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NFL Network list of best rushing seasons shows why Terrell Davis should be in Hall of Fame

NFL Network counted down the top 10 rushing seasons in NFL history, postseason included, and the same guy is No. 1 and No. 2 on the list. And that player isn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though he's eligible.

But, Terrell Davis should be in the Hall of Fame.

Davis' 1997 season (2,331 yards) was No. 2 on the list. His 1998 season (2,476) was No. 1. This wasn't a subjective list, it was just a ranking of total rushing yards in a season, counting the playoffs. And Davis finished far ahead of No. 3, Eric Dickerson's 2,212 yards in 1984.

Now, if you want to subjectively rank O.J. Simpson's 2,003-yard season first, or Adrian Peterson's incredible 2012, or Eric Dickerson's record-setting 2,105 regular-season yards as the greatest season of all time, that's fine. Davis even argued that Simpson has the greatest regular season ever. If you want to wonder if NFL Network put out this segment because Davis is back working for them, that's fair too.

But it does show that, historically, Davis was probably much better than most people remember.

Davis got hurt. That's the only reason he's not in the Hall of Fame. He was well on his way. He was great for his first four years, rushing for 6,413 yards and 56 touchdowns. He blew out his ACL in 1999 when a teammate hit him as he tried to make a tackle after an interception, and he was never the same. Just bad luck.

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Longevity matters in arguments about all-time greats, but there should be a different curve for running backs and their notoriously short careers. Davis was incredibly durable before the horrible knee injury, with 1,106 regular-season carries from 1996-98 and a huge playoff load in two long playoff runs as well. He was the opposite of a compiler (FootballOutsiders.com also presented a great extended argument about Davis' Hall of Fame credentials recently). He was the best player in the NFL in 1998, rushing for 2,008 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, scoring 23 total touchdowns and winning the MVP award. He added 468 yards in that postseason on the way to Denver winning a Super Bowl.

And the postseason is why Davis was among the all-time greats. It makes little sense that some judge a quarterback's entire career by playoff wins or losses, but the same doesn't apply for Davis.

His playoff resume is unreal. Seven straight 100-yard playoff games (all Broncos wins), and the only time he didn't reach that mark he had 91 yards. He rushed for 581 yards in the 1997 postseason as the key player in Denver's first Super Bowl title. He won Super Bowl MVP in an upset against the Packers, a game in which John Elway completed just 12 passes for 123 yards, no passing touchdowns and an interception. Davis carried the Broncos that day.

Davis had 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 5.6-yard average in eight playoff games, and won two titles. It's easy to double that and realize that's a 2,280-yard, 24-touchdown pace over 16 games, and that came in the playoffs against the best competition. The Broncos were 7-1 in Davis' playoff career. Had a quarterback put up comparable numbers at his position in back-to-back Super Bowl years, they might waive the five-year waiting period in Canton.

Davis hasn't gotten that respect, and he might not. Nobody has been put in the Hall of Fame with just four elite years (Gale Sayers is closest, with five). But we over-celebrate postseason accomplishments for others (quarterbacks, mostly, for whatever weird reason), and Davis was one of the best playoff players ever. Too bad a freak knee injury kept Davis from doing more.

The Hall of Fame is for the all-time greats of the game. It's hard to argue Davis wasn't in that class, even if it didn't last very long.

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