Tuesday, October 12, 2004
The Kid Has Arrived
This is Nashville, Tenn. Home of the Tennessee football Titans. So it's appropriate on Columbus Day, 2004, to talk about Chris Brown, a young man who has truly arrived in a New World. In his second pro season, Brown has replaced the venerable ex-Titan Eddie George at running back. and has gained over 100 yards in each of four of the first five games. And while the Titans, currently 2-3 on the season, appear to have some problems (more on that later), they also appear to have found a marquee runner.
Brown is tall and rangy--6'3", 219lbs.--but without the absolute bulk of George. He gets criticized for his "straight up" running style, but the critics are biding their time at the moment, since Brown, with his smooth gait and deceptive speed, has nothing but impressive results to show for his efforts (556 yards). The most immediate comparison that comes to mind is Eric Dickerson, also a sleek, straight-up runner, who gained 13,259 yards in a stellar career (1983-1993) with the Rams, Colts, Raiders and Falcons. Dickerson had a lot of muscle as well as speed, which probably helped him to avoid injuries, maybe the straight-up runner's biggest nemesis.
There's a reason why coaches tell runners to lower their heads: you can "power" through the line, protect the ball, and also protect yourself. But that's a lot easier to do when you're 5'11" and built lower to the ground. Brown does appear to be a wide-open target, but so far he's outrunning defenders, and he's also shown a penchant for a wicked stiff-arm. Brown, a third-round 2003 draft choice (#93 overall) out of Gary Barnett's program at Colorado, also appears to be a nice kid with a genuine enthusiasm for the game.
You always gotta wonder what's happening on draft day, when a talent like Brown slips down a few rounds. There were three RBs selected before him in '03--Willis McGahee (out of Miami), Larry Johnson (Penn State) and Musa Smith (Georgia). I'd say Titans general manager Floyd Reese pulled another rabbit out of his hat--in this case, a big jackrabbit.
Everyone in Nashville wishes Eddie George a gracious end to his career with the Cowboys (or wherever he ends up). He still might have some years left as a role player. But we all know that running back is a young man's position, and no amount of experience can compensate for flat-out youthful speed and an ability to hit a hole with maximum quickness. We mourn Eddie's passing in Nashville, and we thank him for his 8 previous courageous years. But the future is now, and his name is Chris Brown.