10 Best Running Backs in New York Giants History

Updated on January 23, 2020

Who Are the Greatest Running Backs in New York Giants History?

As a fan of the football Giants since the mid-1970s, I've had the privilege of seeing many of the greatest New York Giants running backs in team history. And being a student of the Giants' long history, I've also learned about some of the best Giants running backs from earlier eras of the franchise.

The Giants have had their share of great running backs. Just to take one simple metric, the 1,000-yard season, there have been ten Giants running backs who have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Seven of those players have done it more than once, led by Tiki Barber with six. In the 2008 season, two Giants players, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, both ran for more than 1,000 yards.

Of course, the 1,000-yard season is a relatively modern metric. Ron Johnson had the Giants' first 1,000-yard season in 1970. Before that, the highest rushing yardage total was 971 by Eddie Price in 1951.

This is just one illustration of the fact that it is somewhat difficult to compare modern players to those of earlier eras. For one thing, the game itself has changed. Coaching philosophies have changed and developed over the years, rule changes have been implemented, and seasons have gotten longer.

Even the terminology used to designate players' positions has changed. If you look at the current Giants roster, no player is identified as a fullback, halfback, or tailback. Unlike in earlier years, all the offensive backs other than the quarterbacks are just called running backs.

In addition, National Football League players, like athletes in other sports, have gotten bigger, stronger, and faster. The year-round conditioning programs for today's athletes and the six- or seven-figure salaries that allow them to take advantage of those programs form a stark contrast with the football culture of the early years when most players and even coaches had second jobs to make ends meet, making rigorous year-round training impossible.

Selection and Ranking Criteria for This List

Despite these considerations, it's always fun to select and rank the best players. So here is my list of the 10 best running backs in New York Giants history, along with several honorable mentions.

These are my criteria:

  • Length of Career With the Giants: How long did the player play for the Giants? For this ranking, I considered only running backs who were members of the Giants for a minimum of five seasons.
  • Individual Performance Statistics and Achievements: I compared the players' statistics, both rushing and receiving, but with more emphasis on rushing, since that is typically a running back's primary role, especially in the modern game. Did the player lead the team in rushing or other categories? Did he set any NFL or team records, either for his career, for a season, or for individual game performance? For players whose careers included time with other teams besides the Giants, I considered only their years with the Giants.
  • Recognition by the Giants, the NFL, Other Players, or the Media: Was the player selected for the Pro Bowl or named a first-team All-Pro? Did he win any Most Valuable Player awards or recognition as Player of the Month or Player of the Week? Is the player in the Hall of Fame or in the Giants Ring of Honor, or has his jersey been retired?
  • Team Success: An NFL team will seldom be successful without at least one good running back on the roster, so I factored in how well the Giants did as a team during a player's career. Did the Giants have winning seasons, did they make the playoffs, did they win a championship? Of course, it's also possible for an excellent running back to be a member of a mediocre team, so I didn't give this criterion as much weight as the others.

My ranking, of course, is still subjective, despite these metrics. Whether or not you agree with my choices, I hope you enjoy the list!

10. Doug Kotar

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1974–1979, 1981 (entire 7-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 44

Recap of Kotar's Giants Career

Pennsylvania native Doug Kotar went undrafted in the 1974 NFL Draft after playing college football at the University of Kentucky. But the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him as a free agent in July 1974, and the Giants acquired him in a trade several days later.

In the Giants' first game, Kotar scored the Giants' only touchdown and led the team in rushing with 43 yards, while also returning two kickoffs for a total of 79 yards. He scored another touchdown in the Giants' Week 3 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

In Week 4, with primary running back Ron Johnson out with an injury, Kotar had a breakout game. He ran for 119 yards on 15 carries, including a 53-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, the Giants lost to the Atlanta Falcons and went on to post a 2-12-0 record for the season. Kotar finished the season with 396 yards rushing, along with ten receptions for 57 yards.

Kotar became the Giants' featured running back in 1976, his third season, sharing the backfield with future Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka. Kotar responded by leading the team in rushing with 731 yards and adding 319 receiving yards, for a team-leading 1,050 total yards from scrimmage. His totals included two games in which he rushed for 100+ yards. He also tallied 132 yards receiving in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1978, Kotar again led the Giants in rushing, with 625 yards, and added another 225 yards receiving. He recorded his fourth career game with 100+ rushing yards in the Giants' win over the Cardinals in Week 15. In 1979, which was Phil Simms' first year at quarterback, Kotar came close to matching his 1978 yardage totals, with 616 yards on the ground and 230 receiving yards.

Unfortunately, Kotar was forced to miss the entire 1980 season after suffering a knee injury in the last pre-season game. Although he came back in 1981, he was limited to seven games due to a shoulder separation and continuing knee problems.

Kotar's knee and shoulder problems persisted in 1982, and he retired during training camp. He had also begun to experience severe headaches, and only several weeks into retirement, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, which took his life at the age of 32 in December 1983.

Kotar had the misfortunate of playing with the Giants during an era when they consistently posted losing records. When the Giants finally qualified for the playoffs in 1981, his last season, he was injured and didn't play.

But Kotar's individual contributions to the Giants were impressive. During his seven seasons, he recorded 3,380 rushing yards on 900 carries, with 20 touchdowns. He had 126 receptions for 1,022 yards and one touchdown. At the time of his retirement, his 3,380 rushing yards were fourth-most in Giants' history.

Doug Kotar's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1974
12
106
396
4
10
57
0
453
1975
14
122
378
6
9
86
0
464
1976
14
185
731
3
36
319
0
1,050
1977
12
132
480
2
15
73
0
553
1978
15
149
625
1
22
225
1
850
1979
16
160
616
3
25
230
0
846
1981
7
46
154
1
9
32
0
186
Career
90
900
3,380
20
126
1,022
1
4,402
Ahmad Bradshaw after the Giants' win in Super Bowl XLVI, February 2012.
Ahmad Bradshaw after the Giants' win in Super Bowl XLVI, February 2012. | Source

9. Ahmad Bradshaw

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 2007–2012 (6 years of 9-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 44
  • Playoff appearances: 2007, 2008, 2011
  • Super Bowl Championships: Super Bowl XLII, Super Bowl XLVI
  • NFL season leader: longest rush attempt (2007)

Recap of Bradshaw's Giants Career

The Giants drafted Ahmad Bradshaw out of Marshall University in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Throughout most of his rookie season, the Giants used him primarily for kickoff returns. He got his first rushing opportunities against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12, due to injuries to running backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. He had his biggest regular-season game by far in the Giants' victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 16. He ran for 151 yards on 17 carries, including an 88-yard touchdown run that was the longest in the NFL that season.

He then made significant contributions in the 2007 playoffs. When the Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII to ruin the Patriots' bid for a perfect 19-0 season, Bradshaw was the game's leading rusher.

As the third running back behind Jacobs and Ward in 2008, Bradshaw ran for 355 yards on 67 carries. In 2009, he finished second to Jacobs with 778 yards and led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven.

Bradshaw was promoted to the Giants' first-string running back in 2010. Although he was sometimes prone to fumbles, he ran for a career-high 1,235 yards on 276 carries, with eight touchdowns. In Week 4 of the season, he was named the National Football Conference (NFC) Player of the Week for his 129-yard performance in the Giants' win over the Chicago Bears.

Bradshaw shared most of the running back duties with Jacobs in the 2011 season. Nevertheless, he led the Giants with 659 rushing yards and 11 rushing and receiving touchdowns. In Week 6, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time, when he ran for 104 yards and scored all three of the Giants' touchdowns in their win against the Buffalo Bills.

A career highlight for Bradshaw came in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots. With 1:04 seconds left, the Giants had a second down on the Patriots' six-yard line, trailing 17-15. Bradshaw got the ball with instructions to stop short of the goal line, in order to take more time off the clock and reduce the chance that the Patriots could come back after a Giants score. But the Patriots didn't resist, and his forward motion carried him over the goal line. Fortunately, the Giants' defense stopped the Patriots, and Bradshaw's touchdown provided the winning margin.

In 2012, he led the team in rushing for the third consecutive year with 1,015 yards. The season included a 200-yard rushing game in the Giants' Week 5 win over the Cleveland Browns, and it marked Bradshaw's second season with 1,000+ yards.

The Giants released Bradshaw in early 2013, and he signed with the Indianapolis Colts. In his six years with the Giants, Bradshaw rushed for 4,232 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and scored 32 rushing touchdowns. He also gained 1,087 yards on receptions, with three touchdowns. He has the sixth-most rushing yards in Giants franchise history.

Ahmad Bradshaw's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
2007
12
23
190
1
2
12
0
202
2008
15
67
355
1
5
42
1
397
2009
15
163
778
7
21
207
0
985
2010
16
276
1,235
8
47
314
0
1,549
2011
12
171
659
9
34
267
2
926
2012
14
221
1,015
6
23
245
0
1,260
Career
84
921
4,232
32
132
1,087
3
5,319

8. Ron Johnson

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1970–1975 (6 years of 7-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 30
  • 2-time Pro Bowl selection: 1970, 1972
  • First-Team All-Pro: 1970
  • NFL season leader: rush attempts, total touches, total yards from scrimmage (1970), rush attempts, total touches, total rushing and receiving touchdowns (1972)

Recap of Johnson's Giants Career

Following his All-American college football career at the University of Michigan, Ron Johnson was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 1969 NFL Draft. He had a somewhat disappointing rookie season with the Browns and was traded to the Giants in January 1970.

Johnson had a huge impact in his first season with the Giants. In Week 4, he ran for 142 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Giants notched their first win of the year. He added three more 100-yard games and became the first player in franchise history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, tallying 1,027 yards on a league-leading 263 carries. He added 48 receptions for another 487 yards, resulting in a league-best 1,514 total yards from scrimmage.

Injuries limited Johnson to two games in 1971, but he bounced back with another 1,000-yard season in 1972. His 298 carries led the league, and his 1,182 rushing yards and 1,863 total yards from scrimmage were the best single-season totals of his career. In a Week 3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Johnson set a Giants record for touchdowns in a game with four, catching three touchdown passes and scoring once on a rush.

Johnson had another good year in 1973, with 1,279 total yards from scrimmage on 902 rushing yards and 377 receiving yards. But his playing time decreased in 1974 and 1975 as the Giants gave the ball more often to Joe Dawkins and Doug Kotar. He retired before the 1976 season.

The speedy Johnson could do it all—catch the ball, block, run both inside and outside, make big plays. But despite all of his achievements, the Giants did not make the playoffs during his tenure. In fact, the only years in which they posted winning records in the 17-year stretch from 1964 to 1980 were Johnson's two 1,000-yard, Pro Bowl seasons in 1970 and 1972.

In his Giants career, Johnson ran for 3,836 yards, an average of 3.6 yards per carry, and scored 33 touchdowns on the ground. He also made 189 receptions for 1,813 yards with 15 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, his career rushing yardage was second only to Alex Webster, who, ironically, was the Giants' head coach during Johnson's first four, most productive years with the team.

Ron Johnson's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1970
14
263
1,027
8
48
487
4
1,514
1971
2
32
156
1
6
47
0
203
1972
14
298
1,182
9
45
451
5
1,633
1973
12
260
902
6
32
377
3
1,279
1974
11
97
218
4
24
171
2
389
1975
14
116
351
5
34
280
1
631
Career
67
1,066
3,836
33
189
1,813
15
5,649
Bold = NFL leader

7. Ottis Anderson

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1986–1992 (7 years of 14-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 24
  • Playoff appearances: 1982, 1986, 1989, 1990
  • Super Bowl Championships: Super Bowl XXI, Super Bowl XXV
  • Awards and accolades: Pro Football Weekly NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1989), NFL Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1990)

Recap of Anderson's Giants Career

After an All-American college football career at the University of Miami, where he set the school's all-time rushing record, Ottis "O.J." Anderson was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals with the eighth pick in the first round of the 1979 NFL Draft. He had an outstanding rookie season for the Cardinals and was named the 1979 Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. He was also recognized as a first-team All-Pro and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Anderson rushed for over 1,000 yards in five of his first six seasons, but injuries began to take a toll after that, and his playing time was significantly reduced. The Cardinals traded him to the Giants in the middle of the 1986 season.

The Giants used him primarily in goal-line and short-yardage situations, and he had limited carries. But he did rush for a touchdown in the Giants' victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.

Anderson's playing time increased somewhat in the 1988 season, and then in 1989, he became the Giants' primary running back in head coach Bill Parcells's ball-control offense. He rushed for 1,023 yards on 325 carries and scored a career-high 14 touchdowns. The Pro Football Writers Association named Anderson the 1989 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

In 1990, Anderson led the Giants in rushing again with 784 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. In Super Bowl XXV, he rushed for 102 yards with one touchdown as the Giants beat the Buffalo Bills for their second Super Bowl win. Anderson was named the Super Bowl MVP.

Rodney Hampton replaced Anderson as the Giants' leading running back in 1991, and Anderson retired after the 1992 season. Although he had much higher yardage totals earlier in his career with the Cardinals, Anderson made substantial contributions to the Giants in his seven seasons with the team. He rushed for 2,274 yards and scored 35 rushing touchdowns, and he added 567 yards on 77 receptions. Remarkably, Anderson fumbled only three times in 739 touches with the Giants.

Ottis Anderson's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScam
1986
8
24
81
1
9
46
0
127
1987
4
2
6
0
2
16
0
22
1988
16
65
208
8
9
57
0
265
1989
16
325
1,023
14
28
268
0
1,291
1990
16
225
784
11
18
139
0
923
1991
10
53
141
1
11
41
0
182
1992
13
10
31
0
0
0
0
31
Career
83
704
2,274
35
77
567
0
2,841

6. Alex Webster

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1955–1964 (entire 10-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 29
  • Playoff appearances: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961–1963
  • NFL Championship: 1956
  • 2-time Pro Bowl selection: 1958, 1961
  • Awards and accolades: Giants Ring of Honor (2011)

Recap of Webster's Giants Career

Alex "Big Red" Webster was a standout running back for the North Carolina State Wolfpack. The Washington Redskins drafted him in the 11th round of the 1953 NFL Draft but then cut him before the season. He accepted an offer to play instead for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League (CFL). In his second season, 1954, he was named a CFL All-Star.

In 1955 Webster returned to the United States and was signed by the Giants. He joined Frank Gifford and Mel Triplett in the backfield and had an immediate impact. He was a slashing runner with great open-field moves, as well as an excellent receiver and a strong blocker. In his first season, he led the Giants in rushing with 634 yards on 128 carries and caught 22 passes for 269 yards.

Webster became a mainstay of the Giants' offense for 10 years, in an era when the Giants were consistently a very good team. In 1956, Webster's second season, he rushed for 694 yards, added another 197 yards on receptions, and led the team with 10 rushing and receiving touchdowns. The Giants won their first NFL Championship since 1938, with Webster scoring two of the Giants' five touchdowns as they beat the Chicago Bears 47-7 in the championship game.

Webster's best seasons statistically came in 1961 and 1962. He led the Giants in rushing with 928 and 743 yards, respectively, and in total yards from scrimmage with 1,241 and 1,220. Webster was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in 1961, and the Giants won the NFL Eastern Division title in both years, although they lost the championship games.

Webster finished his playing career with 4,638 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns, along with 2,679 receiving yards and 17 touchdown receptions. His 4,638 rushing yards made him the Giants' career leader at the time of his retirement, and as of this writing, he is in fifth place.

After serving as an assistant coach under Allie Sherman, Webster was promoted to head coach in 1969. He held the job for five years. In 1970 United Press International (UPI) named him the NFL Coach of the Year.

Alex Webster's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1955
12
128
634
5
22
269
1
903
1956
12
178
694
7
21
197
3
891
1957
11
135
478
5
30
330
1
808
1958
9
100
398
3
25
279
3
677
1959
10
79
250
5
27
381
2
631
1960
8
22
48
0
8
106
0
154
1961
14
196
928
2
26
313
3
1,241
1962
14
207
743
5
47
477
4
1,220
1963
7
75
255
4
15
128
0
383
1964
12
76
210
3
19
199
0
409
Career
109
1,196
4,638
39
240
2,679
17
7,317
Brandon Jacobs, November 2011.
Brandon Jacobs, November 2011. | Source

5. Brandon Jacobs

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 2005–2011, 2013 (8 years of 9-year NFL career)
  • Jersey numbers: 27 (2005–2011), 34 (2013)
  • Playoff appearances: 2005–2008, 2011
  • Super Bowl Championships: Super Bowl XLII, Super Bowl XLVI

Recap of Jacobs's Giants Career

Brandon Jacobs played college football at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas for two years before moving to Auburn University for a year and finally to Southern Illinois University for his senior year. The Giants drafted him in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

Jacobs was a large and powerful running back but also had good speed. In his first two seasons with the Giants, he was a backup to Tiki Barber. When Barber retired after the 2006 season, Jacobs took over as the starting running back for 2007. He suffered a knee injury in the first game of the season and missed the next three games, but he returned in Week 5 to rush for 100 yards and score a touchdown against the New York Jets. He was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October.

Jacobs finished the regular season with a team-high 1,009 rushing yards and an additional 174 receiving yards. He started all of the Giants' games in the playoffs and scored the winning touchdown in the Giants' Divisional Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite continuing knee problems, 2008 saw Jacobs post career-high rushing numbers with 1,089 yards and 15 touchdowns. He led the Giants in both categories. Jacobs and fellow running back Derrick Ward became only the fifth pair of teammates to each rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, as Ward tallied 1,023 yards for the year.

Jacobs had the majority of the Giants' rushing attempts in 2009 too, and he finished with 835 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw became the primary ball carrier in 2010, but Jacobs had 147 carries and averaged 5.6 yards per carry for a total of 823 yards. He led the team with nine rushing touchdowns. In the playoffs, culminating in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI win, Jacobs carried the ball 37 times for 164 yards and one touchdown.

The Giants released him in March 2012. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers, but he again injured his knee and saw action in only two games. He returned to the Giants for the 2013 season but retired after seven games.

In 107 games as a Giant, Jacobs rushed for 5,087 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and he scored 60 rushing touchdowns. He added 743 yards and four touchdowns on receptions. His rushing total put him in fourth place on the Giants' all-time list.

Brandon Jacobs's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
2005
16
38
99
7
0
0
0
99
2006
15
96
423
9
11
149
0
572
2007
11
202
1,009
4
23
174
2
1,183
2008
13
219
1,089
15
6
36
0
1,125
2009
15
224
835
5
18
184
1
1,019
2010
16
147
823
9
7
59
0
882
2011
14
152
571
7
15
128
1
699
2013
7
58
238
4
2
13
0
251
Career
107
1,136
5,087
60
82
743
4
5,830

4. Rodney Hampton

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1990–1997 (entire 8-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 27
  • Playoff appearances: 1990, 1993, 1997
  • 2-time Pro Bowl selection: 1992, 1993

Recap of Hampton's Giants Career

The Giants drafted Rodney Hampton out of the University of Georgia in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft. In his rookie year, he played well behind veteran running back Ottis Anderson, but unfortunately, he broke his leg in the Giants' Divisional Round win over the Chicago Bears and was out for the rest of the Giants' playoff run to Super Bowl XXV.

Hampton was named the Giants' starting running back in the 1991 season and soon emerged as the team's most consistent offensive threat. In Week 6, he rushed for 137 yards, with one touchdown, and caught four passes for 45 yards. The Giants beat the Phoenix Cardinals 20-9, and Hampton was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

The 1991 season marked the first of five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for Hampton. From 1991 to 1995, Hampton led the Giants in both rushing yardage and total yards from scrimmage. He also scored 45 touchdowns during these five seasons, leading the team in that category in three seasons and tying for the lead in the other two. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1992 and 1993.

One of Hampton's best performances came in the 1993 playoffs in 1993. In the Wild Card game against the Minnesota Vikings, he gained 161 yards on the ground and caught six passes for another 24 yards. The Giants beat the Vikings 17-10 on the strength of Hampton's two third-quarter touchdowns, one of which came on a 51-yard run.

Hampton's streak of five straight 1,000-yard seasons came to an end in 1996, when he ran for 827 yards. He missed the last game of the season with a knee injury, but his rushing yardage still led the team. He had arthroscopic surgery on the knee before the 1997 season, but he could only return for two late-season games. When the Giants released him before the 1998 season, he decided to retire.

Hampton retired as the Giants' all-time career rushing leader with 6,897 yards. He also tallied 1,309 receiving yards and had 51 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns. His rushing total was eventually surpassed by Tiki Barber, who joined the Giants in 1997, Hampton's last season.

Rodney Hampton's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1990
15
109
455
2
32
274
2
729
1991
14
256
1,059
10
43
283
0
1,342
1992
16
257
1,141
14
28
215
0
1,356
1993
12
292
1,077
5
18
210
0
1,287
1994
14
327
1,075
6
14
103
0
1,178
1995
16
306
1,182
10
24
142
0
1,324
1996
15
254
827
1
15
82
0
909
1997
2
23
81
1
0
0
0
81
Career
104
1,824
6,897
49
174
1,309
2
8,206

3. Joe Morris

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1982–1988 (7 years of 8-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 20
  • Playoff appearances: 1984, 1985, 1986
  • Super Bowl Championship: Super Bowl XXI
  • 2-time Pro Bowl selection: 1985, 1986
  • First-Team All-Pro: 1986
  • NFL season leader: rushing touchdowns, total rushing and receiving touchdowns (1985)

Recap of Morris's Giants Career

The Giants selected Joe Morris in the second round of the 1982 NFL Draft. Morris had been an All-American at Syracuse University, where he set the school's all-time rushing record. He continued to excel at the professional level with the Giants.

In the Giants' game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 of the 1982 season, Morris scored a touchdown on his first rushing attempt in a Giants uniform. From 1982 to 1984, he played behind Butch Woolfolk, whom the Giants had drafted ahead of him in 1982. But by 1985, Woolfolk was gone and Morris was the Giants' number-one running back.

Morris responded to his new status with monster back-to-back seasons in 1985 and 1986. In 1985, he rushed for 1,336 yards in 294 attempts, for an average of 4.5 yards per carry, and led the NFL with 21 touchdowns. He ran for over 100 yards in six games and scored three touchdowns in four of the Giants' last six games of the season.

He saved his best for last, leading the Giants to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16 to help secure a wild card berth. Morris ran for 202 yards in the game and scored three touchdowns. His second touchdown came on a 65-yard run, in which he ran the last 52 yards with only one shoe on after eluding a tackle.

Morris was a key member of the Giants' first Super Bowl–winning team in 1986. He averaged over 100 yards per game in the regular season for a total of 1,516 yards. After rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants' Week 8 win over the Washington Redskins, he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Morris continued his superb play in the playoffs, rushing for a total of 313 yards and scoring four touchdowns in the Giants' three games, culminating in their Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos.

Morris ran for 658 yards in the strike-shortened 1987 season. In 1988, he ran for 1,083 yards, his third 1,000-yard season. He missed the 1989 season due to a broken foot, and the Giants waived him before the start of the 1990 season. He played for the Cleveland Browns in the 1991 season before retiring.

Morris's Giants career total of 5,296 rushing yards put him in first place all-time ahead of Alex Webster until Rodney Hampton and then Tiki Barber surpassed him in the succeeding decades. He added 884 receiving yards and scored a combined total of 50 touchdowns. Morris still holds numerous Giants playoff rushing records.

Joe Morris's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1982
5
15
48
1
8
34
0
82
1983
15
35
145
0
2
1
1
146
1984
16
133
510
4
12
124
0
634
1985
16
294
1,336
21
22
212
0
1,548
1986
15
341
1,516
14
21
233
1
1,749
1987
11
193
658
3
11
114
0
772
1988
16
307
1,083
5
22
166
0
1,249
Career
94
1,318
5,296
48
98
884
2
6,180
Bold = NFL leader
Frank Gifford of the New York Giants.
Frank Gifford of the New York Giants. | Source

2. Frank Gifford

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1952–1960, 1962–1964 (entire 12-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 16
  • Playoff appearances: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963
  • NFL Championship: 1956
  • 8-time Pro Bowl selection: 1953–1959, 1963
  • 4-time First-Team All-Pro: 1955–1957, 1959
  • NFL season leader: total yards from scrimmage (1956)
  • Awards and accolades: NFL Most Valuable Player Award (1956), UPI Comeback Player of the Year (1962), Professional Football Hall of Fame (1977), Giants jersey number 16 retired (2000), Giants Ring of Honor (2010)

Recap of Gifford's Giants Career

The Giants selected Frank Gifford with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft. He had played football for one season at Bakersfield Junior College and then transferred to the University of Southern California (USC), where he was named an All-American.

When Gifford began his career with the Giants in 1952, NFL rosters were limited to 33 players, and many players played both offense and defense. The skilled and versatile Gifford was no exception (in fact, he would be selected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions during his career). Although he was used mostly as a defensive back in his first two seasons, by 1954 he was primarily playing running back, under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi.

Statistically, Gifford put together his best year in 1956, when he helped lead the Giants to the NFL Championship. His total of 1,422 yards from scrimmage was tops in the league. In an unprecedented achievement, his average of 5.2 rushing yards per carry was also first in the league, while his total of 819 rushing yards was fifth, and his total of 603 receiving yards on 51 catches was third. No player had ever before finished in the top five in these three categories. For these accomplishments, Gifford was named a first-team All-Pro, selected to the Pro Bowl, and awarded the trophy as the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

Disaster struck for Gifford—and the Giants—midway through the 1960 season. Going into their Week 9 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants trailed the Eagles by a half game in the division. The previous week, Gifford had scored three touchdowns to lead the Giants to a 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game against the Eagles could catapult them into first place.

Late in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia had a seven-point lead, but the Giants had the ball deep in the Eagles' territory. Gifford caught a pass from Giants quarterback George Shaw and cut inside to the 10-yard line. When he did, Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik hit him with a ferocious blind-side tackle that knocked him unconscious. Philadelphia recovered the ball, won the game, and won the division.

More importantly, Gifford suffered a severe head injury that forced him to announce his retirement. He sat out the entire 1961 season but came back in 1962 and played for three more seasons as a flanker, taking advantage of his skill as a receiver. He performed so well in his new position that UPI named him the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. In 1963, he was chosen for his eighth Pro Bowl.

When he retired after the 1964 season, Gifford was the Giants' career leader in receiving with 5,434 yards. With 3,609 rushing yards, he was second to his teammate Alex Webster, who retired the same year. His 78 touchdowns (including one on defense) led the Giants' all-time list, and as of this writing, they still do.

Frank Gifford's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1952
10
38
116
0
5
36
0
152
1953
12
50
157
2
18
292
4
449
1954
9
66
368
2
14
154
1
522
1955
11
86
351
3
33
437
4
788
1956
12
159
819
5
51
603
4
1,422
1957
12
136
528
5
41
588
4
1,116
1958
10
115
468
8
29
330
2
798
1959
11
106
540
3
42
768
4
1,308
1960
8
77
232
4
24
344
3
576
1962
14
2
18
1
39
796
7
814
1963
14
4
10
0
42
657
7
667
1964
13
1
2
1
29
429
3
431
Career
136
840
3,609
34
367
5,434
43
9,043
Tiki Barber in 2007.
Tiki Barber in 2007. | Source

1. Tiki Barber

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Years with the team: 1997–2006 (entire 10-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 21
  • Playoff appearances: 1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006
  • 3-time Pro Bowl selection: 2004, 2005, 2006
  • First-Team All-Pro: 2005
  • NFL season leader: total yards from scrimmage (2004), longest rush attempt, total touches, total yards from scrimmage (2005)
  • Awards and accolades: Giants Ring of Honor (2010)

Recap of Barber's Career With the Giants

Tiki Barber played college football at the University of Virginia, although he attended the school on an academic, not athletic, scholarship. The Giants drafted him with the 36th pick overall in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft, intending to use him as a third-down running back.

In his rookie year, however, Barber began the season as a starter and scored a touchdown in each of the Giants' first three games. Unfortunately, his hot start did not hold up for the whole season. He missed a number of games with an injury and scored only one more touchdown. He finished the season with 511 rushing yards and 299 receiving yards.

In 1998, Barber did not start and had a somewhat mediocre year with 166 rushing yards and 348 receiving yards. The 1999 season was better. He added a total of 772 return yards to his rushing and receiving totals to give him 1,639 all-purpose yards for the year.

Barber came into his own in the 2000 season, running for 1,006 yards with eight touchdowns and adding 719 yards and one touchdown on receptions. He also continued to return punts and kick-offs, ending the season with 2,085 all-purpose yards. Barber's play was a major factor in the Giants winning the NFC Eastern Division and going to Super Bowl XXXV, but unfortunately, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.

Barber had a good year in 2001, but his next five seasons were even better. In each season from 2002 through 2006, Barber rushed for well over 1,000 yards. He also had substantial receiving yardage. In both 2004 and 2005, he led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 2,096 and 2,390 yards, respectively.

The Giants had a poor season in 2004, but Barber gave them something to cheer about in the final game of the season. With the Giants trailing the Dallas Cowboys 16-14 in the fourth quarter, he caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning to put the Giants ahead 21-16. The Cowboys scored again, though, to re-take the lead with less than two minutes left. Barber again came to the rescue, scoring on a three-yard run with 11 seconds left to give the Giants the win.

The game, and especially the second touchdown, was sweet for Barber personally as well as for the fans. In the first half, he had already broken Rodney Hampton's all-time Giants rushing record of 6,897 yards. With his three-yard run on the last touchdown, he also broke Joe Morris's single-season rushing record. Morris's record, set in 1986, was 1,516 yards. After the touchdown, Barber had 1,518.

He broke his own new single-season record in 2005 with 1,816 rushing yards. The season included three games in which he rushed for more than 200 yards. Barber was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after each of these games (as well as three other times in his career). And he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month (for the second of three times) for the month of December, when two of the 200-yard games occurred.

Midway through the 2006 season, Barber announced his intention to retire following the season, despite the fact that he was still at the top of his game. In fact, in the final regular-season game, he set a new team record for rushing yardage (breaking his own record from the previous year) with 234 yards, with three touchdowns. The win also gave the Giants a Wild Card spot.

As the most prolific running back in Giants' history, Barber no doubt belongs at the top of this list. His career total of 10,449 rushing yards is the best by a wide margin. And his 5,183 career receiving yards are the most by a running back other than Frank Gifford, who, as discussed above, was primarily a receiver for the last three seasons of his career. Barber's 68 touchdowns are also second only to Gifford.

Tiki Barber's Statistics With the Giants

Year
G
Rush
Yds
TDs
Rec
Yds
TDs
YScm
1997
12
136
511
3
34
299
1
810
1998
16
52
166
0
42
348
3
514
1999
16
62
258
0
66
609
2
867
2000
16
213
1,006
8
70
719
1
1,725
2001
14
166
865
4
72
577
0
1,442
2002
16
304
1,387
11
69
597
0
1,984
2003
16
278
1,216
2
69
461
1
1,677
2004
16
322
1,518
13
52
578
2
2,096
2005
16
357
1,860
9
54
530
2
2,390
2006
16
327
1,662
5
58
465
0
2,127
Career
154
2,217
10,449
55
586
5,183
12
15,632
Bold = NFL leader

Honorable Mentions

In addition to the top 10 Giants running backs I've listed, here are my choices for honorable mention, in alphabetical order.

Rob Carpenter

  • Years with the team: 1981–1985 (5 years of 10-year NFL career)
  • Playoff appearances: 1981, 1984, 1985
  • Career rushing: 737 carries for 2,572 yards, 17 TDs
  • Career receiving: 103 receptions for 859 yards, 3 touchdowns

Tuffy Leemans

  • Years with the team: 1936–1943 (entire 8-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 4
  • Playoff appearances: 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943
  • NFL Championship: 1938
  • 2-time Pro Bowl selection: 1938, 1941
  • First-Team All-Pro: 1939
  • NFL season leader: rush attempts, rushing yards, rushing yards per game, total touches (1936), rushing yards per game (1940)
  • Career rushing: 919 carries for 3,132 yards, 17 TDs
  • Career receiving: 28 receptions for 422 yards, 3 TDs
  • Awards and accolades: Giants jersey number 4 retired (1940), Professional Football Hall of Fame (1990), Giants Ring of Honor (2010)

Joe Morrison

  • Years with the team: 1959–1972 (entire 14-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 40
  • Playoff appearances: 1959, 1961–1963
  • NFL season leader: yards per touch (1966, 1969)
  • Career rushing: 677 carries for 2,474 yards, 18 TDs
  • Career receiving: 395 receptions for 4,993 yards, 47 TDs
  • Awards and accolades: Giants jersey number 40 retired (1972), Giants Ring of Honor (2010)

Eddie Price (1950–1955)

  • Years with the team: 1950–1955 (entire 6-year NFL career)
  • Jersey number: 31
  • Playoff appearance: 1950
  • 3-time Pro Bowl selection: 1951, 1952, 1954
  • 2-time First-Team All-Pro: 1951, 1952
  • NFL season leader: rushing yards per game (1950), rush attempts, rushing yards, rushing yards per game, total touches (1951), rush attempts, total touches (1952)
  • Career rushing: 846 carries for 3,292 yards, 20 TDs
  • Career receiving: 75 receptions for 672 yards, 4 TDs

Final Thoughts on This List

This ranking, of course, is not the last word on the subject. I think the evidence supports my choices. But Giants fans have their own favorites and may prefer other criteria to decide which running backs are the best. There can easily be a debate about listing some players to the exclusion of others or about the order of the ranking. For example, a very strong case can be made for including Tuffy Leemans among the top 10 Giants running backs.

Feel free to disagree with my list, especially if I've omitted one of your favorite running backs or ranked someone higher or lower than you think he deserves. Statistics and records are intrinsic to the game, but football is also a game that inspires opinions and passions. And most of all, fun!

All 1,000-Yard Seasons by New York Giants Running Backs

Year
Player
G
Att
Yds
TDs
1970
Ron Johnson
14
263
1,027
8
1972
Ron Johnson
14
298
1,182
9
1985
Joe Morris
16
294
1,336
21
1986
Joe Morris
15
341
1,516
14
1988
Joe Morris
16
307
1,083
5
1989
Ottis Anderson
16
325
1,023
14
1991
Rodney Hampton
14
256
1,059
10
1992
Rodney Hampton
16
257
1,141
14
1993
Rodney Hampton
12
292
1,077
5
1994
Rodney Hampton
14
327
1,075
6
1995
Rodney Hampton
16
306
1,182
10
1998
Gary Brown
16
247
1,063
5
2000
Tiki Barber
16
213
1,006
8
2002
Tiki Barber
16
304
1,387
11
2003
Tiki Barber
16
278
1,216
2
2004
Tiki Barber
16
322
1,518
13
2005
Tiki Barber
16
357
1,860
9
2006
Tiki Barber
16
327
1,662
5
2007
Brandon Jacobs
11
202
1,009
4
2008
Brandon Jacobs
13
219
1,089
15
2008
Derrick Ward
16
182
1,025
2
2010
Ahmad Bradshaw
16
276
1,235
8
2012
Ahmad Bradshaw
14
221
1,015
6
2018
Saquon Barkley
16
261
1,307
11
2019
Saquon Barkley
13
217
1,003
6
Bold = NFL leader

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