It's Too Late for LaDainian Tomlinson to Become Jason Taylor

Dave TrembleyCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2010

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Running back LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers warms up on the field prior to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New York Jets at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Slightly less than two years ago, Bill Parcells became President of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins, and this meant de facto that a thorough housecleaning was in order. 

No one knew for certain how the purging would unfold, who was safe and who was not, although the story at the time was that middle linebacker Zach Thomas was among the first to unscrew his name plate off his Dolphin's parking space, having seen the writing on the wall.

One Dolphin who seemed destined to survive the initial bloodletting was celebrity defensive end Jason Taylor, who, incidentally, was not too far removed from a monster year in 2006, but whose Hollywoodized aspirations had led him, somewhat precariously, into the glitzy world of ballroom dancing. Or whatever they called it.

Parcells squashed any rumours of a Taylor demise stating,“You don’t get better by trading your best players.”

Which, strangely, is precisely what Parcells did after an overly publicized, non-existent rift, and an offer of a second and fifth round draft choice by the Washington Redskins.

Taylor departed for Washington with his $8.5 million salary, and the Dolphins grabbed Chad Henne with the Redskins' second round pick of the 2008 draft.

But Taylor’s year in the nation’s capital was anything but auspicious. He was hampered by injuries most of the year, recorded only 3.5 sacks, and completed the least productive season of his career. The following year, disgruntled with Taylor’s refusal to participate in the Redskins' off season program in Washington, Taylor was released on March 2, 2009.

For some time, Taylor’s destiny remained unknown. He returned to his family in South Florida, participated in off season charities, and let it be known to the Dolphin brass that he was available.

Interestingly, the Dolphins did not appear interested, and instead of finding himself welcomed back into Dolphin arms, the Dancing With The Stars veteran discovered he was Dancing With Himself.

Rumours abounded that the Patriots, among others, were interested in the 34-year-old Taylor, but for over two months, the Dolphins' brass remained silent.

Finally, on May 13th, two months after his release from Washington, the Dolphins offered Taylor a one year $1.5 million dollar contract. Please allow me to repeat that: a one year deal that represented a $7 million pay cut from the previous season.

Furthermore, the Dolphins made it abundantly clear to Taylor that he was not guaranteed a roster spot, that he would have to earn his spot just like everyone else.  And, when training camp started, Taylor was subject to the reality (perhaps indignity) of not even being on the first unit. He would have to earn that,too.

Fortuitously, a mysterious injury to Dolphins OLB Matt Roth created an opening for Taylor to temporarily join the first unit practice.

Taylor never relinquished the spot, and although he did not put up numbers reminiscent of his Dolphin glory years, he consistently demonstrated effective leadership, the ability to exert pressure on the opposing quarterback, and showed signs of his former tenacity as a tackler. Taylor was never much of a tackler; his bread and butter was always the pass rush not unlike Dwight Freeney.

For the year, Taylor was second on the team in sacks with 7.0, and he recorded 33 tackles.

In other words, in terms of his leadership, performance, and ability, Taylor earned his $1.5 million salary.

And to my way of thinking, because Taylor performed at a reasonably high level, (probably only Randy Starks was better on defense over 16 games), the Dolphins owe him something. 

Taylor took an 82 percent pay cut, kept his mouth shut, and did his job to a very decent standard.  He did not pout on the sidelines when someone else was playing, blab to the press, or taunt other players.

Which brings us to LaDainian Tomlinson.  Rumours flying down the moccasin telegraph have Tomlinson being cut in San Diego, and cut sooner than later.

I have been wondering about this, and this is where my wondering ended: would LaDainian Tomlinson take an 82 percent pay cut to remain a member of the San Diego Chargers next year, accept only an offer to come to training camp with the firm understanding that even a spot on the 53 man roster is questionable- not at all guaranteed- and start the training camp in an undefined backup role?

The answer, I think, is no.

No, because the Chargers have seen the handwriting on the wall too, that Tomlinson’s rushing performance is approaching free fall, a downward spiral that last Sunday was nearly brutal to watch.

No, because the Chargers already gave Tomlinson a restructured contract, which he accepted, but his performance just could not justify the dollars.

In 2010, Tomlinson’s restructured salary, including an option bonus, is reported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of six million, which is top dollar for someone producing a 3.3 yards per carry average.

No, because the Chargers need to rebuild their running game, and because they need young, fresh legs to do that. Anyone who says otherwise might consider that Philip Rivers is just one Bernard Pollard “crashing into Rivers' knees" play away from having almost no running game, and Billy Volek leading the team down field.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Chargers' fans should be preparing.

For the NFL’s 2006 Defensive MVP, Jason Taylor, a reward was earned this season on the basis of starting from scratch, proving yourself all over again.

For the NFL’s 2006 Overall MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, maybe you should bring a screwdriver next time you pull into the parking space where your nameplate is.