The line was drawn with regard to LaDainian Tomlinson’s degree of villainy or gamesmanship during the AFC Championship game. You either think he should have gotten his rich ass on the field, sucked it up and played, or you think he did the selfless, smart thing by taking himself out in lieu of someone who was better equipped to help win the game.
I tend to believe the answer is somewhere in the middle.
From where I sit, which is quite a distance outside the Chargers organization, it’s impossible for me (and all those who think they know better) to properly gauge the decision LaDainian and/or the coaches made on that day. Surely there are mitigating circumstances that will remain unsaid. Nevertheless, people have jumped to conclusions like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch.
I’ve always thought the easiest way to wrap your mind around a situation and chorale the intangibles is to figure that the truth is somewhere in the creamy center.
I think Tomlinson should have been out there, but certainly not touching the rock 25 times with a busted knee. Red Zone offense is what killed this team. Inside the 10, Tomlinson could try at least once to break through the line and get in the endzone. Even if he was good for a single, full-speed run, he should have done it. Or put him in as a decoy. Have him take a direct snap, turn it into a gadget play, pass it off in a reverse, something, anything would have been better than anchoring the bench the whole game.
Conversely, no one wants Tomlinson to put himself before the team, demand to play even though he’s not at full capacity, and hurt the team with a poor performance. Whether he thought of it or not, one good hit to an existing injury could very well be a career ender.
Tomlinson still comes across as a ‘team guy’. This situation doesn’t lump him in ego-wise with the likes of Owens or Moss. But someone that day eclipsed Tomlinson as a leader- Philip Rivers.
So Chargers fans are left playing the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” game for another off-season.
I am done with the controversy, if there legitimately ever was one. There is one question that still resonates, however: is a LaDainian Tomlinson, leagues leading rusher, single season deity, former league MVP at 50% worse than his backup at 100%? Guess we’ll never know.