When you talk about the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in NFL terms, it’s hard to argue against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his six Super Bowl wins – more than anyone else in NFL history. Charles Haley won five in the 1980s and 1990s with the Cowboys and 49ers, leaving Colts (and former Patriots) kicker Adam Vinatieri as the only current player even close with four, two of which came thanks to his own last-gasp, game-winning kicks.
In the week that the NFL has been releasing its All-Time Team, it’s an opportune time to start delving into the record books. And you soon stumble across some equally impressive achievements that suggest other players have valid claims to be ‘the greatest’ in their own fields. So here are a few more NFL records that seem even less likely than Brady’s to be pipped any time soon – or indeed ever.
Career rushing yards: 18,355
Career rushing touchdowns: 164
Emmitt Smith, 1990–2004
It seems incredibly unlikely that any running back will ever surpass the career rushing yardage of Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith. The nearest anyone’s come of late is 36-years-young Frank Gore, who rose to third in the list just a few weeks ago, surpassing his boyhood idol Barry Sanders in the process. Gore’s total – 15,300 yards – leaves him about 1,400 shy of Walter Payton in second, who he might yet catch if he stays healthy. But I can’t see Gore getting the 3,000 more yards needed to overhaul Smith.
The three-time Super Bowl champion also holds the seemingly unassailable record of 164 career rushing TDs. The best-placed active players, Adrian Peterson (108), Frank Gore (79) and LeSean McCoy (73), trail a long way behind, confirming Smith’s status as an all-time great.
Career receiving touchdowns: 197
Total career touchdowns: 208
Jerry Rice, 1985–2004
The greatest wideout, and possibly even the best NFL player, ever (don’t write in, it’s just an opinion) is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of receiving touchdowns. Rice’s 197 TDs are 43 more than Randy Moss, 46 ahead of Terrell Owens and a staggering 78 more than Larry Fitzgerald, the highest-placed player still plying his trade. The 49ers star led the league in receiving touchdowns six times between 1986 and 1993, and notched at least 10 touchdowns in nine different seasons.
Just to lock things up, he also holds the all-time NFL record of 208 total career touchdowns – GOAT-standard stats, in my opinion.
Single-season interceptions: 14
Dick Lane, 1952
As well as having a cool nickname, Dick “Night Train” Lane holds the NFL record for most interceptions in a season. He set the bar at 14 as a rookie cornerback with the Los Angeles Rams in the early Fifties and only needed a dozen games to do so. His record has stood firm for 67 years and over the last couple of decades, nobody has even exceeded 10 in a season. Requiring an average of almost an interception per game, which sounds inconceivable in the modern age, Lane’s record may never be challenged.
Single-season rushing yards per game: 143.1
OJ Simpson, 1973
Known for being speedy and evasive in his time – not least when pursued by police cars on live television – former Bills running back OJ Simpson was probably at his most elusive in 1973. Others have racked up more than 2,003 yards in a season but Simpson did so over just 14 games; that’s why his 143.1 yards per game remains a record. Over the year, OJ ran for 150 yards six times and more than 200 yards in three consecutive appearances.
With many teams sharing running back duties by committee these days, only one current player has come close (Larry Fitzgerald again, with 131 yards in 2012), so Simpson’s mark may stay unrivalled for a long time yet.
Single-season touchdowns: 31
Single-season points scored: 186
LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006
2006 was a great year for the then-San Diego Chargers (those were the days) when they won the AFC West with a 14-2 record, five games clear of the Chiefs and Broncos. One of the reasons for their dominance that season was running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who went off the charts with 2,323 total scrimmage yards, 28 rushing TDs and three receiving scores. He averaged 21 rushing attempts and 113.4 rushing yards per game, gaining 5.2 yards per carry.
In recent years, only kickers have got within 25 points of his 186-point tally, and the closest any non-Special Teamer has got to troubling Tomlinson’s claims of late is LA Rams RB Todd Gurley, with 132 points and 21 TDs last year. Even that epic 2018 season was only two-thirds as good as Tomlinson’s so I guess his records are safe for the time being.
Career points scored: 2,673
Career field goals: 599
Adam Vinatieri, 1996–
Yay, at last, a current player who has earned his place in this GOAT conversation. Indianapolis kicking machine Adam Vinatieri is the NFL’s all-time leading points scorer (2,673) – almost 1,000 clear of his nearest active rivals, Stephen Gostkowksi and Matt Bryant. He’s also the record holder for most career field goals, needing just one more to break the 600 barrier. Again, his closest challengers (Bryant and Gostkowksi) aren’t even close to catching him.
‘Automatic Adam’, the third-oldest player to take to an NFL field (he turns 47 just after Christmas), needs another 18 games to surpass Morten Andersen’s all-time record of 382 NFL appearances. Alas, the troublesome knee that has hampered his performances this year has ruled him out this weekend – the first time he’s missed game through injury in a decade. More worryingly, it may keep him from adding to his tally for the rest of this season or possibly embarking on what would be his 25th campaign in 2020. And that would be a sad ending to an amazing career.
With thanks to Pro-Football Reference (www.pro-football-reference.com) – quite the Aladdin’s cave of stats and information.
Featured Picture: Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images