ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 18: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams eludes a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Edward Jones Dome on December 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals beat the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson is less than 50 yards away from a seventh consecutive 1000-yard rushing season. Here's the Hall of Fame company he would join.
St. Louis Rams fans don't have much left to watch. Sam Bradford's ankle injury is likely to cost him the rest of the season, their coaching staff—and the entire team philosophy—is likely to be different in 2012, and short of a brilliant and ill-advised set of Indianapolis Colts pyrrhic victories they haven't even sucked enough for an Andrew Luck-brand quarterback controversy.
Jim Thomas wrote last Friday about the elite company Jackson would join as a seven-in-a-row 1000-yard rusher—Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, former Rams rushing leader Eric Dickerson, Curtis Martin, and LaDainian Tomlinson. Right now Jackson's just 34 yards away, following his 71-yard performance as Kellen Clemens's security blanket in the Rams' 20-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
In case you were wondering, or believe in destiny and/or similar players to a greater extent than you maybe should, here's what those six men did after their seventh consecutive 1000-yard season.
Emmitt Smith: Smith led the league in rushing four times in those seven seasons, which were, like Jackson, his second-through-eighth. 29, like Jackson, and coming off a relatively disappointing 1074 yard performance, Smith proceeded to secure his place in NFL history by running like an elite back for three more years and ending up 25 yards away from a 12th consecutive 1000-yard season in 2002, his last year with Dallas.
We'll call this the Great news! Now you're one of the best running backs ever! career path.
Barry Sanders: Barry Sanders rushed for 1000 yards 10 consecutive seasons—he rushed for 1100 yards 10 consecutive seasons—and 1300 yards nine times out of 10. He was astounding every year and even more astounding some years. Then he retired at 30, after rushing for 1491 yards. In response to the news the city of Detroit slipped into an economic depression from which it may never recover.
This one is the Terrible news! Now you're one of the best running backs ever! career path.
Thurman Thomas: Thomas began his run a little later than Smith or Jackson—he was 23 when he got his first of eight consecutive 1000 yard seasons. At 31, still averaging 4.2 yards per carry, the Bills found themselves overly fond of the great Antowain Smith, and Thomas got just 154 carries, ending his streak.
You could call this the Great news! Apparently Antowain Smith is one of the best running backs ever! career path.
Eric Dickerson: Eric Dickerson might have the prototypical NFL running back career. The Los Angeles Rams drafted him second overall in 1983 and proceeded to call his name 441 times in his rookie season, including 390 attempts. He was game for it, so he got 379 more the next year, 404 more in 1986, and, after going to the Colts, 388 more in 1988. After hitting 30 the injuries started piling up and he became less effective, and he was out of football after an abbreviated year in 1993, just 33 years old. His first seven seasons he ran for at least 1200 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry; his last four he averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
The part of Boxer the Horse in Animal Farm was originally written for any NFL running back who shows promise early in his career. Which makes this the I will try harder! career path.
Curtis Martin: There was a while there where it looked like Curtis Martin had a shot at breaking the all-time rushing record, and I don't think anybody would have realized it even if it happened. For the first 10 seasons of his career Martin ran for at least 1094 yards, topping out at 371 carries (teams! Don't do this!) and 1697 yards in 2004.
In 2005, Martin suffered a knee injury and missed four games; in 2006 it turned out he was done for good, fourth all time with 14,101 career yards. The I will try hard—hey, what's that? career path.
LaDainian Tomlinson: LaDainian Tomlinson's about 500 yards away from Martin, but he probably won't get there—the former fantasy superstar has just 186 rushing yards in limited playing time with the Jets in 2011, having spent most of his time as a receiving option for Mark Sanchez.
Tomlinson's last year as LaDainian Tomlinson, Fantasy God was 2007, when he picked up 1474 yards on the ground and another 475 through the air. He was 28. He had one more year in him as LaDainian Tomlinson, Not Entirely Disappointing Fantasy Football Pick, but that was it.
Which is to say—who knows how much longer Steven Jackson has it in him to do all this? It's not like we have much else to think about in Week 17 of the Rams' lost 2011 season, so let's appreciate him while we have the chance.