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Redskins Insider: Portis and the Curse of 370


Jofizz

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Posted at 2:26 PM ET, 10/21/2008

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/redskinsinsider/2008/10/portis_and_the_curse_of_370.html

Portis and the Curse of 370

Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders has an interesting piece today in The League on the curse of 370 carries for a running back.

Farrar writes: On 27 different occasions in NFL history, a running back has carried the ball 370 or more times in the regular season. You can sort those backs into three groups: backs that got hurt and were never the same, backs whose productivity just fell off, and Eric Dickerson.

And Farrar concludes:

Jim Zorn was Seattle's quarterbacks coach when Shaun Alexander went over that wall and never came back. If Alexander does nothing more in Washington than serve as a reminder of the price paid by the running back as workhorse, he'll be worth whatever the Redskins paid for his services: He could save Clinton Portis' career by his example.

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I don't believe it's a sure thing...but certainly approaching 400 carries in a season could logically have an impact on the following year.

I hope we can continue to spell Portis in some of these games and even replace him for the second half in one or two games.

Rock, Alexander, and eventually Betts give us this luxury. Hopefully the game situations can help out too.

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I put this up in another thread about a week ago. Most of the time it seems like when RBs put on that large of a load, the body breaks down and becomes more susceptible to injury the following year.

It interested me too, so I looked up all the RBs within the last 10 years that broke the "370 carries" barrier and how they did the next year.

Much of the time it seems like injuries hit the following year after going 370+ carries.

And it seems like only LaDainian Tomlinson in 2003 equaled or surpassed his previous year.

Larry Johnson 2006 - 416 carries 1789 yards

Larry Johnson 2007 - 158 carries 559 yards

Shaun Alexander 2005 - 370 carries 1880 yards

Shaun Alexander 2006 - 252 carries 896 yards

Curtis Martin 2004 - 371 carries 1697 yards

Curtis Martin 2005 - 220 carries 735 yards

Ricky Williams 2003 - 392 carries 1372 yards

Ricky Williams 2004 - suspended

Jamal Lewis 2003 - 387 carries 2066 yards

Jamal Lewis 2004 - 235 carries 1006 yards

Ricky Williams 2002 - 383 carries 1853 yards

Ricky Williams 2003 - 392 carries 1372 yards

LaDainian Tomlinson 2002 - 372 carries 1683 yards

LaDainian Tomlinson 2003 - 313 carries 1645 yards

Eddie George 2000 - 403 carries 1509 yards

Eddie George 2001 - 315 carries 939 yards

Edgerrin James 2000 - 387 carries 1709 yards

Edgerrin James 2001 - 151 carries 662 yards

Jamal Anderson 1998 - 410 carries 1846 yards

Jamal Anderson 1999 - 19 carries 59 yards

Terrell Davis 1998 - 392 carries 2008 yards

Terrell Davis 1999 - 67 carries 211 yards

Jerome Bettis 1997 - 375 carries 1665 yards

Jerome Bettis 1998 - 316 carries 1185 yards

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LOL. People can fixate on the word "curse" all they want, but this is a statistical reality.

To put it in clear terms, is it possible that a back can carry the ball this many times and not show an effect from it? Sure. But it's proven to be highly probable that it WILL have a negative impact on that back's future performance.

People can say "I don't believe it" all they want, but you're then basically choosing to play ostrich and pretend that facts aren't real.

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I dont know about any curse but Portis not only gets those carries, he is a punishing blocker and that adds to the toll it takes on him. I do hope Betts and Alexander see more carries down the road, so they can save him for the 35 carry per game playoff run.

There is a reason players compare play to being in a car crash every few seconds for 60 minutes - it can wear you down!

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WHY do people read JLC's anti-skin propaganda?

Its not "anti-skin propaganda". He is simply pointing out that backs who get that many carries over a season historically will begin to wear down. He's not pushing some agenda he has against the skins, he's just pointing something out that happens to be, for the most part, pretty true.

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jlc sucks, ok, but that doesnt make his point automatically invalid. regarding clinton, last year he led the league in carries yet is playing better now.

edit didnt read last jlc hating post about backs getting hurt.

It's not even HIS point! Someone else wrote it! He's reporting on something someone else wrote! That's some tough reporting right there! :rolleyes:

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If you want to see the poster child for a running back being run into the ground go take a look at Earl Campbells career.

He had over 300 carry's his first 4 years and a 3 year stretch of 368, 373 and 361. His career lasted 7 years total.

Mind you his running style was completley different to Clinton. He ran through people not around them. It almost looked like he was looking for someone to run into rather than space - made Marion Barber look like a scat back. Great back.

It does make sense to keep an eye on Clintons carries. Hopefully we can blow the Lions away Sunday so he can take most of the 3rd and 4th quarters off! We are going to need him full bore for the game with the Steelers and then we have our bye.

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The thing about Doug Farrar's article is that to prove his case he cites the top ten single-season carriers of all time. But those backs all carried the ball from 390-416 times. Portis is on pace for 373. That's a significant difference.

tenken627's list above is more useful, but even then you should probably take a closer look:

Larry Johnson 2006 - 416 carries 1789 yards

Larry Johnson 2007 - 158 carries 559 yards

Again, 416 yards is a LOT more than 373. Despite that, Johnson's on pace for 1200 or so yards this year. On a lousy team.

Shaun Alexander 2005 - 370 carries 1880 yards

Shaun Alexander 2006 - 252 carries 896 yards

This was Alexander's third straight 326+ carry season, and fifth straight 295+ season. Portis only had 127 carries in '06. And he's a year younger than Alexander was. Still, this is a close example.

Curtis Martin 2004 - 371 carries 1697 yards

Curtis Martin 2005 - 220 carries 735 yards

Martin was 31 and playing his tenth full season. The guy was an ironman that finally ran out of gas. He had, previously in his career, carried the ball 367, 368 and 369 times and suffered no ill effects. I really wouldn't use Martin as an example here.

Ricky Williams 2003 - 392 carries 1372 yards

Ricky Williams 2004 - suspended

Interesting to note that that 392-carry season was preceded by a 383-carry season.

Jamal Lewis 2003 - 387 carries 2066 yards

Jamal Lewis 2004 - 235 carries 1006 yards

That was Lewis' third straight 300+ carry season. Five years later though Lewis is still a pretty productive back.

Ricky Williams 2002 - 383 carries 1853 yards

Ricky Williams 2003 - 392 carries 1372 yards

Ah. There it is. :)

LaDainian Tomlinson 2002 - 372 carries 1683 yards

LaDainian Tomlinson 2003 - 313 carries 1645 yards

LT is a freak. :)

Eddie George 2000 - 403 carries 1509 yards

Eddie George 2001 - 315 carries 939 yards

That's 30 more carries than Portis is on pace for. And George had carried the ball 320+ times in the four previous seasons. Also, Eddie George was a fine back, but he was a grinder. He never averaged more than 4.1 yards a carry for any season of his career. He continued the grind for a few more seasons after that one, but was never a spectacular player.

Edgerrin James 2000 - 387 carries 1709 yards

Edgerrin James 2001 - 151 carries 662 yards

In 1999 James had 369 carries for 1500+ yards. He's also had a pretty good career since.

Jamal Anderson 1998 - 410 carries 1846 yards

Jamal Anderson 1999 - 19 carries 59 yards

One year wonder. And 410 carries is a lot more than 373.

Terrell Davis 1998 - 392 carries 2008 yards

Terrell Davis 1999 - 67 carries 211 yards

That was his third year of 345 or more carries. In '97 he carried it 369 times for 1750 yards and 15 TDs.

Jerome Bettis 1997 - 375 carries 1665 yards

Jerome Bettis 1998 - 316 carries 1185 yards

Bettis started for another four years and played for another eight after that. '97 was a spike in production for him, but it's not like he wasn't the same player after that year. He just happened to have one really great year.

I guess my point is that if Portis stays on pace he'll have a career year. His production will probably go down next year (as is the case with all years following a career year) but that doesn't mean he won't still be a good back for us. Many of the backs on that list continued to be productive many years after their 'big' season. If Portis 'only' gets, say, 1200 yards and 10 TDs after a 1800 yard/16 TD season that's ok, isn't it?

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