NFL Countdown: Raiders' Marcus Allen sets the benchmark for NFL RBs with jaw-dropping 1985 MVP season

The Raiders star in action. Photo via John Laub - Twitter
The Raiders star in action. Photo via John Laub - Twitter

The 1985 NFL season was one that put Marcus Allen on the map. While the league saw him as a decent enough running back, what he was able to achieve in the 1985 season set the benchmark for all running backs.

In his 16 NFL games that season, he rushed for an astonishing 1,759 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, while averaging 4.6 yards a carry. If that wasn't enough, he also caught 67 passes for 555 receiving yards and three touchdowns, ultimately being named the NFL's MVP for his incredible season.

By today's standards, those kind of numbers are superb, let alone over 30 years ago. He was clearly one of the best players in the league at the time, and the '85 season was one of the few times that a non-quarterback won the MVP award.

The Raiders finished the season with a 12-4 record and would meet the Patriots in the playoffs, but their Super Bowl aspirations ended there, losing 27-20.

Allen couldn't match his 1985 heroics again

His MVP season was always going to be next to impossible to replicate. Teams would devise plans specifically to stop the back and it seemed to work. For the seven years that he was with the Raiders, he'd never surpass 831 yards again.

Part of his statistical decline was the fact that he had to share running duties with a certain Bo Jackson. Allen was in the prime of his career and acted selflessly as he allowed Jackson the majority of the carries.

He would stay on as a member of the Raiders until 1993 when he switched to Kansas City. As a Chief, he went on to play five years in the NFL, rushing for 3,698 yards and 44 touchdowns before calling time on his 16-year career in the league.

In total, Marcus Allen left the game a champion. He finished with 12,243 rushing yards, 123 touchdowns, and averaged 4.1 yards a carry.

He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame on August 3, 2003 and is known as one of the greats who had one of the most incredible seasons. He remains one of just a handful of non-quarterbacks who have won the NFL MVP award.

Marcus Allen preceded his NFL career with a stellar college career

Allen at the 2022 NFL Draft - Rounds 2-3
Allen at the 2022 NFL Draft - Rounds 2-3

Before his career in the NFL, Marcus Allen was a star in college. Playing for the University of Southern California between 1978 and 1981, Allen was originally recruited as a defensive back. He was later switched to tailback by then head coach John Robinson. The move certainly paid dividends.

After finally becoming the starter in 1980, Allen went on a tear and rushed for 1,563 yards, which was the third-highest in the country that season. However, the running back would actually explode the following year when he totaled a ridiculous 2,342 yards.

His sheer dominance was evident in receiving the Walter Camp Award (Player of the Year), the Maxwell Award and the Heisman Trophy award. The feat signalled to the entire country that he was a force to be reckoned with.

The USC back played all four years in college, finishing with an astounding 4,664 rushing yards, 46 touchdowns, and averaged an incredible 5.2 yards a carry.

Marcus Allen's general NFL career

The star back was drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982 as the tenth selection. He picked up right where he left off in college, winning the NFL Rookie of the Year award as the Raiders made it to the playoffs before ultimately losing to the Jets.

Allen tallied 697 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie campaign across nine games.

Over the next two seasons, youngster would continue his stable form for the Raiders as the dual-purpose back surpassed the 1,000 yard rushing mark while also catching his fair share of passes.

In his second season as a Raider, he helped propel the team to a Super Bowl victory. His performance in the NFL's penultimate game launched him into stardom.

He was an All-Pro in two of his first three seasons in the NFL and was nominated to the Pro Bowl twice in three seasons. However, with all things being equal, his finest moment remains that iconic 1985 season.

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Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann
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