Larry Can't Do Everything

It's been a long week for Larry Johnson. The Chiefs ran 119 plays from scrimmage against the Raiders and Broncos. Johnson touched the ball on 55 percent of those plays.

Is that too much? The next closest player, other than quarterback Trent Green and center Casey Wiegmann, was Johnson's backup, Michael Bennett, with nine touches.

You might have heard of the Randy Ratio. In Kansas City, the Chiefs have their own version: the LJ ratio.

Johnson has touched the ball on nearly 48 percent of the Chiefs' offensive plays this year. That's far and away the heaviest burden shouldered by any offensive player in the NFL this season.

For comparison's sake, let's consider the percentages among other top running backs. San Diego's LaDanian Tomlinson stands at about 41 percent, as does San Francisco's Frank Gore and Minnesota's Chester Taylor. New York's Tiki Barber gets the ball about 38 percent of the time.

Is there really a need for the discrepancy between Johnson and these other running backs? With Bennett available on the sideline, absolutely not. The Chiefs are overworking Johnson.

After 34 carries against the Broncos, Johnson is now on pace for 410. That would tie the NFL single-season record set by Jamal Anderson in 1998.

Anderson was fantastic that year, running for 1,846 yards and leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

But he was never the same player after that record-setting season. He cranked out one final 1,000-yard effort in 2000, but blew out his knee in two of his last three seasons. He barely totaled 350 carries combined after 1998.

And it's not just Anderson. The same thing happened to Eddie George after 403 carries for the Titans in 2000. Sure, George never had a serious injury, but his yards per carry permanently dipped below 3.5 after 2000.

Tampa Bay's James Wilder had a fine 1985 season after carrying the ball 407 times in 1984. But after that season, it was all downhill. He never again sniffed 1,000 yards and missed time due to injury in every year until retirement.

Eric Dickerson is arguably the only exception among 400-carry running backs, but there's more to this discussion than merely the 400 number.

Earl Campbell's highest carry total in one season was 373. He burned bright, but extremely fast.

The same thing has happened to a number of running backs: Barry Foster, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis…take your pick.

There's no need for the Chiefs to give Johnson this workload. People want to compare him to Jim Brown, but Brown was never forced to shoulder such an enormous amount of Cleveland's offense.

Brown never even came close to 400 carries in a season. His largest total was 305 in 1961, and even though he played shorter seasons, if you extrapolate his largest per-game average (from 1959), it still only works out to 386 carries.

Brown, by the way, had his own capable backup running back who kept him fresh. Bobby Mitchell carried the ball at least 100 times in three of Brown's nine seasons. Over the rest of Brown's career, Cleveland had a stable of backups who replaced Mitchell.

Just because Johnson is another power back doesn't mean he has to burn out like one. Jerome Bettis lasted 13 years in the NFL and never once carried the ball 400 times. The Steelers always had someone to share the load.

The Chiefs have that with Bennett. They need to start using him. There is no good reason to deny Bennett the seven percent of the touches that separate Johnson from Tomlinson, Gore and Taylor.

After the Denver game, head coach Herm Edwards said that Johnson was actually behind schedule in carries. That's just insane. The Chiefs will be a better offense with a fresh Johnson late in the year, and hopefully, the playoffs. Top Stories