All Dollars and No Sense in the NFL
Denver’s teams under Mike Shanahan played under Gibbs’s zone-blocking system and famously had a history of producing 1,000-yard backs out of thin air. After Gibbs spent three seasons during the mid-aughts in Atlanta with Warrick Dunn as the inherited featured back, he went to Houston and implemented a system that’s worked wonders with Foster and Steve Slaton. In both stops, the zone-blocking system worked with backs who were rookies with limited pedigrees.
Terrell Davis stands out as the obvious comp for Foster — unheralded back out of the SEC steps into the starting lineup and puts up numbers like he’s the best running back in football — but he’s also the cautionary tale. Just like Foster, Broncos fans would have rightly made the case that Davis deserved his big money after years of production. After the 1998 season, when Davis went over 2,000 yards and scored 21 touchdowns, the Broncos locked him up with a seven-year contract extension worth $56 million. Davis lasted four games before tearing his ACL and would average just 3.8 yards on his 312 carries before injuries forced his retirement. The Broncos paid Davis as a reward for his past performance and got very little future performance afterward. We’re not suggesting that Foster is about to tear his ACL, but it’s important to note that the Broncos got roughly similar production from Mike Anderson and then Clinton Portis for not much more than the league minimum.
It's hard to argue with Barnwell here, even though I love me some Terrell Davis. When you can make Reuben Droughns, Olandis Gary, and Mike Anderson go beast mode, it says something about the zone-running scheme. Steve Slaton and Arian Foster are simply the next in line, along with Redskins running back Roy Helu.