The career of a running back is short, among the shortest in all of professional sports. For instance, even the best often provide a team only six or seven years of solid production. That shouldn't come as a complete surprise, though. Football players deal with so much wear and tear on an every-game basis, and running backs in particular take a pounding two dozen or more times a week, 16 times a season. Over the years, that can take quite a physical toll.
Maybe it seems like a silly thought that a running back's age can carry such weight regarding his potential statistical output, but historical data does prove it true. Perhaps you've heard the oft-quoted saying "never draft a quarterback over 30 years old"?
Those who remember back to my "Thirtyslumpings" column of a year ago might remember that the discussion one year ago centered on the Jets' Curtis Martin, who, at the time, was coming off one of the greatest years in NFL history from a player who had already passed his 30th birthday. Despite being 31 years old in 2004, he rushed for 1,697 yards that year, becoming the oldest player in history to lead the league in that department. Martin's performance suddenly had everyone believing NFL running backs had discovered a virtual fountain of youth, enabling themselves to extend their careers longer than ever before.