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Bo Jackson was the greatest running back ever

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/15/2012 Category: Sports
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,827 times Debate No: 28254
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
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Jim Brown had a great career but being bigger than almost everyone you faced doesn't make you great it just makes you one bad mutha****er. Barry had amazing agility, Walter was great and a few others bear honorable mention especially Hershel Walker. Walker never got the respect he deserved.

Bo was a different breed; naturally big, very fast and as brian bosworth found out pretty dang powerful!!! Bo only played 4 short seasons (played baseball until October) but his stats are pretty impressive when you look at them especially with sharing the backfield with Marcus Allen.


I accept this debate and thank my opponent for bringing this up. Now I'm not gonna lie Bo Jackson was talented. He was very fast and agile but he was no where close to being the greatest running back of all time. What about people like Emmit Smith and Walter Payton. If Bo Jackson was durable maybe he could have cracked the list but playing 4 seasons in the NFL would never make you close to being the greatest running back of all time. Bleacher Report recently came out with a list of the top 10 greatest running backs of all time and Bo Jackson was never mentioned.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting. Walter and Barry as I said were great. I can not put emmitt in the same category because he played behind arguably the best offensive line ever and had the pressure taken off him by a great quarterback, a great tight, a great receiver and a really good #2 receiver.

I stated in my opening argument that Bo's career was cut short and so he doesn't have the stats over a 9-12 year period like some.

Bo had the longest rush in the NFL in three of the four seasons he played. Jackson and O.J. Simpson remain the only two players to record the league"s longest rush in three different NFL seasons.

Bo rushed for a 90-yard touchdown in a game" twice in his career. Ahman Green is the only other player in NFL history to accomplish that feat. But the former Raider was more than just two runs or some highlight films. In 1987, 1989, and 1990, Jackson averaged at least 5.5 yards per carry and rushed for at least 70 yards per game; the great Jim Brown and Dan Towler, another one of the game"s great power/speed backs, are the only two other players to ever have three such seasons (and no one has had four).

There are other ways to capture what Bo did in his brief career. Because he was busy being a baseball player, Bo missed the first third of the season each year. If we look at the data starting in week 7, from 1988 to 1990, Bo compares pretty favorably to the elite running backs of his day. Over that span he ranked third in rushing yards while averaging over five yards per carry.
Provided by
see table at

He only played in the NFL for four years, from the ages of 25 to 28. To level the playing field, let"s compare him to every other running back in league history, but only at those ages. Among players with at least 500 carries, Jackson averaged the most yards per carry:
see table at

In the 4 years Bo played football these are his career statistics
Games Attempts Yards TD Long Y/A Y/G A/G Rec Yards Y/R TD Long R/G YScm
38 515 2,782 16 92 5.4 73.2 13.6 40 352 8.8 2 27 9.3 3134
if averaged over 10 years
160 2168 11,712 68 ?? 168 1482 8 13194

Bo's stats at Auburn
650 4303 43 6.6 26 272 10.5 2 4575

One needs to imagine if he was in football shape and stayed healthy enough for 10 years he would probably have even better statisctics. Like I said he also shared the backfield. Walter, Barry and emmitt didn't.


Now those stats are nice but durability is a key factor in being good or great. You could be a rookie projected to be one of the greatest running backs in the NFL but if you keep getting hurt your going to be forgotten. The greatest running backs in the game were durable and therefore had hall of fame careers. It's not that Bo Jackson wasn't a good running back but he wasn't the greatest of all time. Also he only played 4 seasons. There always could have been chance that that after that he could have been a bad player. We simply don't know and because of that hes not the greatest running back of all time.
Debate Round No. 2


I was ready to rip you a new one then I checked my heading. I wanted to put Bo Jackson was the greats running back in a period. That is why my first post talked about 4 years and the other great backs. My bad!

I guess the lack of sleep is catching up with me. I wanted to debate this because I needed one more debate and couldn't think of anything. I am a Raiders fan and I believe in a 4 year period as shown here at that I posted earlier he was and could have been the greatest of all time.

I will continue the debate on the facts that he was not in football shape because of baseball, he had limited plays when he was in, he shared the time in the backfield with Marcus Allen and he had a mediocre line at the time. The team was terrible going through 3 coaches in 4 years and posting records in Bo's 4 seasons of 5-10, 7-9, 8-8 and 12-4. If he hadn't dislocated his hip at the end of the playoff win against Cincinnati they may have beaten buffalo the following week and went to the super bow. I know a lot of ifs but you can not deny the man's greatness.

A combination of unprecedented speed and power created Bo Jackson"s legacy on the field. He evaded initial attempted tackles at the defensive line and outran the rest of the defense en route to his final destination, the end zone. His unforgettable run with the Raiders against the Seattle Seahawks for nearly the length of the football field and into the tunnel displayed his blazing speed. In that same game, his display of sheer power provided another sensational moment when he literally ran over the Seahawks" Brian Bosworth at the goal line for a score on Monday Night Football. Countless other captivating plays dominate his career highlight reel.
At Auburn
Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards (6.0 m) per carry, which set the SEC record (minimum 400 rushes).

In 1985, Jackson rushed for 1786 yards which was the second best single-season performance in SEC history. That year, he averaged 6.4 yards per rush, which at the time was the best single-season average in SEC history. For his performance in 1985, Jackson was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
With the Raiders
He had the strength and the guts to play. During the 1991 playoffs, Jackson was tackled by Kevin Walker of the Cincinnati Bengals, causing a serious hip injury that ended Jackson's football career and seriously threatened his baseball career. After Jackson was tackled and lying in pain on the ground, he allegedly popped his hip back into place. In an interview on Untold, his Royals team mate George Brett, who attended the game, said he asked the trainer what had happened to Bo. The trainer replied "Bo says he felt his hip come out of the socket, so he popped it back in, but that's just impossible, no one's that strong."
Following surgery and rehabilitation on his injured hip, it was discovered that Jackson had a vascular necrosis, as a result of decreased blood supply to the head of his left femur. This caused deterioration of the femoral head, ultimately requiring that the hip be replaced. Amazingly, Jackson was able to return to baseball toward the end of the 1991 season as a member of the White Sox after the Royals released him. Jackson missed the entire 1992 baseball season. When he announced soon after his surgery that he would play baseball again, many thought that goal to be unrealistic, especially at the Major League level.

Additional superlatives include 1989 and 1990 second-team All-Conference selections, a Pro Bowl roster nomination in the latter year and qualifying in the top-three for best average per rush in two consecutive seasons. He also led the 1989 Raiders with 950 yards on a remarkable 5.5 yards per carry.

Greatness doesn't always have to be defined in a long period of time. Sometimes you just know greatness when you see it. I remember in Gretzky's 3rd year they were already calling him the great one. Michael Jordan was called great when his team couldn't get past Isaiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons at first!


Durability is based on success. Let's use your examples. Michel Jordan and Wayne Gretzky were great hall of famers but imagine if they played only 4 seasons. Even though they called Gretzky the great one in his third year if he had a season ending injury he would have been forgotten. He was durable on the ice and established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the game. Same with Michael Jordan. Nobody would call him the best person to ever play in the NBA if he only played 4 years. Even though you messed up on the title of the debate you can't call somebody great if they only played 4 years and as I said in my last argument you don't know if Bo Jackson would have played well in his 5th year or 6th year what happens if he started to play bad? We simply don't know.
Debate Round No. 3


I admitted I made a mistake with the title but I planned on carrying this through. I love football and I think their were a lot of excellent players out there. I could have made this easy on myself and said Jerry Rice was the best wide receiver ever but that would be hard to argue given the stats.

If all we do is use statistics then Michael Jordan is not the greatest in basketball because Bill Russell had 9 straight titles, 8 as a player under Red Auerbach and one as the coach of the Boston Celtics.

Statistics are great but it is what you contribute to a team. Bo was as electrifying as Barry, as powerful as Campbell or Riggins, as elusive as Dickerson and as fast as any other to play.

Your argument started well but now it is all ifs and buts. You can't say what we would call Gretzky or Jordan had they only played five years and you can't say what Bo would have done if he played longer. He was hurt in college and in the pro's and recovered from both. He has proved his durability, he just chose baseball over football. He was also a track and field champion and a very good basketball player. He was a naturally gifted athlete and if for no other reason that is why I believe he was the greatest. He was humble, smart and could play any sport. To sit there and say he might have gotten worse is a poor argument. He may have become better too! Like I said before he shared time with Allen, he had 3 coaches in 4 years, a mediocre (at best) line and yet in any 4 year period of any running backs career he had the best yards per carry average 5.5!!!! That is amazing for a guy who only played half a year and was still learning the playbook each year with a new offense!!!


Well in your last argument you gave me a whole bunch of Bo Jackson's statistics. Now your saying it's not about statistics but what you contribute to a team. Now first of all statistics are not based on how many rings you won. There based on how well you do in the regular season and playoff stats. MJ cracked many records and he did this by staying durable. So since it is about what you contribute to a team let's talk about it. Bo Jackson as an MLB player never lead the Royals to the playoffs. What he did in the all star game was impressive but still never lead his team to anything. Now in football he did go into the playoffs but never won the super bowl. So contribution wise Bo Jackson didn't do a whole lot. Don't get me wrong Bo Jackson was an impressive athlete in college and did many things but he got in the pros he was just good not great. Also when Jackson was in the MLB he was never able to get high batting averages as he only averaged a .250 in 8 seasons. Also in the 1989 season in just 139 games out of 162 Bo Jackson struck out 172 times which is quite a lot. Power wise he was pretty good but as a baseball player he was mediocre. As a football player he was god but not great. Bo Jackson will be remembered for his college career rather than his pro career.
Debate Round No. 4


I never said it wasn't about statistics. What I said was, "If all we do is use statistics then Michael Jordan is not the greatest in basketball because Bill Russell had 9 straight titles, 8 as a player under Red Auerbach and one as the coach of the Boston Celtics.
Statistics are great but it is what you contribute to a team. Bo was as electrifying as Barry, as powerful as Campbell or Riggins, as elusive as Dickerson and as fast as any other to play."
Bo was a major contributor to a bad and latter, a mediocre team. Bo was able to set or tie records in many categories that take other players 10-14 years to make. I stated his career was short but no one can deny he was great in his time.

If you look at the title it says running back not baseball player. I mentioned it because that is why he didn't play full seasons.

Apparently you can't understand what he did under very unusual situations. If any of the backs you claim as great had to play under those same situations they would not have done as well.

great"er, great"est
1. Very large in size. Bo was 6'1 1/4"
2. Larger in size than others of the same kind. Bo was one of the largest RB's
3. Large in quantity or number: A great throng awaited us. See Synonyms at large. Great throngs awaited him!
4. Extensive in time or distance: a great delay. Covered 92 yards very quickly
5. Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent: a great crisis. Many outstanding plays
6. Of outstanding significance or importance: a great work of art. Very significant to the team
7. Chief or principal: the great house on the estate.
8. Superior in quality or character; noble: "For he was great, ere fortune made him so" (John Dryden). As mentioned before he was; smart, humble and talented.
9. Powerful; influential: one of the great nations of the West. He definitely had power but of a different sort and he was influential with Al Davis.

On November 30, 1987, during the Monday Night Football game following the big Thanksgiving weekend, Bo Jackson and the Los Angeles Raiders would visit the Kingdome in Seattle and manhandle the Seahawks.
Going into the game, the Raiders were at 3-7 and had not proven to be much competition so far during the year. The Seahawks on the other hand were 7-3 and were having a very nice season. The Seahawks got on the board first behind a 19 yard touchdown pass from Dave Krieg to Daryl Turner. The Raiders answered back fairly quickly with a 46 yard touchdown pass from Marc Wilson to James Lofton. The first quarter would end just like that with the game all tied up at seven. The Raiders would be the first to score in the second quarter when Marc Wilson connected for his second TD pass of the game, this time for 14 yards to Bo Jackson. Jackson would score again in the quarter on a 91 yard run that took him up the left sideline, through the end zone, and into the players" tunnel. Chris Bahr would add two field goals for the Raiders, who would lead at halftime 27-7.
The second half started the way the first ended, with the Raiders scoring again. Bo Jackson would add his third and final touchdown of the day, this one on a two yard run that is famous for him winning the goal line battle with the Seahawks" popular linebacker Brian Bosworth. Bahr would add a third field goal of his own in the third quarter and Seattle would respond with a three yard touchdown pass from Krieg to tight end Mike Tice. With no scoring from either team in the fourth quarter, the final score would show the Raiders defeating the Seahawks 37-14.
Tell me that isn't greatness!?!

I guess the argument will go back and forth with ifs and buts. I thought this would be kind of fun but I guess it is really hard to argue opinions. We can throw in some facts and statistics but it think it comes down to personal choice. I imagine a steeler fan would probably throw Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis in the mix. Packer fans would probably want to throw in Paul Horning and some others.

Well thank you for the debate and take care. FOOTBALL the best sport in the world... my opinion again!


First of all this is a debate not opinions. as you could see on the website there's a column for debates and opinions. You still didn't state how he contributed to a team. And also you only mentioned one game. People have good games and bad games. Just because he scored three touchdowns in one game doesn't mean He's a great running back.

I urge you vote for con and thanks for the debate
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by mattyasano.1 5 years ago
any1 gonna vote?
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago
Barry Sanders.

You guys are both clueless. :)
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