Is It LaDainian Tomlinson's Time To Retire?

Chris CiprianoCorrespondent IIFebruary 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Yesterday marked the end of an era in San Diego, when the Chargers released LaDainian Tomlinson.  The move was expected—and frankly, a year overdue.

The L.T. we saw last year was a shadow of his former self.  He failed to reach the century mark in any game and finished the season with a paltry 3.3 yards-per-carry average.

The culmination was a 12-carry, 24-yard effort in the Chargers loss to the Jets in the divisional round in yet another playoff disappointment for the Bolts.  He was outgained by Darren Sproles, who had only three carries the entire game.

L.T. will be 31 before the start of the 2010 season, but he claims he still has something left in the tank and wants to continue playing.

If I were consulting L.T., I’d tell him to just hang them up.

The allure of a championship is enticing, but would any championship caliber team take a chance on him?

At this point in his career, he is a clear-cut backup.  He’s no longer capable of carrying the full load and can’t contribute in the passing game anymore.  He also adds no value to special teams.

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So basically, you’re looking at a situational goal-line and short-yardage back who can’t help you in any other way.  Not many teams have the luxury of carrying a player like that on their 53-man rosters.

Look no further than what happened to Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander the past two years.  James found a job a few weeks before the season started, and Alexander caught on in the middle of the season.  Neither back finished the season on a roster.

That is what life as a running back in the NFL has become.  You have a few good years, and then the mileage starts to add up and you lose a few steps.

L.T. had a great run at the top, but it’s time to step aside and move on.  He should take a lesson from the greatest to ever play his position: Emmitt Smith.  After the Cowboys cut Smith, he signed with the Cardinals instead of retiring.  He recently said he regretted hanging around and wishes he would have retired as a Cowboy.

L.T. is in the same situation as Smith was.  He can retire now and go out with dignity— and we can remember him for the great player he was.  Or he can hang around—and we can all painfully watch one of the great players in recent memory face the harsh reality that James and Alexander met.

Although, maybe L.T. should follow the career path of Smith after all.  Not the football part, though.  Judging by this video, L.T. would be a great fit on Dancing with the Stars this fall.  Instead of taking it to opposing defenses, he can spend his time tearing up the ballroom.

Winning the Mirrorball Trophy can replace winning the Lombardi Trophy—which L.T. never hoisted.

This article also appears on cippinonsports.com .