A big debate for at least part of his offseason is whether the Cowboys should or will sign free-agent running back DeMarco Murray. A significant part of that conversation will focus on Murray’s workload in 2014 and the effect it could have on him moving forward.
He had 449 touches in 2014, which is the most for any running back in team history during a regular season. Here are the numbers:
Murray had another 48 touches in two games to give him 497. By comparison, Emmitt Smith had 439 regular-season touches in 1995 and added another 80 in three playoff games. Smith also exceeded 500 touches in 1992, when he had 432 regular-season touches plus another 84 in three playoff games.
Smith was one of the most durable running backs in NFL history, but his numbers did decline after his record-breaking 1995 season. He played nine more season but never rushed for more than 1,400 yards again. Of course, part of that had to do with an aging offensive line during the late 1990s, but he was never quite the same back after 1995.
Murray ranks 6th in NFL history for touches in a regular season (Smith now ranks 10th). Of the five players with 450 or more touches, here is a quick summary of the rest of their careers.
5. Edgerrin James (Indianapolis, 450 touches, 2000): James had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 2003 and 2007. However, following his 450-touch season in 2000, he played in only six games in 2001 and 14 games in 2002.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego, 451 touches, 2006): Tomlilnson was the back who could have challenged Smith’s all-time rushing title, but Tomlinson had only two more seasons with more than 1,000 yards after touching the ball 451 times in 2006.
3. Eddie George (Tennessee, 453 touches, 2000): George had two more 1,000-yard seasons after 2000, but he never averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry after touching the ball 453 times that year.
2. Larry Johnson (Kansas City, 457 touches, 2006): Johnson played in all 16 games only twice during his career, including the 2006 season when he touched the ball 457 times. He never played a full season again and never came close to matching his rushing totals from 2005 (1,750 yards) or 2006 (1,789 yards).
1. James Wilder (Tampa Bay, 492 touches, 1984): Wilder had never rushed for 1,000 yards until he carried the ball 407 times and caught another 85 passes in 1984. He had only one more 1,000-yard season after 1984 before he started suffering injuries.