Emmitt Smith always excelled at making things seem more dramatic than they really were. When you utilize one of the most boring, pedestrian running styles of any elite tailback in NFL history, this is an important trait to possess.
So playing the second half of a early January game against the New York Giants with a wrapped-up shoulder becomes the ultimate testament of courage. And his good-but-hardly-great performance in Super Bowl XXVII (132 yards, three touchdowns), most of it racked up in the second half against a battered, beaten down Buffalo Bills team, gets him an MVP trophy. And his largely selfish quest to break Walter Payton's rushing record is lauded as a sign of his durability and toughness.
Please. Emmitt Smith was a good player. He deserved this weekend's Hall of Fame moment.
But he's not even one of the top 10 running backs of all time, let alone the greatest.
He wasn't even close to the best running back of his own generation. Barry Sanders was so far superior, so much more of a game-changer that any debate there leaves you looking as silly as the defenders who used to be left grasping at air as No. 20 spun by. Thurman Thomas? Also a better player, a much more singular force than Emmitt ever was. Thomas led the NFL in yards from scrimmage four straight seasons, he was the undisputed center of one of the most entertaining offenses in NFL history, capable of beating you so many ways.
Thomas once racked up 150 receiving yards in a playoff game.
Smith rode all the talent around him on the Dallas Cowboys roster. He's clearly the worst of The Triplets. The Cowboys don't win those championships without Troy Ailkman and Michael Irvin. They could have found another running back (or running backs) to fill what would have been a big, but not irreplaceable, void.
If Smith ran behind the same offensive lines as Barry Sanders, he wouldn't even be considered a Top 100 back — let alone one of the greatest.
No wonder why Emmitt bawled during his induction speech while discussing blocking fullback Daryl Johnston. He must know deep inside. And even if he doesn't (the athlete ego is a powerful thing), the fans do. They started chanting "Moose" before Smith even brought up Johnston, giving the tailback little choice but to pay homage.
You know that phrase "Stats Lie"? It was invented with Emmitt Smith in mind.