Anyone who sits down with Emmitt Smith will learn three things from him: his first name, last name, and that he’s the greatest running back of all-time.
That last point is as factual to Smith as his god-given name. It’s something the Dallas Cowboys legend hasn’t kept to himself in the years since his retirement, and was even something he’d let you know about while he was still playing.
The debate about who the greatest running back of all-time isn’t as spicy as MJ vs. LeBron, but is that because it’s such a closed case?
Smith spoke with FanSided at Super Bowl 57, and when asked if he’s the greatest running back of all-time, he scoffed at the notion even needing to be suggested while openly welcoming another opportunity to make the case.
“Am I? That depends on how you look at it,” Smith said, smiling his million dollar smile. “I’ve done what I’ve done, and my records speak for themselves. If you stack my stuff up against the next person, you tell me what it looks like.
I shouldn’t have to talk about myself like that.”
There’s the Smith Swagger that Cowboys fans know so well.
There’s no question in Smith’s mind that he’s the best running back of all-time, but it’s still up for debate who the greatest running back ever is. Smith is right, it depends on what you look at and who you ask. The right question isn’t whether Smith is the greatest of all-time, but whether or not he’s the last great running back worthy of being in that discussion?
Walter Payton or Emmitt? Smith or Jim Brown? Those debates will never be settled.
Adrian Peterson lived in rarified air for a while but his legacy doesn’t come close to Smith’s. Remember when Chris Johnson — CJ2K — was being talked about in the same breath as Emmitt? When was the last time he was brought up in the conversation about all-time greats.
LaDanian Tomlinson might be the closest a running back has come to touching Smith but even his Hall of Fame career isn’t seen in the same light. Derrick Henry is regarded as the best running back in the game today, but how will he be remembered when his career is over?
As seasons go by, Smith’s career rushing record of 18, 355 yards continues to look more and more untouchable. The next closest active player is Henry with 8,335 yards with Zeke Elliott less than 100 yards behind. Both are still 10,000 yards away from Smith, and neither seem likely to reach him.
That’s the high water mark Smith always points to when asked about his greatness, and he’s not wrong about leaning on it. That rushing record is starting to look like a Joe DiMaggio type record that will stand the test of time, and the longer it stands the harder it is to argue against Smith’s all-time standing.
Emmitt Smith spoke on behalf of Bounty.