I love LaDanian Tomlinson. The man won me a fantasy football title back in 2006 when he broke the single-season touchdown record. I feel privieged that I was able to watch one of the greatest running backs of all time. I was sad when he retired this past week. However, when news broke yesterday that Tomlinson considered playing one more season I was a bit disappointed. Not in that he was considering another season but in that he was only considering the Denver Broncos.
On one hand all Broncos fans should feel honored that a player like Tomlinson would say that the only team that he would consider playing for in 2012 was Denver. Clearly Peyton Manning has a great deal to do with that, and it's the kind of draw that Peyton has to other NFL players that has brought other quality free agents to town (Tracy Porter, Joel Dreesen, Jacob Tamme).
However, let's not kid ourselves. Tomlinson would have never even made it onto a practice field here. Perhaps if he were a few years younger, and Tomlinson still had the form he had in 2010 when he left the San Diego Chargers for the New York Jets. The Chargers rode Tomlinson hard for nine very productive seasons. He had 2,880 rushing attempts over that season which breaks down to an amazing average of 320 rushing attempts per season! How truly remarkable is that? Consider that in 2011 in the NFL, only two running backs broke 300 rushing attempts (Maurice Jones-Drew - 343, Michael Turner - 301).
It's also a major reason why Tomlinson was damaged goods once he went to the Jets. Despite that he still had a good season (for most running backs) in 2010 with 914 yards and six touchdowns. He seemed to wear down a bit once the weather turned colder and perhaps lost a step, but he was still the best running back the Jets had. In 2011, however, the wheels seemed to finally fall off. He managed just 280 yards and one touchdown. Clearly his career was pretty much finished.
That's one reason why I feel that the Broncos would have said "thanks, but no thanks" to Tomlinson. Their backfield is far too crowded to consider adding someone like Tomlinson who is at the end of his career. Willis McGahee, another older player at 30-years-old, is entrenched as the starter. He's backed up by the oft-injured Knowshon Moreno, third-round draft pick Ronnie Hillman, and the highly versatile Lance Ball. As it's pretty unlikely that the Broncos will take four running backs into the season, I just can't see where they'd even invite Tomlinson to camp.
So while it's probably a wonderful "what if" to imagine Peyton Manning and LaDanian Tomlinson in the same offense, it was just never going to happen. The Broncos and Manning are moving forward and Tomlinson can hopefully enjoy his retirement.
Julie is a fanatical football fan and a featured NFL contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She started following the Broncos in 2001 after moving to Colorado and now lives five minutes from Broncos headquarters. She is eagerly awaiting the first day of training camp.
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