End of an Era: LaDainian Tomlinson Released by the San Diego Chargers

Jay BrownContributor IFebruary 23, 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 Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers closed another chapter of their history today, releasing veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Chargers president and CEO Dean Spanos made the announcement Monday afternoon.

The move, while not a shock to many, came nearly a month after the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Jets.

Tomlinson, who spent nine amazing seasons with the Chargers after being drafted fifth overall in 2001, had been expecting the move for some time. He was due a $2 million roster bonus in early March under a reworked three-year contract.

In the post-game press conference after the Chargers' divisional round playoff loss, Tomlinson was asked by a member of the media if this could be the last time we saw him in a Chargers uniform. His response: "I don't know, you know. I'm not sure, you know. I've heard speculation, but I'll tell you what. I've had a heck of a time here, and if it is, I have enjoyed the ride."

What a ride it was!

Tomlinson ranks second in the NFL with 138 career rushing touchdowns, only behind soon to be Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, and his 153 total touchdowns rank third. He ranks eighth on the all-time rushing list with 12,490 yards.

He was the NFL Most Valuable Player in 2006, a year in which broke the single-season touchdown record with 31 and the single-season points record with 186. He also won the NFL rushing title the same year with 1,815 rushing yards. Tomlinson would also win the rushing title in 2007 with 1,474 rushing yards.

Tomlinson owns or shares 28 San Diego Chargers team records, including career rushing yards, yards from scrimmage, and touchdowns.

He made the AFC Pro Bowl team every year since entering the league in 2001 and was voted a starter in 2002 and 2004-2007.

The LT era boasted some of the best years in Chargers history. During that nine-year span, the San Diego Chargers made the postseason five times. The Chargers won the AFC West title each of those five times and won four consecutive AFC West titles from 2006 to 2009.

However, the Chargers were unable to make it to the Super Bowl in each of those postseason bids. The closest chance for a Super Bowl was in 2007 with a trip to the AFC Championship Game in New England.

LaDainian Tomlinson was the superstar the San Diego Chargers desperately needed, and he has forever changed the way football will be played in that city. 

We can now add Tomlinson to a long list of Chargers greats that includes the likes of Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow. One day his bust will sit alongside those other gentlemen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Wherever LT ends up playing, that team will be incredibly lucky. They will be getting a former league MVP, two-time rushing title champion, single-season touchdown leader, mentor, and friend.