The news that Giants RB Tiki Barber is contemplating retirement has generated a bit of reflection the past day or two. On the going-out-on-top scale of things, this ranks somewhere above Robert Smith and below Jim Brown, and I’ll be sad to see Tiki go. Bill Parcells mumbled something yesterday about Barber “getting the fumbling under control” and I guess that was the Tuna’s grudging way of saying one of the NFL’s best best backs and most solid citizens (witness the tremendous pitchman work for Dish TV and Powerbar!) is someone he’d rather not face twice a year.
Just 24 running backs from the modern era, which is defined as everything after 1946, have made it to the Hall Of Fame. If Barber says goodbye after this season, he could be leaving 3,000yards on the field, which could put him on the wrong side of the bubble. He has played as well as any back in NFL history the last two years – but his complete body of work will not measure up to the career achievements needed to get into the Hall if he retires after this season.
His intention to call it quits at only 31 blind-sided the Giants organization yesterday on the players’ day off, but hardly had them canceling the rest of the season. Exactly how many years has Brett Favre been threatening to retire? Did Michael Jordan find it easy to walk away?
Barber had 8,787 yards after his first nine seasons and has added a league-leading 533 in the first five games this season. That puts him on pace for his fifth straight year with big numbers and the sixth 1,000-yard season of his 10-year career. As long as he stays healthy, he will finish the season with about 10,500 career rushing yards, which will move him close to the top 15 all-time. That will not be enough for the Hall unless he can add a Super Bowl ring to his resume this season.
Barry Sanders quit after 10 years and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer because he exceeded 1,000 yards in every season. Brown left after nine years and made it on the first ballot because he is the greatest player of all time. Barber didn’t even have 1,000 yards combined in his first three years.