What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next three and a half months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
As is the case with many head-coach firings, the reason the Bears parted ways with Lovie Smith in December wasn’t because he’d done an inadequate job. When Smith came to Chicago in 2004, after three seasons as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, he was assigned the job of restoring a franchise with a storied defensive history to its previous heights. For the most part, he was successful. In Smith’s nine seasons, the Bears finished in the top 10 in defensive DVOA eight times. Twice, they were tops in the league by that metric, but I'd argue taking a Rex Grossman–quarterbacked team to the Super Bowl in 2006 makes that year's second-place DVOA finish more impressive.
The problem is that Lovie Smith was not a defensive coordinator. A defensive head coach’s responsibilities include keeping his offensive house in order, and that was something Smith could never get right in Chicago. Terry Shea turned to Ron Turner turned to Mike Martz turned to Mike Tice, and because the offense never caught up to the defense, it eventually cost Smith his job.
For Steven Jackson, everything about Sunday afternoon was fitting. With 1:47 left in the third quarter, and with his team trailing Minnesota 33-7, Jackson took a delayed first-down handoff and went for nine yards up the middle. With those nine, Jackson’s career total was 10,002 — a plateau reached by only 26 others. The crowd in St. Louis rose to its feet, gave a short ovation, and then watched as an incomplete pass and Jackson getting hit in the backfield made it fourth down. As Adrian Peterson’s continuing pursuit of history was cause for celebration, Jackson’s came and went without much notice.
Each of Jackson’s 10,000 yards has been gained while he was a member of the St. Louis Rams, and it’s that part of it that makes his accomplishment even more impressive than it already is. There have been plenty of NFL players whose talent has been squandered on bad teams in the past decade, but Jackson deserves to be near the top of the list.
In Jackson's seven years as the Rams’ starting running back, St. Louis has tallied 23 wins, roughly 3.3 wins per season. Over the same span, the Rams have been outscored by more than 1,000 points. Since 2007, the highest finish for a St. Louis offense in total yards is 22nd. In total points, it’s 24th. For the majority of Jackson’s career, St. Louis has defined awful in the NFL, and the question as Jackson nears 30 and his career enters its twilight is just how good he might have been.
Here's your Friday whip-around on the stories dominating the headlines and lingering in the margins of the NFL. No pads needed.
Despite head coach Bill Belichick opting not to play his starters in the New England Patriots' first preseason game, last week, Tom Brady and the rest of the first team looked to be in midseason form, last night against the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Pats won 31-14. A typically brassy Belichick said, "I thought we accomplished a few things." It's that kind of brazen collar popping that drives Rex Ryan up a tree. In his first preseason action, Brady overcame a clinically diagnosed case of being "antsy" to go 11-19 for 118 yards and two touchdowns.