It’s hard for me to look past the garbage Tiki Barber spewed about Coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning in the wake of his retirement. It casts a dark shadow on what was a very productive career as the now extinct bell-cow running back. With that being said Barber’s career numbers are impressive and he should at least be in the conversation for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Former Giants running back Tiki Barber had a very successful career in the NFL. He seems to be a player right on the fence of enshrinement into Canton. He had some great years but he also put the ball on the ground at an alarming rate for the first half of his career. Barber left the game on his own terms, which is what all players would like to do. After he left he turned around and spewed verbal waste about his former head coach who turned his career around as well as the quarterback he lined up behind. In the years following his retirement the Giants went on to win 2 Super Bowls in 5 seasons.
New York Giants
When he retired Barber was the Giants all time leader in rushing yards (10,449), rushing touchdowns (55), rushing attempts (2,217), and even receptions (586). He is a player who achieved a ton of success in a short period of time. Between the years of 2002-2006 Barber was arguably one of the best players in the NFL. During that span he averaged 1,529 rushing yards, 8 rushing toucdowns, 60 receptions and 5 receiving touchdowns. Those numbers total 7,643 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 302 catches for 2,631 and 5 touchdowns. A grand total of 10,274 yards from scrimmage over 5 years.
Barber retired behind only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders for yards per carry for back with over 10,000 yards. He is one of only 3 players to have 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards along with Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen.
As of today he ranks 12th all time in yards from scrimmage with 15,632. He is 13th all time in all purpose yards with 17,359 yards. Of the 11 players in front of him 9 of them are in the hall of fame. The other two, LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Owens, will find themselves in Canton. He sits several spots in front of hall of famers Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, and Jerome Bettis. He also sits ahead of Tony Gonzalez and Randy Moss, two players who are locks for enshrinement.
Unfortunately for Barber he left the game at his peak. The beginning of his career was marred by fumblitis as he served primarily as a 3rd down back. If he would have played a few more season, this would not be a debate. He would be a lock. Though he was a dominant player during his prime he had a 7 year period from 1997-2003 where he fumbled the ball 44 times. He finally cured his fumbling problems with the arrival of Coach Tom Coughlin in 2004. In his final 3 seasons (2004-2006) Barber fumbled a total of 9 times. The 3 years previous to Coughlin’s arrival, Barber put the ball on the ground 26 times.
Aug 3, 2014; Canton, OH, USA; General view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
A Super Bowl ring would be a great boost for Barber’s case for the hall. In 2000 the Giants took a booming offense, fresh off a 41-0 romp of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game into Super Bowl 35 vs the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens came in with arguably the greatest defense of all time and absolutely crushed the Giants. Barber didn’t do much that day rushing for 49 yards and receiving another 26. In his defense no one else besides Ron Dixon did much on offense that day.
To make matters worse for Barber the Giants won Super Bowl 42 the year after he retired. He critisized both Coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning for their lack of leadership skills. Those comments left a stain on his Giants legacy as it seemed like he sold out to promote his to be failed broadcasting career. 5 years later Coughlin and Eli won their second Super Bowl together and second without Tiki Barber. In what is my favorite Tiki Barber moment he got to interview Eli Manning after the Giants won Super Bowl 42. Thats about as close as he would get to having a Super Bowl ring and Canton resume booster.
In my eyes Tiki Barber is no hall of famer. He played out of his mind for a few seasons, and if he would have done that for a little longer then he very well may have been a lock for the hall. Unfortunately Barber’s 53 career fumbles, comments towards the man who turned his career around and the greatest quarterback in franchise history, failed broadcasting career, and failed comeback attempt in 2011 have brutally stained his handful of years as a top running back. If he would have hung around and shut his mouth it would have been hard to keep him out. No dice Tiki.