State Your Case: Edgerrin James

Former running back Edgerrin James is the NFL's 11th all-time leading rusher, yet he missed in his first pass at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, he didn't even make the list of finalists. But that should change, and it should change now.


(Edgerrin James photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Former running back Edgerrin James was a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist in his first year of eligibility. Now, that it’s Year Two it’s time that changes. James should make the move to the list of 15 finalists … and, eventually, make it to Canton.

The reason is simple: He belongs.

He was an all-decade choice. He was a four-time Pro Bowler. He twice led the league in rushing. He had seven 1,000-yard seasons. He was the fastest player to gain 5,000 yards from scrimmage. He was the fastest player to gain 10,000 yards from scrimmage. And he’s the NFL’s 11th leading career rusher.

So what? So 12 of its top 14 rushers are in the Hall of Fame. The two who aren’t? James and LaDainian Tomlinson, a slam dunk when he becomes eligible.

I think you get the idea. James has the numbers to make it to Canton, but the Hall isn’t just about fact-checking. It’s about the eye test, and James passes there, too. He was to Indianapolis what Marshall Faulk was to St. Louis, and that figures. The Colts drafted James in 1999 after they traded Faulk to St. Louis.

Then they turned Edge into Faulk.

He could run. He could catch. He could score … from anywhere. And he could dazzle. In short, he could do just about anything, one reason the Colts were playoff fixtures for over a decade. I know, I know, they had Peyton Manning, too, and that helps. But not even Manning could get them into the playoffs in 2002, and you know why?

James suffered torn knee ligaments in the sixth game, and the Colts responded by losing seven of their last nine starts. He returned the following season, and Indianapolis never missed the playoffs until 2011 … or after James was long gone and Manning was hurt.

James was a complete player. He set the Colts’ single-season and career records for rushing. He had five seasons with 51 or more catches. He set the Colts’ career record for touchdowns. Then he went to Arizona where, in 2008, coach Ken Whisenhunt turned him into a pass protector … a move that lasted until the Cardinals made the playoffs.

That’s when James ran for 100 yards in Arizona’s wild-card victory. A week later he scored in their upset of Carolina, following that with 73 yards rushing in their 32-25 defeat of Philadelphia in the conference championship game.

As I said … he was a complete player.

Of course, so was former San Francisco running back Roger Craig, and he’s not in the Hall of Fame. In fact, he’s barely on the radar. Like James, Craig was an all-decade choice. He was a terrific pass catcher. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a running back and fullback. And he was the first player in league history to produce 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

So what’s holding him back? He never led the league in rushing, and he ranks 42nd among the NFL’s career rushing leaders. Neither is a problem with Edgerrin James. Getting to Canton, however, is.

It’s time to make that change.