Wait a second…
The St. Louis Rams are playing the Arizona Cardinals today for NFL Network’s esteemed Thursday Night football game?
I’m not going to sugarcoat anything – for the casual football fan, this game stinks. And to be completely honest, this game will probably draw the worst ratings of any Thursday night game this season. Maybe ever.
With that being said, the NFL couldn’t have asked for much more from these two teams so far this season. When the NFL scheduled this game, they would have been ecstatic with two .500 teams.
The Rams have already matched their 2011 win total, and they would be 3-1 if not for a last-minute touchdown by Lion’s Matthew Stafford in week one.
This game also carries extra sentiment for Rams-nation, as this is their first time hosting a primetime game in five years. In addition, the team is honoring future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner prior to the game. Sweet.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are coming off a strong finish from last year, and haven’t skipped a beat with a sizzling 4-0 start to the season. Ironically, they were the last team in the league to name a starting quarterback, and that starting quarterback isn’t even the one who has carried them to this point. The initial starter, John Skelton left week one’s contest against the Seahawks with a high ankle sprain, and backup Kevin Kolb came in to lead a game-winning drive. Since then, he hasn’t missed a step, posting victories against the Dolphins and Eagles, and one on the road against the Patriots.
When the Rams take center stage on Thursday, they are doing so with a squad that most aren’t too familiar with. Sure, everyone knows former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. Most even may also be familiar with defensive studs Cortland Finnegan and Chris Long. The name that resonates with most people when they think of the Rams?
Steven Jackson, of course.
The Rams have been historically bad over the past six-seasons, which includes four seasons of three or less wins. Jackson is the lone member of the squad who has suffered through each of those torturous seasons, and he has done so with the same positive attitude he had when the club took him in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft out of Oregon State.
Jackson’s tenure in St. Louis began under some hefty pressure. He was drafted as the heir to eventual Hall of Fame running back, Marshall Faulk. After shadowing Faulk for a year, the Rams turned to Jackson as their starter, and haven’t looked back since.
In 2005, his first season as a starter, Jackson posted the first of seven consecutive 1000-yard seasons. He is looking to continue that streak into this season. Jackson has done so while posting a career yards per carry (YPC) average of 4.4, which is well above the NFL average of 3.6.
Despite dealing with numerous nagging injuries over the years, he has played in at least 12 games each season since entering the league. For a running back who has taken a pounding like Jackson, managing 12 games for eight consecutive years is remarkable.
Some would argue that Jackson’s productivity is irrelevant because of how poorly they’ve played in his time with the Rams. I would argue that his productivity is even more impressive for that reason exactly. Jackson has actually accumulated the majority of his yards in the first half of games. For most of his career, his team is trailing so badly by the third and fourth quarters that they are forced into all passing situations in the second half of games, and Jackson is looked to as a pass catcher and pass protector.
That begs the question, is Steven Jackson a hall of fame running back?
Before you blurt out “no,” let’s take a look at some numbers.
At age 29, Jackson sits at number 31 on the all-time rushing list. His 9,288 yards are over 9,000 yards short of leader Emmitt Smith. With that being said, he is only 1,000 yards short of the top-25 and just over 2,000 short of the top-15.
Let’s do a little scenario here. Most of you will initially say that I am being very optimistic with these projections, but please do keep in mind that I am basing this off the fact that Jackson is a warrior and a true physical specimen.
At 6 foot 3 and over 230 pounds, Jackson has always been one of the most imposing backs in football. As I briefly touched on above, he has suffered numerous injuries throughout his career and has become notorious for playing in games after not practicing that week. When he is injured in the games, he never expresses pain. He quietly notifies the coaching staff of the injury, leaving fans puzzled by his departure.
I believe Jackson, who turned 29 in July, realistically could play until age 34. By no means will he be a starting running back during that entire stretch, but he can be a solid contributor.
Once his time in St. Louis comes to an end, I fully expect Jackson, who has one playoff appearance in eight years, to hop on with a contender. He has one year remaining on his contract following this season, which he could certainly play out. That gives him at least two more seasons as a starting running back.
If he is able to accumulate 1,750 yards the next two seasons, which is less than his career average, he will be at 11,038 and 19th on the all-time list. Despite where he goes and what role he lands in, he should still be able to accumulate at least 1,800 yards the following three seasons. That leaves him at 12,838 and eighth on the all-time list. That would sandwich him between Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Eric Dickerson.
Even if he were to accumulate half that total, he would still sit at 11,938 yards and 15th on the all-time list. The only top 15 rushers not in the Hall of Fame are recent retirees Edgerrin James, Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson, all of whom could certainly find themselves there one day.
Is Steven Jackson a Hall of Famer?
If his career ended today, the answer would be no. However, if he continues to show even a fraction of the consistency he has shown thus far in his career, he will be heavily considered.
There are factors that can help his case, of course. If he is able to be a part of a playoff run, either with the Rams or another team, he will certainly help his consideration. Although win-loss numbers aren’t typically associated with running backs, his stands out to the point where voters could hold it against him. He must continue to do what he has been doing: go out each week and play as hard as possible.
Either way, when you are suffering through this dreadful Thursday night game, pay some respect to Steven Jackson and what he has been able to do in this league.
He very well may be headed to Canton one day. It’s not easy playing for a losing team, nonetheless, putting up terrific numbers in doing so.
His team’s lack of success has kept him out of the limelight for the majority of his career.
For that reason, you know this primetime game in his house is extra special.