Ottis Anderson: The Greatest Cardinals Running Back

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Ottis Anderson might be known for his time with the Giants, but his best work was with the Cardinals

The lasting image of running back Ottis Anderson is from Super Bowl XXV, as he finished off a 100 yard rushing day and won Super Bowl MVP. It was his second ring earned with the New York Giants, though he wasn’t a big contributor in the first.

He’s best remembered for his time in New York, but before that, Anderson was one of the league’s best backs as a member of the Cardinals, in St Louis at the time. He won championships with the Giants, but his best years were in St Louis. As he celebrates his 60th birthday, fans should be reminded of his accomplishments.

Anderson burst onto the scene as a rookie in 1979. In his first game, he ran for 193 yards, and for the season, rushed for 1,605 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was first-team All Pro that season, and named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He made his second consecutive Pro Bowl the following year.

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In seven full seasons as a Cardinal, He rushed for over 1,000 yards in five of them. One was a strike shortened season where he would have likely gained 1,000 if all 16 games had been played. The other was his final year, when he only played in nine games. In the five years where he played the full season, he averaged 1,355 yards and over 7 touchdowns.

Anderson’s career total of 10,273 yards is good for 28th of all-time. As a Cardinal, he rushed for 7,999 yards, which makes him the all-time franchise leader by more than 3,000 yards. He’s also the yards per game leader by 16 yards over the next closest player. Not only is he the greatest running back in franchise history, it’s really not all that close.

Midway through the 1986 season, Anderson was traded to the Giants. There, after a few seasons of not being used, he had one last big year in him, running for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. He won NFL Comeback Player of the Year that season, and was named Super Bowl MVP.

Next: The Twenty-Five Greatest Players in Cardinals History

Playing in New York, and winning Super Bowls, has led most people to remember those years more than his performances in the anonymity of St Louis. On his 60th birthday, however, fans should recall that he was a Cardinal first, and a great one. Ottis Anderson is the greatest running back in team history, and one of its best players, period.