As Todd Smith linked Colts Authority to last night, the Colts are planing on inducting Edgerrin James into the Ring of Honor during a home game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 23.
While Todd has already reported the news, I think Edgerrin James’ career warrants a much more in-depth look at his illustrious career with the Colts.
The Colts had just traded Marshall Faulk, one of the league’s most explosive and versatile running backs, to the St. Louis Rams, in return for second and fifth round draft picks in the 1999 draft. It was widely believed that the Colts planned on taking Ricky Williams with the 4th pick in the draft, an exciting back to replace the departed Faulk.
But, in a move that surprised everyone, Bill Polian picked James over Williams (the obviously correct choice), and it was off to the races.
Aside from a train wreck of a 2001 season, and his 2002 recovery season, James went on to be an extremely reliable workhouse back for the Colts, aiding in Peyton Manning’s development and becoming the rushing part of a balanced, dominating offense during the first half of the Manning/Polian era.
James wasn’t the most efficient running back ever, his YPC was over 4.5 just once, and his DVOA was in the top 15 just three times in his career (2000, 2004, 2005).
He was however, a back that could be relied upon to get his yards and be effective when necessary. While with the Colts and healthy (therefore not including 2001 and 2002), James was in the top 10 in DYAR every year, and in the top five three times (2000, 2004, 2005). He was in the top ten in total rushing yards five times, including leading the league in his rookie and sophomore campaigns, the first time a running back would start his career in such a fashion.
“Edge” was one of the best dual threat backs of his time, behind Faulk, but no one else. You could rank others at a similar level, maybe a guy like Tiki Barber, but nobody but Faulk could you really put ahead of him.
James was fantastic in 2000, and after his gruesome knee injury in 2001, he was never the same. However, after battling through a frustrating season in 2002, James had fantastic three more years for the Colts from 2003-2005. Overall, James’ career in Indy is one that should be remembered fondly, for when his body and bad luck wasn’t betraying him, he was as tough, likeable, and versatile as it gets.
James averaged near or over 100 yards a game every season while he was with the Colts (except 2002), something that the Colts have struggled to replace ever since. Of course, the steady decline in the quality of offensive linemen has had a big part of that, but there’s no question that Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, and Donald Brown don’t hold a candle to Edge. Not in his explosive dominance pre-injury, nor his incredible consistency after his recovery.
In today’s NFL, a workhorse back isn’t necessarily a needed component for a Super Bowl contender, especially with the way that passing effectively correlates with winning. Nevertheless, in the Colts’ offensive Golden Era, a workhorse back was an extremely useful commodity, and one that the Colts used effectively.
He deserves to be in the Ring of Honor. Is he deserved of the Hall of Fame? Probably at some point, I’d say he’s one of the top 20 running backs of all-time, but it’s not a given.
But, there’s no question he belongs in Lucas Oil Stadium. Peyton Manning once called him the best teammate he’s ever had, and the Colts’ gifting him with a 2006 Super Bowl ring, a team which he was not on the roster, was symbolic of the fact that the Colts may not have gotten to that point without Edge’s consistency through all those years.
It was the right move to let James go in free agency in the summer of 2006. His skills would clearly decline after a decent year or two with Arizona, as most running backs do in their late twenties and early thirties. Still, no Colts fan wanted to see him go. Because we were afraid we would never get another player like him.
We still haven’t.