When the Atlanta Falcons released Michael Turner this offseason, it made sense to most people. He was already being phased out of their running game (the Falcons gave him 79 fewer carries than the year before) and the offense was being geared toward a more vertical unit with White, Jones, Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rogers being used on a majority of the screen plays.
Everyone knew it was coming. When the day came and the Falcons released Turner, he didn't turn around and say he couldn't believe it or that he was upset with the organization. He accepted that the team was moving in a new direction and made a great post on Facebook.
"This is a tough business but I understand its nature and respect the process." Those are the words of a true veteran player who knows the nature of the business and is willing to concede his role and the direction that the team is in.
However, with the signing of Steven Jackson to the roster this past week, it derails the idea that the Falcons were in fact looking for a new running back and that they were just done with Turner.
In a very odd maneuver from Steven Jackson and the Atlanta Falcons, Jackson said, "They're one good running back away from winning the Super Bowl" on ESPN's NFL Live. Then the Atlanta Falcons shared an image that Steven Jackson posted on his Facebook page that had his face on it, next to the quote.
It's one thing for another player to say something about another one. They're athletes and they like to compete against each other and prove each other wrong. However, it is something completely different when the organization that you helped bring from the bottom of the division posts this on their Facebook page for over a million fans to see.
If we take a look at some hard stats, we actually uncover some things that show that this addition of Steven Jackson to the Falcons might not be the upgrade everyone thinks.
First we should look at it the stats from last year:
Steven Jackson: 257 carries - 1,042 yards - 4 TDs
Michael Turner: 222 carries - 800 yards - 10 TDs
Fewer carries and more touchdowns for Turner. Now, if we were to make it even and see what the numbers might be if Turner got the same number of carries that Jackson did, Turner would have roughly 926 yards rushing and 12 TDs.
His final stats for last year would look more like:
Michael Turner: 257 carries - 926 yards - 12 TDs
Still not the 1,000-yard rusher that Steven Jackson was, but then again, all St. Louis could really do last year was run the ball. With the vertical weapons that Atlanta has, it makes sense to spread the ball and not be a run-heavy team.
Now if we look at career stats:
Steven Jackson: 2,395 attempts - 10,135 yards - 56 TDs - 4.2 yards per carry average
Michael Turner: 1,639 attempts - 7,338 yards - 66 TDs - 4.5 yards per carry average
Again, this doesn't look like an advantage for the Falcons when with 756 fewer attempts in his career—Turner has 10 more career TDs. Turner also spent much of his early career as the backup to LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, while Steven Jackson was a starter in St. Louis from the beginning. One can say that's why there's this discrepancy in the numbers.
Though a few years older than Jackson, Turner's 1,639 attempts is comparable to a player in his sixth or seventh season. If you look at Chris Johnson of the Titans, he's in his sixth year and has 1,463 attempts for his career, only 176 attempts less than Turner.
Since we're looking at stats, let's look at the last five years (both of these guys only missed five games each).
Here are the numbers:
Steven Jackson - Average 1,177 yards per year
Michael Turner - Average 1,216 yards per year
Jackson has also been known to be injury prone and even admitted that he had been toying with the idea of retirement. (I don't think I ever heard the R word come from Turner, ever.)
Is this really an upgrade for Atlanta?