During that time, the Rams are the only team in football to win fewer than 30 percent of their games.
Jackson(@sj39) is a great running back who has been saddled on a terrible team, reminiscent of players such as O.J. Simpson and Ollie Matson. How bad has it been for Jackson? I looked at all running backs with at least 5,000 rushing yards and 7,500 yards from scrimmage in their careers. Then, I calculated the weighted average winning percentage of the teams they played on throughout their career.1 In that group, Jackson has the lowest career (weighted) winning percentage:
[table id=30 /]
Ollie Matson, a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro, is often remembered as one of the few stars to make the Hall of Fame despite playing for miserable teams his entire career. In fact, no offensive Hall of Famer played in more games than Matson despite never playing for a team that reached the playoffs. Matson played the first six years of his career in Chicago with the Cardinals during a long stretch (one of several) of ugly years under Bill Bidwill. The Cardinals then traded Matson to Pete Rozelle’s2 Rams in exchange for nine players in one of the most historic trades in league history. But the Rams were in no better shape than the Cardinals, leaving Matson to spend the first decade of his career in football obscurity, before closing out his career with the Lions and Eagles.
Matson possessed Olympic-caliber speed, but was also one of the biggest backs of his era. He was a powerful runner capable of running over or around defenders; he also excelled as a return man, in the less specialized, pre-merger era of the NFL. Matson did one make post-season game, but he didn’t do it while playing in the NFL. Though he was drafted during the Korean War, instead of being sent overseas, Matson was sent to Fort Ord, an Army post in Monterey Bay, California. He played for the Ford Ord Warriors, and was a star in armed services football. In the 1954 Salad Bowl, he scored three touchdowns in a rout of Great Lakes Navy, capturing the All-Service championship.
Jackson, like Matson, has been forced to spend nearly his entire career playing on bad teams. Jackson turns 29 next month, as the Rams begin another rebuilding project under Jeff Fisher. The best case scenario would see his career finish like a Walter Payton or Corey Dillon. Both Payton and Dillon struggled playing for bad franchises for most of their careers, before winning Super Bowls in their 30s.
Take a look at the table of career winning percentages and let us know what stands out to you.
- The weighted average was calculated based on the runner’s yards from scrimmage in each season as a percentage of his total career yards from scrimmage. For example, if a player gained 10% of his yards from scrimmage in 1999 and the team went 15-1 that season, then 10% of the running back’s weighted winning percentage would be 0.9375. This is designed to align a running back’s best seasons with his team’s records in those years. For example, Emmitt Smith played 2 of his 15 seasons with the Cardinals. But since he gained only 6.5% of his career yards from scrimmage in Arizona, the Cardinals’ records those years count for only 6.5% — and not 13.3% — of his career weighted winning percentage. [↩]
- Rozelle, who would go on to become NFL commissioner, attended the University of San Francisco with Matson, and was USF’s assistant athletic director the year Matson was a Heisman trophy finalist. [↩]