A few days former pro-bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement from the National Football League after nine years. Drafted in the second round at a compact 5’7 2010 pounds; MJD managed to not only become the face of the Jaguars franchise during his tenure, he also managed to become the best running back in his respective 2006 draft class. The same infamous draft class that had Reggie Bush who was drafted second overall. This comes as a slight surprise given MJD’s age. At 29 years old it’s very rare to see a player of his caliber retire when there is still more rushes left in the tank.
Although MJD has dealt with injuries the past few seasons, they were not exactly of the Joe Thiesman-Catastrophic career ending variety. And yet he is leaving the game probably earlier than he should, much like a more popular & legendary running back that played in Detroit. At first glance you may look at his poor season in Oakland & the rumors in the off-season of him being released as a clear sign that MJD just isn’t capable of being a high level starting running back anymore. However, the irony of that reasoning and this decision of “Early retirement” can be found in this short clip of ESPN’s Trey Wingo reflecting on the career of Maurice Jones-Drew.
“Everything that Maurice Jones was about was winning & doing it the right way.”
Now this may be just positive hyperbolic praise from Trey Wingo, but funny thing about that statement is the simple fact that MJD has done a lot of positive things in his career individually. However, winning was not one of them. As a matter fact MJD’s Jaguars were consistently one of the worst teams in the NFL even in his career best years there. Which brings up an interesting “What If” question.
What if Maurice Jones-Drew had played for an Elite Quarterback his whole career?
If you know anything about the NFL, you know that in order to win consistently you need a great QB to play. No matter how loaded an NFL team, all it takes is an average QB to turn you from a 12 win team, to a 6 win team. It’s that important, even the most successful “Scrub QB seasons” always end up in disappointment. Case in point, the 2008 New England Patriots team. Without their star QB Tom Brady, backup Matt Cassell was handed the reigns of the most loaded offensive roster in league history. However, despite his greatest efforts the season ultimately in failure with no playoff appearance despite winning ten games.
With that being said, it’s amazing to look back on MJD’s career and see how much team circumstances plays a role in a players career trajectory. What if it was MJD instead of Reggie Bush playing Drew Bree’s in New Orleans? Or Peyton Manning instead of Joseph Addai? Or even Tom Brady instead of Laurence Maroney? All three of these running backs not only were inferior to Maurice jones-Drew as a player; but they were all drafted ahead of MJD in that 2006 draft. As a matter fact, Addai & Maroney are already out of the league, but because Joseph Addai was able to play with the great Peyton Manning, he was able to play in TWO super bowl with one Championship ring. All in a six year career window. Reggie Bush also has won a Super Bowl & is currently still playing, Maroney had the shortest career out all of them & still managed to make a Super Bowl. What did MJD’s teams (Jaguars & one season for the Raiders) do in his 9 year career year? 53 wins, 1 playoff appearance, & a WHOLE lot of losses. To put this in perspective, here is what the Saints, Colts, & Patriots accomplished in that same time period. All teams that could have drafted Maurice Jones-Drew instead of the temporary players they selected in that draft.
New Orleans: 87 Wins, 5 Playoff Appearances, 1 Super Bowl Appearance
Indianapolis: 96 Wins, 8 Playoff Appearance, 2 Super Bowl Appearances
New England: 112 Wins, 9 Playoff Appearances, 3 Super Bowl Appearances
Having said all this, it’s easy to look in hindsight that one of these teams should have selected MJD in the first round. However what this does show is how luck & circumstance can affect the career of a great player. Especially when said athlete plays his whole career with below average teams. We have seen it countless times in sports, Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans being another prime example. As a fan of the game, it’s always disheartening to see a great player like MJD not being able to showcase his talent on the biggest stages like Marshawn Lynch & Legarrette Blount in numerous playoff games & primetime games. All we can do now is wish Maurice Jones-Drew the best as he transitions into this new phase of life. And wonder what his career would have been like had he been the starting running back for a winning team. Enjoy Retirement MJD!! Congrats on a great Career.