The Greatest Carry


stadium.

Emmitt didn't stop there. He would call out nearly every one of his offensive linemen, one by one, asking them, too, to stand if they were here, from Andre Gurode to Kevin Gogan to Mark Stepnoski to Erik Williams and Nate Newton, all the way to Kelvin Garmon and George Hegamin, and finally, most appropriately, mentioning the late Mark Tuinei, whose wife Pono stood for him.

He mentioned family, of course, mom Mary, dad Emmitt James Jr., his brothers, sisters, cousins, wife Pat, all his kids, and even his fifth child that is on the way.

A complete performance.

What else would you expect from the greatest running back in the NFL?

Excuse me, did I say that again? A second time? Lost my mind?

Don't give me that Emmitt was Emmitt because of who he played with, that he had this great offensive line. Seriously? How many of those guys will end up in the Hall of Fame? Larry Allen? And he had won three rushing titles by then. I mean, Emmitt was successful in high school, in college and the NFL. Did he really have the greatest offensive lines in each place?

Please.

Recent lists haven't even ranked Emmitt among the top five running backs in the history of the NFL, even though he gained more yards than every one of them. Some as low as seventh. Based on what? Flash and dash?

Would always listen to the argument that Barry Sanders was the best; it was just that he was stuck in Detroit. Oh really? Well, in 1991 the Lions advanced to the NFC title game after beating the Cowboys in the second round of the playoffs. And what? The Lions were beaten by the Redskins, a team the Cowboys handed their first loss earlier in the season. If Sanders was so good, why didn't he lead his team to the Super Bowl?

I see all these other names, the O.J. Simpsons, Eric Dickersons, Gale Sayers and Jim Browns, and all I hear is if Brown and Sanders hadn't prematurely quit, they would own the NFL's all-time rushing record.

Yeah, well they did. How come? Emmitt played, and by the way, became the NFL's all-time leading rusher while playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame receiver. How did that happen?

Now "Sweetness" is a different story. He indeed was one of a kind, and struggled through many lean years in Chicago.

But as Jerry Jones pointed out afterward, no one, not any of these guys who get mentioned in the top 5, rushed for more yards, more touchdowns (164) or won more Super Bowls (3). None rushed for more than Emmitt's 78 career touchdowns, one more than Walter Payton and two more than Sanders. Only Brown led the league more times than Emmitt's four, and look, he wasn't having to share the ball with a Hall of Fame receiver and quarterback. And none of those guys ever rushed for the more than the 25 touchdowns he did in 1995, nor more than his 19 postseason touchdowns or his 1,586 postseason yards.

Plus, when it would come to all postseason touchdowns, only Jerry Rice would record more - but just one more, and I heard former Niners owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Saturday night call Rice "the greatest football player ever to put on a uniform," and he was a wide receiver.

On and on, and if you need a reminder of just how good he was, most times on his own, go watch that NFL Films highlight video of Emmitt to remind yourself of just how good he really was. Don't fool yourself.

And as hard as this must have been to say, Darrell Green, a Redskin of all things and Hall of Famer to boot, said before Emmitt took the stage, "The greatest running back with the greatest numbers, Emmitt."

That's what Jerry Jones was trying to say afterward when asked the same question, going on about Emmitt's accomplishments - personal and team - his character and even how he rose to the occasion Saturday night.

So, is that a yes, Jerry?

"Yes!" he exclaimed.

And now he has a bronze bust to prove it.

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