NFL: Is the "featured back" a dying breed?

The more you look around, the more you see teams going to a two-back system. I know that “running back by committee” has been around for ever, but that’s more of an acknowledgment that none of your backs are any good than anything else.

Two back teams:
New England (usually)
Seattle (for now)
Pittsburgh (at least, that was the plan, before Mendenhall got fumbleitis and got hurt)
New York Giants

There are hardly any bell-cow guys left. Tomlinson, Portis, Turner, Ryan Grant, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson and Brian Westbrook.

So, is this a statistical blip, or the way of things to come?

The era of ‘featured back’ isn’t really all that old. This new, dual halfback system is just a product of the elimination of the fullback from the running game. There’s just too big of a need for a smaller back that has big-play potential and a larger back who can pound it between the tackles reliably. Finding one guy that can do both has long been a challenge for NFL teams. It’s only now become more noticable because the two backs exchange out, rather than having them on the field at the same time.

It takes guys like these to have a feature back, and there’s not too many of them.

The trend right now is toward alternating backs. That doesn’t mean it’s a permanent thing. I think in some cases, teams are going along with the trend to their own detriment: I’m clueless as to why Dallas was starting Julius Jones and giving him a big portion of the carries when they had Marion Barber. And now they’re arguably underplaying Felix Jones.

Not really, since Felix Jones is out with a (leg?) injury.

Anyway, Barber was undeniably more effective over the last two years than he’s been this year. His yards per carry are down, and his touchdowns are down. Plus, Jones was incredibly good as a rookie, and I think Dallas was always looking for him to recapture that form.

Sure, but plenty of guys who could be featured backs aren’t - MJD, Adrian Peterson, Willie Parker, and Marshawn Lynch.

“Featured backs” are subject to a horrific amount of pounding. I think more teams are going with a 2 and 3 back rotation in order to keep their franchise playmaker around for a couple more years.

The more carries a back has during the year, the more it seems to shorten their career, and their effectiveness in the playoffs.
Personally I liken it to the evolution of the pitch count in baseball. At first it was poo-pooed as crap"these are big tough guys, they can handle it." But more and more coaches and GMs started to believe in the correlation that seasons of 350+ 400+ etc carries really seem to burn guys out in 3 or 4 years. The other theory(by guys like Shannahan) is to not care that they are gonna wear out, just get a new one every other other year and let them kill themselves.

Ultimately Ricky Williams was right to leave a few years ago, with the number of carries he was going to get, he would quickly end up an out-of-work cripple like Campbell. He just handled the whole thing like a damn flake, and looked like an ass.

Oddly enough, though, Shanahan never gives a guy over 350 carries. I think Terrell Davis had 360 one year, but that’s it.

In Chicago, Matt Forte is the only back to get significant reps. He’s only a rookie, but appears to be able to run, catch, and block. I look for great things from him in the future.

True, I forgot about that. Shannahan has no problem throwing running backs away, but his ego wont let him run that much, lest people forget about the SUPREME AWESOMNESS GENIUS passing offense he developed. :wink:

Two back systems are killing my fantasy team! If you don’t get an elite back with a high pick in the draft, you’re pretty much doomed.

No reason you wouldn’t. I had the 12th pick in my regular league this year and ended up with Clinton Portis (1), Willie McGahee (2), Michael Turner (4) and Steve Slaton (waivers).

I have McGahee as well. The Ravens are on the verge of a three-back system.

Meh. I don’t think they’d be splitting carries this way if McGahee was healthy. He’s been hurt all season.

I think what I hate the most, fantasy-wise, is the “goal-line” back. A few years ago, Steelers running back Willie Parker was racking up huge yardage, but Bettis was getting all the TDs. That’s kind of like McGahee and Le’Ron McClain this year (even when McGahee wais healthy for brief moments).

Maybe fantasy leagues should offer the ability to select a “backfield” group (or tandem) much like defenses are picked in some leagues.

A lot of fantasy college football leagues work that way… you get “USC running backs” instead of running back X, and “Missouri wide receivers”, “Oklahoma quarterbacks”, etc.

I like it because you still get some points if your guy breaks his leg in the first quarter, but it takes away some of the predictive element of the game - who will become the long term starter, etc.