Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sustained Mediocrity

Long-time New York Giants running back and recent Super Bowl victor Brandon Jacobs just signed on to be a member of the San Francisco 49ers ending his tenure as a Giant.

More accurately, his Giants' time ended earlier this year when they released him but there still remained the option that they could bring him back, until today that is.

Jacobs was never a star, nor even a full-time starter yet his career accomplishments are surprising. He is the Giants' all-time leader in rushing touchdowns. He had four consecutive seasons of at least 800 yards rushing even though he was the starting back for only roughly half that time. His career year, 2008, was a sight to behold: 1125 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in just 13 games. And more important than the individual numbers, since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, Brandon Jacobs has been on two Super Bowl champion teams. Not a bad career for a big boy out of Southern Illinois.

The question of how successful someone is always comes up when a chapter of their career comes to a close. Jacobs is no longer a Giant, so how impressive was his Giants career? Taking a broad view it seems he was nothing more than a cog in a good franchise and yet his numbers are pretty impressive and he was a main part of those two title teams. So who's career has been more successful, Jacobs or a man like LaDainian Tomlinson?

Obviously this is a ridiculous query from a talent standpoint. Tomlinson is a Hall of Fame back and one of the most impressive runners in NFL history. His numbers are nearly peerless. And yet, his teams always came up short in the playoffs. He never made a Super Bowl, let alone won one. He was a very high pick (fifth overall in 2001), meaning the production was almost expected. So was he actually more successful than Jacobs? It comes down to how you evaluate success and what qualities are more important but the interesting thing to me is that the question can exist at all.

In the basketball world, a more extreme yet common analogy is between a player like Chris Webber or Charles Barkley and Robert Horry. Would you rather have the Hall of Fame career from the highly drafted player or the championship-laden career from the often forgotten "role player"?

It is a fascinating quandary, one that just cements the fact that Brandon Jacobs, Giants career finalized, had himself one heck of a time in Big Blue.

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