All of the greatest teams in Washington Redskins history have had one thing in common: a stellar running game. From the earliest days in franchise history to the ‘Skins Super Bowl runs in the ‘80s, the running back has always been an essential part of every winning Redskins team. In this article, I’m going to be diving back into Redskins history to select the ten best rushers in franchise history. Without further ado, here’s my list for the top ten running backs in Washington Redskins history.
1. John Riggins
“Riggo” easily takes the top spot on this list. Riggins joined the Redskins in 1976 following his first Pro Bowl season with the Jets the previous season. He would instantly become a fan-favorite thanks to his exuberant personality and play on the field. Riggins holds franchise records for rushing yards, attempts, and touchdowns. He was a true power back and helped carry the Redskins to their first Super Bowl victory in 1982.
2. Clinton Portis
After spending the first two seasons of his career in Denver, Portis was shipped to Washington in exchange for All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey. Portis would play seven seasons in the burgundy and gold, amassing four 1,000+ rushing yard seasons and making the Pro Bowl in 2008. Portis was a fan favorite amongst Redskins fans and was quite entertaining with his famous post-game media sessions. He currently sits at #2 on the Redskins all-time rushing list and is also 2nd in rushing touchdowns in team history.
3. Larry Brown
Brown played all eight of his NFL seasons in Washington and established himself as one of the franchise’s all-time great players. His NFL career began with a bang, as Brown made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. He made two 1st Team All-Pros and led the league in both rushing yards and scrimmage yards over those four years. His best seasons with the Redskins came in 1972 when he led the NFL in scrimmage yards and helped lead the Redskins to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
4. Cliff Battles
Cliff Battles is the first premier running back in Redskins history. He began his career in 1932 in the Redskins’ first season ever when they were called the Boston Braves. Battles would spend his six-year career with the team, earning three All-Pro nods and winning the league championship in 1937. He led the NFL in rushing yards twice and in scrimmage yards three times over his six-year span in the league. Battles was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and is considered a “founding father” for great players in Redskins history.
5. Stephen Davis
Davis was selected in the 4th round by the Redskins back in 1996, and he certainly outplayed his draft stock. In seven seasons in Washington, Davis would tally three 1,000+ yard rushing seasons and be selected to the Pro Bowl in 1999 and 2000. He sits at #4 on the Redskins all-time rushing list and ranks 3rd all-time in rushing touchdowns. His best season in the burgundy and gold came in 1999 when Davis rushed for 1,405 and a league-best 17 rushing touchdowns on route to an NFC East title.
6. Alfred Morris
One of my favorite Redskins of all time, Morris burst onto the scene during his rookie season in 2012. Morris was a 6th round pick out of Florida Atlantic, but that didn’t stop him from having perhaps the best rookie season of any running back in NFL history. Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns to help the Redskins capture their first NFC East title since 1999. He would play on the ‘Skins for three more seasons after this, rushing for 1,000+ yards in 2013 and 2014. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in Washington and exceeded all expectations placed on him when entering the league.
7. Earnest Byner
Although he is often remembered for his stints with the Cleveland Browns, Byner played the best years of his career in a Washington Redskins uniform. Byner spent five seasons with the Redskins, earning two Pro Bowl nods and rushed for over 998+ yards three separate times. Byner played a vital role for the Redskins in 1991 during their run to the Super Bowl, in which they defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24. Byner scored a touchdown on a pass from Mark Rypien in the game to help the ‘Skins earn their 3rd Super Bowl.
8. Terry Allen
Terry Allen spent the first four seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the ‘Skins in 1995. In four seasons in Washington, Allen recorded two 1,300+ yard rushing seasons and earned the only Pro Bowl nod of his career. That season came in 1995 when Allen rushed for 1,353 yards and a league-best 21 rushing touchdowns. His production would drop in his final two seasons with the team as Stephen Davis began to emerge as a star in the ‘Skins backfield.
9. Mike Thomas
Not to be confused with the former Jaguars receiver or current New Orleans Saints star, Mike Thomas was a running back who played for the Redskins in the ‘70s. Thomas spent four seasons in the burgundy and gold and was a solid rusher for the team. His best season in Washington came in 1976 when he recorded 1,101 yards and five rushing touchdowns on route to his first and only Pro Bowl appearance. He rushed for over 800 yards three times with the ‘Skins and was a respectable player for the team.
10. Andy Farkas
Following Cliff Battles’ retirement in 1937, Andy Farkas out of Detroit Mercy became the Redskins’ starting running back. He would spend seven seasons in Washington, being selected to two Pro Bowls and two 1st Team All-Pro selections. Farkas’ best season with the Redskins came in 1942 when he made his 2nd 1st Team All-Pro and helped the Redskins win their 2nd NFL Championship under “Slingin’” Sammy Baugh.
Who is the all-time leading rusher in Redskins history?
John Riggins. “The Diesel” played in a Washington Redskins uniform for nine seasons, amassing 7,472 yards with the team. He rushed for more than 1,000+ yards four separate times and is one of the greatest power runners in NFL history.
Who has the most rushing touchdowns in Redskins history?
John Riggins. “Riggo” has the most rushing touchdowns in team history by far, with 79. The next closest on that list is Clinton Portis, who is 36 rushing touchdowns behind him. His record is a testament to the Redskins’ commitment to the run game and their offensive line in the 1980s.
Who had the most rush attempts in Redskins history?
John Riggins. This record should come as no surprise to anybody either. “The Diesel” was a workhorse for the ‘Skins in the ‘70s and ‘80s, having rushed the ball 1,988 times. John Riggins indeed was one of the greatest power runners in league history.
Who holds the record for the longest run in Redskins history?
Adrian Peterson. In his first season with the Redskins in 2018, Peterson broke loose for a 90-yard touchdown against the Eagles on Monday Night Football. Although the ‘Skins would go on to lose the game, the run was the longest in franchise history and the longest of AP’s Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Who holds the record for most rushing yards in a season in Redskins history?
Alfred Morris. In 2012, Morris had one of the best rookie seasons for a running back all time, rushing for 1,613 yards. He broke Clinton Portis’ single-season record in Week 17 of that year when he rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Who holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season in Redskins history?
John Riggins. The man who owns nearly every career rushing record for the Redskins also had the most rushing touchdowns in a single season in team history. “Riggo” rushed for 24 touchdowns in 1983. At the time, Riggins’ 24 touchdowns were good for most rushing touchdowns in a season in NFL history.
Who holds the record for most yards per game in a season in Redskins history?
Larry Brown. In 1972, Brown rushed for 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns on route to a Super Bowl VII appearance. Brown averaged 101.3 yards per game that season, which is good enough for most by a starting running back in Redskins history.