The Washington Redskins have a rich history of winning games and championships in the trenches. The offensive line during the 1980s and early 1990s were known as the Hogs. This group dominated the line of scrimmage and made running the ball very simple.
In 2020, the Redskins will look to continue their history of strong running backs. Derrius Guice will enter the season as the starter. The third-year back has shown signs of being a star but he has been unable to stay on the field. Washington will also have an all-time great in Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Together, Guice and Peterson can be a duo that carries the load for the offense.
When breaking down the best running backs in Redskins history, the choice were pretty clear. We will begin by looking at an honorable mention in Stephen Davis. He spent seven years in Washington and did not get consistent carries until year four. In 1999, Davis rushed for 1,405 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdowns. Two years later, Davis led the league with 356 carries and rushed for 1,432 yards. Davis comes in at fourth on this list.
Here are the top three running backs in franchise history.
3. Larry Brown
The Redskins selected Brown in the eighth round of the 1969 draft. They did not expect to get a player that would make an impact for many years with the team.
Brown burst onto the scene immediately in 1969. He earned his first of four straight Pro Bowl appearances as a rookie. He carried the ball 202 times for 888 yards and four touchdowns. His game only continued to improve throughout his career. In year two, Brown led the league with 1,125 rush yards and was named First Team All-Pro.
The 1972 season might have been the best for Brown. He led the league with 101.3 yards per game and totaled 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns. Brown earned yet another First Team All-Pro selection and was named league MVP. Brown gave the Redskins four elite years before he began to decline. He failed to rush for 100 yards in 1975 and 1976.
After not starting a game in 1976 and rushing for just 56 yards, Brown decided to call it a career. He is not in the Hall of Fame but he will be remembered as one of the top running backs in Redskins history given his accomplishments and longevity. Brown spent all eight years of his career in Washington.
2. Clinton Portis
Portis spent two incredible seasons with the Denver Broncos to begin his career. He rushed for 1,508 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie. During his sophomore campaign, Portis went for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns. This was enough to catch the eye of the Redskins. In 2004, the Redskins sent cornerback Champ Bailey to Denver for Portis and a second-round pick.
Bailey is a Hall of Fame corner. This trade should be viewed as lopsided but Portis’ work as a Redskin made it more even than originally thought. Portis arrived in Washington in 2004 and immediately took over the backfield. He carried the ball 343 times for 1,315 yards and five touchdowns in his first season. Portis followed that up with his best year in a Redskins’ uniform with 1,516 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Beginning in 2006, Portis began his injury-prone ways. He missed time with a shoulder injury but returned with a vengeance in 2007. He led the league in carries with 325 and scored 11 touchdowns. He has suffered multiple head injuries throughout his career, which he revealed after he retired. Portis finished 648 yards away from the all-time rushing record in Washington. A groin injury in 2010 limited him to just five games and cost him the chance.
Portis retired following the 2010 season. He ranks second all-time in Redskins history with 1,667 carries for 6,824 yards and 46 touchdowns. He was part of a blockbuster deal that sent him to Washington and now he is one of the top two backs in franchise history.
1. John Riggins
Naming the No. 1 running back on this list is as easy as it gets. Riggins spent the first five years of his career with the New York Jets before signing with the Redskins. Over his first two years in the nation’s capital, Riggins played just 19 games and scored three touchdowns.
In 1978, he broke out with 1,014 yards and five touchdowns. The very next year, Riggins totaled 1,153 and nine touchdowns. Riggins missed the 1980 season because of a contract dispute with the team. The two sides came to terms and Riggins returned to the backfield in 1981 where he played five more years.
The 1982 season was a special one for the Redskins. There was a strike that shortened the season and forced the use of replacement players. Riggins led the league with 177 carries and totaled 533 yards and three touchdowns. The Redskins marched into the playoffs and picked up three double-digit victories on their way to the Super Bowl. This includes a 31-17 win over their biggest rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
In the Super Bowl against the Miami Dolphins, the Redskins hitched their wagon to Riggins. He rushed 38 times for 166 yards and a touchdown. Riggins’ 38 carries is still the most in any Super Bowl by a single player. Washington won the game and Riggins was named Super Bowl MVP.
Riggins retired after the 1985 season and is still the franchise leader in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. He finished with 1,988 carries for 7,472 yards and 79 touchdowns in a Redskins’ uniform. Riggins was an entertaining figure on and off the field.
It will take a whole lot for a running back to knock Riggins off his pedestal.