The holdout of Melvin Gordon is over, and the Los Angeles Chargers have lost every game he’s played. Considering it’s his last season with the team and he isn’t playing well in the short term, what’s the point of playing him?
Melvin Gordon ended his holdout back in late September before the Chargers played the Miami Dolphins in Week 4. At the time, Austin Ekeler was lighting up fantasy leagues across the country with his elusive runs and dynamic pass-catching ability. Sitting at 2-2 at the time, the thought for the Chargers had to be adding another quality player back in the fold after a rash of injuries to start their season.
And at the time, it felt right in my estimation. Gordon, despite his holdout, was coming off his best year and could have been a weapon for the Chargers. He also was looking for that contract in next year’s free agency, whether it was coming from the Chargers or someone else. Gordon had something to prove and the team needed some more weapons. It seemed like a win-win.
However, Gordon has been anything but a weapon at this point. The national media will focus on his embarrassing fumble on the goal line toward the end of Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans, but the problems frankly run much deeper.
The Chargers are currently 27th in the league in rushing yards. Their average per game is 74.3. That average has come down drastically from where it was earlier with the efforts of the rushing attack since Gordon has been back. Over the last three games, the Chargers are getting 35.3 rushing yards per game.
There are other reasons the rushing attack is struggling other than Gordon. The offensive line is mostly porous when it comes to run blocking and has been a revolving door throughout the year with injuries to key pieces.
Philip Rivers hasn’t quite been himself this season when it comes to accuracy and arm strength as he finds himself in an age-related decline. But there’s no real excuse when it comes to how bad Gordon is playing, as he’s had a bad offensive line even in his good seasons.
The other thing is that Ekeler is simply playing better. Even with a bad offensive line, he’s averaging 1.5 yards more per carry and has broken off long runs and big plays while being a force in the receiving game.
Gordon’s longest play this year is a seven-yard run. Imagine telling someone this a year ago when he averaged over five yards per carry. In the Tennessee game, Ekeler found a way to make things work with big plays down the stretch while Gordon effectively flopped around for four quarters.
These last two drives for the Chargers before the second TD was called back
Austin Ekeler 10 snaps, 95 receiving yards, one TD, one play to the one-foot lineMelvin Gordon 0 snaps
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) October 20, 2019
The Chargers have no reason to keep Gordon past this year with his asking price and lack of production. It’s also been reported that he expects this to be his last year with the team before testing free agency.
Ultimately, if the Chargers don’t expect Gordon to come back and are prepared to move on without him, what’s the point of him playing? Ekeler and Justin Jackson seem like they will both be here in 2020, and frankly, both have looked more impressive.
There’s also the option of trading Gordon. His value has definitely come down from where it was before, but if Tom Telesco could net a third or fourth-round pick for him, why not? It’s better to get something as opposed to nothing for a guy churning out two yards a carry who doesn’t want to be with the team next year.
Trading him within the next week prior to the trade deadline seems like an optimal choice when he’s not helping the team win at all. This would also require benching him to make sure he’s healthy for a trade and doesn’t get hurt in practice or the Week 8 contest with the Chicago Bears.
Ultimately, it seems that the Chargers find themselves in a situation where Gordon has no value in the short term nor the long term. He’s been terrible this season and it goes well past his fumble at the end of the Tennessee game.
If Ekeler appears to be the future No. 1 at the position and is currently playing at a much higher level, there’s no reason to not give him the most touches. Jackson will also be here in 2020 and be back in 2019 once he finishes dealing with his calf strain.
All of the Chargers’ other running backs other than Gordon have simply played better in 2019 as well. Trading him is also an option. He has his free agent value to protect, but it certainly isn’t the job of the organization to care when he’s the one who started his holdout back in July.
If Gordon wants to move on in 2020, the Chargers may as well move on from him now since he’s playing like he currently is anyway.