It’s amazing how quickly time flies in the world of football. It feels like just yesterday that Arian Foster was bursting onto the scene, announcing his presence with authority in the 2010 season opener against the Indianapolis Colts with over 200 yards rushing. Now, here we are, seven seasons later, and after a pile of 100-yard games, a sea of red zone greatness, and more than his fair share of fits and starts from soft-tissue injuries, Foster announced his retirement earlier this week at the age of 30.
After being cut by the Texans this past spring, Foster signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, and despite working like a maniac to recover from the Achilles tear that essentially ended his Texans career, Foster was fighting more leg injuries as a Dolphin. Rehab, even just one more time, was not something Foster felt like dealing with anymore. He’s made a ton of money and has aspirations for life beyond football.
So thus ends the career of one of the more interesting, polarizing personalities in the NFL over the last decade. If you’re asking me to summarize the legacy of Arian Foster in a few bullet points, these things immediately come to mind:
- Foster is the no brainer, historical lock as the third greatest Houston Texan of all time, behind J.J. Watt and Andre Johnson (in that order). In each of the four seasons where he rushed for over 1,200 yards, Foster went to the Pro Bowl, and he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice (2010, 2012). And for all of Johnson’s greatness, no Texan player has had a better season offensively than Foster’s breakout year in 2010, when he led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,220) and touchdowns (18).
- Foster had a smooth running style that kept him from taking a ton of big hits. He wasn’t the fastest guy on the field, yet would, at times, run away from defenders. He wasn’t the biggest back, but had a knack for breaking tackles. If Foster wanted to change his body type a little bit, he probably could have played wide receiver at a high level. Despite being a running back, he had the second best set of “wide receiver tools” on the team for most of his tenure here, behind Johnson (and eventually DeAndre Hopkins). He was a great all-purpose back.
- Injuries probably make Foster one of the biggest “what-if” players of the 2000’s. On a per-game basis, it’s harder to find two or three better running backs than Foster over that time period:
Assuming health, if you could pick a running back for one game to ride to a win, in this millennium, I’d say Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson might be the only two I’d take ahead of Foster. Unfortunately, health was a major issue for Foster, and probably a big reason he went undrafted, quite honestly, in 2009. From hamstring (2011) to back (2013) to groin (2015) and eventually Achilles (2015), Foster spent many an early morning at his brother Abdul’s gym rehabbing injuries.
- You can’t discuss Foster in totality without bringing up his personality, which was a unique combination of quirky humor, original thought, defiance, and at times, truculence. The same guy who would cry at the press conference for his new $43 million contract …
… would also jerk with the media and give the now famous “I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can be” as every answer in a media session….
Suffice it to say, there will only ever be one Arian Foster.
So let’s go back and relive some of the magic on the field. Here are the top 10 performances, in one man’s opinion, of Arian Foster’s career:
10. Week 17, 2009 vs NEW ENGLAND (1/3/2010)
Many NFL fans don’t realize that Arian Foster’s first real Foster-esque performance came in Week 17 of his 2009 rookie season against the New England Patriots, when an unknown “practice squad guy” rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 win to help the Texans finish the season at 9-7. That performance is so off-the-radar that I couldn’t find any YouTube highlights. It’s like a dark match at a WWE pay per view for a guy who eventually became WWE champion. The video no longer exists! (Or we will have to wait for Bob McNair to launch the Texans Network online — for just $9.99 per month!! — to see it.)
9. Weeks 5 thru 8, 2014 season
Unlike the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, where Foster’s performances had so much context because he was either brand new to the superstar scene in the NFL (2010) or the Texans were actually good (2011, 2012), it’s hard to find signature games in 2014 for Foster. The Texans were largely a .500 team all season that finished out of the playoff race. So since that was Foster’s last healthy, truly great season, we will give 2014 it’s own bullet point, and focus on Weeks 5 through 8, a stretch where Foster went over 100 yards for four straight weeks. 2014, for Foster, unto itself, was one large highlight as he made it all the way back from back surgery the prior season.
8. Week 4, 2010 at OAKLAND (10/3/2010)
In this game, a 31-24 Texans’ win, Foster had 133 yards on just 17 carries, and had touchdowns rushing and receiving. However, this game will probably be remembered for Foster’s not starting because he was late to a team meeting. Thus, he didn’t get his first touch of the game until there were about six minutes to go in the first half. Needless to say, he made up for lost time.
7. Week 4, 2011 vs PITTSBURGH (10/2/2011)
This is another game that, oddly, I couldn’t find an embedable video for (but NFL has the highlights on their site, so you can Watch Here), but this was Foster’s first game back at full health after the troubling hamstring injury that sidelined him to begin the 2011 season. (He’d played a few snaps in Week 2, but bowed out of that game against Miami.) In this game, Foster rushed 30 times for 155 yards, including a 42 yard TD run. I’ll most remember this game for the 11 minute TD drive to start the game for the Texans, a drive in which Foster carried the ball a whopping 10 times!
6. Wild Card Round, 2012 Playoffs vs CINCINNATI (1/5/2013)
Because he never played for any truly great teams, somewhat lost in the shuffle of Foster’s career is the fact that, when he did play in the postseason, he was excellent. This was the Texans’ one win in the 2012 postseason, a 19-13 win over the Bengals in which Foster carried 32 times for 140 yards and a touchdown.
5. Week 10, 2012 at CHICAGO (11/11/2012)
If you’re looking for a high point of the Kubiak/Schaub regime in Houston, it was probably this game, a rainy Sunday night in Chicago in a battle of 7-1 teams. The final score was 13-6, and the conditions were awful, but Foster still found a way to be great, carrying the rock 29 times for 102 yards, and scoring the game’s only touchdown on a spectacular diving catch the goal line (fast forward to 1:05 of the above video for that play).
4. Week 7, 2011 at TENNESSEE (10/23/2011)
Showing his versatility, in 2011 Foster actually had three 100 yard RECEIVING games. Perhaps the best of those three was this Week 7 effort against the Titans, in which Foster went over 100 yards rushing AND receiving in a 41-7 blowout. From a team standpoint, the Texans were 3-3 heading into this game, and this effort launched a seven game winning streak.
3. Divisional Round, 2011 Playoffs at BALTIMORE (1/15/2012)
Although in a loss, you could argue that the two best players on the field in the Texans’ 20-13 playoff loss to the Ravens were indeed on the Texans — then-rookie DE J.J. Watt (2.5 sacks) and Foster. In a road game against a ferocious defense with a turnover-prone rookie as his QB, Foster still managed 132 yards on 27 carries. Also, fast forward to the 2:00 mark of the video for a ground level view of a superb one handed catch Foster makes look easy.
2. Wild Card Round, 2011 Playoffs vs CINCINNATI (1/7/2012)
No doubt, Foster’s best post season performance was his first, a 153 yard, two touchdown effort that made Bengals safety Chris Crocker cry like…. well, like Chris Crocker….
(Warning Adult Language)
1. Week 1, 2010 vs INDIANAPOLIS (9/12/2010)
Foster’s “real” debut (not including his slew of 2009 dark matches) was his best performance, 33 carries for 231 yards and three touchdowns against Peyton Manning and the Colts to begin the 2010 season. This game set the unofficial record for the number of fantasy football players sprinting to their computers after the game to make a waiver wire pickup (only to find out that smart owners drafted Foster in like the eighth round…. and laughed all the way to a fantasy title that year).