The Edge of Reason

I should be slapped for daring to reference a cheap chick flick (and a sequel at that!) in a post about one of the toughest, best players to ever wear the horseshoe on his helmet, but whatever. It has come to my attention that some Colts fans don’t hold fond memories of Edgerrin James. The knocks on Edge seem to be among the following:
1. He didn’t have enough power to pick up short yardage plays
2. He was selfish and only cared about stats
3. He was a mercenary who left the Colts for a big pay day
4. He wasn’t clutch
5. He was cocky and full of himself.
6. His lack of production in AZ proves he wasn’t a great player
7. He wasn’t a Hall of Fame player.
Let it be known that I couldn’t possibly disagree more with this assessment. Perhaps the most unfair comments are the ones aimed at his character. Edge was one of the hardest working, hardest playing Colts ever. Manning said of him after he signed with the Cardinals:

“It’s been different when you’d had a guy behind you for seven years. You start to get accustomed to it. Edgerrin James has been one of the best teammates I’ve ever had in my entire football career,” Manning said.

“We won’t be teammates anymore, but we’ll still be friends. But I’m sad about not being teammates anymore. That’s kind of where the business side of the game comes into play. Arizona took great care of him, and I’m happy about that.”

He was gracious when he left Indy, and didn’t have unkind words for anyone, showing up at the Super Bowl to root on the Colts. He challenged Matt Leinart to work hard to elevate his game to that of Peyton Manning. He described his time with Manning this way:
James says Manning forced players to come up to his level if they wanted the ball; James is trying to bring the same sense of urgency to Arizona. “P wasn’t going to throw it to you if you weren’t open,” he says. “You always had to be on your game. Absence creates that. If you don’t have that ball, then you have more respect for it. When it comes your way, you want to do more with it.
Edge wasn’t a jerk or lazy or anything other than a player who left his body and soul on the turf at RCA. As of today, he has gained more yards from scrimmage than any active NFL player. He is 12th all time, and if he sees the field at all this year or next, he’ll likely finish in the top 8 all time. He’s 8th all time in most rushing yards per game. He needs just 300 rushing yards to be 8th all time. He’s a four time Pro Bowler and 2 time rushing champion, despite playing in a pass first offense. His career page is littered with reasons to recognize him as one of the great players of this age.
He was spectacular before his knee injury and incredibly consistent after it. The Colts struggled in short yardage situations during his tenure, but Edge still posted record setting success rate numbers. He was a hard hitting runner, and allowed the Colts to function with a below average line for many years. Between his hard running and Manning’s quick release, the Colts didn’t need a great line to have success.
The only bad thing about Edge was that he never wanted to come off the field. That’s a hard thing to criticize a player for. The Colts found success with two backs after Edge left, but that isn’t Edge’s fault. He wanted to play. And he he did. He was a savage blocker on passing downs, as well as a consistent threat out of the backfield. It was these qualities that endeared him to his teammates.
Edge didn’t hold out and gripe when the Colts put the franchise tag on him. He knew he was done in Indy after that year, but still posted more than 1500 yards, averaging more than 100 yards a game. Polian had no interest in resigning a 28 year old RB for premium money, when he was faced with a great RB draft in 2006. Edge’s struggles with the Cardinals said more about how terrible that team was than it did about his true skill. Most RBs start to decline in their late 20s (just look at LT). Edge managed to get his big payday before it was too late. Everyone seemed happy for him.
Let me end this ode to the Edge with this quote from an Arizona Central story:
Sometimes, Edgerrin James can be a bit bashful. Like when it comes to talking about his kids (he won’t do it). Or when it’s time to talk about his new Super Bowl ring, the one he recently received from his previous team in Indianapolis.

“I wanted to keep that a secret,” James said.

Understandable. The ring is a symbol of the past. It brings up uncomfortable topics, like how the Colts won a championship without him. It reinforces conventional wisdom, and how it’s unwise to spend big dollars on prime-time running backs, like the Cardinals did with James.

But you know what else it says?

It says that James really mattered in Indianapolis, and that the Colts openly recognize that they couldn’t have won a title without him.

“Peyton (Manning) tells me all the time that, in the 19 to 20 years he’s been playing football, Edgerrin James is the best teammate he’s ever had,” said former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli. “The one regret they all have is that they couldn’t have won while (James) was still there.”

In a coldhearted business like the NFL, that is the ultimate compliment.

You can’t read that quote and not realize that this was a special player. I gave Demond a helmet signed by James and Manning for Christmas one year. It’s not dated or passe at all. It’s a symbol of the rise of the Colts. Edge James is a Colt forever in our hearts. I hope he makes it back into blue and white before it’s all over. I hope I can make it to Canton when he’s enshrined.
Links:
Shake does a great job defending the Dungy Era in Tampa, and Dungy in general. Fine work.
Big Blue goes Ricardo Montebaum on us. Since I’ve been letting my 4 year old watch “The Arena” all week, I can freely admit that I love the reference.

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