A Statistical Ode to Eddie

edwardAn exercise in sports writing:

  1. Find a superlative.
  2. Apply it to Eddie Lacy.
  3. Repeat.

Congratulations. You are now a writer of sports. No doubt about it, Eddie Lacy has been great this season. But after a while, it gets difficult to sort between the fact and evolving legend of a player as young and as instantly successful as he’s been. I’ve heard him described in terms so reverent you’d think he was already posing for a bust in Canton, which is certainly an exaggeration. That said, I’ve also heard claims that he’s overrated and an injury waiting to happen and fat, so clearly you can’t believe everything you hear.

I’ve loved watching the young Mr. Lacy. I like just about everything about his game. But it’s frustrating sometimes to not know where he fits in the grand scheme of Packers running back history.

So I decided to fix that. rushing numbers   Behold, a visualization of the last 30+ years of Packers running backs. In the above chart, I’ve graphed the touchdowns, yards per carry average, and yards per game aaverage for the Packers’ leading rusher each year dating back to 1980. I encourage you to click on the graph to get a better look at how the years compare. Here are a few takeaways.

  1. 1990 is not a misprint. Fullback Michael Haddix led the team in rushing that year with 311 yards, averaging 3.2 yards on 98 carries for an amazingly awful per game average of 19.4. This is a thing that happened.
  2. Holy cow, was Ahman Green amazing in 2003. I get that shock every time I look at the Packers’ historical rushing numbers, but this really puts it in perspective. His 2003 season was the stuff of legend.
  3. Before their abrupt drop off in 2010, the Packers had a pretty solid decade of rushing, never having a leading rusher who averaged less than 63.7 yards per game. The interaction with the passing game plays into that, obviously, but the “this is Brett Favre‘s team” narrative may not have been as strongly supported by data as we were led to believe. (That’s a shocker, I know.)
  4. 2010 to 2012 was truly abysmal. I know that’s obvious, but I needed to say it.

So in light of the numbers, how best do we appreciate what Eddie Lacy is doing? In a simple statement, he’s already the second best running back the Packers have had in the last 30 years. Ahman Green did it bigger and more consistently, and that’s the ceiling Lacy will be challenged to reach. But he’s off to a good start, and he’s certainly been fun to watch.

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