After starting with the quarterback position a few days ago, it's time to move on to the running backs. While the Browns haven't had a great running back situation since returning to the league, there have been some brighter spots the past several years. With no single back staying in Cleveland for an extended period of time though, it's difficult to pick one player to be "the" guy for the all-decade team. The results of the poll should be interesting, and don't forget to back up your vote in the comments section!
The criteria I used for running backs in order to be included in the poll was that they needed at least 200 touches and need to be with the team for at least two seasons during the decade.
Previous All-Decade Polls: Quarterbacks
1. JAMEL WHITE (2000-2003)
Since returning to the league, the Browns have really only utilized one running back as a true "third down back," and that was Jamel White. While his numbers aren't dazzling, White was consistent during his four years in Cleveland, averaging 3.8 yards per carry at a time when our offensive line wasn't great. He was usually good for several receptions out of the backfield each week; from 2001 to 2003, he was averaging 51 catches per season.
The best game of his career came in 2001, when he ran for 131 yards on 21 carries and caught 9 passes for 85 yards in a 31-7 loss to the Green bay Packers. White also had a 54-yard run en route to a 100-yard game against the Steelers back in 2002, a game the Browns lost in overtime 16-13.
2. JAMES JACKSON (2001-2004)
For as much hype as there was surrounding James Jackson, a third-round pick from the 2001 draft, Jackson never really broke out. He started 10 games as a rookie in 2001, but only managed to average 2.8 yards per carry -- to contrast, Jamel White averaged 3.5 yards per carry that same season. Perhaps he got fans excited when he rushed for 124 yards on 31 carries in just his second career game, but after that he never topped 100 yards again.
Like White, Jackson also had one shining moment against the Steelers, but back in 2003. In a 13-6 loss, Jackson had 25 carries for 94 yards and caught 5 passes for 49 yards. His lack of consistent production never seemed to qualify him as a starting running back, and after a decent start to the season in 2004, the Browns just waived him.
3. WILLIAM GREEN (2002-2005)
RUN WILLIAM, RUN! Without question, everyone knows what the highlight of William Green's career is: a 64-yard breakaway touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons in 2002. The run came in Week 17, and ended up being the difference maker in the Browns' 24-16 victory -- a win that allowed the team to make the postseason. Green started off slow in his rookie season, but once he was made the full-time starter again in Week 10, he showed a lot of promise, gaining nearly or over 100 yards in 5 of his last 7 games. After a somewhat slow start to the 2003 season, things picked up in Week 5 against the Steelers. The Browns beat the Steelers 33-13 in Pittsburgh, and Green ran for 133 yards; one of those plays included him carrying a Steeler on his back as he stiff-armed him down the field. A week later, Green pounded 145 more yards against the Raiders. Things were looking bright for the team's former first-round pick.
And then...the troubles started. Half-way through the 2003 season, Green was arrested for drunk driving and marijuana possession. While he was suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Green's fiancee stabbed him in the back during a domestic dispute. He did not return for the 2003 season, and his image was pretty much tarnished after that. In 2004, Green's most memorable moment was getting ejected during pre-game warmups for fighting with linebacker Joey Porter. In 2005, Green had too many injuries and was placed on the injured reserve; he never saw any action in the NFL following that. A decent start to a career, followed by a quick decline, can summarize Green's career.
4. LEE SUGGS (2003-2005)
I was a advocate of Suggs, and odds are that I was sold on him due to the 26-carry, 186-yard, 2-touchdown performance he had against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 of his rookie season. Suggs didn't start in 2004 due to Green starting, but in Week 15 Suggs took over at running back and proceeded to have three consecutive 100-yard games. What happened to Suggs after that?
Two things -- Reuben Droughns, and the injury bug. The Browns acquired Droughns before the 2005 season, and it seemed as if Droughns was going to win the three-way training camp competition between himself, Suggs, and Green. Still, Suggs was expected to be a factor in the offensive gameplan. Suggs missed the first two games of the season with a sprained ankle, and shortly after he returned, he fractured his right thumb trying to make a tackle on special teams. When the Browns tried to trade him the following season, he failed his physical. Much to my dismay, the Browns just outright cut him, pretty much ending his NFL career as well.
5. REUBEN DROUGHNS (2005-2006)
Although he only spent two seasons with the Browns, he first one was a memorable one -- Droughns had 1,232 yards rushing, making him the first Browns running back in 20 years to gain over 1,000 yards in a single season. Droughns was never a speed demon; he was a converted fullback from his days with the Denver Broncos. Behind a good offensive line, he could find the holes and carry the load though.
After a less impressive 2006 campaign, the Browns traded Droughns to the New York Jets since Jamal Lewis was going to be the team's new starting running back. The trade was probably the lowlight of Droughns' career in Cleveland because it brought WR Tim Carter to the team. The carry I'll remember most involving Droughns was the 75-yarder he had to open up the game in 2005 against the Miami Dolphins, a game the team won 22-0. I never liked the fact that Droughns failed to shine in any of his three games against Pittsburgh though; his rushing yards against them were 56, 36, and 6, respectively.
6. JASON WRIGHT (2005-2008)
Wright just barely cracked the list of candidates with 211 touches. While Wright always seemed like a good guy in the locker room, I was often furious at him, mainly because of the coaching staff. I felt that Jerome Harrison was a much better backup or third-down running back than Wright, and yet Romeo Crennel continued playing Wright in that role instead.
Then, in 2008, Wright's final season with the team, there were several instances in which Wright's dropped passes, tipped passes, or lack of awareness when passes were bring thrown his way led to game-killing interceptions.
7. JEROME HARRISON (2006-2009)
If all we looked at was Jerome Harrison's unbelievable 286-yard performance this past Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, then you could say he's the running back of the decade. If you want to vote that way, go ahead -- it's up to you. As much as I personally have always been on the Harrison bandwagon though, he hasn't received enough action to warrant such a title. I blame that on Romeo Crennel for failing to play him in 2007 and 2008.
Mangini was stubborn about his carries and even went as far as making him inactive for several weeks, but by far Harrison has seen more work this year than in any other season. Harrison's speed puts him on a different level than some of the other running backs we've had, but he does need to work on catching the ball better on short dumpoffs.
8. JAMAL LEWIS (2007-2009)
Locker room leader, or that guy who is too slow to get through the hole and now only consumes a gameplan? The Browns acquired Lewis in 2007 and he went on to have a tremendous season -- 1,304 yards and 9 touchdowns (not including 2 receiving touchdowns). That's easily the best of any Browns running back since our return to the league. Lewis' production wore off a little in 2008, as he just barely past 1,000 yards and only had four touchdowns. The Browns' offense was struggling the entire 2008 campaign, but Lewis seemed to have less speed getting to the holes.
This year, things were even worse off. In 9 games, Lewis put up 500 yards and failed to record a single rushing touchdown. He also began complaining about new head coach Eric Mangini's practice sessions and announced that he would retire at the end of this season because he's had enough. A season-ending injury (concussion) prevented him from finishing the season, and ever since then, the Browns are running the ball to a much higher degree of effectiveness with younger backs.
COMPARABLE STATISTICS (RUSHING)
COMPARABLE STATISTICS (RECEIVING)
*Has two games left this season for statistics to change.
OTHER RUNNING BACKS
These running backs played for the Browns during the decade but are not up for consideration in the poll due to their lack of tenure with the team. If you'd still like to comment on them, or if you believe one of them should be the all-decade quarterback instead, sound off in the comments section. (Note: I am not listing running backs with less than three games played).
- Travis Prentice (2000, 16 games)
- Errict Rhett (2000, 5 games)
- Ben Gay (2001, 16 games)
- Adimchinobe Echemandu (2004, 4 games)
- Chris Jennings (2009, 7 games)
Now it's time to cast your vote in the poll below, and then go ahead and explain your choice in the comments section. The next position we'll do is fullback.
Please be aware that the considerations do not include the 1999 comeback season.