The two biggest moves the San Diego Chargers made this offseason were the release of legendary RB LaDainian Tomlinson and the trade of Antonio Cromartie, with both players ending up on a New York Jets team that knocked the Bolts out of the playoffs last season. I, for one, have been waiting and wanting for these moves to be made for at least a year.
I was always a big LaDainian Tomlinson fan. I knew very little about him until about two weeks before the 2001 NFL Draft. Buzz started spreading and analysts started saying "This may not be a good player, this may be a great one." They turned out to be right, and for almost a decade (which is an incredible amount of time these days) Tomlinson held the crown as the best RB in football. His 2006 season, when the team and his body were hitting their peak, is something to be marveled at. However, with all of that being said, I've grown tired of trying to defend LT.
I get that many of the great athletes of our generation have a hard time accepting that their body can't do the things it once could. In football, Brett Favre has made it even more difficult for other players to accept the fact that they're "too old." The fact of the matter is, Favre players a position that has been made increasingly safe and less violent over the last few years. The owners and the league are doing everything they can to allow QBs to play into their 40s, but are doing absolutely nothing to protect the rest of the players. There was a time where you could argue that a QB, with all of the blind-side hits, might take almost as big of a beating over his career as a RB. Now it's not even close. The reasons RBs decline so quickly is simple: Their body eventually says "no".
LT's body started saying no at the end of the 2007 season. Coincidentally, this was also around the time that he started quietly criticizing the new head coach's playcalling and his own lack of touches. Norv just saw what the rest of us, everyone besides LT and probably his friends/family, saw. The power was gone, the balance was fading and the "just fast enough" speed would never be seen again. What was a guaranteed 5 yard run before became a success if LT made it 3. In the game of football every yard counts, and LT is no longer the guy that's going to get you every yard possible.
Antonio Cromartie was traded for different reasons entirely. He's still young and he's still one of the most dangerous man-to-man CBs in the NFL. However, he's lazy, arrogant and has proven to be an off-the-field headache. Add in the fact that Antoine Cason plays his position, and seems to be everything Cromartie is not, and it was only logical for the Chargers to ship "Crime Time" out to the highest bidder.
After seeing Ron Rivera run his defense last season, it became very evident that Cromartie was not a good fit. Rivera asks his players to be complete and versatile. Sometimes you'll play man, sometimes you'll play zone. As a LB, you may be blitzing, playing man or playing zone. Who you are and where you are on the field (or on the depth chart) means nothing. If you're going to fool the offense, they can't know that you're a man-CB that can't play the zone and doesn't like to tackle running plays that are sent your way.
I agree with both of these moves and, although it's always a risky proposition when you're trying to replace talented players that were starters on a playoff team, I think the Chargers will be better for having made them. What do you guys think?