Why Curtis Martin Was A No Brainer For The Hall Of Fame

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Assistant staff writer Mike Donnelly disputes any argument that Curtis Martin didn’t deserve his induction into Canton. Let us know if you’ll be heading out to Ohio this summer for the induction ceremony – JC

While going through my daily Internet routine the other day, hitting up my favorite websites and sifting through the usual Twitter nonsense, I randomly came across a statement that made me shake my head. I let it go at first, because coming across drivel like that is rather common on Twitter, especially when it comes to Jets-related news, as we’ve seen more than enough of lately. But then I saw it again, and again. It started to pick up steam with fellow Tweeters and I could practically feel my blood pressure go up a few points. What was this statement that got me all riled up?

Curtis Martin should not be a Hall of Famer.

I know. Ridiculous, right? My first reaction was obviously to just go on an expletive-filled rant and call the offending parties idiots, but I showed some rare self-restraint. Usually, I try not to get too attached to individual players, but Curtis Martin is the exception. He’s my single favorite player of all time, and I was ready to defend his honor! Or something like that. One of the things I hate the most about sports is how eager everyone is to pick apart truly great players and careers as soon as they’re over. People feel the need to diminish past greatness while trying to praise the next wave of players; It’s bizarre. Instead of flipping out and going Bruce Banner on them though, I read through it all and decided to wait to pick apart these myths and inaccuracies about Curtis Martin. Here they are.

Myth #1: Curtis Martin was a “compiler”

This is a term that people have used when it comes to baseball players for many years. Basically, it’s meant to say that at the end of a career, a player racked up a lot of impressive looking stats over the course of a very long time, but was never amongst the elite in the league. It makes sense a lot of times in baseball. Not about Curtis Martin, though.

Hearing this phrase used to describe Curtis is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, did he compile stats over his 11 year career? Yes, of course. He compiled a lot of really great and impressive stats every year and was one of the best players at his position every single season. So in a sense, yes, he compiled stats: Hall of Fame stats. He compiled them year in and year out, and while other players faded, got injured, retired, lost effectiveness, or disappeared from the league, Curtis Martin was there churning out great seasons. Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Over the course of 11 seasons, Curtis Martin racked up 14,101 rushing yards  and 3,329 additional receiving yards. He caught 484 passes, threw 2 more (both for touchdowns), scored 100 touchdowns himself, and finished in the top 3 rushing on four occasions, while leading the league 1 time, at the age of 31, which makes him the oldest player ever to do so.
  • If you take away his injury-riddled season in 2005 that ended his career, his average season looks like this: 330 carries for 1,337 yards; 46 catches for 321 yards and 9.5 touchdowns. That’s his average, year after year, over the course of a solid decade. I don’t see how those numbers can be diminished. How many teams in the NFL would turn down 1600 total yards and 10 TD from their starting running back on average for the next 10 years? Any? Well, maybe Jeff Ireland, because he’s not smart, but thats another story.
  • Curtis had the best fumble rate of any player with 1,500 carries ever: 0.82%. By comparison, Emmitt Smith fumbled on 1.38% of his carries and Barry Sanders 1.34%. Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett fumbled on 3.07% of his carries, nearly 4 times as often as Curtis.
  • 8th most Yards from Scrimmage of all-time with 17,430.

Myth #2: Curtis Martin’s best quality was his Durability, which allowed him to compile all those stats.

False. Curtis Martin’s ability to play football was his best quality that allowed him to put up great stats. However, durability absolutely was one of his trademarks. His ability to fight through injuries and be remarkably consistent was legendary. But why do people act like this should somehow be a negative? Isn’t it a good thing to be able to play through pain and be there for your team every Sunday while still performing at a high level? Shouldn’t it be a positive that you know exactly what you’re getting from a player, especially when it’s elite production and he’ll never let you down? Shouldn’t it count for something that his teammates watched him drag his injured body onto the field for every practice and every game, never once complaining, inspiring them to play through pain as well? Let’s look at Curtis’s consistency, which some foolishly take as a negative:

  • One of just 2 players ever to start their careers with 10 straight 1,000+ yard seasons. The other? Barry Sanders, and I heard that guy was pretty good. Not bad company to be in.
  • Over those 10 seasons, he racked up between 1,416 and 1,942 yards from scrimmage every season.
  • In 2000, the Jets led the NFL in pass attempts, but Curtis still finished in the top 10 in yards from scrimmage.
  • Before the 2005 season, he missed just 4 games throughout his entire career. Was he just lucky? No, he was incredibly tough and able to play through severe injuries that would have sidelined pretty much anybody else. Check out some of these injuries he played through:

2000 – Curtis played nearly the entire season with a partially torn ligament in his knee. In addition to that, he also had a torn ligament rip his gluteus maximus muscle away from his bone. In Layman’s terms, that means his butt muscle was tearing away from his butt bone. And his job was to run, cut, and get tackled by huge men. I don’t think I’d even be able to walk to the bathroom with those injuries. Seems like that could be problematic on a football field, no? Curtis still played every game.

2002 – Curtis injured his left ankle in week 1. Six weeks later, he injured the other ankle as well, and was given a 7-10 week injury diagnosis. He played the next week, missing 0 games, because he felt new starter Chad Pennington needed him. After the season when discussing the injury, he said: “My ankles were the size of your head. It was the most pain I’ve been in. I had to dig deeper than I ever had to just to play.” No big deal.

2003 – Curtis again injured his knee, but played through the pain. After a mid-season slump when he re-tore knee cartilage, he went to the coaching staff and volunteered to sit if they thought he wasn’t giving the team the best chance to win. He still played every game and rushed for 1,308 yards, despite the pain being so severe he said it “felt like there were chards of glass in the knee”. Oh, Curtis, you little stat compiler, you!

2005 – The final blow. After injuring his knee yet again, Curtis went to Herm Edwards and said his body finally could take no more after 12 games. He described it to the media by saying if their opponent that week had given the Jets the ball at their 1 yard line and said they wouldn’t tackle Curtis, he didn’t think he’d even be able to make it the 99 yards necessary to score, let alone play against 11 defenders. And he still almost went out there.

Myth #3: Curtis Martin should be in the “Hall of Very Good”

I don’t even know what the hell this means. That he was good enough for this fake Hall, but not deserving of the real honor? Please. The Hall of Fame is for the best players of all-time; That means Curtis Martin. In addition to everything i just wrote, the man’s resume speaks for itself:

  • 1995 Rookie of the Year
  • 5 time Pro Bowler (should have been 6)
  • 3-time All-Pro (1x 1st Team, 2x 2nd Team)
  • 4th All-Time in Rushing Yards. I know I already said this, but it bears repeating. 4th all-time!
  • 8th All-Time in Yards from Scrimmage
  • Changed the entire culture of two losing franchises upon his arrival
  • Jets Team MVP award re-named in his honor

Then there’s the single most impressive stat when it comes to Curtis Martin. In a league where running backs come and go, rise quickly then fade just as fast, Curtis Martin played 168 regular season games. Here’s the breakdown of the two halves of his career:

  • First 84 games: 7,194 yards, 50 touchdowns
  • Last 84 games: 6,907 yards, 50 touchdowns

That remarkable consistency and durability, combined with his selflessness, leadership, and incredible skill on the field are the reasons why Curtis Martin deserves his spot in the 2012 Hall of Fame Class. The only crime is that it didn’t happen a year sooner. It was probably because Curtis was never a “look at me” type of player. He didn’t do any dances when he scored, or talk about himself in the media. He was never the biggest, quickest, or fastest player. He was just a great all-around player–and person–100% of the time.

His former backup, LaMont Jordan, says Curtis Martin made him the man he is and that he’d take a bullet for him. High praise. Then there’s Bill Belichick, who said that Curtis “is the most unselfish player ever”, and that he should unquestionably go down as one of the all-time greats. Bill Parcells, who was his first coach in the NFL, and likely Hall of Fame presenter, said it best when he said Curtis Martin was one of the greatest players he ever coached and his “favorite player of them all”.

Couldn’t agree more, Bill. Couldn’t agree more.

2 thoughts on “Why Curtis Martin Was A No Brainer For The Hall Of Fame

  1. I can’t help but think that part of the reason his accomplishments are being diminished was because he played for the Jets for many years. Something tells me if he remained in New England, the media would have carried him to the hall of fame ceremony.

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