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Bernie: Rams' Jackson is building a legacy
6 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
This is a column about Rams running back Steven Jackson, who may be having the best career of a bad-team player in modern NFL history.
We'll get to SJ39 in a few moments.
First, some relevant background:
Last month I spent two days in Canton, Ohio to participate in a senior committee meeting at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I was honored to be among the five voters asked to choose two 'senior" players for Hall of Fame consideration.
After hours of discussion and several rounds of voting, we chose nose tackle Curley Culp (Kansas City, Houston) and linebacker Dave Robinson (Green Bay.) If the full selection committee approves with a vote the day before the Super Bowl, Culp and Robinson will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame next summer.
At the beginning of the process , we probably reviewed more than 100 players. Many of them were outstanding and accomplished NFL players. For some reason, they were overlooked when their names appeared on the normal Hall of Fame ballot. That's why there's a senior committee: to undo past mistakes and recognize Hall-worthy players who slipped through the cracks.
Which brings us back to Steven Jackson.
Will he get lost in history?
Jackson is building a Hall of Fame case. He's putting up consistently good numbers over a long stretch of seasons. Jackson has managed to produce at a high level and roll up the yards under circumstances that put him at a disadvantage. And that makes his career even more impressive.
Jackson hasn't had the benefit of being surrounded by many talented teammates. He hasn't had the assistance provided by competent coaching. He hasn't had the advantage of working for a smart football operation that keeps the roster stocked with quality players.
Jackson hasn't set up behind a formidable offensive line. Except on rare occasion, he hasn't had the luxury of having running lanes opened by a dynamic passing game. In 2006 the Rams had an energetic and accurate Marc Bulger dishing passes to Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and the Rams finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards.
It's no coincidence that Jackson had his best NFL season in 2006, leading the NFL with 2,334 yards from scrimmage and scoring 16 touchdowns. But the Rams' passing game soon faded into mediocrity, and defenses began stacking eight men in the box to gang up on Jackson. But SJ39 still rumbled to 1,000-yard seasons.
In his eight seasons in St. Louis Jackson has played for five head coaches: Mike Martz, Joe Vitt, Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett and Steve Spagnuolo. He's had several GMs, and a procession of multiple offensive coordinators. Now Jeff Fisher is in charge, making it six coaches in nine seasons.
In Jackson's first eight years, the Rams won 37 games and lost 91 for a winning percentage of .289. The Rams have had the fewest wins in the NFL since Jackson arrived as a first-round draft choice in 2004.
But it would be foolish to blame Jackson for the Rams' woeful record. He hasn't bungled the draft or made idiotic personnel decisions. Jackson isn't responsible for the chronic losing; he's a victim.
From 2004 through 2011, the Rams drafted 70 players. Only one, Jackson, has earned Pro Bowl honors. He's a three-time Pro Bowl pick. From 2004-2011, half of the NFL's 32 teams had at least five draft picks develop into Pro Bowl players. And 27 of the 32 had at least three picks make it to the Pro Bowl.
Jackson grinds on. He's overcome the negative factors and a noxious environment to emerge as one of the most productive players of his generation.
• Jackson is one of only seven backs in NFL history to have seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. It could have been eight, but as a rookie Jackson shared time with Marshall Faulk.
• Since 2005, when he became the starter, Jackson leads the NFL in rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage. He's second in rushing yards per game. He's eighth in rushing touchdowns and 10th in total TDs. He leads all league running backs in receptions and receiving yards.
• Jackson already ranks 31st in NFL history in rushing yards (9,093.) With 1,181 yards this season, he'd move into the top 25. By the end of the season, Jackson will probably become the 26th running back in NFL history to amass 10,000 career rushing yards.
• Jackson is 48th in league history for most yards from scrimmage (12,096) and can crack the top 30 this season.
• Jackson is the Rams' all-time rushing leader. He's already rushed for more yards than four modern-era Hall of Fame running backs: Jim Taylor, Larry Csonka, Leroy Kelly and Floyd Little.
Next Sunday in Detroit, Jackson will begin his ninth season for the Rams. He's 29, and getting close to that age-30 milepost that often marks the decline phase for backs.
In NFL history, only 36 backs have reached the 1,000-yard threshold in their age-29 seasons. The number drops to 20 backs with a 1,000-yard season at age 30.
Jackson, however, is in the best shape of his career. He's disciplined and dedicated to enhancing his health, diet and fitness. Barring injury, I don't see why Jackson can't keep powering up past age 30.
After eight seasons of often going it alone, Jackson is getting some help from coaches who value the running game and promising rookie running backs to carry part of the load. Not only is he set for a robust 2012 season, but Jackson seems capable of sustaining his impressive production for at least two or three more seasons.
Will that be enough to get Jackson into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I don't know. But for being stuck on such a sorry team and in a hopeless situation, Jackson has put together a pretty amazing career.
That's why I thought about Steven Jackson when visiting Canton last month. I know this much: This man should not be forgotten.
Re: Bernie: Rams' Jackson is building a legacy
Can we get SJ some wins for crying out loud?! He deserves it!
Re: Bernie: Rams' Jackson is building a legacy
I guarantee he still has 2-3 more seasons, he is really really fit for his age, his diet and exercise is surreal. The day he retires or declines and is no longer our starter, will be the saddest day of my young 22 year life.
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