Emmitt’s last ride

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2011 – 3:43 pm

The news today that running back Tiki Barber is coming out of retirement at age 35 after sitting out four seasons brought with it a lot of analysis (and smart-aleck comments), and a lot of comparisons. Mike Sando wrote a nice piece on the once-rumored Jim Brown comeback in 1983 (I remember that SI cover, and the stir Brown caused at the time) and also touched on the elite backs who finished out their careers — not in great ways — as older players in the NFC West. Guys like Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson and yes, Emmitt Smith.

I did notice, however, that of the players listed, Smith ended up with the best final season of any of them, gaining 937 yards in Denny Green’s first season, and scoring nine touchdowns. That’s what I remember about Emmitt back then, that he certainly didn’t have the burst to break any big runs but he still had a knack for the goal line once you got him inside the 10. He wasn’t exactly playing for an offensive juggernaut in 2004 either — I think he would have easily punctured 1,000 yards rushing had he had a little better of a unit around him.

The other thing I remember concerning Emmitt’s end game? He didn’t want it to be the end. I was at his retirement press conference at that year’s Super Bowl in Jacksonville. Emmitt still gave thanks to a lot of Cardinals’ people, but it was a Cowboys’ event all the way, with Dallas helmets and owner Jerry Jones. Yet Emmitt wanted to come back to the Cardinals in 2005. His side had reached out to the organization, but by then — correctly — the Cards were ready to move on at running back.

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20 Responses to “Emmitt’s last ride”

  1. By Eric on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    He did have a pretty good season that year. It was certainly beyond my expecations. The Cards did make the right choice, though.

    Btw, I really miss those uniforms. They’re clean and classy.

  2. By Scott H on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    Tiki left the game too soon but after 4 years…he’s waited too long to try a comeback. Kurt Warner, if you’re listening, you need to learn from this! Don’t wait too long, get back in the game now!!! Sigh…I know it’s not happening. But I swear, he could come back today and be right back in the top 10 QB’s in the game. That’s part of what made last season so painful. It would be one thing if Warner was just done and it was clear he had nothing left. But to know that he was ( IS!!! ) still capable of leading this team back to a SB while we were stuck with Derek friggin’ Anderson…ugh.

  3. By D on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    Emmit only played here to pat his stats. He was not even close to Walter Payton. Sweetness would have had 20K yards if he had the best O-line in football for 10 yrs like Smith..

  4. By jpautz on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    Absolutely agree D! If Walter Payton had that O-line… lookout! Payton’s record would have never been broken!

  5. By hokiebrandon on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    Good piece, Darren. I can’t stand it when people refer to Emmitt’s Cardinal days as “pointless” or “uneventful”. The guy almost broke 1,000 yards with one of the weakest O-lines in the NFL! And who can forget his first ever TD pass to Ayanbadejo? The critics can never take that away from him. I would have welcomed Emmitt in 2005. Wouldn’t have put it past him to get a 1,000 yards either. I’m sure if you asked him at the time, he would have confidently agreed.

  6. By Pheenic Skii on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    Hopefully Beanie Wells can take note of him, and learn some moves.

  7. By Keegan on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    I know Walter Payton and Emmit Smith had very nice careers, but Barry Sanders was the best Running Back to walk this earth, Look at the teams he was with, those dreaded Lions teams.

  8. By John the draft guy on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    On another subject, Mike Jurecki was reporting that Whiz asked Cam Newton to make some additional throws. Then when the practice ended, he was the only coach to shake Newton’s hand and tell him he did a good job.

    Any thing to read into it? Interested or acting? What’s your take.

  9. By Darren Urban on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

    John the draft guy —

    RE: Newton/Whiz

    Was planning to post about it first thing in the morning. In a nutshell, what to read into it? Nothing. Won’t decide if the Cards take him or not (and I’d still lean toward them not taking).

  10. By seven q on Mar 8, 2011 | Reply


  11. By D on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    Whiz maybe showing interest in Newton only to facilitate a trade down in the draft if the player or players they want are gone by 5-why use a 5 pick on a player that would not beat out Skelton next year…

  12. By Sergio on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    I admit I was NOT a big fan of signing Emmitt Smith, but watching him play as a Cardinal, he totally earned my respect. Our line was awful when he was here (not that it is so great now), and he fought for every yard. And I just loved watching him pick up the blitz, he was pancaking people!
    And I completely agree with you, he could have broken 1000 yards that year. In fact, if memory serves correct, he may have missed a game or two with injury that season.


  13. By Will on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    I saw Emmit Smith play his last game against the Buccaneers in 2004 at then Cardinals home “Sun Devil Stadium”. It was a sad moment watching this legend of the game end his career with a practically empty stadium, with an offense practically empty of talent. With that being said, we should have brought him back in 2005. It’s not like we had just drafted our new “franchise” guy that year and he would have continued to solidify himself not only as the all time leading rusher but an Ironman at the RB position. I wish he would coach, Beamie could sure use some pointers on patience with the blocking schemes.

  14. By Justin Wheeler on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    D/ Jpautz:
    What if Walter Peyton had an extra arm to stiff arm defenders? Sounds ridiculous? So does your statement.

    Hypotheticals can be made about anything and anyone. But you’re both looking at the situation through tunnel vision. Walter Payton never played with an elite quarterback or wide receiver. Emmitt Smith played with Troy Aikman and Mike Irvin. Peyton played a larger role than Smith for his team. We can’t penalize Smith for having a great O-line. Do we penalize Michael Jordan for having Scottie Pippen? Is it OK to say Cleveland LeBron was better than Jordan because he didn’t have the talent around him that Jordan did?

    Emmitt had a great line, but he had even better vision. Barry Sanders was nothing more than a home-run hitting halfback. He was woefully inconsistent. Walter Peyton was the second best running back of all time. Let’s pay Emmitt his respect he deserves.

    Darren, do you have any thoughts on the Smith vs. Peyton debate?

  15. By Darren Urban on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    Justin —

    RE: Great running backs

    I think it’s about preference. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them. I’m a Sanders man myself — the quarterbacks he was forced to play with didn’t exactly lend themselves to a running game. You talk about inconsistency, but that argument always left me wondering. It’s like the defensive coach who says, “Take away the 75-yard run and the 60-yard run, and our rushing defense played well today.” Yeah, except you can’t take those things away. They count.

    Regardless, I’d take any of the three in their prime to be my back. Can you penalize a guy for the talent around him? No. But you can’t say a football player — especially — plays in a vacuum. The guys around you matter.

  16. By Justin Wheeler on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply


    Good reponse, I thought you made some very valid points. I feel like Sanders had too many negative running plays, where Smith could get you four yards almost every time. But you’re right, it is a matter of preference. And it’s almost impossible to compare positions in the NFL. Neither of us even mentioned that Sanders retired in his “prime”, leaving a solid amount of statistics off of his final career numbers.
    It pains me to say this, being a lifetime Cardinal fan, but the Cowboys did the most with their star running back. They surrounded him with young talent, and a monstrous O-line. It’s hard to argue with their three Super Bowl rings from the 90’s..

  17. By MyTwinz on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    He needs the money, he left his wife when she was pregnant with twins and The Today Show fired him.

  18. By TBru on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    The only way I would sign any RB over 30 is to go Edge on him, have him work out and be in shape but let him ride the pine all season and then break out a set of fresh legs in the playoffs.

  19. By ECFan on Mar 9, 2011 | Reply

    Had no idea before reading this, that Emmitt seriously considered returning in’05… thanks for the tidbit!

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