State Your Case: Shaun Alexander
Selected to the 2000s NFL all-decade team
(Published September 2020)
Earl Campbell was the definition of a workhorse running back.
A Hall of Fame workhorse.
Campbell debuted in 1978 with the Houston Oilers and enjoyed a six-year window of greatness. He averaged 333 touches per season on runs and passes, won three rushing titles, took the Oilers to two AFC championship games and was the 1979 NFL MVP. In 1991, Campbell became a first-ballot Hall of Famer and stands as the measuring stick for all NFL workhorses past, present and future.
So you can excuse Shaun Alexander for scratching his head. He also enjoyed a six-year window of greatness in the NFL. He averaged 350 touches per season, won a rushing title and was the NFL MVP in 2005 when he carried the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
In his six-year window of greatness, Campbell carried the ball 1,883 times. Alexander carried it 1,905 times during his six-year window. Campbell had 1,995 touches from scrimmage on runs and passes. Alexander had 2,100 touches. Campbell rushed for 8,297 yards. Alexander rushed for 8,400 yards. Campbell rushed for 69 touchdowns. Alexander rushed for 94 scores. Campbell scored 69 touchdowns from scrimmage. Alexander scored 105 TDs.
Yet Alexander can’t get a sniff from Canton. Alexander enters his ninth year of eligibility for the Hall and has never been discussed as one of the 15 finalists. And until you get into that room as a finalist for discussion, you are not a Hall of Fame candidate. Alexander, an NFL all-decade selection for the 2000s, has never even been one of the 25 semifinalists.
Alexander introduced “beast mode” to Seattle long before Marshawn Lynch popularized the term with the Seahawks. Campbell’s busiest season was 373 carries in 1980. Alexander’s busiest season was 370 carries in 2005. Campbell scored a career-best 19 touchdowns in his MVP season. Alexander scored a career-best 27 touchdowns in his MVP season.
But that workload took its toll on Campbell. He was traded by the Oilers to the Saints midway through his seventh season. He would rush for only 833 yards over the final 24 games of his career with New Orleans before retiring after eight seasons. Alexander suffered a broken foot in 2006 and then a fractured wrist in 2007 and was never the same workhorse back as a result. He would retire in 2008 after nine seasons.
The last 14 NFL MVPs are still active and therefore not eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Then comes Alexander, who is one of only three eligible runners to capture the NFL MVP award but without a Hall of Fame bust to show for it. He’s joined by Pat Harder (1948) and Larry Brown (1972).
Alexander carried the ball more times (2,176) for more yards (9,429) and more touchdowns (112) than any player in Seahawks history. He holds the franchise single-game records for most carries (40 versus Green Bay in 2006), yards (266 versus Oakland in 2001) and touchdowns (five versus Minnesota in 2002). This was a special player in the history of the Seahawks.
Now Alexander deserves a discussion from the Hall of Fame selection committee as to whether or not his special time in Seattle is deserving of the most special place in football —the Hall of Fame.