Matt Waldman’s RB Cut-Down No.7: Marshall Faulk


Faulk copy

Matt Waldman knocked Marshall Faulk from consideration as his starting RB to defend the planet, but Faulk is too elusive, intelligent, and creative to take a complete hit. See below.

Running back is the most talent-dense position in the history of the league. It’s why narrowing the choice to a single player is insanity.

I’m sharing my process of finding my runner to defend the planet. The criticisms I have for these players are so minor that normally, I’d echo Jim Brown’s sentiments about rating players across eras:

I don’t deal with who’s the greatest. That’s very limited, I’m sorry to say, and I think this is an example of it. Why would anyone want to say that what Adrian has done this year isn’t what someone else did years before? It’s what you do when you do it, and it should not be compared. We don’t have to compare it. It’s unnecessary. And it’s taking something away from someone to give someone else something. You don’t have to do that. Because what Adrian is doing now doesn’t hurt anyone else who’s ever run the football.

I’m not going to look at Walter Payton and take anything away from Walter. I’m not going to look at John Riggins and take anything away from him. I’m only going to look at the positive things of each individual.

I get Brown’s point. My exercise comes from a place of love for the abilities of all of these backs. It’s not a “who is the best” ranking, it’s a “who is the best for this situation based on my needs.”

The backs I’m profiling this week are listed in the order I cut them from consideration for the starter’s role. I said before if I could do it, I’d start five backs for my team. It’s just not feasible.

Marshall Faulk

I like Marshall Faulk more than Gale Sayers. It feels wrong saying it, but not because it’s wrong to say. There are a lot of analysts and fans that believe Faulk is overrated because he played on a great Rams offense that opened the run with its record-setting passing game.

Kurt Warner is the first to tell media and fans (as told to NFL Films), “[Faulk] was the reason we were the Greatest Show on Turf.” Chase Stuart will tell you that one of the best yards from scrimmage seasons in history was Faulk’s final season with the Colts when Peyton Manning was a rookie who struggled for the first half of the year.

From 1994-1998 Faulk had two top-performing linemen playing with him at different times during his tenure with the Colts: Will Wolford, who had a Pro Bowl season and moved onto Pittsburgh, and Tarik Glenn, who was a rookie in 1998. Although Faulk’s prime in St. Louis included four consecutive seasons with at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage, Faulk’s first five seasons with the Colts were strong enough that he’s sixth overall in Stuart’s ranking of career workhorses.

One thing I love about Faulk’s workhorse production is that he only fumbled the ball once per 100 touches throughout his career. Of all the backs I considered, only LaDainian Tomlinson (1 in 126) was better.

Former Rams Head Coach Dick Vermeil defines Integrated Technique perfectly he was interviewed about Faulk for NFL Films. “Marshall is one of those guys that could transfer what his eyes see to his feet and respond without even thinking about it...I remember one time we were playing the Cleveland Browns [where] he made a play and went all the way with it–40 or 50 yards–for a touchdown. And my thought was, he just scored and I don’t we think blocked anybody.

There are several backs with this eyes-mind-feet trifecta. What places Faulk so high on my list is his intelligence for the game. Saints head coach and offensive master mind Sean Payton coached Faulk at San Diego State. Payton exposed Faulk to exercises that quarterbacks are given to read defenses. Many of Faulk’s teammates said the runner saw the field like a quarterback and Gil Brandt believed Faulk could have been a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver.

The third-down skills separate Faulk from his peers on this all-time list. The Rams spread the field and when Faulk wasn’t split wide or put in the slot, he was excellent at picking up blitzes and reading the defense. He had few peers as a receiver at the position because he ran routes, read coverage, and adjusted to the ball like a veteran wideout.

Once he got the ball in space, look out…

Faulk is not the all-time greatest running back.  As for the most versatile back of all time, I don’t care what anyone’s stance is. I know I want to defend the planet with Faulk on my squad. His intelligence, creativity, toughness, skill, versatility, and athleticism are all off the charts.

Faulk won’t be my starting running back, but I know he can hang with the best if I used him from the backfield. Fit is an important part of building this team. It’s why Faulk will be my starting slot receiver.

Wes Welker might read defenses as well as Faulk and run slightly better routes, but Faulk has more speed, quickness, and much better skill after the catch. Welker can’t play running back like Faulk, he can’t run the same variety of screens as Faulk, and he doesn’t make my offense as multiple and versatile at the line of scrimmage as Faulk.

If you haven’t figured it out, my coordinator will move Faulk around the offense to create havoc. When you think about it, if you took Pierre Thomas’ frame, versatility, and smarts, and gave him Darren Sproles’ burst, agility, and strength per pound, you’d get a player that’s a lot like Faulk.

Danny Woodwho? Shane Verwhat? Bill Belichick would stop talking about his Faulk (Kevin) if he got a shot to coach the Marshall Plan.

Welcome to the team to defend the planet, Marshall Faulk. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll also get you touches from the backfield, too. Not that you care when you can win from anywhere.

What is the RSP Writers Project (RSPWP)?

The RSP Writers Project is a goodwill community effort among writers that is designed to spur conversation about the game. Here’s the back story for this year’s project and the directory of participating writer-built teams.

Categories: Matt Waldman, Players, Running BackTags: , , , , , , ,

7 comments

  1. Good call. Faulk was a transcendent talent and arguably the best moveable chess piece we’ve ever seen.

  2. Hey, you cheated!

    I mean, like not really, because you don’t have a fullback. But that’s cheating!

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