Honoring The Greatness Of Jamaal Charles [Video]
By Ben Nielsen
Barring an early injury or another brain fart from Andy Reid, Jamaal Charles is going to become the Kansas City Chiefs’ all-time career rushing yards leader. He will need 53 yards on Sunday in San Diego to claim the title.
Charles, a third-round draft pick in one of the greatest Chiefs’ drafts in franchise history, has exploded into one of the most dynamic players in the NFL and is probably on his way toward enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. The dude is just nasty good.
Charles will past Priest Holmes as the all-time rushing leader, but the two of them had very different paths toward their lofty numbers.
Consider first the offensive lines the two of them have played behind. Holmes had the benefit of playing with one of the best offensive lines in NFL history: Willie Roaf (Hall of Fame), Will Shields (future Hall of Fame member), Casey Wiegmann, Brian Waters (potential Hall of Fame member), and John Tait. Three potential Hall of Fame players, a first-round pick at right tackle, and one of the better centers in football during his time in the NFL. You’ll be hard pressed to find an offensive line much better than that one.
Meanwhile, Charles has been running behind some very shaky offensive lines. In Charles’ 2009 breakout season, three-fifths of the Chiefs offensive line consisted of Rudy Niswanger, Wade Smith, and Ryan O’Callaghan. It didn’t matter though as Charles averaged 5.9 yards per carry that season behind the stalwart blocking skills of Niswanger, Smith and O’Callaghan.
Charles is also going to reach 6,071 yards faster than Holmes. It took Priest 1,321 carries at an average of 4.6 yards per carry to get to his 6,070 career yards. Charles enters Sunday with 236 fewer carries than Holmes in 10 fewer starters (19 more games, however).
At 5.55 yards per carry, Charles is the NFL’s all-time yards per carry leader with a minimum of 1,000 carries. In fact, only Charles and Jim Brown have averaged more than 5 yards per carry and rushed the ball at least 1,000 times.
Priest was known for how dangerous he was in the screen game. With Roaf, Shields and Waters leading the charge (and sometimes Jason Dunn), Holmes averaged 8.74 yards per reception and scored eight touchdowns on 339 career receptions.
Charles is right on pace with Holmes. With 100 fewer targets, Charles has scored twice as many touchdowns (16) while averaging the same amount of yards per reception (8.74). ‘Target’ data doesn’t go back very far, but for the data we do have both Charles and Holmes are tied for seventh all-time in yards per reception for running backs with at least 300 career targets. (Darren Sproles is number one with 9.08 yards per reception. Andy Reid’s former running backs, Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook, are second and fourth all-time, respectively.)
Even with the handicap of terrible offensive lines, bad coaching and the inclusion of the receiving statistics, Charles exceeds or is on par with Holmes. That’s how good Charles has been since 2008.
Charles may be one of the easiest super stars in sports history to root for. Growing up in poverty, Jamaal developed an attitude of selflessness and a blue-collar work ethic. He plays with energy and heart, leaving everything on the field and doing all he can to lead the Chiefs to a win.
Off the field, he’s personable, quirky and kind. There’s no autograph he won’t sign, no hand he won’t shake, no kid he won’t high five. You don’t hear stories about Jamaal getting in trouble or causing problems in the locker room. He’s everything you’d dream of when it comes to building a football hero.
But Jamaal wasn’t created out of a dream, he was built out of pain.
There is no reason to root against Jamaal. None.
This is why it is going to be so gratifying when Charles passes Priest Holmes on Sunday. He has every reason to quit, every reason to be mad, every reason to leave. Yet he stayed and fought and didn’t give up on his team or this city. To not love him is to not understand life or goodness.
Here’s to Charles and his spectacular career, one I hope ends with him hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. He’s earned it.