Running back is a position that tends to get the shaft in the Belichick-era barroom debates, and that’s a shame. Case in point: perhaps the meanest-running tailback in post-2000 Patriots history, the former Cincinnati Bengal that everyone assumed was up the creek after posting a weaksauce (for him, anyway) 541-yard, 2-touchdown season in 2003 cut short by a groin injury, Corey Dillon.
After getting typecast as the dreaded “locker room cancer” and asking to be traded or cut in ‘03, Bill Belichick gladly shipped the Bengals a second-round pick that he had snagged from the Miami Dolphins in a draft day trade for the pleasure of taking Dillon off of Cincinnati’s hands. Per usual, when you’re dealing with Bill, you better check your wrist after you shake his hand to make sure your watch is still there.
Corey Dillon’s 2004 season was the 30-year-old bruiser’s best season in his entire career - the man logged 1,635 rushing yards, punched it in the end zone 12 times, and averaged a tasty 4.7 yards per carry (in an era when most teams still ran base defenses on most downs, mind you). And that’s not even counting the 292 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4.5 yards per carry Dillon chalked up in the playoffs en route to the Patriots winning back-to-back Super Bowls that season.
Now, almost 15 years later, Corey Dillon thinks he’s getting the shaft from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, mostly because he doesn’t run his mouth about how he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
(Yes, that sounds backwards. Let’s let him tell it.)
"I am who I am. My numbers are what they are. I don't know if I have to go on TV to politic this thing. It seems like that's where this thing is going where you have to go and get a job on one of these networks. I don't think that's the right way of going about it. Somebody should be able to just sit there and look at these numbers and say, you know what, this guy is legit."
“I’m just bringing up this guy football wise, nothing else, nothing whatsoever,” Dillon said, via Patriots Wire. “You’ve got O.J. Simpson in the Hall of Fame and my numbers are better than his. Why can’t I be there is my question? What validates him being there and I don’t. I’m not talking about his transgressions off the field, that’s on him.”
To his point, Corey’s correct that his totals are better than OJ’s - Dillon’s number 20 overall in NFL rushing yards history, with 11,241 yards, and OJ’s right behind him at 11,236. Both of these guys are part of some pretty exclusive clubs - OJ, of course, is one of only seven backs to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, but Dillon was the one who finally broke Walter Payton’s 23-year-old single-game rushing record with 278 rushing yards in 2000 (a record that stood for a few years before Jamaal Lewis broke it in 2003).
He’s also got four Pro Bowl nods from ‘99, ‘00, ‘01, and, of course, ‘04.
Dillon’s career with the Patriots ended with him getting phased out for rookie back Laurence Maroney and eventually he was released in 2007. As far as the Hall of Fame, though? Check out his career stats (and this is just regular season):
And, what the heck, have some playoff stats too:
What do you guys think? Should Corey Dillon be in the Hall of Fame? Is he right that he’s getting the cold shoulder because he’s not out there running his mouth about why he belongs in the Hall? Is there a logjam for the Hall of Fame at running back, just like there clearly is at wide receiver? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Or just watch Super Bowl XXXIX again.