COMMENTARY | The NFL has an alternative acronym, "Not for Long", and when it comes to San Diego Chargers' third-year running back and first round pick Ryan Mathews, it appears that his time may be running out.
The writing is on the wall, and head coach Norv Turner has gotten so tired of the injuries and fumbles, that he resorted to starting Jackie Battle in Week 4, who was in the league's scrap heap just months ago. In the NFL, turning over the ball is a sure-fire way to fall out of favor with coaches. Mathews has drawn the dreaded label of a fumbler, and the Chargers are beginning to lose trust in him as a result.
What's so bad about the situation is that Mathews is exceptionally talented. So much so, that general manager A.J. Smith traded up in the 2010 NFL draft to select the former Fresno State Bulldog with the 12th overall pick. But times change, and Smith was candid regarding Mathews' replaceable status when asked about his fumbling issues.
Mathews has racked up 11 career fumbles (both lost and recovered by his own team) in 404 career rushing attempts through Week 4 of 2012. That's a 2.7 percent fumble rate. By comparison, future Chargers' Hall-of-Famer LaDainian Tomlinson fumbled just 27 times in 2,880 attempts as a San Diego running back, less than one percent of his attempts. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 510 rushing attempts with the New England Patriots from 2008-2011 and didn't fumble once during that stretch.
Mathews by comparison has not lived up to expectations -- not even standards.
He's got a lot of work to do to get back in the good graces of his coaches. Battle has proved serviceable and has run well enough to get the job done. The depth chart roulette that Turner is playing with Mathews has to be the wakeup call that he needs to get it together.
If not now, when? If Smith is serious about being willing to part ways with Mathews if his mistakes continue to cost the Chargers possessions, then that could be sooner rather than later.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the San Diego Chargers as a Southern California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger. You can read him on SB Nation and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.
You can follow him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets
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