I'm starting to like Steven Jackson more and more. Yes, he's fast and can move downfield with the urgency of a man on fire, but there's another quality emerging from the third year running back and that's his emotional leadership.
Clearly, he doesn't like the taste of losing. Nobody does, but through several of the games in the Rams 7 out of 8 game losing streak it was easy to wonder if the Rams had maybe reconciled themselves to it. But there, on the sidelines as cameras turned to Jackson while the booth crew talked about another impressive day from the running back in spite of the defense surrendering the game, we saw Jackson wearing his emotions on his sleeve, and they showed us a man none too pleased at the prospects of losing the game.
And then, when Bulger, um, shared his thoughts about the team's effort, Jackson rushed through to back him up. And now, as the media starts to focus more attention on the NFC's leader in total yards from scrimmage, he's keeping the spotlight on the team. To wit:
"If anyone brings up playoffs, I try to correct them. That's the problem. We've been looking at the playoffs all week. You're not going to get into the playoffs until you start winning.
"If we can run the table and go 3-0 it would be great, but if not, somebody needs to start stepping up and making plays and not waiting for somebody else to make plays."
On top of that, his tirade today about the lack of fan enthusiasm or fans at the game this Monday reflects a man passionate about what he does.
I don't want to oversell Jackson's passion for winning, but emotional leadership, or lack thereof, has been a big, big problem for the Rams this season. They don't have the talent to be a 10-2, or even a 9-3, team this year, but they've missed a few key opportunities to build on raw emotion and steal another win or two. I have major questions about Linehan's ability to motivate his team, but even the most passionate of head coaches can only do so much to kick his team in the ass, emotional leadership from the players plays a big role in that area.
Players like this also help give teams a sense of identity, a spirit of unity that motivates everyone to play their best. If Jackson builds on his feeling, then his presence will mean a whole lot more than having a running back who can put up 2,000 yards every season.