John Riggins, A Personal Viewpoint

Discussion in 'Washington Redskins' started by sport historian, May 2, 2005.

  1. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    John Riggins is mentioned often on this Forum. Yes, he had as much ability as any back who ever played. However, his performance was frequentlysub- par. I saw him play (on TV) for Kansas, and when he first came up to the Jets in 1971. The people who comment on him in this Forum seem to base their comments on how Riggins was with the Redskins from 1982-85. Riggins was a different runner when he came up, not the plowhorse with a good burst of speed he was late in his career. Below is from Paul Zimmerman's story on Super Bowl XVII in SI.


    "In his Jet years, before then-Redskin Coach and General Manager George Allen signed him as a free agent in 1976, Riggins was a different animal than he is now. Power was only part of the package. Speed, finesse, balance, combined with excellent pass-catching ability, made the picture complete. "A white Jimmy Brown," was how one scout described him when the Jets drafted him in '71. "He'd catch that swing pass and turn upfield, and you's see sheer terror in the secondary," said Washington Assistant Coach Dan Henning, who was on the Oiler's staff in 1972.


    "Oddly the one knock on Riggins was lack of stamina. He wasn't a big horse who'd pound the tackles for 20 or 25 carries until everyone got tired except him. He wasn't a blocker, either; the Jet's attack featured 207-pound Emerson Boozer blocking for Riggins, not vice versa. He was a thoroughbred, and occasionally he'd get tired."


    Zimmerman neglected to mention in this article that Riggins had a knee injury with 3 games left in his second year, 1972. He other knee was operated on in 1977. Any back loses something under those circumstances. Jim Brown would have slipped if he had serious injury to both of his knees.


    Riggins held out in 1973, and did little for the Jets that year or in 1974. He finally got just over a thousand in 1975, and landed the big contract with the Redskins. His play then fell way off, a pattern throughout his career. Jack Pardee moved him back some from the line of scrimmage in 1978 and Riggins' numbers improved. Then, in 1980, he quit football altogether. He came back in 1981, "broke and bored."


    Several months ago, Don mentioned that many 70's white athletes "didn't always play with strong intensity and motivation." John Riggins is Exhibit A in this category. I recall a book by Sam Deluca, a former Jet player and broadcaster. Deluca wrote that "Riggins considered himself too intelligent to be used by the owners." This means that Riggins was willing to get big money while not playing with all-out drive and intensity. Riggins certainly did run hard and well in the 1982 Playoffs and Super Bowl XVII.


    My favorite runner of all time is Jim Brown. I remember seeing him play on TV growing up, which is different from someone who has only seen Brown on highlight films. To really judge a player, you have to see him in a whole game. Brown's strength was game in-game out consistency. Brown almost always had a good game. First quarter, or fourth quarter, he'd get you. When you totalled him up at games end, Brown would have a good day.


    Packer FB Jim Taylor put up numbers nearly as good as Brown in the early 60's, even winning the rushing title in 1962, and outgained Brown in head to head meetings. Taylor was a far better player intensity-wise than Riggins. Unfortunately, Taylor is forgotten today.


    Gale Sayers ran very hard inside, as well as the spectacular runs you see on highlight films. I remember seeing him on TV tearing out tough yardage four and five yards at a time. He was very dangerous on screens and ran many kicks back for TD's.


    Riggins wasn't as good as Brown or Simpson career wise. He did have a Super Bowl MVP award, which gives a player lasting fame.
     
  2. Black Guy

    Black Guy Newbie

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    I read a Sports Ilustrated interview a couple of years back where Riggins himself said that if he doesnt make that 43 yard Td run in the super bowl to put the Redskins ahead of Miami 20-17 he probaly doesnt get into the hall of fame. That Super Bowl MVP made Riggins career no doubt.
     
  3. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    Interesting post, Sport Historian. Riggins is undoubtedly remembered as better than he actually wasin large part because for 20 years now, and with no end in sight, he remains the last star white running back and has taken on an almost mythical status.


    He wasdefinitely aflaky white '70s athlete. That era was so saturated with a "stoned" type hipness that many white athletes were in harmony with. Young people today can't begin to imagine how much the druggy counterculture was mainstreamed back then, much like rap and the "gangsta" culture are now.


    Riggins is a worthy Hall of Famer, as he had a long and productive NFL career despite the holdouts and injuries. What's sad is that so many football fans think that it is perfectly natural that not a single white running back of consequence has come along since.
     
  4. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Don, thanks for the comments. Yes, Riggins did deserve the HOF. You have to give him credit for his performance in SBXVII. I think it was the most dramatic run in a Super Bowl up to that time. Riggins made the big run when his team really needed it. That's a good point about Riggins having attained a mythical status.
     
  5. bigman

    bigman Guru

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    Riggins was an immense talent that unfortunately never took the game serious enough to be at his prime in his prime... fortunately he finished his career well...
     
  6. SteveB

    SteveB Mentor

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    I think if Craig James wouldn't have had so many back and neck injuries, he could have been a great back. I may be biased because he was a big star in high school and college and everyone in the Houston area talked about him. In college, he split time with Eric Dickerson and still had like 3,700 career rushing yards. He had size, speed, and "hip flexibility". If he and Eric had gone to two different colleges, they would have been 1-2 in the Heisman race. He then went to USFL, cracked a vertebre, and had one good season at New England, leading them to a Super Bowl.
     
  7. bigman

    bigman Guru

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    Craig James was as talented a back as they get... very fast, great quickness...
     
  8. Black Guy

    Black Guy Newbie

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    I remember Craig James I always wondered what happenned to him. Too bad he got hurt he was very good.
     
  9. Colonel_Reb

    Colonel_Reb Hall of Famer

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    I wish they would show more Craig James on ESPN classic.
     
  10. bigman

    bigman Guru

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    the problem is that like Jim Kelly and Thurmon Munson, he will be remembered for being on the loosing side of a superbowl as much as he will be remembered for having great stats... that is the nature of the NFL... only the true fans will appreciate the Munson, James, Tarkington etc...
     
  11. Colonel_Reb

    Colonel_Reb Hall of Famer

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    Yep, your right about that bigman.
     
  12. Kaptain

    Kaptain Master

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    John Riggins, my personal viewpoint: Arguably the most dominant post season running back in NFL history. 3 superbowl appearances winning two. He rushed for 100+ yards in 6 of 9 post season games. He ended his career 14 year career near the top in nearly every statistical category - Over 11,000 yards, 116 touchdowns, and 24 in one season. Doing this while often sharing the running duties for his team. At Kansas he broke Gale Sayers rushing records.


    I don't see a reason to belittle his accomplishments, particulary on the site. He may have been a flaky 70's athlete, but he still had far less character flaws than Jim Brown who seems to be everyones selection for greatest ever. Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about Jim Brown. I find it refreshing to talk about a great white athlete and not here the terms "Mr. intensity" or "Mr. Hustle". So heres to John Riggins - a lazy white althlete who still achieved greatness because of his incredible natural abilities.
     
  13. White Shogun

    White Shogun Hall of Famer

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    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    [​IMG] well said, Kaptain Poop, well said!
     
  14. Bart

    Bart Hall of Famer

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    It could be that Riggins was not quite as goofy as we were led to believe. After hearing him do color commentary for a radio network, my image of him was changed. He is very knowledgeable,quick wittedand articulate,surprisingly so in fact.
     
  15. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    John Riggins played in two Super Bowls, not three. One win, one loss. In an earlier post, Ipraised himfor his performance in SB XVII. I wrote:


    "You have to give him credit for his performance in SBXVII. I think it was the most dramatic run in a Super Bowl up to that time. Riggins made the big run when his team really needed it."


    Riggins played better in his thirties than any back ever has. It would have been nice if he had played with that drive and intensity when young. Yes, John Riggins is highlly intelligent. In one of Joel Buschbaum's scouting reports in the 70's, Buschbaum wrote "John has a high IQ, but I don't know what he really wants in life."
     
  16. Kaptain

    Kaptain Master

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    SH, I'll have to defend John Riggins a bit more. You said that he wasn't as good as OJ or Brown career wise. Career wise he outgained OJ and scored nearly twice as many touchdowns. He also outscored Brown. He did more than just carry his team to the superbowl twice, which by itself is quite an accomplishment. I would take him over OJ or Brown.
     
  17. White Shogun

    White Shogun Hall of Famer

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    I would never have known that about Riggins, if it weren't for your
    info KP. Did he play in more games than OJ and Brown? Regardless
    though, you'd think he would be mentioned as one of the greatest of all
    time if he both outgained AND scored x2 as many TD's as OJ
    Simpson. And OJ never went to the Super Bowl, period, let alone win one
    and lose one.
     
  18. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    Here's a good link to find any NFL player's stats:


    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/


    Also, when you google or searchjust about any athlete, the top few responses are usually sites that have stats, bio, picture,etc. You can compare Riggins to O.J. in seconds. What a wonderful thing the Internet is.
     
  19. White Shogun

    White Shogun Hall of Famer

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    Quick note on screen names:



    Sport Historian chose his name well, as the mere label Historian lends
    more credence to his posts, than say, oh White Shogun for
    example. Even if I am consciously aware that it is just a label
    on the internet, of all places, there is still a tendency of the mind
    to accept the views of the 'historian' as more valid than the average
    sports fan.



    I think next time I'll sign up as Dr. Shogun, PhD. Professor
    Emeritus, Academy of Social Engineering in Athletics. [​IMG]



    p.s. this is meant in no way to disparage Sport Historian, who's
    knowledge and writing style I've come to respect despite an occasional
    difference of opinion, e.g. Riggins. [​IMG]
     
  20. White Shogun

    White Shogun Hall of Famer

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    Thanks for the link, Don. I'm a pretty proficient Googler, it just
    never would have crossed my mind to compare those three football
    players, considering the amount of publicity and attention garnered by
    OJ and Brown compared to Riggins. I wouldn't have thought that
    Riggins' yardage or TD's would have compared favorably to either of
    those guys.



    What a great site we have in caste football.



    I have something to surprise my co-workers with next time we talk NFL
    running backs. I'm sure they will be as surprised as I.
     
  21. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    I didn't realize Riggins was that dominant over Simpson statistically either. I think he's still up near the top in career TDs, maybe the only meaningful category left that contains a white running back. But then again, I could verify that easily enough by looking it up!
     
  22. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    If you read my posts you will see that I praised Riggins for his 80's performances and pointed out that he had two serious knee injuries. He played until he was 36. O.J. was washed up at 31 and left football at 32. In the 80's and sincerunners had the 16 game schedule (twelve game schedule until 1961, 14 until 1978) and one-back offenses, giving them more carries and yards than the backs of the 50's thru the 70's.


    I am something of student of history, sports included. I have a collection of sports books, magazines, and videos. I'm old enough (born 1950) to remember Jim Taylor, John David Crowe, Rick Casares, Billy Cannon. They would have done pretty well in Joe Gibb's single back offense.


    I think Riggins is currently 7th in career rushing TD's. Jim Taylor is 11th.
     
  23. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    A correction. Riggins is 5th in career rushing TD's.
     
  24. White Shogun

    White Shogun Hall of Famer

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    Man, its tough to give someone a compliment around here. [​IMG]
     
  25. Colonel_Reb

    Colonel_Reb Hall of Famer

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