Steven Jackson Was The Light During A Dark Era

Chauncey Telese
Former Rams Running Back Steven Jackson. Photo Credit: Darin House | Under Creative Commons License
Former Rams Running Back Steven Jackson. Photo Credit: Darin House | Under Creative Commons License

On July 29th, Steven Jackson signed a one day contract to officially retire as a Ram. He played his last professional game in 2015 as a member of the Patriots during their AFC Championship loss to the Broncos. That doesn’t matter, what does matter is that Steven Jackson got to retire with the team (although not the city) where he was the lone bright spot during an otherwise dark time.

As a Ram, he retired with 10,138 (11,438 total) yards a franchise record. He did so without ever sniffing a Super Bowl let alone the playoffs for his majority of time in St. Louis. His career was one of massive productivity and bad timing.

Steven Jackson holds a special place in the heart of Rams fans because despite the team being an utter tire fire he managed to make three Pro Bowls and two AP All-Second Teams. He was given the impossible task of replacing Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and did so convincingly.

Sure he never hit Faulk’s highs but how could he? Faulk’s ability was undeniable but he was also in the perfect situation being part of The Greatest Show on Turf. Steven Jackson was the best offensive player on his team from 2006-2012 by a WIDE margin.

The Rams traded up to get him in 2004 and his lone playoff appearance came that season where he didn’t get to see the field very much. In 2006 after head coach Mike Martz and Faulk were gone, Jackson could show fans what he was made of. His 2006 season was the career-high that saw him rush for 1,528 yards, 13 TDs, 806 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. He’s the only player ever to have 1400+ rushing and 800+ receiving yards in a single season. None of that mattered as the 2006 Rams finished 8-8.

Scott Linehan would get canned in 2008 and his “successor” Steve Spagnuolo would be significantly worse. Still, Steven Jackson persisted. While the offense and defense cratered like the opening weekend of “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”, Jackson rushed for a total of 5,846 yards between those two coaches all while the team wouldn’t have a winning season. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. There were some issues along the way.

For starters, he wasn’t always the most durable of backs, which makes sense given his bruising style. That said, he constantly had quad, knee, and groin issues that kept him from reaching Hall of Fame heights. He also had a holdout in 2008. Fans didn’t give him their ire as they would with Aaron Donald but it wasn’t exactly fun. Still, he was forgiven because when it comes to holdouts, a star player operates under Spider-Man rules in that “everybody gets one”.

What didn’t help was that the previous season Steven Jackson got testy with fans and hated that they played upbeat music despite the team finishing with a record of 3-13 which is what ended the Scott Linehan era.

He’d eventually receive a deal worth six years $49.3 million with $21.3 million guaranteed. He earned that money rushing for four solid years until Jeff Fisher took over and by then Jackson didn’t deserve another rebuild.

He was released and tried to chase a ring with the Atlanta Falcons and during his two seasons, he failed to crack 1,000 yards. He also had the misfortune of catching the Falcons before they had their Super Bowl run. His final season with the Patriots was dismal. He only had 50 yards and no touchdowns. He was a nonfactor and it was clear he was done.

Steven Jackson likely won’t make the Hall of Fame. Like Fred Taylor before him, he was an amazing running back who essentially succeeded in exile. Sure, he got commercials and was featured on Direct TV’s Sunday Ticket Banner but that probably doesn’t make up for being a Hall of Fame back without the team to prove it on. It was wonderful to see him at practice providing words of wisdom to the young guys who mostly don’t know what it’s like to have team success file a restraining order against them. To have a coach that knows what he’s doing and a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.

It truly was amazing to get to formally say good-bye to a player that played his tail off despite the circumstances. Yes, that’s what the money is for but better players than him would’ve and have handled that situation without half the class Jackson did. It was oddly fitting that when the Rams introduced Jackson the audio was of poor quality. In fact, it was the perfect way to honor Steven Jackson. He got to be great while surrounded by incompetence.

Former Rams Running Back Steven Jackson. Photo Credit: Darin House | Under Creative Commons License

Former Rams Running Back Steven Jackson. Photo Credit: Darin House | Under Creative Commons License