Giovani Bernard, doing what he does

Giovani Bernard had another Giovani Bernard Game in the Bengals’ Week 1 win over the Ravens: 14 rushes for 48 yards, 6 receptions for 62 yards and 110 yards from scrimmage. Just starting his second season, Bernard has yet to have a 100-yard game rushing or receiving; but he’s had five 100-yard games rushing and receiving, playoffs included (and two others in which he’s gained 99 and 95 yards from scrimmage).

Something I didn’t know until researched it: Bernard last season was just the 10th rookie back in NFL history to gain 500 yards rushing and 500 receiving. And one of the 10, Herschel Walker, was really a fourth-year pro coming out of the USFL, so I’m more inclined to think of Giovani as the ninth. But I’ll leave that call up to you. The list:


Year Running back Team Rush Rec
2013 Giovani Bernard Bengals 695 514
2006 Reggie Bush Saints 565 742
1999 Edgerrin James Colts 1,553 586
1994 Marshall Faulk Colts 1,282 522
1986 Herschel Walker Cowboys 737 837
1980 Earl Cooper 49ers 720 567
1980 Billy Sims Lions 1,303 621
1965 Gale Sayers Bears 867 507
1964 Charley Taylor Redskins 755 814
1960 Abner Haynes Texans (AFL) 875 576

Several things jump out at you. First, there are three Hall of Famers — Faulk, Sayers and Taylor — though Charley got in as a wide receiver. And James, with the numbers he put up, might make it four.

Second, Taylor is the only rookie who’s had 750 yards rushing and 750 receiving — and he did it 50 years ago in a 14-game season. What a player.

Third, I usually disregard early AFL stats. The league simply wasn’t on a par with the NFL yet. But Haynes — along with the Raiders’ Clem Daniels — is an underappreciated run-catch threat from that era. In the next four seasons, he averaged 15 yards a grab (on 140 receptions). He wasn’t, in other words, just a swing-pass guy. Coach Hank Stram would flank him out, as he did here in the ’62 AFL title game:

We all have our weaknesses. One of mine is for running backs who are multi-dimensional, who give you a little of this and a little of that. Bernard certainly fits that description. What’s surprising is how few backs in the 2000s, rookies or veterans, have had more than one of these 500/500 seasons. (I count 14.) Blame it on all the teams that split the position between a Running Specialist and a Receiving Specialist.

At any rate, only five active backs — the infamous Ray Rice included — have had at least two 500/500 seasons. Here’s that group:


Running back Team Seasons
Ray Rice* Ravens        3
Reggie Bush Saints, Lions        2
Matt Forte Bears        2
Arian Foster Texans        2
LeSean McCoy Eagles        2

*suspended indefinitely

(Note: Earlier in the 2000s, the Giants’ Tiki Barber had five of these seasons and the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook four. The record is six by Faulk.)

No one would suggest Bernard is a great player. He’s merely the kind who Moves the Ball — whichever way it needs to be moved. There are worse things you can say about a back.