Who is the greatest NY Giants Running Back of all time… this one isn’t easy to call… it’s not as definitive or absolute as most historic franchises could claim, as in the Super Bowl era alone there’s been numerous RB’s inducted into the Hall of Fame (the Emmitt's, the Barry's, the Payton's, etc.), and additionally there’s far more notable names that have been left as honorable mentions (Bo Jackson, Terrell Davis, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, Eddie George, etc. etc.) With the Giants it’s not as clearly defined, as they essentially have multiple names that ring out - who all created a legacy in the franchise’s storied history - and all of whom have resumes that make them legitimate contenders for that crown.
Let's be clear that the New York Football Giants are in a special bracket, as they’ve been around for almost a century now and they’re truly the embodiment of NFL excellence and why American football is such a celebrated tradition. They’re only behind the Packers, Cardinals, and Bears as the oldest team in league history, and then add the Mara family, the ‘Greatest Game Ever Played,’ the transcendent talent that was Lawrence Taylor followed by all the heroics of the Manning era; and ultimately the Giants are one of the most renowned franchises in all of sports.
Now that we’ve established that, let’s try to figure out who was the best with the ball…
In order to do this realistically let’s first separate the NFL itself into two periods; the NFC/AFC Championship years and the modern game that can defined as the Super Bowl era, which (un)officially began in 1967.
Considering the scarcity of footage and the general difficulty that’s involved in providing any thorough analysis of the early years, the focus of this article will be on the Giants from Super Bowl I and beyond. In which case we’ll break down the numbers and replay the moments, all in an effort to honor these great players and potentially distinguish one from all the rest.
Yet before we go forward, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, back when the games were played in the Polo Grounds and the old Yankee Stadium, and when the original G Men set the standard for what it meant to be a Football Giant.
Legends such as Ken Strong, Alex Webster, Mel Triplett, Eddie Price, and Alphonse ‘Tuffy’ Leemans are all deserving of the highest praise when it comes to being pioneers at the halfback position, and none should be overlooked without given strong consideration. Just to name a few attributes and sidenotes of each:
Strong and Leemans are both Hall of Famers that played for the Giants during the WWII years, and for added historical significance ‘Tuffy Leeman Day’ was interrupted on Dec. 7th, 1941 for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Years later Price led the NFL in rushing in 1951, followed by Triplett who played in 3 National Championships with the Giants in the late 50’s, and was the favorite player of a young fan named Lew Alcindor, who would later go by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and would wear the same #33 as a tribute to his childhood hero. And last but not least Webster was with the Giants for 9 seasons and played in 6 National Championships, including one of the ‘Sneakers’ games when the Giants dismantled the Bears wearing high-top Chuck Taylors.
Yet if one skill player from this era stands out above the rest, it’s of course Frank Gifford - who played for the Giants in every game of his 12 year career, where he made the Pro Bowl at 3 different positions (RB, DB, WR), had 14 TD passes (the most out of any non QB in history), was the league MVP in ‘56 and of course is one of the most decorated inductees in the Hall of Fame wearing a Giants uniform or otherwise.
All these legendary players have individual statistics that are exceptional and they all deserve our admiration, yet as stated before it’s impossible to compare both eras, as while they’re both as integral to the NFL’s success - most would say the game was revolutionized once the Super Bowl became the ultimate prize.
Without further ado below is a countdown of the best NY Giants Running Backs in the modern era, evaluated by their attributes, statistics, and most importantly their historical moments.
10) Rob Carpenter
The current Head Coach at Lancaster High School in Ohio, used to be a fan favorite in New York and was primarily used as a fullback - where he used all of his raw energy and 225 pounds of muscle to open up holes for the legendary Joe Morris. Carpenter also did some damage with the ball in his hands as well, accumulating over 2,500 yards rushing, 850 yards receiving, and 20 touchdowns in his 5 year career with the G Men. Carpenter also holds the honor for the franchise’s most rushing yards in a single playoff game, thanks to a dominant performance where he rushed for 161 yards on the Eagles in ‘81; a record that he now shares with Rodney Hampton. While he played another 5 seasons prior with the Houston Oilers and ended his career in ‘86 with the Los Angeles Rams, he will always be remembered for the passion and fire he brought to the Giants.
9) Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson was a halfback at Michigan University and was the first African-American at the school to be honored as a captain in 1968. By the time he was selected in the 1st round of the ‘69 draft by the Browns he had already set the NCAA record for 347 yards in a game and had multiple other Big Ten records to his name. After a relatively disappointing rookie campaign Johnson was traded to the Giants in a high profile deal for Homer Jones, a dynamic receiver who was a fan favorite that invented the patented ‘Spike’ after scoring a touchdown.
Giants fans would grow to love Johnson however, as he was the premier back on the team between ‘69 and ‘75 and was the first player in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (a feat he accomplished twice in ‘70 and ‘72). During Johnson’s tenure he was only behind Larry Brown of the Redskins and OJ Simpson for the rushing titles each year, yet his teammates including Hall of Fame Quarterback Fran Tarkenton believed him to be “the best back in football… period.”
One other fun fact worth mentioning, as Johnson was breaking records in football his brother Alex was winning batting titles in Major League Baseball, clearly linking the Giants franchise to another historic family that a younger fanbase is likely unaware of.
8) Doug Kotar
Standing under 6 feet and going undrafted made Doug Kotar the ultimate underdog, yet he didn’t let that stop him from making an impact in New York that will be remembered forever. Kotar played his entire 8 year career with the Giants, and despite being undersized he rushed for 3,378 yards which at the time was good enough for 4th on the franchise’s all time record list, where he’s still in good standing to this day found inside the Top 10. He also added 1,022 yards receiving yards and had 21 overall touchdowns, but it was his particular style of play that he was most admired for - as Harry Carson once said - “He’s a fighter that you’d like to have with you in a fox hole.”
Tragically it was that same fearlessness that led to Kotar’s unfortunate demise, as he was known to lead with his head while carrying the ball, and it’s likely that those hits contributed to the brain tumor doctors found before the ‘82 season. It’s been said the players strike that year was partly inspired by Kotar’s circumstances, as inexplicably the NFL would only provide insurance for shoulder and knee injuries, thus Kotar spent his own life savings on medical treatments that ultimately proved to be futile. Kotar passed away in his sleep during the prime of his life at the age of 32, yet due to his unparalleled courage his legacy as a Giant will always live on.
7) Dave Meggett
Before personal indiscretions tainted his legacy, Dave Meggett was indisputably one of the most electrifying players in all of football. Standing at 5’ 7’’ he always looked miniature in a game full of Giants, yet his game was as large as anyone’s, and in his rookie season he made the Pro Bowl and quickly became one of Bill Parcell’s favorites. The fans also loved them some Dave Meggett, as who wouldn’t love a human highlight machine who could take it to the house at any moment, and throughout all 6 seasons with the Giants that exactly what he did.
Here’s a memorable moment from his rookie season, this one had the Meadowlands rockin…
Although he was primarily a return specialist, he was also used in multiple different facets at key moments throughout his career, and as a Giant he finished with over 1,200 yards rushing and over 3,000 yards receiving with 15 touchdowns out of the backfield, in addition to the 7 touchdowns he accumulated off his returns. He led the Giants in all purpose yards 4 different seasons and set the franchise record in ‘89 (later surpassed by Tiki Barber), threw 3 TD’s on the halfback option, and was even the Giants leading receiver in 1990.
It’s important to note that one of his finest performances was when it mattered the most, as he was ALL OVER THE FIELD in SuperBowl XXV (playing an increased role due to Rodney Hampton’s injury), finishing with 129 all purpose yards and putting his stamp on a Top 5 moment in Giants history.
6) Ottis Anderson
Before he was a SuperBowl MVP this Florida product (born and raised in West Palm Beach) dominated at Miami University, breaking the school’s rushing record and becoming their first player to go over 1,000 yards in a season (accumulating over 1,200 his senior year). What’s even more impressive is that despite the school’s more recent success Anderson’s record is still in place, with Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, WIllis McGahee, and Frank Gore far behind him [James may have shattered the record however, but he played in 25 less games and had 194 less carries]. Nonetheless the record still stands, and as history played out Anderson was what we would call a lottery pick in the ‘79 draft, selected 8th overall by the St Louis Cardinals where he played for 8 seasons and racked up 7,999 yards rushing, 2,495 yards receiving, and 51 overall touchdowns before he was traded to the Giants right on time for the ‘86 season.
Anderson had actually been injury plagued in the last few years with St. Louis, and in his first season with the Giants he was far behind Joe Morris on the depth chart, however he did play sparingly in the playoffs and even scored a goal line touchdown late in Super Bowl XXI. Even more impressive was the fact that Anderson didn’t fumble one time in his first 2 ½ seasons in New York, and by ‘89 had become the outright starter and even the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He was also the Giants top back the following year when they won Super Bowl XXV, a game where he ran for over 100 yards and scored a touchdown - along the way showcasing his patented uppercut stiff arm that is an image frozen in NFL Films memory. Still today he is one of only four players to ever score a TD in two different Super Bowls and win a Super Bowl MVP, with Franco Harris, John Riggins, and Emmitt Smith the only others to share the honor.
In 7 seasons with the Giants, Anderson accumulated 2,274 yards rushing, 567 yards receiving, and 35 touchdowns - yet far more notable is that he only fumbled 3 times in 739 carries as a Giant.
With that in mind Anderson’s placement on this list is a precarious one, considering that his finest years were in St Louis and he’s only 15th on the Giant’s rushing list, despite the fact that he’s altogether Top 20 in all time rushing TD’s and the 28th leading rusher in NFL History.
5) Rodney Hampton
A Giant from beginning to end, Hampton is the prototype of what you think of when it comes to a solid NFL running back. Originally from Texas, Hampton took his talents to Georgia University, where he’s currently 6th in all time rushing yards, behind the likes of Herschel Walker, Todd Gurley, Garrison Hearst, Lars Tate, and Knowshon Moreno (Walker has pretty much every record there is to have at Georgia University - and many SEC records that still stand to this day). While Hampton never put himself in that category, he still made himself a late 1st rd pick for the Giants in the ‘90 draft, where he played his entire career and for the better part of 8 long seasons - was the only shining light in the team’s dark days of mediocrity.
What’s often forgotten is that Hampton actually did play on a Giant’s Super Bowl team, however he was a rookie who only gained 3 yards in the ‘90 playoffs due to injury, and for that reason took a backseat to Ottis Anderson and Dave Meggett who both led the team to a championship (Hampton did have 455 yards rushing that season, with 4 overall touchdowns). It was the following year when Hampton emerged as the team’s best player, and for 5 of the next 7 seasons he rushed for over 1,000 yards and overall found the endzone on 51 different occasions - leaving him currently 2nd in franchise history in rushing yards and 3rd in rushing TD’s.
His achilles heel however was his lack of clutch moments, yet that can be more attributed to the talent around him as opposed to his own shortcomings. In fact in a ‘93 wild card game (the only season the Giants made the playoffs with Hampton as the lead back), he rushed for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns; to date the most rushing yards in a playoff game for a Giant - tied with Rob Carpenter in ‘81. The following week however Hampton only managed 12 yards on 7 carries vs the 49ers (a sharp contrast from the 164 all purpose yards and 5 TD’s from Ricky Watters in that same game), and the Giants were absolutely obliterated that day - which unfortunately led to 3 miserable seasons that followed, culminating in their return to the playoffs in ‘97 - where Hampton played but was once again largely ineffective.
Nonetheless due to Hampton’s physical prowess, running style, and overall skill set that made him the complete package - the #27 is still to this day the logo for NY Giants running backs.
4) Joe Morris
Before he was a Super Bowl Champion, Morris was a Massachusetts native and a Syracuse legend, breaking numerous school rushing records and by a large margin. Morris played all four seasons at Cuse and finished with 4,299 yards - 875 more yards than Walter Reyes behind him. It should be noted he also had 128 more carries than anyone else in school history, yet he made the most of them and still has the highest average yards per game at an incredible 113.1 yards per contest. It’s in fact incredible to know that Morris has 7 more 100 yard games than Larry Csonka, and 10+ more than Ernie Davis and Jim Brown - all of whom are world renowned football legends as well as members of the College Football Hall of Fame. In contrast, with his 5’7’’ stature Morris may have been overlooked by the casual observer, yet once drafted by New York he went on to stand as tall as any Giant before him.
As a rookie in ‘82 he played behind Butch Woolfork, a potential superstar from Michigan who was being primed to be the Giant’s RB of the future, yet Morris still made a splash by scoring a TD on the very first carry of his career. Although Woolfork was 3rd in the NFL in rushing that season, by ‘84 he was demoted to backup behind Morris, and that move paid off as the Giants found themselves in the playoffs for the next 3 seasons. In the ‘85 season, where Morris ran for a franchise record 1,336 yards and a league leading 21 TD’s, he also tallied 141 yards rushing in a wild card win over the 49ers. The following year Morris outdid himself by adding to his own record with 1,516 yards on the season, not including the 313 additional yards he gained throughout that postseason.
In the Giants first ever Super Bowl appearance Morris helped control the action with 87 all purpose yards and a TD, and with help from dominating performances from teammates Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor - the Giants won Super Bowl XXI with relative ease.
Morris finished his career with the Giants with 5,296 yards rushing which today is good enough for 3rd in franchise history, along with his 50 overall touchdowns (48 rushing) which places him in the Top 5 for Giants RB’s still to this day.
3) Brandon Jacobs
All the way from Napoleonville, Louisiana to Coffeyville Community College to Auburn University to Southern Illinois, the journey of Brandon Jacobs is in many ways incomparable and unsurpassed. Nevermind that he finished his collegiate career at a Division 1AA school after playing behind Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown with the Tigers, it was Jacob’s physical characteristics that made him an unlikely candidate to break records as a running back for the NY Giants. Standing at 6’ 4’’ 265 all muscle, Jacobs is about 40 pounds heavier than anyone who has ever carried the ball in the NFL not named Jerome Bettis - who Jacobs still had about 10 pounds on - and a good 5 inches - making him nothing less than a force to be reckoned with.
The reason Jacobs was able to defy the odds was because despite his size, he somehow someway ran a 4.5 40 yard dash, which gave him the unparalleled ability to either run away from you or run right over you - the latter of which seemed to always be his preference…
Drafted in the 4th rd Jacobs was likely thought to be a ‘project,’ yet it didn’t take long before everyone in the NFL knew he was a sure thing. His first two seasons he played behind Tiki Barber and had modest numbers in yardage (99 in ‘05 and 423 in ‘06), but also EXPLOSIVE TOUCHDOWN NUMBERS out the gate - with 7 & 9 TD’s in consecutive seasons off limited touches.
Due to Barber’s premature retirement Jacobs became a starter in ‘07, and rushed for over 1000 yards in only 11 games due to injury, and while his TD numbers went down he still averaged 5 yards per carry. Jacobs was healthy for the playoffs however, where he started every game (splitting time with Ahmad Bradshaw) during the Giants miracle run to Super Bowl XLII. Jacobs wound up having the same amount of TDs in the playoffs as he did in the regular season - scoring 2 in the wild card game vs Tampa Bay, the game winning score in the divisional matchup vs Dallas, the go-ahead TD in the conference finals vs Green Bay... and then he followed that up by putting the fear of god into the undefeated Patriots one play at a time.
Years later the All Pro Safety Rodney Harrison reflected on this monumental game and said something that was unprecedented….
The ultimate compliment…
The next season Jacobs split time with Bradshaw and Derrick Ward, the Earth to their corresponding Wind & Fire, and he once again managed to rush for over 1,000 yards on 5 yards per carry. That season Jacobs and Ward became only the 5th pair of teammates to go over the century mark in NFL history, and Jacobs added 15 TD’s to cap off his best individual season of his career.
Jacobs never rushed for over 1,000 yards again, yet he did put up respectable numbers in ‘09 and ‘10, and the following season as a backup to Bradshaw he played a pivotal role in the Giants next championship run on way to Super Bowl XLVI. In the wild card game he was the leading rusher with 92 yards vs Atlanta and the next week he scored a TD vs Green Bay - and while his contributions to the conference final and the championship were relatively limited, he was once again a Super Bowl champion all the same.
In 8 seasons with the Giants, Jacobs rushed for 5,087 yards (4th all time) and found the end zone 60 times from the backfield, a Giant record unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.
When he retired in the ‘14 season he left behind a legacy that had less to do with his physical prowess, and more to do with his championship pedigree and overall leadership. With his 2 Super Bowl rings and the TD record, a strong case can be made for Jacobs as the most accomplished back in franchise history.
2) Ahmad Bradshaw
One of the most deserving candidates for this honor also happens to be the most overlooked, as during the Giants second Super Bowl reign it was often the indestructible Jacobs, unpredictable Plaxico, or flamboyant Cruz that stole all the headlines, along with the prodigal son Eli that was football royalty before he ever stepped on the field. Yet beneath the fame and glory was the unsung hero that in many ways was the most important piece. A sleeping Giant in some regard, there was nothing provocative about Bradshaw’s image in comparison to all the high profile players around him, but from strictly a football perspective - Bradshaw was a GAME CHANGER - and with limited opportunities he often changed the game when it mattered the most.
A 7th round pick out of Marshall University, the Virginia native was originally on pace to be a Cavalier, but his personal indiscretions made his journey to the NFL that much more unlikely. Bradshaw defied the odds however, and not only made the 53 man roster for the Giants in ‘07, but he was 4th in the conference in kick returns before the Giants started to utilize him in the backfield.
The turning point was December 23rd, 2007, when with his team’s playoff chances in legitimate doubt (the Cowboys had the division well in hand), Bradshaw put the team on his back and was the SPARK that led them to the championship. The 88 yard run is well known as the signature play of that season, and there was nobody else on that roster that was capable of such a moment.
Bradshaw was the leading rusher in the Wild Card game vs Tampa Bay, averaged over 5 ½ yards per carry in the Divisional matchup vs Dallas, and absolutely annihilated the Green Bay Packers in the infamous 2007 NFC Championship. Today known as the Chilling Championship as seen on NFL Film’s Greatest Games, Bradshaw was all over the field, and only a phantom holding penalty on a 52 yard TD run was able to contain him.
The most admirable attribute of Bradshaw was that he was always able to finish, and after dominating Lambeau Field as a rookie he continued his success against the undefeated New England Patriots; where once again he was critical piece to one of the most memorable Super Bowl’s in NFL History.
There was a crucial moment in the 1st half of Super Bowl XLII, where the Giants were trailing and Eli had already thrown an interception in the red zone, when a botched handoff fell right into the hands of New England’s linebacker Pierre Woods. The video is clear, it should have been the Patriots football on the Giants 35 yard line… but Bradshaw was a different player… as he made another game changing (this time game saving) play - that in this case didn’t even show up on the box score.
“I cleanly had the ball but Bradshaw was stronger than me and he ripped it out of my hands” Woods would later say, and Head Coach Tom Coughlin echoed that sentiment years later by saying “It could be the biggest play in that Super Bowl. This guy goes down in a pile and takes the ball away from a Patriot who has it in his hands… he saved the day with that... just an incredible football play…”
Bradshaw was also the leading rusher for the Giants in that game, and whether it was picking up blitzes or diving at loose footballs, he showed tremendous poise and leadership for a first year player - and he proved himself to be just what his team needed to pull off the upset and do the unthinkable.
The following season Bradshaw had a drastically reduced role, due to the emergence of newcomer Derrick Ward, who together with Jacobs both rushed for over 1,000 yards with a combined 400 carries - while Bradshaw averaged over 5 yards on only 67 carries - one of those being a 77 yard gain and the longest play of the season.
Bradshaw did not get a carry in the ‘08 divisional loss to the Eagles, but in ‘09 for the first time in his career he had well over 100 carries, gaining 985 all purpose yards out the backfield while proving himself to be a dependable back over the course of a season.
In 2010, with Jacobs relatively still in his prime and playing well, Bradshaw became the clear starter and gained 1,235 yards rushing and 314 yards receiving, while leading the team to an impressive 10-6 record that unfortunately wasn’t good enough that year to make the playoffs. Still Bradshaw was cementing himself as a transcendent talent one game at a time, and it gradually became clear that he had certain abilities that had never been seen before from any NY Giant.
The following ‘11 season Bradshaw got a contract extension, and saw his rushing yards go down (only time in his career he averaged less than 4 yards per carry at 3.9), yet he did score a career high 11 TD’s. The Giants just made the playoffs that year (with a pedestrian 9-7 record, a game worse than the year before when they were left out), yet similar to the ‘07 season, once they got in they never looked back.
Bradshaw had 126 all purpose yards in the conference final vs San Fran, and accumulated over 90 yards in Super Bowl XLVI - where he will forever live in infamy for scoring the final touchdown by accident - a mistake that the Giants were fortunate enough to not let cost them. Nonetheless Bradshaw was once again the leading rusher in the game, where he distinguished himself from Jacobs and Ottis Anderson, as the only Giant with 2 Super Bowl rings to lead the team in rushing in both contests.
In his final season as a Giant, Bradshaw once again eclipsed the century mark in rushing and his yards per carry went back up to 4.6, yet the team failed to make the playoffs and Bradshaw was released to make room for a recent 1st rd draft pick named David Wilson. (Wilson would be forced to retire the next season after a career ending neck injury, while Bradshaw went on to provide the Indianapolis Colts with the same leadership that he brought to New York, highlighted by his 8 TD’s through 10 games in 2014.)
Bradshaw finished his career with the Giants as the 6th all time leading rusher (4,232 yards), yet he’s 3rd in yards per carry (4.59) since the merger - with only Barber and Ward ahead of him; the latter who had 579 less touches than Bradshaw thus skewing the numbers to a degree. He also had over 1,000 yards receiving for the Giants, and found the end zone 35 different times and always in dramatic fashion.
The common misconceptions on Bradshaw was that he fumbled too often and was injury prone; narratives that as a Giant are simply unsupported by the numbers. In 6 seasons in New York he lost 19 fumbles - not a great number by any means - but it’s the exact same amount that Brandon Jacobs lost as well. That also puts Bradshaw at 4 fumbles less than Ron Johnson, 6 less than Joe Morris, and 34 LESS than Tiki Barber - thus clearly Bradshaw had stronger hands than he was given credit for.
As far as the injuries, Bradshaw was debilitated by ankle issues throughout his career, yet he was active and productive in far more games than his critics remember. His rookie year he missed 4 games but as delineated above, was also available for every game in the playoffs including Super Bowl XLII. He then only missed 1 game in each of ‘08 and ‘09 seasons, and started all 16 games the following year in 2010. That’s a stretch of 2 missed games in 3 seasons combined; not a bad percentage at all.
He did miss 4 games in the ‘11 season, but similar to ‘07, was also active for every game in the playoffs including Super Bowl XLVI, and then in his final season in NY he played in all but 2 contests. That’s only 12 missed games in 6 full seasons… and in comparison All Pro backs like Jamaal Charles missed 27 games in that same amount of time, Arian Foster missed 26 games, and even Jacobs missed 20 games in his final 6 years with the Giants (not including the 14 missed games he missed in one season with San Fran). Furthermore, since Bradshaw was traded away, every single Giant RB he’s been replaced with has missed more games in a season than AB had ever been inactive for, and meanwhile nobody has come close to reproducing his production in regards to any criteria imaginable.
Along with his clutch moments, Bradshaw was also a fearless leader and known to be one of the best pass blocking backs in the NFL, where he picked up blitzes and protected Eli with relative ease. Below is a 3 year study conducted by Pro Football Focus, in which you’ll see Bradshaw was not only asked to pick up the blitz more than anyone else, but he was also the most efficient when you consider the percentages.
In conclusion the bottom line is this, the Giants in ‘07 and ‘11 were better than good (with a tremendous defensive line), but Eli & Jacobs and co. would simply not have been enough, not when you consider all that Bradshaw did in all those critical moments. Therefore disregarding conventional wisdom Bradshaw was always available when the Giants needed him the most, and a strong case can be made that he’s one of the most fundamental reasons why the Giants of those years became Super Bowl champions.
1) Tiki Barber
The critics, and even his teammates, might have thought he was an enigma - but that doesn’t change the fact that Tiki Barber is likely the greatest Running Back in franchise history. However contrary to most of the backs on this list, Barber has very few notable playoff moments, and unlike Bradshaw, Jacobs, Morris, Meggett, and Anderson - Barber was never able to win a Super Bowl ring. What Barber does have however is his name all over the record books, with statistics that ultimately leaves him in a class of his own.
Yet before the accolades Barber was a 2nd rd draft pick,coming out of Virginia, where unlike Ahmad Bradshaw he did play for the hometown Cavaliers where he’s currently 2nd all time in rushing yardage and has the most consecutive games with 100 yards or more. Once drafted by the Giants he was originally considered a 3rd down change-of-pace back, and initially was the primary punt returner - but that was only the beginning - and it didn’t take long for him to become the face of the franchise who singlehandedly made the Giants a contender.
Due to Rodney Hampton’s injuries, Barber was actually thrust into the starting lineup his rookie year, and under Jim Fassel who was a rookie head coach, the Giants played well enough to make the playoffs, where ultimately they suffered one of the most discouraging playoff losses in the history of the franchise - one of many under Barber’s campaign. The Giants hosted the Minnesota Vikings who were a dome team playing in the frozen Meadowlands, and were ahead by 2 scores in the final 2 minutes when they completely imploded - highlighted by a Barber fumble on his own 4 yard line - which led to the Randall Cunningham show which Giants fans were all too familiar with.
The next two seasons he played behind the likes of Charles Way and Joe Montgomery, and had marginal success before he exploded in the year 2000. The first of six times Barber would run for over a thousand yards in a season, he also added 719 receiving yards playing alongside Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne who took away 200+ carries from him. They were pegged Thunder and Lightning and they indeed took the league by storm, rushing the Giants to a 12-4 season and home field advantage in the playoffs.
In a collaborative effort the Giants as a team defeated the division rival Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings in historic fashion, on way to Super Bowl XXXV vs the Baltimore Ravens - where they literally got laughed off the field. The Giants got manhandled in their only Super Bowl loss to date, in a game where Barber was pretty much their only hope, and it turned out to be nowhere near enough.
The next season Barber’s numbers went down starting only 9 games due to injury, and the Giants took a step backwards before returning to the playoffs in ‘02 - which culminated in another one the most devastating playoff losses of all time. The Giants were up 38-14 to the 49ers deep in the 3rd Quarter and they managed to lose the game - despite Barber accounting for 177 yards and a TD; therefore the meltdown should be attributed to the defense, special teams, and Jeremy Shockey - and after that no one else.
The Giants wouldn’t make the playoffs again until ‘05, where they got manhandled by the Carolina Panthers in the wild card game, and then somehow snuck in the playoffs with an 8-8 record in ‘06 - losing a heartbreaker to the Eagles in a game where after Barber had 152 all purpose yards - All Pro Free Safety Brian Westbrook acknowledged his greatness and called him “a warrior.”
And on the field that’s exactly what he was, the heart and soul of the team for all 10 seasons of his career, Barber has numbers that nobody else comes close to. 1st in career rushing by a mile with 10,449 yards, beating out Rodney Hampton by 3,500+, whose record he broke on the same day he broke Joe Morris’s single game rushing record; on a TD on the last play from scrimmage.
He’s also 1st in average rushing yards per game, and should be 1st in average yards per carry - yet Derrick Ward’s ‘08 season once again distorts that category. He has the longest running play in franchise history at 95 yards, the most 100 yard games with 38, and is tied for 2nd in NFL history with five 200 yards games as well; 234 being his career high which is a Giant record as well.
He has the franchise record for most rushing yards in a season with an incredible 1,860 yards, a number that earned him the NFL rushing title in 2005. He also has the 2nd (1,662), 3rd (1,518), and 5th (1,387) best seasons in this category as well; making that 4 out of the Top 5.
Barber was also an exceptional receiver, and along with his rushing records he’s 3rd in franchise history in receiving (5,183 yards) only behind Frank Gifford and Amani Toomer.
Barber is 2nd in franchise history in rushing TD’s with 55, and has a total of 68 all purpose TD’s, which is only behind Frank Gifford as another franchise record (excluding TD passes). It’s also true that Barber holds one more record that is not as admirable, with 53 fumbles lost in his career, a franchise most and a number that to some may have compromised his greatness. Yet in fairness it doesn’t at all take away from his overall records and sheer dominance - where even without the ring - he’s still the most decorated back that ever put on the uniform.
If you’re still unconvinced let’s take one more look at the overall picture, where he’s Top 15 in all purpose yards for any player throughout NFL history, despite the fact that he was still in his prime when he walked away from the game...
This was a tribute to all the legendary backs in Giants history, with hope that they won’t be forgotten as the memories fade away...