The Death of the Running Back Position

Michael Pallas Aug 10th, 2019

Some say the running back position has become less and less valuable. The position is dead. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the running back position is completely devalued to the point that it’s a dead position. All it takes is something that we’re used to in today’s society — a name change.

The late great George Carlin has a bit in which he talks about soft language and our propensity as a society to change how we use words to completely devalue what the original intent of the original word meant. Well, with the devaluing of the running back position, all we need to do is start changing the name of the position to change that.

In this decade, we’ve seen a rapid shift to a passing league, and we’ve seen a rapid shift in the way we use what we currently refer to as running backs. Here are the carry percentages (percent of touches from carries) in this decade.

2010: 83.0%

2011: 83.2%

2012: 83.8%

2013: 82.4%

2014: 82.2%

2015: 81.1%

2016: 82.1%

2017: 81.0%

2018: 80.0%

Let’s face it. Purely as runners, the position is becoming less and less valuable. Since the running backs are the last player in the backfield, let’s use a term that was used in college football to describe Reggie Bush — tailback.

The term is more generic. The term needs to be more generic because approximately one out of every five (slightly more because the percentage was rounded up) touches was a result of a catch. While the term running back describes the primary function, if you factor in pass blocking, the number of snaps a tailback is used to be a runner is getting less frequent.

If we want the value of the position to be what it once was, all it takes is one thing. Start calling them tailbacks.

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