We hate to do this, LaDainian, but it’s time to hang ’em up.No, we’re not arrogant enough to think that we have any sway over your decision. And really, you’ve earned the right to decide for yourself when to call it quits. Seriously, you have. Play as long as you’d like.
But any general manager that decides to devote a roster spot to you in 2011 needs his pulse checked. He must still be living in 2007. Or at least October, 2010.
Just three short months ago you were the toast of the league. You were the Jets best offensive weapon, averaging more than 5.3 yards per carry entering the October 24th bye. Sportswriters were already composing your Comeback Player of the Year story, and Rex Ryan looked like a genius. (Surprise! He even said as much during Hard Knocks.) You attributed it to finally being healthy, and a different preseason regimen.
But to what do you attribute the rest of your 2010 season? You know, the one that saw you rush for just 3.3 yards per carry over the final 10 games. The one where you failed to break a run longer than 14 yards or reach paydirt more than one, single time in 127 carries.
The unfortunate truth, is that you’ve lost a step. Don’t get depressed, it happens to every football player when they hit 30. But the effects of age are worst for running backs, like you, who make a living on initial bursts.
Further complicating your future is that there’s always a younger, faster model waiting to steal playing time from an ageing vet like you, LaDainian. Unless you’re the 1990s Miami Dolphins, running back is historically the easiest hole to fill on a roster. In fact the Chargers ran for more yards than 17 other teams in their first season in the post-Tomlinson era. It’s also no coincidence that the top three rushers in the NFL this year were picked off the scrap heap. Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, and Michael Turner, went undrafted, in the third-round, and the fifth-round, respectively.
Once you’re cut from the Jets (it’s inevitable), no wise general manager will sign you to the million-dollar contract your experience requires. They’d prefer a younger, hungrier player, with cheaper contract demands and a fraction of the miles on his tires. Those younger players haven’t endured years of Ray Lewis tackles, and have the same speed you used to have back when you were putting up mesmerizing numbers.
Please understand LaDainian, we aren’t stopping you from pursuing a roster spot. And we know how very badly you want that ring. But don’t subject yourself to another offseason of intense training, another round of voluntary camps, mini-camps, and the preseason – only to play a limited role on a contending team. As we saw this year, even a team so certain it will reach the Super Bowl that it barely goes a moment without uttering the phrase can fall short. Is it really worth the punishment?
So save yourself from the embarrassment of not making a roster, LaDainian, and get used to life after football. We know the NFL Network, for example, could use your services over the disastrous duo of Joe Theismann and Matt Millen.
Make the announcement now. Enjoy the week-long eulogy, the piles of stories heaping praise on your accomplishment sure to come as the media desperately grabs a story line in the 12 days separating us from the Super Bowl.
Or don’t. (Use this very story as motivation. Let it light a fire under you and try and make a comeback, consequences be damned.) But whatever you do, don’t change your mind; don’t pull a Brett Favre.
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