For nearly a decade he gave the San Diego Chargers all he had. He was often their only weapon. He’s won almost every individual award that an offensive player can claim. No one has ever made it to 150 career touchdowns as fast and he’s already moved in to the No. 8 spot on the all-time career-rushing list.
Yet he was cut for a younger guy with future potential.
The Chargers took the easy way out last season by blaming LaDainian Tomlinson for their running game woes (31st; 89 yards a game). After three games this season they are tied for 12th with a 116 yards a game. Even though they are gaining an extra 27 yards a game on the ground, did the Chargers make a mistake by cutting one of the best running backs ever to play the game?
I'd argue yes.
So far Tomlinson has run for 208 yards, close to 70 yards a game; a little more than half the 132 yards a game that his new team the New York Jets are averaging. Given the opportunity, he has proven that he still has plenty left to contribute to the team.
In 2010 the Chargers running game has produced, but in an unlikely fashion. The heir apparent, Ryan Matthews, has been hobbled with an ankle injury already, which has left the running duties to a fullback Mike Tolbert. Although he has performed admirably, it is far from what the Chargers need to succeed.
Most teams have shifted to the running back by committee approach. It keeps the running back healthier longer and gives the team a change of pace in the backfield. Tomlinson was always the main man in the backfield in San Diego. That kind of workload is bound to wear on a player and affect his production—like it did in his last couple seasons as a Charger.
Charger fans have undoubtedly watched their former star and wondered what it would be like to have him still in the backfield. Maybe he could be tutoring Ryan Matthews much like he is likely tutoring Shonn Greene, and maybe Ryan Matthews would not have gotten hurt.
Perhaps, most importantly, Phillip Rivers would not feel like he has to do it all with his passing. In the end, with Tomlinson gone, it makes the team one dimensional and fairly easy to defend.