Austin Ekeler has arguably been the most important offensive player on the LA Chargers not named Justin Herbert over the last two years. Ekeler has made up for a lot of the team's red-zone deficiencies by being not only the most reliable touchdown scorer on the team, but in the entire league. Ekeler leads the entire NFL in touchdowns over the last two years.
While Ekeler has been great at finding the endzone, he did struggle to run the ball at times in 2022. This trend came back to bit the Chargers at the worst time in the AFC Wild Card Round as the the team was unable to protect a 27-0 lead, something that is made easier with a better running game.
This does not fall all on Ekeler, as play-calling, the defense and even Justin Herbert all share part of the blame. But it certainly does not help only averaging 2.7 yards per carry in a do-or-die playoff game.
Ekeler recently appeared on an episode of 'Undisputed' ahead of Super Bowl LVII and discussed the heartbreaking playoff loss with hosts Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe (among other topics). When discussing the game, Bayless brought up the argument that Justin Herbert "didn't have it for four quarters", attributing to the team's historic blown lead.
Ekeler let Bayless finish his point and didn't attempt to defend his quarterback. Instead, he gave an answer that Chargers fans were less than happy with.
Chargers fans are not happy with Austin Ekeler.
The consensus on social media seems to be that Chargers fans are not happy with Austin Ekeler for sitting there and letting Bayless blame Herbert for a game where there were bigger issues than Herbert's lack of experience.
Nobody expects Ekeler to bust out his best Stephen A. Smith impression and start a debate with Bayless but there could have been at least some pushback. Even a generic "you know what, it was all of our fault" response would have been enough.
This definitely was not done with malicious intent by Ekeler and there likely isn't some kind of deeper meaning behind him not sticking up for Herbert. But that does not make it any less disappointing for Chargers fans who have supported both Ekeler and Herbert.
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Ekeler will likely come out with a response or apology to clear the air mostly for the sake of the fanbase as Herbert likely did not take this personally at all. Regardless of how you splice it, though, it is a weird look.