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Top 10 NFL Running Backs of the 70s

The 70s were a time when NFL Offenses were built around Running Backs.

The Top 10 NFL Running Backs of the 70s. Probably one of my favorite eras for NFL Running Backs. It was a glorious time for Running Backs. You had flashy, strong, fast, smooth, and underrated. There was a different type of Running Back for everyone. Today we’ll look at the top Runners of the Decade. I will only account for what the player did for the Decade. Not their entire career. This isn’t a career achievement award. You have to earn your way on this list by way of your impact in the 70s.

Let the countdown begin!

One of the more underrated players in NFL History.

10. Lydell Mitchell: Indianapolis Colts & Los Angeles Chargers

Stats for the Decade: 6,518 Rushing Yards, 30 Rushing TD, 314 Catches, 3,182 Receiving Yards, 17 Receiving TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 3x Pro-Bowler

The Breakdown:

One of the more forgotten players of the ’70s. Mitchell could hurt you on the ground but was also ahead of his time in terms of pass-catching. Mitchell finished with at least 500 yards receiving 5 times during the decade. Not bad for a time when the NFL wasn’t a “pass-happy league”.

Riggins was a long-time championship-caliber contributor.

9. John Riggins: New York Jets & Washington

Stats for the Decade: 6,822 Rushing Yards, 42 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x Comeback Player of the Year, 1x Pro-Bowler

The Breakdown:

You know this is about to be a really good list when a Hall of Famer starts the list off at number 9. Riggins is best known for his time with Washington, but the truth is he was very productive with the Jets as well. His one pro-Bowl season in the Decade was with the Jets. What made Riggins great was that he could play Running-Back and Full-Back. He was a tremendous, tough, and gritty blocker in both the Run and, Pass game. His impact didn’t always show up on the box-score.

A star Running Back overlooked by the great Cowboy teams of the '90s.

8. Tony Dorsett: Dallas Cowboys

Stats for the Decade: 3,439 Rushing TD, 25 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: Offensive Rookie of the Year (1977), 1977 All-Rookie Team, 1x Pro-Bowler, 1x Super-Bowl Champion

The Breakdown:

Time is the only thing keeping Dorsett from being higher on this list. He only played 3 seasons in the 70s. Still, there’s no denying his production and he was one of the more exciting players to watch in the late 70s. His place in history gets overlooked because of Emmit Smith, but the truth is, before Emmit Smith, there was Tony Dorsett.

Marshawn Lynch 1.0

7. Lawrence McCutcheon: Los Angeles Rams

Stats for the Decade: 6,186 Rushing Yards, 23 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 5x Pro-Bowler

The Breakdown:

Yet another name most of you young people never heard of. McCutcheon was a strong Power-Back that got tough yardage on third down but was a three-down Back. He was Marshawn Lynch before Marshawn Lynch.

A “do it all” Running Back.

6. Chuck Foreman: Minnesota Vikings

Stats for the Decade: 5,887 Rushing Yards, 52 Rushing TD, 336 Catches, 3,057 Receiving Yards, 23 Receiving TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 5x Pro-Bowler, 1x All-Pro

The Breakdown:

Foreman is another Running back in the ’70s that could do it all. He could catch, run block, pass block, and oh yeah, most importantly, run the ball.

A Running Back built like a Defensive End.

5. Earl Campbell: Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers

Stats for the Decade: 3,147 Rushing Yards, 32 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2x Offensive Player of the Year, 1x MVP, 2x Pro-Bowler, 2x All-Pro

The Breakdown:

The guy with the big thighs. That rhymed. No, but seriously have we seen a Running-Back with bigger calves, and legs than this man? He was a physical specimen. He had good game speed and was graceful. He made it look easy and was not easy to takedown because of his physical tools and size. He’d easily be number one if it weren’t for the fact that he started the decade off late.

Csonka carried the load for the Dolphins helping them win 2 Super-Bowls in the Decade.

4. Larry Csonka: Miami Dolphins & New York Giants

Stats for the Decade: 6, 975 Rushing Yards, 56 Rushing TD

Accolades Awards for the Decade: 2x Super-Bowl Champion, 1x Super-Bowl MVP, 1x Comeback Player of the Year, 5x Pro-Bowler, 2x All-Pro

The Breakdown:

The problem with Csonka is that he wasn’t a sexy back to watch. He just did what it took to win. He was clutch and, for a big chunk of those Dolphins Super-Bowl runs, carried the load and, was the biggest contributor to the teams' success and Offense.

A big-time Running Back that could make a case for number 1 on this list.

3. Franco Harris: Pittsburgh Steelers

Stats for the Decade: 8,563 Rushing Yards, 72 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1972 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 4x Super-Bowl Champion, 1x Super-Bowl MVP, Walter Payton Man of the Year, 8x Pro-Bowler, 1x All-Pro

The Breakdown:

The true catalyst to the Steelers Championship runs of the 70s. It was the Pittsburgh Defense and, Running game that helped win them 4 Super-Bowls in their decade of dominance. Speaking of dominance, Harris dominated the Decade with seven 1000 Rushing Yard seasons out of eight total seasons played for the decade.

O.J. Simpson is no doubt the most popular player on this list.

2. O.J. Simpson: Buffalo Bills & San Francisco 49ers

Stats for the Decade: 10,539 Rushing Yards, 59 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x MVP, 1x Offensive Player of the Year, 5x Pro-Bowler, 5x All-Pro

The Breakdown:

You young cats may know this man from his controversial 1994 worldwide court case. However, the “Juice” was a well-respected and lethal running back of the ’70s. There’s a reason why this man is in the NFL Hall of Fame. He put up three seasons of 1500 Rushing Yards or more for the decade.

The man with an NFL Award named after him.

1. Walter Payton: Chicago Bears

Stats for the Decade: 6,926 Rushing Yards, 59 Rushing TD

Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x MVP, 1x Offensive Player of the Year,1x Walter Payton Man of the Year, 4x Pro-Bowler, 3x All-Pro

The Breakdown:

I mean is there any doubt. Payton is easily the best and most impactful player on this list. This man is a legend and was a star in two decades. He was a top Running Back in the 70s and 80s. He has an award named after him. That alone should tell you about his greatness.

There you have it! The Top 10 NFL Running Backs of the 70s. If you liked this post please share it on your social media and also be sure to check out some more of my content at https://medium.com/genaosportbuzz

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Jeffrey Genao

Jeffrey Genao

A passionate sports blogger, writer, and big-time foody. Sports and food are life.