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Earth, Wind And Fire: Life After The Giants Is No Disco Party

by Zachary Doleiden
Jun 18, 2013 6:50 AM EDT



Starting in the mid-2000s, teams throughout the NFL really began buying into the “running back by committee” philosophy. Most often, this meant having a power back to tire out the defense and a speedster to exploit their fatigue.

The 2007 New York Giants, however, took this philosophy to the next level by adding a third back to the mix. Along with Brandon Jacobs (the power) and Derrick Ward (the speed), RB Ahmad Bradshaw brought a third dimension to the eventual Super Bowl Champions.

This threesome enjoyed their best success during the 2008 season when the backfield earned the unforgettable moniker “Earth, Wind and Fire."

Jacobs, otherwise known as “Earth,” had a tremendous season for the Giants. Using his incredible mix of size, speed and power, he pounded opposing defenses on his way to a 1,089-yard season. He scored 15 TDs and managed to average 5.0 yards per carry, dragging defenders for a few extra yards on many occasions.

Once opposing defenses were just about ready for a hit of oxygen on the sideline, the Giants brought in Derrick Ward (“Wind”) to take advantage of the worn-down secondary. Using his fresh legs and vertical speed, Ward averaged 5.6 yards per carry and galloped for 1,025 rushing yards. Jacobs and Ward became just the fifth pair of teammates to run for 1,000 yards each in a season.

As if the duo of “Earth” and “Wind” weren’t tough enough to deal with, defenses had to account for the spark provided by “Fire” as well. Ahmad Bradshaw did not receive as many carries as his counterparts but his electric moves in space made him a force to be reckoned with. Rushing for just 355 yards on 67 touches, Bradshaw overcame some early fumbling issues to become a solid contributor for the G-Men.

But just like anything else, all good things must eventually come to an end.

Ward signed a free agent contract with the Buccaneers in 2009 and ran the ball 114 times for 409 yards and just one touchdown. He was released the following season and spent two years as a Houston Texan where he accomplished little before retiring in 2012.

After a few disappointing seasons at the end of his career in New York, Jacobs signed with the 49ers in 2012. Injuries and team suspensions limited his playing time in San Francisco, however, and he was waived by the end of the year. He remains a free agent.

Five days ago, Ahmad Bradshaw became the third and final member of what had been one of the NFL’s greatest rushing attacks to depart from New York when he signed a one-year deal with the Colts.

How much of an impact will “Fire” have on a Colts team that overachieved last season? Will he ultimately fall by the wayside as “Earth” and “Wind” had once they left the Giants, or will he join together with fellow RBs Vick Ballard and Donald Brown to form a new three-headed monster in Indianapolis? It is tough to say right now.

But, as the singing group whom the Giants stellar backfield had been named after said in 1979, “That’s the Way of the World.”