Former Bills RB O.J. Simpson (Photo Source)
With the rest of the skill positions voted for and cemented (well, maybe not the WR position), it's time to get on with what could shape up to be the most intriguing debate we've had to this point: who makes our Best of the Bills Team as the starting running back?
The Bills are a team rich in history, tradition and production at the running back position, and two of the candidates listed below rank amongst the NFL's best all-time rushers. Here are your candidates; be sure to vote in the poll below:
Cookie Gilchrist ('62-'64): He only played in Buffalo for three seasons, but Cookie Gilchrist made them count. Splitting rushing duties with Wray Carlton, Gilchrist amassed 3,056 yards and scored 31 rushing touchdowns in his three seasons as a Bill. He also added 78 receptions for 875 yards and four more scores during that time period. In those three Bills seasons (he'd spend two more as a Bronco and another as a Dolphin), Gilchrist was elected to Pro Bowls each season, and was named First Team All-Pro twice. His Bills (and AFL/NFL) career was short, but Gilchrist was quite simply a highly productive, star tailback.
O.J. Simpson ('69-'77): Forget the fact that his post-football life has exposed him as an idiot. Forget, also, that Simpson played on some of the worst Bills teams ever in his 9 seasons as a Bill. Despite being the sole focus of opposing defenses - and despite being the one very good player the Bills had - Simpson was, hands down, one of the most productive running backs in history. He was the first running back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He ran for 10,183 yards as a Bill, scored 57 rushing touchdowns, and added 1,924 career yards and 12 more scores through the air. Here's the kicker: he finished his career averaging a whopping 4.8 yards per carry. That's a phenomenal statistic. Simpson made six Pro Bowl appearances and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Thurman Thomas ('88-'99): Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007, Thomas is the Bills' all-time leading rusher with 11,938 career rushing yards - 1,755 more than Simpson (although he needed three more seasons and 726 more carries to do it). Thomas was one of the first running backs of the modern era to become a multi-dimensional threat, as he was nearly as explosive in the passing game as he was rushing the ball. He caught 456 passes as a Bill (for 4,341 yards and 22 scores), ranking him third on the Bills' all-time receiving list (behind Andre Reed and Eric Moulds). Thomas ended his Bills career with 87 career touchdowns, six Pro Bowl berths under his belt, and legendary status.
This should be an interesting one. Take everything into account before making your selection, folks - circumstances, impact on the game, the whole nine yards (just keep it related to the field). Vote and discuss away.