San Diego Chargers: Why Fans Shouldn't Give Up On Ryan Mathews Just Yet

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer ISeptember 20, 2010

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers rushes past Justin Durant #56 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on September 19, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 38-13. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images


Before the NFL draft took place, there were fans that didn't want this pick to be made. They didn't want some running back out of the Western Athletic Conference who was prone to injury over his college career. Yet, he was a player the Chargers wanted and they made sure they were going to get Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews.

Through training camp, players and coaches couldn't stop saying good things about his work ethic and his potential. Mathews was even saying the right things, telling the media that he wasn't there to replace a beloved running back that had moved on in his career.

Fast forward to his NFL debut against the Kansas City Chiefs on a rainy Monday night, and a single solitary moment seemed to bring out those questioning fans once more. A fumble deep inside their own territory led to a Kansas City touchdown in a game the Chiefs ended up winning.

I remember watching Twitter explode with fans ready to toss Mathews aside, to sit him on the bench after one game of his very young career. After one fumble, they wanted him gone.

The Chargers lost a disappointing game in the opening week of the season but there was more blame to go around than just on the running back's shoulders.

Mathews looked forward to making up for that mistake in the second week of the season, especially since it was the Chargers' home opener. He would be able to prove himself in front of the home fans. To show them why the team had, and has, so much faith in what he can accomplish.

Unfortunately, that home opener didn't last the entire first half as he went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter and was carted off the field. Coach Norv Turner confirmed that Mathews was cleared to return to the game but elected not to risk any further injury.

Instead, the Chargers went with backup running backs Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles, with Tolbert getting the brunt of the work. He finished with 82 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns in the Chargers 38-13 blow out win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Two games, two different kinds of disappointment for the first year running back. Not only that, but fans have been riding him as well.

This morning, via Twitter, Mathews has been sounding off about the support, or lack thereof. One tweet this morning said, "when things don't go #acertaintypeofway, don't be so quick to jump ship." Another, which seemed to be in reply to those asking about his injury said, "it's not an issue!"

After the Chargers' win over the Jaguars, I didn't think I'd see fans still with the same complaints they had in week one. Some fans saying "Mathews sucks" or even questioning his physical and mental readiness for the NFL.

Fans are going to be critical no matter what happens. They'll pick a player to hate and until they become a future Hall of Famer before their first season comes to an end, they won't let it go.

I can understand frustration in the two fumbles that Mathews has in his first two games, but that's not unheard of, not even for a former Charger.

Through two games, don't think the young running back isn't disappointed with how his career has started. But maybe there's another problem with how Mathews is being perceived.

Before Ryan Mathews came along, there was another running back from another non-BCS conference school, LaDainian Tomlinson.

You might remember the day Tomlinson was drafted. He was the guy the Chargers selected instead of a very well known quarterback by the name of Michael Vick. There's no question, to this day, they don't regret that move in the least.

Tomlinson was nothing short of brilliant his rookie season. He rushed for 1,236 yards on 339 carries and 10 touchdowns. But there's another stat to throw out about Tomlinson's first season. He fumbled the ball eight times in his rookie season, losing five of them.

Want another stat? Yes Mathews has fumbled in back-to-back games, but Tomlinson had three fumbles in his first two games as a Charger. Were those same fans questioning Tomlinson's mental or physical readiness?

Mathews has big shoes to fill and he was expected to fill those shoes in his very first game. Question that thought if you will, but make no mistake there were those fans that expected Mathews to become a star in the very first night.

There will be plenty of fans, and media, questioning him until he begins to throw up 100 yard rushing games. The expectations are high, but he has his own expectations. He knows there's a lot expected of him and there's no one that wants to perform at a high level more than the former Fresno State All-American.

It's going to be a process. So be patient Charger fans, he'll come around. It's just a matter of time before he gets his NFL feet underneath him and starts showing why the Chargers were so high on him on draft night.

Ryan Mathews will be just fine. The sooner he stops trying to be LaDainian Tomlinson and starts being his own man, the better he'll become.