When football fans think of the greatest running-backs of all time, there are a few common names that come to mind: Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson to name a few. These players are seen as the few who went beyond all expectations, setting/breaking records and having outstanding careers. However, many would hesitate to put Matt Forte in this upper echelon of running-backs and NFL fame. This is partially due to the fact that he wasn’t necessarily a “flashy” player, and partially because he took handoffs from extremely talented QB’s such as Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton and Josh McCown throughout his career. Although he may not have the most exciting highlight reel, Matt Forte absolutely deserves to be seen as a top-tier ball-carrier both in this modern era of the NFL and of all-time.
Matt Forte’s impressive career began with a dominant rookie season. He toted the rock 316 times during the 2008 season, which was the 4th-highest in the league. The three ahead of him? Standout talent Michael Turner (376), Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson (363) and star RB Clinton Portis (342). On these carries, he totaled 1,238 yards (7th) and 8 TD’s. Not only did he excel in the ground game, he also did plenty of receiving out of the backfield. He hauled in 63 passes, which was first among RB’s. This also set the NFL record for most reception by a player in their rookie season. During his phenomenal rookie year, he caught 82.9% of his targets, 3rd among RB’s with 50 targets or more. Forte added 477 recieving yards to his impressive rookie year and overall recorded a whopping 1,715 yards from scrimmage with 12 TDs on the season. Oh, and he only fumbled once. On 379 touches. This breakout rookie year was the catalyst to Forte’s incredible career.
While his rookie year was exciting, Forte continuously showed the NFL that he wasn’t just another running-back. He had several record-setting efforts in big games, such as the 2011 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. He recorded 32 touches for 160 yards and set the franchise record for most receptions in a game with 10. Another example of this was Week 17 of the 2013 NFL season. With the NFC North crown and a ticket to the playoffs on the line, Matt Forte carried the rock 22 times for 110 yards and 2 TD’s. He also hauled in all four of his targets for 47 yards and another touchdown. He finishes his career with 9,796 total rushing yards, the fourth-most in the league since 2008. He only trails Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Lesean McCoy in this category. In addition to almost 10,000 rushing yards, Forte ends his career with 4,762 receiving yards and 14,468 total yards from scrimmage. The only RB’s with more all-time receiving yards are Marcus Allen and Ladainian Tomlinson, showing that Forte truly was one of the best “do-it-all” running-backs to play the game. Finally, on 2,910 career touches he fumbled just 22 times. That is approximately a 0.75% fumble percentage.
There are many extremely talented RB’s that the casual football fan would rather see in Canton than Matt Forte. These RB’s typically have a highlight reel full of jaw-dropping plays that shock those watching. However, I believe Matt Forte was the spitting image of not only a consistently great player, but one of the best of all time. He redefined the running-back position forever and greatly influenced the stereotypical “NFL offense” altogether. Even with all the talented players that have played and will play the position,there is no doubt in my mind that Forte is grossly underrated and deserves to be recognized as one of the best ball-carriers the league will ever see.