Running Back Roulette: The Lack of Investment and Loyalty in Star Running Backs

Matt Forte and Arian Foster are two pro bowl caliber backs who are going to be wearing different uniforms next season. We explore the lack of investment and loyalty in star running backs. With each passing year, the NFL is slowly abandoning the running game. This doesn’t just change the way the game is played, it changes the way rosters are set up and players are chosen. Running backs are no longer selected just for their ability to run, they now must be able to catch and block.

Having these abilities doesn’t guarantee job security. Because of the positions frequency of taking hits, their bodies break down at a higher rate than most positions. This affects them both with injuries and effectiveness. Because of this, teams typically do not invest in aging running backs. Franchises opt to rid themselves of highly productive players before they ever get a chance to decline.

The Chicago Bears and Houston Texans both employed this strategy when they opted not to resign two longtime running backs. Matt Forte and Arian Foster have been two of the most productive players during their time in the league, but each found themselves without a job heading into the offseason. The reasoning for their release can be broken down into one concept, age. With Forte recently turning 30 and Foster turning 30 at the start of the season, they are considered in the back end of their career. Both players have played the entirety of their careers with the franchises who abandoned them.

Running backs are not given the loyalty that that most other positions enjoy. As soon as a team realizes there may be a better option, the running backs time comes to an end. This comes about because of all of the talented players that are constantly available at the position. Because running back is a position based purely on physical attributes, holding onto a guy that is slowing down is a bad move for the team. This contrasts the quarterback position which is mostly mental, where guys slowing down doesn’t cause as much of a drop off in ability.

With the league changing and running backs value steadily dropping, it’s safe to say that teams are not going to be investing high picks or huge contracts any longer. The position is so saturated with talent that there are always replacements. Unless the game reverts back to the run-first game of the 70’s and 80’s, it’s safe to say that running backs jobs will never be guaranteed.


By: Michael Hersey