Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Emmitt Smith is absurdly overrated, and the only reason he’s in the Hall of Fame is his offensive line.
I probably don’t have to convince anyone here it’s dumb, but it’s dumb. And Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders helps the case by comparing Emmitt’s performance to all other Cowboys and Cardinals running backs in his career, and then doing the same for other prolific running backs.
If Smith really was a run-of-the-mill back made into a star by his line, this measure doesn’t seem to pick up on it.
The methodology is obviously far from perfect, but it is compelling, and every little bit of evidence that shoots down the silly brushing off of Emmitt’s career is good.
I could be convinced he wouldn’t be the all-time leading rusher without Moose and the awesome Cowboys lines, but I cannot be convinced that the line had such a huge impact that it took Emmitt from an also-ran to the most prolific running back in NFL history. And that’s supported, I believe, by still averaging 3.8-4.2 YPC late in his career when his line wasn’t as strong and his natural talents should have been declining.