After Marshall Faulk retired in 2005, the Los Angeles Rams already had his replacement in waiting in Steven Jackson. The Rams drafted Jackson in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft and he was ready by the time a Faulk-less 2006 arrived. In 2013 when the Rams needed to replace Jackson it was an unlikely candidate in Zac Stacy who took over.
While the Rams were ready for Faulk retiring, that was not the case when Jackson decided to leave the franchise in search of playoff success in 2013. The Rams did draft Isaiah Pead in 2012, but the Cincinnati running back never got on track throughout his career.
Daryl Richardson, a seventh round pick in 2012, rushed for 475 yards as a rookie with Jackson in his final year. It was assumed that Richardson would take over for Jackson, but that plan didn’t work out as hoped.
Richardson had Steven Jackson’s dreads, but not his skills. As the primary running back to open the season, Richardson had more than 50 yards rushing in a game one time. He also never averaged more than four yards per carry.
At 2-3, the Rams needed an offensive spark to help quarterback Sam Bradford. In the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Rams selected Zac Stacy out of Vanderbilt. Stacy started the season as the primary backup. However, in Week 4, Stacy broke out. In 14 carries, Stacy had 78 yards and from that point on, it was his job to lose.
Stacy carried the Rams to a Week 6 win against the Houston Texans. However, in Week 7 is when Stacy really showed what he was about. The Vanderbilt running back put up 134 yards against the Seattle Seahawks without Bradford. However, questionable play calling by Brian Schottenheimer resulted in a Rams loss.
The rookie running back had 130 yards once again, this time in a win against the New Orleans Saints.
Despite playing in just 14 games, Stacy was just 27 yards short of a 1,000 yard season as a rookie. Stacy trailed only Eddie Lacy among rookie running backs. If Stacy had started the entire season, he likely would have led rookie running backs in rushing and surpassed 1,000 yards.
In 2013 Rams RBs @ZSTACY_ Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham @BennyCunningham ran for a combined 196 yards on the Bears defense in the Rams 42-21 victory! A couple of hard nose runners in Rams history here pic.twitter.com/hiIYqOzYyM
— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) November 16, 2019
The Rams finished the season 7-7 with Stacy leading the way. Without Bradford, the Rams relied heavily on the running game. It shouldn’t be forgotten that through the first first seven weeks of the season, Bradford ranked fifth in the NFL in passing touchdowns. While Bradford had good years in Minnesota, had he stayed healthy, 2013 might have been his best.
Stacy’s rookie season led fans to believe that he would be the running back of the future after Steven Jackson. That lasted a grand total of three months. The Rams shocked fans, and Stacy, by taking Tre Mason in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Stacy still started the 2014 season, but after a 1-4 start, the Rams offense once again needed a spark. The offense turned to Tre Mason who went on to have 750 yards. After starting the year with 61 carries in the first four weeks, Stacy had 15 carries the rest of the season.
The Zac Stacy era in St. Louis was short-lived. The memories were great as Stacy bounced off of defenses like a bowling ball. The Rams then drafted Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Can anyone say #Yikes?
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 1, 2015
The Rams honored Stacy’s request for a trade. Stacy was traded to the New York Jets for a 7th round pick. That selection turned into Bryce Hager who had a longer career with the Rams than Stacy. Meanwhile Stacy was placed on injured reserve in 2015 by the Jets and cut in 2016. In 2017, Stacy retired from the NFL.
The former Rams running back went on to play in the AAF where he rushed for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns on 100 carries in eight games. He was actually the first 100-yard rusher in AAF history and scored the first touchdown for the Memphis Express.
While this article features Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham also deserves some recognition. Cunningham was a solid player for the Rams despite never having a featured role.