State Your Case: Shaun Alexander, the original "beast mode" in Seattle

Rick Gosselin

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.

Comments (10)
No. 1-6
WMcCoy
WMcCoy

Great article Rick...I knew that Alexander was never a finalist, but not even semi-finalist just amazes me. Of the 4 all decade RB's of the 2000's he's the one I loved watching the most...

Rick Gosselin
Rick Gosselin

Editor

Just hope the voters don't skip right over Alexander when Marshawn Lynch becomes eligible.

ToddK
ToddK

Shaun Alexander has always baffled me. It's almost like he's been completely forgotten. Priest Holmes was another back similar to Alexander who put up amazing numbers and then they were out of football.

Plawren2
Plawren2

voters don't seem to take to RBs not on all decade team, but can see him moving up lists for consideration in future years, especially now the EJames is in. I think the issue voters are having with Alexander is that he's in a mix with other RBs from same era with similar numbers and accomplishments (Holmes, Lewis, Jackson, Taylor) plus he had one great season in 2005 but a 9 year career and not 10,000y hurts his case, but has some great career TD numbers. The 2nd team all decade should help his case (but has not helped Roger Craig ???)

racepug
racepug

I'm a Seahawks fan and I have to disagree. For one thing, Shaun Alexander had the luxury of running behind two outstanding OLs - no other Seahawk RB has ever been afforded that luxury. Second, after Steve Hutchinson left S.A. just seemed to lose whatever he'd had before then. The guy went from league M.V.P. to out of the league within a couple of seasons. Talk about a quick descent! He did a good job for the 'hawks but I'd vote for "Beast Mode" for even the Seahawks' Ring of Honor before I'd ever vote for S.A. Heck, I think that Curt Warner, who IS in the Seahawks' Ring of Honor, was a better back than S.A.

sweetg
sweetg

Roger Craig is still best running back not in half of fame at this time

2 Replies

brian wolf
brian wolf

I like Craig as well, especially since his own head coach utilized him as much a receiver as runner and with his postseason stats, it makes sense but OJ Anderson deserves to make the Hall as well, especially amongst the senior backs ...

racepug
racepug

I always thought of Roger Craig as "the poor man's" Walter Payton.


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