NFL Any Era: Tebow over Steven Jackson?

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
12:42
PM ET
Seth from Newport News, Va., says the ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine's NFL Any Era team "is a joke" if the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson does not appear on the list.

Mike Sando: Jackson did not appear on the list. Tim Tebow did. That seems wrong. We do not even know for sure whether Tebow will be good in this era, do we?

The overall list is strong. Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson, Brian Urlacher, Patrick Willis, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ed Reed, Darrelle Revis, Jared Allen and Dwight Freeney are among those listed.

I thought the San Francisco 49ers' Justin Smith was an obvious omission among those watching him play regularly. But how many people, Hall of Famers or otherwise, have watched the 49ers' defensive line in recent seasons?

People should know plenty about Steven Jackson, because he carries the ball and, quite frequently, defenders trying to tackle him. Seth is surely right about the Rams' poor record hurting Jackson in these types of polls.

In retrospect, I should have broken out an item about Jackson's omission without any prompting. He has demonstrated all the necessary qualities -- toughness, grit, consistency, leadership, versatility, production -- to make him a timeless player. Very few running backs have run with more ferocity than Jackson.

The way Jackson has played through injuries becomes more impressive when we consider the stakes for his team were relatively low. I'll never forget watching him slam himself into the 49ers' defense while trailing 35-0 a few years ago. He made a statement to his teammates and anyone watching. Circumstances would not diminish what he represented. I'll also never forget how he fought through a 2009 back injury that would require surgery. He started 15 games even though his team was 1-15 that season.

A lesser man -- even a normal one -- would have shut it down late in that season. What was the point? Jackson refused to do that. He kept coming back for more and finished with 324 carries, the second-highest total of his career.

Jackson was clearly qualified for the Any Era team. So were Larry Fitzgerald and others. But as with voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there are usually more worthy candidates than spots available for enshrinement. That means very good candidates do not always get their due, at least right away. That should not diminish them in any way.

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