I don't understand people sometimes. The majority of people, no matter how much evidence is shoved in front of their face, refuse to believe what I find to be obvious. In this case, I simply don't get why people consistently underrate Jamaal Charles. It's clear that while most people agree he's one of the best running backs in the league, very few see him as the unquestionable number one running back and a potential Hall of Famer. Of course, chances are that you are one of these people, so I will show you why we shouldn't be talking about if Charles is one of the best running backs in the league, but if he is one of the best running backs of all time.
Anybody who has given much thought to it has realized that no statistics in football are good at accurately showing how good a given player is. There are simply too many moving parts that effect a given stat. But yards per carry, while still being influenced by other factors, gives the clearest picture to a player out of all the stats. The only two factors that really influence it are the O-line quality and the quality of the passing game. No matter what scheme you're running or what the situation is, getting more yards is better than getting fewer yards. And when you consider yards per carry, Charles is so good that it is unbelievable.
- In 2009, he led the league in YPC, despite playing behind a terrible O-line. How do we know the O-line was bad? Larry Johnson averaged 2.9 YPC by the time he was run out of town. This is, to put it bluntly, terrible. But wasn't Johnson just run down? Not really. When he went to Cincinnati he averaged 4.4 YPC, which is what Pro-Bowlers Steven Jackson and Adrian Peterson had, and 0.1 YPC behind Pro-Bowler Maurice Jones-Drew. In short, Charles led the league in YPC despite playing behind a line that made a Pro-Bowl caliber player look like one of the worst running backs in the league.
- In 2010, Charles broke the NFL record for fewest carries to get to 1100 yards, which was set in 2009 by Jamaal Charles. (This one I'm not 100% sure is accurate, but I remember hearing it somewhere, so you might take it with a grain of salt.)
- In 2010, he was second in the NFL in total yards behind Arian Foster. Foster had 97 more carries but only 149 more yards. This is only 1.54 yards per carry, which means that had he gotten 97 more carries, there is almost no way he wouldn't have been first overall in total rushing yards.
- In 2010, Michael Turner had 96 fewer yards than Charles on 104 more carries. Chris Johnson had 103 fewer yards on 86 more carries. Maurice Jones-Drew had 143 fewer yards on 63 more carries. Adrian Peterson had 169 fewer yards on 53 more carries. Steven Jackson had 226 fewer yards on 100 more carries. All of these players made the Pro-Bowl.
- In 2010, out of the top ten running backs in terms of total yards, Charles had the fewest carries with 230. The next lowest was Ahmad Bradshaw with 276 carries, or 46 more than Charles. For comparison, Turner had the most carries in the NFL with 334, which is 58 more than Bradshaw, which shows that 46 is a huge difference in this context.
- The running back who had the most yards despite having fewer carries than Charles was Darren McFadden, who had 7 fewer carries but 310 fewer yards. To put that in perspective, consider that if McFadden had had 7 more rushes of 40 yards each, he would still not have caught Charles.
- Charles was second in the NFL in total yards despite being second on his team in total carries.I haven't looked it up, but I would bet that this has never happened before.
- In his career so far, he is fifth in career yards per carry in NFL history with 6.0. The four players ahead of him are all Quarterbacks. The closest running back is Marion Motley, a Hall-of-Famer, with 5.7. The closest RB in the Super Bowl era is Bo Jackson with 5.4.
Even without the second bullet, this is a resume that goes beyond impressive, especially since I didn't even include the fact that he was .02 YPC away from the all time record (which is a difference of 5 yards over 230 carries). So I simply don't understand how anybody can even consider thinking that he isn't the best in the NFL. I lost a ton of respect for Pat Kirwan when he didn't rank Charles in the top 5 running backs. I really enjoyed his book, but this level of ignorance is so profound I don't know whether to take his book seriously any more. It's be like having a Physics professor who didn't believe in gravity. The evidence is so overwhelming that for a football "expert" to not believe Charles is the best running back in the NFL is the equivalent of them confessing to not being a football expert.
If he continues performing at this level for another 5 years or so, Jamaal Charles has a real argument to being the best running back of all time. The only argument against him being the best back ever right now is that he hasn't shown that he can sustain it. But if your best argument against a player being the best of all time is that his numbers are so ridiculous that he's bound to regress back to at least a normal Hall of Fame level, then what possible argument could you have for him not being the best running back today?