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Earnest Byner may be the greatest running backs coach in the NFL

Earnest Byner was a good player, but he looks like a phenomenal coach.


The greatest coach on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coaching staff may be the man you almost never hear about: Earnest Byner. The former running back is best known as the man who fumbled away Cleveland's Super Bowl hopes against the Denver Broncos in 1988, a play so infamous that it has its own Wikipedia page. It's a shame that a man with a very good NFL career as a player is known mostly for that one unfortunate play, but it's a bigger shame that no one talks about his coaching career, which has been absolutely ridiculous.

I could tell you about his career as a running backs coach, which started in 2004, but I can just show it to you instead. The numbers in parentheses are where that performance ranked in the NFL.

Year Running Back Carries Yards Rec. Rec. Yards TDs Yards from Scrimmage
2004 Redskins Clinton Portis 343 1,315 (8) 40 235 7 1,550 (9)
2005 Redskins Clinton Portis 352 1,516 (4) 30 216 11 1,732 (6)
2006 Redskins Ladell Betts 245 1,154 (13) 53 445 5 1,599 (8)
2007 Redskins Clinton Portis 325 1,262 (6) 47 389 11 1,651 (3)
2008 Titans Chris Johnson 251 1,228 (8) 43 260 10 1,488 (9)
2009 Titans Chris Johnson 338 2,006 (1) 50 503 16 2,509 (1)
2010 Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew 299 1,324 (5) 34 317 7 1,641 (7)
2011 Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew 343 1,606 (1) 43 374 11 1,980 (2)
2012 Buccaneers Doug Martin 319 1,454 (4) 49 472 12 1,926 (3)

The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had anyone rank in the top 10 in rushing yardage was in 1995, when the uniquely spelled Errict Rhett posted 1,207 rushing yards. The last time they had any back crack the top 10 in scrimmage yards was 1985, when James Wilder ranked sixth with 1,641 yards from scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Earnest Byner has coached a top 10 back in yards from scrimmage in every season of his career and has coached a top 10 rusher in all but one of those years. That one year occurred when Clinton Portis was the lead back, but was placed on injured reserve midway through the season. And Ladell Betts still finished with a respectable 1,154 rushing yards.

Chris Johnson, Ladell Betts, Maurice Jones-Drew and now Doug Martin have all been more productive under Byner than under any other coach while Clinton Portis posted his best season as a Redskin under Byner. Both Johnson and Jones-Drew led the league in rushing under Byner. Chris Johnson in particular hasn't been the same player since Byner left Tennessee. Or rather, was fired there. Yes, the Titans fired this man when his prize running back posted a record-breaking season. Amazing, right?

Yes, sure, he's had good talent to work with. But he managed to help each of those players reach levels they hadn't reached and perform up to new standards. While those players deserve a lot of credit for their performance, it would be an amazing coincidence for Byner's streak to be independent of his own performance.

All hail coach Byner, the best running backs coach in the league.

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