Steven Jackson gave the St. Louis Rams the best seasons of his underrated NFL career. Forgive him if he seems anxious for the team to return the favor before the final two years of his contract expire.
St. Louis traded up to draft Jackson as the heir to Marshall Faulk's backfield throne. Now he wants to lead a worst-to-first turnaround similar to the one his predecessor saw over a decade ago.
The workhorse is certainly long overdue for a return to the promised land of the playoffs after eight years of wandering in a desert of losing seasons. His only taste of January's milk and honey came in 2004 during his rookie year after an 8-8 regular season. Faulk was still Marshall of the Ram backfield as Jackson turned in his only season with less than 230 carries and 1,000 yards.
St. Louis' ensuing futility can't be blamed on the former Beaver. Jackson's seven consecutive seasons with at least 1,270 yards from scrimmage lands him the dubious distinction of owning the lowest career (weighted) winning percentage among running backs with at least 5,000 rushing yards and 7,500 yards from scrimmage in their careers.
Amassing more than 9,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards over eight years on a team that never posted a winning record is difficult enough. Doing so with the reward of only two 8-8 seasons and two total playoff games can crush a man's soul.
Jackson deserves to be carried to the playoffs by the team he couldn't carry there himself.
His days in St. Louis may not last beyond the final two years of his current contract. Even if they do, any extension takes him into his 30's. Time is running out for Jackson—on paper and in his body.
What will the Rams accomplish this season?
"There was Steven Jackson on Tuesday afternoon at Rams Park marveling at how quickly time flies," writes St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell. "Wasn't it just yesterday when he was an eager rookie looking to take over the pro football world?
"Jackson now is an NFL graybeard who has seen his football life whiz by in the blink of an eye. After nine years in the league — far too many of them losing seasons — the Rams' Pro Bowl running back has developed an essential gift.
"An impatient nature."
Jackson's often broken body is now showing signs of more than just age. Jackson has shown many not-so-subtle signs of urgency during this summer.
He showed it by challenging rookie wideout Brian Quick. He showed it by endorsing the new coaching staff while trying to not throw the former coaching staff completely under the bus. He definitely showed it by comparing the feeling in Rams camp to that of 2004 while proclaiming that the desired turnaround is no longer a matter of "if" but "when."
There are many reasons to believe Jackson when he says that the "when" is on its way.
Emotionally, physically and perhaps even contractually, Jackson can't wait.