NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If how he runs isn't plodding, by NFL standards, it's close. He talks not in snaz and sass, but in simple words. This is Eddie George's fate. He's a star in every way, except he's just not quite a superstar.
"Who said that?" Titans quarterback Steve McNair said as the Titans (4-1) prepared to play the Jaguars (2-4) at Adelphia Coliseum tomorrow at 9 p.m. "The man has made three Pro Bowls. So, why is he not considered one of the elite? Where does that come from?"
Well, from teammates for one.
"He's definitely under-appreciated," Titans fullback Lorenzo Neal said.
And his general manager for another. "Somehow, he is underrated, even with all he's done," Titans GM Floyd Reese said.
So it goes for the Titans running back. He has played in a Super Bowl and three Pro Bowls. He accomplished in four seasons what only Hall of Famers have accomplished before him, yet mention All-Pros and MVP candidates, and George often isn't at the top of the list.
"I don't know why it is, but I know it's wrong," Neal said.
Reese has an idea, and said it's a matter of substance over style. When the Titans -- then the Oilers -- drafted the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, Reese said they knew what they were getting: a consistent power back. Not with breakaway speed perhaps, but with the ability to break tackles and be the focal point of a ball-control offense.
That style wins games, but not necessarily celebrity status.
"He is maybe the least spectacular good back in the league," Reese said. "Last week, we played [Bengals running back] Corey Dillon. Eddie gained 181 yards. Corey gained 94 and gained 80 on one run. Every TV station in the country, you saw that 80-yards run. You don't see the eight-, 10-, 12-yarders that Eddie got every snap, but that's the deal.
"Eddie doesn't get highlights. He's just productive."
In the past four seasons, no NFL back has been as consistently productive. He rushed for 1,368 yards as a rookie, and 1,399 the following years. In his third season, he rushed for 1,294 yards and last season, he had 1,304 yards. Only Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders -- two Hall of Famers (Campbell, Dickerson) and a future Hall member -- have rushed for 1,200 yards in each of their first four seasons.
He has done it with hardly any breakaway ability. He leads the AFC in rushing with 497 yards, yet he averages 3.7-yards per carry. His longest career run came in the second game, a 76-yarder against Jacksonville in 1996, and he hasn't had one over 45 yards since.
Still, Reese said what the Titans want from George isn't long runs, but many runs. Most impressive to Reese, and most important to the Titans, is that in four seasons, the Titans have played 73 games, including post-season. .George has started them all.
"He is as dependable as any player in the NFL -- I don't care who you talk about," Reese said. …