Music City Miserable: Chris Johnson's Success Leaves LenDale White in the Lurch
What a difference a season makes.
Last year, during the Tennessee Titans' league-leading 13-3 regular season, including the 10-0 streak they ran off to start it, the running back tandem of Smash-n-Dash—LenDale White and Chris Johnson, respectively—ran roughshod over opposing defenses, gaining a combined 2,001 yards rushing with 24 touchdowns between them.
Per their individual roles, Johnson had the lion's share of the carries with 251, but White wasn't too far behind with 200 of his own touches.
Also per their roles, Johnson outgained White with 1,228 yards scampering around the field, but White's 773 yards gained primarily between the tackles was nothing to sneeze at, particularly in goal line situations that required a big body to blast through the line.
This year? A whole lot of Dash, not so much Smash.
As first reported in the Nashville City Paper, White is not shy about voicing his desire to once again be a featured running back in the NFL instead of a second-hand man. While acknowledging the incredible year that teammate and friend Chris Johnson is having, White is still adamant that he can be "the guy," albeit possibly somewhere other than Tennessee.
"No disrespect to no Titans," White was quoted as saying, "but if I get a chance to be the guy somewhere else, and that's where they want me, then I'm gonna go.
"I don't wanna sit here and play backup to no guy. I refuse. I don't want to."
White's comments are eerily reminiscent of comments made this summer by Vince Young when asked about how he felt playing backup to Kerry Collins. The only difference is Collins was unable to lead the team to any wins at the beginning of the season, and Young was called upon to save the Titans from, well, themselves.
That same scenario isn't likely with Johnson, who, while stumbling a bit last week in his pursuit to surpass Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, is nevertheless on track to have one of the top three rushing totals of all time.
With competition like that, White doesn't have much to stand on by way of comparisons. His best year rushing came in 2006, when he started 16 games and put up 1,110 yards. Not too shabby, but Johnson's rookie year was better by 118 yards, and Johnson played one fewer game.
As for this year, Johnson has been nearly unstoppable. White has contributed in short yardage situations and in relief of Johnson, but going from nearly 13 carries a game to less than six per contest has White justifiably feeling unneeded, or worse, unwanted.
White is still young and still may have plenty to offer a team, be it in Nashville or elsewhere. But as much as he appears to want things to go back to the way they were when "Smash-n-Dash" were tearing it up, that isn't a likely scenario. With Johnson on fire and Young developing into what could be a top-notch quarterback, LenDale is likely to have to find a home elsewhere.
Either that, or get back on the tequila, put the weight back on, and convert to fullback. At least that way he can be the man in front of the man. Kind of a success by proxy sort of thing.
Maybe the next time he decides to stomp on a towel, he'll pick one with a little less mystique surrounding it.
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