Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One More Run

Well, thank goodness.  I did not want to see it end like that.  Ladanian Tomlinson has been too special as a San Diego Charger, too great, to just see his career end with an injury, a release, a new team and a new uniform, a Chunky Soup re-shoot in different colors.  In a time when the word loyalty has been replaced by restructuring (as in, we are restructuring as a company so we no longer have loyalty to you, here's the door), it was LT's loyalty to his city and his team which led him to swallow some financial pride and restructure his contract.  

Is it any surprise to see that this deal gets done with LT and Dean Spanos coming to an agreement, and then dragging along the kids who have been battling in the playpen (Smith, Condon)?  The former wear their hearts on their sleeves, the latter both battle ultimately for the bottom line.  This time, heart wins.

But I think the head wins here too.  To me, objectively evaluating the San Diego Chargers' championship chances in 2009-2010, they are closer to the goal with LT and Sproles at running back than they are with an unknown draft pick and Darren Sproles.  Tomlinson has a lot to prove next season, and so do the Chargers.  Both are set for a bounce back year, and for those who believe that LT is washed up and the Bolts are making a mistake, I suggest you continue reading. 

Tomlinson's 2008 was a season of struggle not because he was a step slow, but because his step was slowed by a toe injury which he never let heal.  Right when he was back to himself, exploding from the line against the Broncos, he suffered a detached tendon.  If LT had sat for 4-6 weeks after the opening week injury against the Panthers, he undoubtedly would have run for a higher average, and performed at a higher level.  But LT at that time sublimated his personal interest for the team's interest, believing that they needed him in order to succeed.  

In the weeks that followed he suffered; both the pain of the injury, and the barbs of the critics and loudmouth fans/callers who said he had lost his mojo and was washed up as a running back.  I heard it every week after the Chargers lost, back when they used to let me go on the radio every day.  Amazingly, people called HIM selfish for playing in pain.  A selfish player would absolutely have sat down and smiled as his team struggled without him.  LT grimaced and continued, even as the team clanked and stumbled through a 4-8 start.  

At their lowest point, LT got mad.  He said quite famously and hilariously that he would be "God-dogged" if a team of his quit.  Four days later, the patsy Raiders came to town and let LT and the boys run all over them.  Four weeks after that, the Chargers were beating the Colts in the playoffs, with LT breaking away on the first play of the game for a 14-yard run, grimacing once again, this time on a detached tendon.  Darren Sproles took it from there, but he couldn't take it all the way to the Super Bowl.  The Chargers will need LT for that.

Next season's roster and salary cap choices will be tougher than this year's, and the Bolts have already had to jump through some hoops to keep their backfield intact.  Shawne Merriman might not be a Charger in 2010, Cromartie might be gone, and that's just the start of it.  This intriguing, electric, aggravating, and varied collection of talent is here for one more run, and then it may scatter to the wind.  For all we know, by 2011, the Chargers could be in the City of Industry.  

This is no time to part ways with a legend in a cold-hearted salary cap move.  This is the time to get everyone together, read them Henry V's speech about "once more unto the breech dear friends", and then do everything humanly possible as an organization to win the Super Bowl in 2009.  The championship window for this team, this time, is still open, thanks to bringing back Ladanian Tomlinson.  The window WILL close at the end of the year.  It may reopen again soon, or it may not.  But we Charger fans, we happy few, should celebrate the fact that indeed, we will have one more run at the top.  Let's hope that this time they get it right.


  1. The window will close at the end of the year? Cmon New Englands window is STILL OPEN and we're going on almost 10 years since Brady first got there. The Chargers window Opened in 2005. Your closing it already?

  2. As defined, yes, I'm closing THIS window next year. Because after the upcoming season the Chargers will look much different. LT, Merriman and more could be gone.

    I really believe this is the last chance to see THIS group, as configured, go for the top. This is in no way suggesting that after this year, the Philip Rivers era is over. A new window can open. But I think this one will close.