Only winners in the McCaffrey vs. Sanders debate
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders' 27-year-old all-purpose yards record last Saturday in the Pac-12 title game against USC.
No he didn't.
Sanders' record (3,250) was set in 11 games in 1988 for Oklahoma State and it took McCaffrey 13 to reach his 3,496. If you include Sanders scintillating Holiday Bowl performance -- 222 yards rushing, 276 total yards -- he had 3,526.
Fine. McCaffrey will break that mark in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual and in fewer touches, which is a better measure than games.
Sanders is a much better running back!
McCaffrey is a much better receiver!
Further, McCaffrey played against a much tougher schedule. Sanders piled up 1,446 yards rushing against Miami (Ohio), Tulsa, Kansas, Texas Tech and Kansas State, which had a combined record of 10-44-1.
Come on! Sanders is on the short list of "Greatest Running Back of All-Time" -- college AND NFL. Did you ever watch him? He was celestial!
Yeah, well. He was pretty darn awesome.
But McCaffrey ain't too shabby either. And he's only a true sophomore. Sanders, who spent two years as Thurman Thomas' backup, worked his magic as a junior before leaving early for the NFL.
First off, a player breaking a record doesn't mean he's better than the player whose record he broke. No one argues that Roger Maris was better than Babe Ruth. Know who owns the NCAA records for most receiving yards in a season and a career? No you don't. It's Trevor Insley of Nevada. He caught 14 passes in the NFL.
Celebrating McCaffrey's season doesn't denigrate or diminish what Sanders did. Heck, many view it as the greatest single college football season of all-time. McCaffrey broke -- or will break, however you choose -- a record, and he has been spectacular. We'll see how it stands up to history. I suspect it will do pretty well.
In the same vein, folks are going nuts over the three Heisman Trophy finalists, trying to make definitive distinctions between McCaffrey, Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Typically, these raves and rants break down across regional lines.
SEC fans say Henry excelled against all those rugged SEC defenses. Pac-12 fans counter that those rugged defenses are rugged because they face JV quarterbacks and simpleton offensive schemes on a regular basis. Yep, chirp in ACC fans, and speaking of quarterback, the most important position on the field, guess who's the best player in the nation at that position on the nation's undefeated, top-ranked team?
There is no wrong vote between Henry, a brutally efficient runner, and McCaffrey, an exceptionally versatile athlete, and Watson, a spectacular talent behind center. The very idea that voting for any of these three guys could be wrong, is both stupid and annoying. Such a judgment emerges almost exclusively from a regional bias.
Moot point debates are part of sports. They are fun. But let's try to keep things in perspective.
McCaffrey versus Henry versus Watson? Hey, they are taking a vote, and we believe in democracy, right?
McCaffrey 2015 versus Sanders 1988? Can't we just be happy we have both instead of just one?