When it comes to the history of the Arizona Cardinals’ all-time running backs list, it is a short list when it comes down to the ones who actually made a different on the field for the franchise. So going back to the 1988 season to present, I make my pick on who’s the best Cardinal running back.
With the history of the Cardinals, there are three different types of people who have called themselves a Cardinal. You’ve got the type who stayed with the team their whole or most of their careers, guys who were drafted by the team but never wanted to be here, and the ones who played else where and then came to the valley in hopes to help out the team.
Guys like Garrison Hearst, Thomas Jones, and Beanie Wells, were drafted by the team but really never wanted to be here. As much as I liked watching Hearst play while I was a kid and Wells these last few years, if you didn’t want to be a Cardinal in the first place, then you aren’t going to be one at the end of your stint here in the desert and will never make any of my lists.
Guys like Emmitt Smith and Edgerrin James played most of their careers with another team but came here at the end of their careers and really did want to help. Even though these players’ loyalty is to another team, they make my list as honorary members.
Then there are the guys like Earl Farrell and Stump Mitchell who were drafted to the team and played their whole or most of their career with the team. These guys, included Ron Wolfley are full on Cardinals and they get grandfathered into my list.
The best player at the running back position to strap it up and take the field as a Cardinal is Emmitt Smith. He gets that title being an honorary Cardinal.
However, the best all-time Arizona Cardinal running back is Stump Mitchell. He played with the team his whole career from ’81-’89 with 4,649 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), 32 touchdowns, and over 10,000 all-purpose yards and still holds the franchise record.