Free 24


October 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Chargers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Imagine you start a new job; you’ve been recruited by a large company to head up a special division. You spend all this time doing research, putting together an awesome project. You know you’ve done great work. Now here comes Mike, he takes the project out of your hands just as your finishing, puts his name on it, turns it in and gets all the credit.

Welcome to the world of Ryan Mathews, who had this happen to him over and over again the last 2 years. The “Mike” happens to be Mike Tolbert who became a joke on the sitcom The League.

Tolbert scored 19 touchdowns over his last 2 seasons with the Chargers in the redzone. 19!!! Many of these came at the expense of Mathews who was the one taking the team down the field.

Chargers fans have been spoiled over the last decade by having a top 5 running back of all-time in LaDainian Tomlinson. LT was extremely durable, missing only 1 game in his first 7 seasons. Mathews came into a situation with huge shoes to fill and unrealistic expectations by the fans.

Mathews has unfortunately been injury-prone, missing 10 of his first 37 games. Mathews is widely considered to have the talent to be a top 5 running back. His body has betrayed his obvious physical talents however.

I’m a Mathews homer though, so let’s compare 24 vs. 21!

1st 2 years ATT YDS AVG TD FUM/LOST (rushing & receiving)

Player A 711 2,919 4.11 24 11/6

Player B 380 1,769 4.66 13 10/5

So who is Player A and who is Player B? C’mon, we know LT stats when we see them! He is obviously Player A.

Look closer though. Mathews has been knocked as fumble-prone and was even benched against the Chiefs for it. LT his first 2 seasons had fumble issues himself, losing more fumbles than Mathews. Granted, that was over 711 carries so his fumble percent is much lower than Mathews at 1.3% vs. 2.2%.

Even though he had so many touchdowns vultured from him, Mathews touchdown percentage is the same as LT’s at 3.4%.

Queue infomercial king Billy Mays “BUT WAIT!!! THERE’S MORE!!!

Comparing the numbers to LT, number 24 has:

  • Better rushing average at 4.66ypa
  • Better receiving average at 8.33ypc
  • Better 1st down percent at 22.6%

Am I saying that 24 is better or even equal to 21? Absolutely not. However, the numbers don’t exactly point to Mathews being a bust, and when given the opportunity can produce at elite levels.

Let’s face it, Jackie Battle (career 3.9ypa) and Ronnie Brown (3.6ypa/last 3 seasons) are not players who strike fear into opposing defenses. So for all those who were calling for Mathews to be benched or traded after the Atlanta game fumble, know the facts before you act. The numbers never lie!

Bonus poll – WIll 24 be freed on MNF!?

How many touches will 24 get on MNF?

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Dan Locke