Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rams' Steven Jackson and the Hall of Fame

The days of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the "Greatest Show On Turf" are still in the back of our minds, but those memories are rapidly fading deeper and deeper into the past.

The death of that era has sparked a lengthy drought in St. Louis—While the 2001 Rams won 14 games in a single season, the current team has won only 15 games in the last five years combined.

In the middle of the drought, standing out clearly in contrast to the surrounding wasteland, is the oasis—Steven Jackson.

When discussing the futility of the Rams in recent years, he has always been the "but", the exception, the slither of pride that keeps the fanbase going.

Despite experiencing only one playoff win in eight seasons, Jackson still straps on the cleats every Sunday and gives it his all.

There is no immediate turnaround in sight, which makes his career into the spitting image of a traditional Greek Tragedy, as opposed to a Disney film, which would have it all end with Jackson hoisting a Lombardi Trophy over his head, much like Jerome Bettis did with the Steelers in 2005.

While a fairy tale ending seems unlikely at this point, Jackson's career would not be a total misfortune if he were to find his way into Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

However, even though Jackson owns the Rams franchise rushing record and is only the seventh player in NFL history to put up seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, he still has a few obstacles to overcome if he wants his legacy to reach an elite status.

1. Acquire More Playoff Appearances

If Jackson wants the Hall of Fame, then the Rams don't necessarily need to win a Super Bowl. In fact, they don't even need to win a single playoff game.

However, they certainly need a few more playoff appearances before Jackson retires.

Out of all modern-era running backs in the Hall of Fame, Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson are tied for the fewest playoff appearances with six total appearances each, while Jackson is well behind with only two.

The Hall of Fame accepts players based on their personal accomplishments, which makes it ridiculous that Jackson could ultimately be punished for his teammate's shortcomings.

However, the Hall of Fame voters certainly equate playoff appearances with personal success, which means the Rams have to get on track quickly for Jackson, who will turn 29 years old before the beginning of next season.

2. Gain More Yardage

Jackson has rushed for 1,000 yards in seven consecutive seasons, which makes his rookie year in 2004 the only season in his eight-year career where he failed to surpass the 1,000-yard mark.

His consistent ability to gain yardage has him on pace to finish with an adequate number of career rushing yards in the eyes of the Hall of Fame.

When looking at modern-era players, while leaving out fullbacks and other novelties, the average amount of career yards for a Hall of Fame running back is about 11,632 yards.

Jackson is sitting with 9,093 yards at the age of 28.

Realistically, he'll need two more 1,000-yard seasons combined with a year or two of 500-yard seasons at the end of his career. Or, if he ages quicker than we thought and enters a backup role, he'll need about four more years with 500 or more yards.

In the end, his total number of rushing yards will not be the thing that keeps him out of the Hall of Fame, but he certainly still has work to do.

3. Find the Endzone

While Jackson has been consistent in yardage, he typically does not have an impressive touchdown total at the end of the season.

In fact, 2006 is the only year where he rushed for more than 10 touchdowns (13). This comes as a result of playing for a team that has been offensively-challenged for most of his career.

When looking at modern-era running backs, and again leaving out the fullbacks and other oddballs, the average touchdown total of a Hall of Fame running back is about 89.

With only 59 touchdowns at the age of 28, Jackson will be hard-pressed to meet that career average. Assuming he plays four more years, he would need 7.5 touchdowns a year to hit that mark.

Considering he's averaging 6.5 touchdowns per season during his prime, he won't be able to maintain the 7.5 average in his twilight years.

However, there are several notable Hall of Fame running backs who were elected despite falling short of the 89 touchdown average: Earl Campbell (74), Joe Perry (71), O.J. Simpson (61), Thurman Thomas (65)

So while Jackson will surely be short on touchdowns, he'll finish with just enough to keep him in the hunt.


Jackson has been the soul of the team throughout some of the worst seasons in franchise history, yet he hasn't complained, he doesn't demand to be traded and he stands by the team.

If Jackson spent his career in a larger market, such as Dallas or New York, then Canton would already be in the process of welding his statue. However, since he's in a small market on a team that doesn't properly support him, he'll be a borderline candidate.

He shouldn't be punished for loyalty and determination. Keeping a player like Jackson out of Canton would only encourage active players to abandon their teams in search of big city teams with more national media coverage.

Jackson still has work to do before the discussion can truly begin, but if he comes close to the benchmarks, then he deserves the nod.


  1. The longer Jackson continues, the more he reminds me of Walter Payton. The Bears were horrible (except for the '85 season). And yet, you could al;ways count on Payton, just like Jackson, to carry his team.. Their running styles may be different, but their success in spite of their surroundings is the what makes them great....

  2. Agreed. It's amazing how the Rams are basically a black hole. If you're an NFL player and you want to under-perform and watch your career decline, then go play for the St. Louis Rams. But despite that depressing reality, Jackson somehow manages to consistently produce top numbers on one of the worst teams out there. Incredible.