For Pete's Sake

By: Pete Fierle

Pete Fierle, Manager - Digital Media/Communications
Pete's familiarity with the game's history is a result of spending two decades surrounded by the world's largest collection of pro football information. His many duties include overseeing the Hall's website as well as the day-to-day operation of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center.

First things first

Dec 16, 2010

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

It's my nature because of what we do at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to look at the past before we can move onto the future. With that stated and before I can even think about the great schedule of games in the NFL in Week 15, I have to take one more look into the "ancient" history that was Week 14.

One performance last week caught my eye because the word "first" was used to describe the achievement. Anytime I hear the word "first" it usually indicates some type of significant moment in the history of the game.

Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark when he gained 96 yards against the New Orleans Saints last weekend. The footnote in that is he is the first runner in the storied franchise's history to rush for 1,000 yards in six straight seasons.

When I think of the Rams, I think of 1,000-yard rushers. Perhaps it's because they've featured great offensive lines for a good part of the past few decades that allowed a plethora of runners to reach the 1,000-yard mark.

The Rams have a litany of fine runners over the franchise's existence that began in 1937. Johnny Drake was the featured back in the early days when the team called Cleveland, Ohio its home. When the Rams first moved to L.A., there were well-known runners like Dick Hoerner, Dan Towler, and Tank Younger. None of those players, however, ever reached the 1,000-yard mark in a season.

It wasn't until 1962 that Dick Bass became the first 1,000-yard runner in the team's history. He reached the milestone again four seasons later. Willie Ellison ran for an even 1,000 yards in 1971. Included in his rushing total that year was a then-record 247 yards in a game against the Saints on Dec. 5. This is the jersey from that record-setting day that's a part of our collection.

In the mid-1970s as the Rams were winning division title after division title, it was Lawrence McCutcheon who was carrying the load. He rushed for a 1,000 yards four times over a five-season span from 1973 to 1977.

Wendell Tyler was next in line with 1,000 yards in 1979 and 1981.

Then, some guy by the name of Eric Dickerson came along. He set the rookie record with 1,808 yards in 1983 and followed that by gaining a single-season record 2,105 yards in his second year. He had 1,200 yards in year three and rushed for another 1,800 yards in his fourth season. But, he unlike Jackson, never strung together six straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Rams. That, of course, was because he was shipped to the Indianapolis Colts in a three-team trade on Halloween Day 1987.

Here's a nice look at how unstoppable Eric Dickerson was in '84.

More 1,000-yard Rams followed: Charles White, Greg Bell (twice), Cleveland Gary, Jerome Bettis (back-to-back) and Marshall Faulk who ran for 1,000 yards three seasons straight from 1999 to 2001.

Three seasons passed before another 1,000-yard rusher and that was Jackson. By reaching the mark last Sunday, he has now rushed for 1,000 yards in every season since 2005.

Perhaps his sights are now on the NFL mark but he'd need to double his string to surpass Emmitt Smith's record of eleven seasons rushing for 1,000 or more yards.

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, it's on to Week 15. I'm generally not much of a prognosticator but in my blog last Thursday I gave my picks for the week. I was correct on 13 of the 16 games (so much for my upset picks of Bears over Patriots and Vikings over Giants). So now I'll give it another try. Here goes: Chargers, Ravens, Cardinals, Bengals, Cowboys, Jaguars, Bills, Giants, Chiefs, Bucs, Texans, Falcons, Raiders, Steelers, Patriots, and Bears.