arguably the greatest post season running back in history, Davis’s statistics outweigh almost every running back, in almost every category that is currently already enshrined in Canton.
The Former Broncos running back is tied with Emmitt Smith (H.O.F. inductee) for the most 100 plus rushing yards games in post season history with seven. A mark that Davis accomplished in a mere eight games. Smith needed 17. Case in point.
If that isn’t enough to sway your mind, Davis still has the most yards per attempt at 5.59, and averaged 142 yards per game in the postseason, while also ranking fifth all time in postseason touchdowns with 12. His accomplished all of these marks in far fewer games than any of his fellow backs that are already all in Canton.
Let’s also not forget the heroic effort put forth by Davis in Super Bowl XXXII where Davis led the franchise to its first Lombardi trophy with 157 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. A game in which one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game and first ballot Hall of Famer John Elway threw for only 127 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception.
In an age where we have come to understand the physicality of football and the havoc that it can bring on a players body can bring a career to an end in one play. Why do we consistently refer to the length of a career as a benchmark for greatness?
Other than the fact that Davis’s career was tragically cut short, his accomplishments reign throughput record books to this day.
The fact of the matter is that we do not refer to it as the “Hall of Longevity” it is the Hall of FAME. Even though his career was short Terrell Davis made his mark on the game just as much as anyone currently with a bust sitting in Canton.
What will it take for Davis to finally receive his bust? Why is it that a franchise that has more Super Bowl appearances since 1983 than it does losing seasons only have four players representing them in Canton?