Putting Foster's rushing title in context

Arian Foster won the rushing title for a bad 6-10 team that gave up a lot of points.

This left me wondering how difficult -- and perhaps uncommon -- it is for the league’s most productive running back to come from a losing team that spent a fair share of time playing from behind and needing to throw the ball.

The answer, from Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Info, is that it’s not all that uncommon.

Here is a list of the running backs since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 who have won the league’s rushing total despite playing on a losing team.

A few points:

  • It’s a lot rarer if your name isn’t OJ Simpson or Barry Sanders.

  • Foster was just the fourth back to do it under the current playoff format, installed in 1990.

  • Foster was just the sixth back to do it since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

By Football Outsiders’s adjusted numbersInsider, Foster was still the best running back in the NFL. (Also mentioned here: Austin Collie and Randy Moss, both in not great ways.)

Other Foster notes on a truly remarkable season:

  • His 1,616 rushing yards were the most by an undrafted player in NFL history, topping Priest Holmes 1,615 for Kansas City in 2002.

  • He is the third player in NFL history to record 1,600 or more rushing yards and 600 or more receiving yards in a season. He finished the year with 1,616 rushing yards and 604 receiving yards. The others were LaDainian Tomlinson (1,645 and 725 in 2003) and Holmes (1,615 and 672 in 2002).

  • He won the title over Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles by 149 yards.

  • He tied Tennessee’s Chris Johnson with eight 100-yard games.

  • His 231-yard effort in the season opener versus Indianapolis (9/12) was the best in the league, and his 180-yard performance against Jacksonville (1/2) was the fourth-best individual rushing game of the season.