LaDainian Tomlinson has played his last game in the NFL. On Monday the former MVP and certain future Hall of Famer will sign a contract with the San Diego Chargers and retire, probably with a tearful press conference, and certainly with a whole lot of unnecessary ESPN coverage. You know how ESPN loves wall-to-wall retirement coverage. Those clips package guys really earn their money on days like that.
The man known as LT (except in Greater New York) goes out as arguably one of the five greatest running backs of all-time, at least by the numbers. Those who want to rate him lower will cite his lack of epic big game performances, and perceived lack of toughness during a couple of San Diego playoff runs (I think we all remember this somewhat unflattering figurine). I don’t know where LT should rank all-time, I just know that he was better than almost anyone else at finding the end zone, and that for a stretch in the mid-oughts he was pretty much unstoppable (at least in the regular season).
There is sort of a tenuous Viking connection here. Tomlinson was 30 years old and clearly on the downside in 2010 when he left the Chargers. Nevertheless, when he became a free agent there was some clamor among Viking fans for the team to pick Tomlinson up, the thinking being that he could complement Adrian Peterson, and give Brett Favre a receiving target out of the backfield to replace the departed Chester Taylor.
Hindsight being what it is, we now know that picking up LT would’ve done nothing to help the Vikings in 2010. LT wouldn’t have stopped Brett Favre’s body from falling apart, wouldn’t have helped Sidney Rice recover from his injured hip and wouldn’t have kept Brad Childress from losing the locker room. Unless he was secretly Superman, he wouldn’t have stopped the stadium roof from falling in either. He would’ve been just another broken down old player on a non-playoff team, and might have ended up retiring sooner just to have the whole thing over with.
Luckily for him, LT was spared the misery of a front-row seat for one of the most dysfunctional seasons an NFL team has ever endured. Not that the Vikings were ever really interested in signing him. That whole thing was mostly a fan movement, as such things generally are. Anyway, let’s raise a glass to LT, one of the best who ever strapped on a helmet.