Terrell Davis is one of just seven running backs to have amassed more than 2,000-yards in a single season. . At the time, Davis was just the 4th player in NFL history to have done so behind O. J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, and Barry Sanders.
For as widely known as his 2,000-yard season is, what isn't as well known is just how many yards Terrell Davis had in 1998 when regular season and post season totals for rushing and receiving are combined. This is probably due to the fact that when you toss the number out there, it just kind of sits there.
See? What does that number really mean? It's begging for some context and here I am to give it to you.
Most people like to compare Terrell Davis' career to the late and great Chicago Bears running back, Gale Sayers. They both had short and explosive careers, but only one is in a two-time Super Bowl Champion and the other is a Hall of Famer. Gale led the league in rushing just twice in his career, in 1966 and 1969.
In this instance, it's not possible to compare the actual yards in these two seasons to Davis' 1998 season because the regular season was shorter than the one that Terrell enjoyed in 1998 (15 games in 1966 and 14 in 1969). Also, the Bears were horrible in those years and did not participate in post-season play (not even the oddly named 'Runner Up Bowl').
To compare these two running backs, let's take a peek at the rushing average per game. Terrell Davis averaged 125.5-yards per game during the regular season in which he was sometimes taken out of the game with quarters left to play. Gale Sayers, in his two best years, averages 87.9-yards and 95.1 yards per game. What's more, for all those yards Sayers racked up, he only found the end zone 10 times in 1966 and just 8 times in 1969. Terrell Davis? In just the 1998 regular season, TD had 23 touchdowns.
...but you can't compare running backs thirty years apart, right? Okay, let's take a look at Barry Sanders' best years, 1994 and 1997. In 1994, Sanders had 2,166 yards receiving and rushing during the regular season. We'll omit his playoff stats for this year since, surprisingly, it's just 2 lonely yards. Aw heck, toss 'em in there. 2,168-yards. That's just shy of 600 fewer yards Terrell Davis' has in 1998. In 1997, the year that Barry joined the 2,000-yard rushers' club, he had 2,358 regular season rushing and receiving yards and 109 in their playoff game, bringing Sanders' total to 2,467-yards. That's still roughly 300 fewer yards than Terrell Davis had the following year.
While we are at it, we can look at rushing averages between Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis. In 1994, Sanders averaged 117-yards per game and 128.3-yards per game in 1997. Sanders at his absolute best could only muster 3-yards more per game than Terrell. Over 16 games, that's only 48 yards... If Terrell hadn't been taken out of games early, do you think he might have gotten that 48 and then some? I do too.
So, let's now take a look now at the other members of the 2,000-yard rushers club. Surely one of them had to have more total yards than Terrell Davis, right? Nope.
Everyone's favorite Buffalo Bill, O. J. Simpson, was the first to break 2,000 yards and did so in 1973. Again we run into the 'number of games in a season' problem and so let's look at per game rushing average. Holy cripes, O. J. averaged 147-yards per game... and yet that's fewer than 20-yards more per game than TD had in 1998. Terrell is right up there with O.J. Simpson. I could make any number of O. J. jokes right now, but in the interest of keeping this focused, we'll just move on to Eric Dickerson.
In 1984 Erick Dickerson set the NFL record for most yards in a season with 2,105. His finished off the 1984 season with 2,244-yards receiving and rushing. Add in his 135 combined yards from the playoff game that year and he's at 2,379-yards. That's just shy of 400-yards fewer than Terrell Davis... and Dickerson owns the record for most rushing yards in a season!
Jamal Lewis joined the 2,000-yard club in 2003 with 2,271 combined regular season yards. Add in his 39 post season yards and he's got 2,310, 400-yards shy of Terrell Davis' total from 2008.
Remember CJ2K? He joined the club in 2009 with 2,006 rushing yards and 2,503 combined yards. Despite his success that year, the Titans failed to advance to the playoffs and so, despite being the closest to Davis' 2008 total, Chris Johnson is still over 250-yards short of TD.
The most recent player to rush for over 2,000-yards was Adrian Peterson in 2012 with 2,097-yards. With regular and post season, receiving rushing numbers combined, Peterson had just 2,413 total yards, over 300 shy of Terrell Davis.
Everyone who hit the 2,000-yard mark ahead of Terrell Davis is already in the Hall of Fame. None have have had the success that Davis has had. Of the running backs to do it after Terrell, zero have had the accolades or post season success that Davis has had. He's waited too long to get recognized for his historical career. Put Terrell Davis in the Hall of Fame.