PFHOF Profile: LaDainian Tomlinson

LT-honored-2015The running back has quickly become an extinct species in the NFL as the passing game takes over in a major way.

The perfect expression of this is in the NFL draft where top tier running backs have been hard to come by and more teams are less likely to take a back in the first round.

In the past, a running back was the way to a championship as there were no good teams without a solid running back that could carry the load.

That changed to being a running back that could take the majority runs and then be relieved by another back.

Lately, though the running back has taken a backseat to the quarterback as the most important player on any team.

If a team doesn’t have a passing game they might as well pack things up at the start of the season because they won’t be going anywhere.

The passing game has become such an important facet that teams are always looking for a quarterback to lead the team and receivers to help them push the field.

The running back is still a factor but no longer are they the position that needs to have that one back that carries the team.

Things might be headed back to the old days a little more now though as balance seems to be returning to the league in the form of Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon.

Still, there was a period where the league didn’t really have that one back that could carry his team.football-sidebar

There were plenty of great backs but few lasted longer than a couple of years at the top of the league.

The only one who came close was Adrian Peterson who has been the only truly great back that has had some kind of consistency.

Even Peterson has not been as consistent largely due to injuries and off-field issues as well as the development of the passing game.

The last true feature back in the NFL that enjoyed any type of longevity in the league is LaDainian Tomlinson who was utterly dominant throughout the 2000s.

Although Peterson is clearly a future Hall of Famer and one of the best backs ever he only ran the ball more than 300 times in four seasons, so far.

Tomlinson ran the ball more than 300 times seven straight seasons in his career and came within eight rushes of getting his eighth straight 300-rush season.

It was a time when the league was still shifting to a new offensive mindset but for the Chargers the balanced approach was the best approach.

They fed Tomlinson more than any back in the league and he consistently proved them right as he was the best back in the league throughout those years.

The faith in him that was shown by the Chargers was well received as he was the engine to the offence putting up amazing numbers.

Carolina Panthers v San Diego ChargersThat included one of the greatest seasons by a running back in the history of the league in 2006.

That was the year that Tomlinson proved his worth as a running back more than ever when he ran for 1,815 yards and scored a total of 31 touchdowns, both receiving and rushing.

It was and remains the most touchdowns by a player in a single season and many believe that it is a record that won’t be broken anytime soon.

With running backs now taking far fewer rushes than in Tomlinson’s time it is hard to imagine that anyone can get close to his totals in that season.

It only added to his consistency on the field finishing his career as the fifth all-time in rushing yards and only second to Emmitt Smith in rushing touchdowns.

Since his retirement there truly has not been another back in the league that has been as good as Tomlinson has been for as many seasons.

Consistency is the king in the NFL and since Tomlinson left the league there have been no backs with his level of consistency.

Those backs are beginning to return in the league but Tomlinson will still enter the Hall of Fame as one of the last great backs in the league.

The league, like most other things, is cyclical and there will be another great back and one has potentially already arrived.

For now, though Tomlinson will be remembered as that great running back at a time when running backs were slowly losing their starring roles.

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