During the heyday of the Vikings in the 1970's, they were already a dominant team, but had never really had a franchise running back. Guys like Bill 'Boom Boom' Brown and Dave Osborn were good, but far from a guy that you could run an offense through. Once the Vikings re-acquired Fran Tarkenton from the Giants, they needed a catalyst that could make the Jerry Burns West Coast Offense go.
"But Ted", you say, "Bill Walsh of the 49ers invented the West Coast Offense".
And you would be wrong.
The definition of the West Coast Offense is an offense that has short passes where the receivers make a lot of YAC, or yards after the catch, and running backs are used as primary receivers. If you accept that definition, then the birth of the west coast offense, if you ask me, occurred at Met Stadium in 1973.
And it wouldn't have been possible without Chuck Foreman, the Vikes first round draft pick out of the University of Miami (FL).
Chuck Foreman burst onto the NFL scene with a fury in 1973, winning NFL rookie of the year honors and going to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls. Foreman was the first running back in NFL history that was a true triple threat. He had a rare combination of size and speed, able to just as easily run over you as around you, but he also had soft hands and could take a 5 yard swing pass from Tarkenton and turn it into a 25 yard ballet.
Foreman didn't have the hip wiggle of a Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson, but he had one of the best spin moves in NFL history. But if he didn't want to spin to avoid you, he was just as willing to put his head down and become Chuck the Battering Ram.
But where Foreman made his indelible mark in the NFL was as a pass catcher. He was on his way to a Hall of Fame career in 1975, when he lead the NFL with 22 TD's, and rushing for 1,070 yards. But he set a then NFL record for a running back with 73 receptions and tallying almost another 700 yards receiving. He also carried the ball a stunning 280 times, so if you give me a minute while I put my Ohio public math skills to use here...carry the one...Foreman averaged 25 touches a game in 1975. That's more ridiculous than braille instructions at a drive through ATM, boys and girls. He followed 1975 with over 1,100 rushing yards in 1976 and '77, and was still a pass catching machine. He was also a battering ram, carrying the ball at least 270 times in each season.
As remarkable as his first few years were, they took their toll on Foreman, and in 1978 he played with a bad knee, and another knee injury in 1979 effectively ended his career. He was traded to the Patriots in 1980, where he had one more injury plagued season before he was forced to retire.
Foreman's career was like a supernova--it burned bright and fast, and if you saw him play, his remarkable exploits are still with you today. Foreman left such a mark on the Vikings that when he retired he was their all time leading rusher with 5,887 yards, a record that would stand until Robert Smith broke it in 2000.
But more importantly, Foreman helped change the NFL forever, as he ushered in a whole new offensive philosophy, of which he should receiver far more credit for than he does.
Foreman was the original West Coast Offense back, but because his career was cut short by injury, he remains an often overlooked figure when talking about the best running backs in NFL history. But I will take Foreman's three year period of 1975-1977 and put it up against anyone who has ever played the game.
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