It takes all of this long to find someone insisting that Emmitt Smith ain't all that. "Smith's record is overrated." See, that did not take long. And. And. And. The common knock on the Dallas Cowboy: "Had the best offensive line of all time in front of him." Imagine if Barry Sanders had played with those guys.
To which The New York Times's Andy Barall, keeper of The Fifth Down, writes this morning: Enough, already. Because, sure, the freshly minted running back-turned-generous political donor was great when he played with great players, absolutely. But doesn't anyone remember what the Cowboys looked like in 2000 and after? During those 5-11 years? When Dave Campo was coach? When Irvin was long gone? When Aikman was on his way out, only to be replaced by the likes of Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner and Quincy Carter? Writes Barall:
Although he was clearly declining and playing against defenses that were focused on stopping him on every play, Smith still rushed for 3,199 yards during this period and averaged about four yards per carry. That was one of the best three-year performances of any back of Smith's age (31-33) in N.F.L. history. It's even more impressive when you consider the pounding he took in the thousands of carries before 2000.
Every football player is the product of his talent, his hard work and determination, and, to some degree, his ability to take advantage of the situation in which he finds himself. Did Smith benefit, during his prime, from playing with great teams and outstanding offensive lines? Of course. But he was just doing what every great player does -- making the best of the situation.