Dry but Not Empty: Which Newly-Released Running Back Has More To Offer?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 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 term "One and Done" gets thrown around a lot in professional football. We've heard it regarding Brett Favre, we've heard it regarding Terry Bradshaw's broadcasting career, but Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson? Get out of town.

It's strange what years in the NFL will do to you. One minute, the league is your best friend, the next it can be your worst enemy. In a sort of inmate being released from prison kind of way, Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson have become almost "institutionalised" and the new world of free agency is surely a step into the dark as the long offseason awaits.

However, once all the speculation has simmered to the top and writers and the media alike finally come around to admitting that the two players have some talent, a debate can be raised as to who has the most to play for in the new year of 2010.

On one hand you have former star, LaDainian Tomlinson. Touchdown machine, feared running back, and an overall powerhouse force that is not to be reckoned with on any given Sunday. Okay, so that statement may be overdoing it just a little, but Tomlinson had some glory years, right?

On the other side of the coin, you have a guy that appears to be washed up. Almost like an old sponge, Eagles fans and more importantly their staff, have tossed Brian Westbrook aside to make room for up and coming talent, and in reality I can't really blame them. But is there still some talent lying beneath the surface of the old and burnt out career of Brian Westbrook? Well, I guess there could be. It's tough to say, but let's not write him off just yet.

So, who is the better of the two backs? Who has enough gas left in the tank to deliver another few solid years, cap off a career, and give themselves a pat on the back and a well deserved sit down? 

According to an NFL.com poll, LaDainian Tomlinson is the favorite, taking a 60 percent to 40 percent lead over Brian Westbrook. Still though, that stat isn't telling enough.

Age wise, there's no difference. A well rounded 30 for both athletes, but as Brett Favre will whole-heartedly tell you, age is just a number, therefore discounting it from having any real impact on the situation.

Stat wise, things do differ a little, and although Brian Westbrook only competed in a handful of games last season, LaDainian Tomlinson's efforts may take him just that little bit of extra distance in terms of signing deals.

LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 730 yards, compared to Brian Westbrook's 274. An irrelevant stat, yes, but one that fans, analysts, and coaches will look at when making a decision on signing either of the two past stars.

When I look at it on paper, all signs point to LaDainian Tomlinson having the better future in the NFL. The simple fact is, that this release has been a long time coming, and many teams have just been playing the waiting game to get their hands on No. 21.

Brian Westbrook's career has been great. Even writing about him in a negative manner makes me deeply upset to see him become a possible free agent castaway. Still, that's the harsh reality that the explosive back out of Villanova faces, and we may just have another Sean Alexander type situation on our hands.

As much as it pains me to think about that horrible situation, it enlightens me to think of LaDainian Tomlinson in new colors, a new attitude, and hopefully a new style of football in 2010. Surely L.T won't sit on the free agent list for too long, and surely finding a team can't be too hard. It's just a matter of time before that frown is turned upside down, and LaDainian Tomlinson suits up in a new uniform.

"Gas in the tank" wise, Tomlinson has the advantage. Without the injury, I would have given the edge to Brian Westbrook, but a lackluster 2009 leaves question marks that even the best of analysts are struggling to answer. The cold hard truth is, Brian may be done, but LaDainian Tomlinson is only just heating up.