Last season, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco traded a 1st round pick and a 4th round pick to move up in the 2015 NFL Draft to select Melvin Gordon with the 15th overall pick out of the University of Wisconsin. In his first season as a pro, Gordon was one of the least productive and least efficient running backs in the NFL. He had the most touches of any player in the league without scoring a touchdown, he fumbled far too often, and he finished the season on the sideline with a knee injury.
In the offseason, Gordon underwent microfracture knee surgery that cast additional doubt on his long-term prospects in The League. Then, this season something happened. Gordon ran with improved patience and decisiveness despite playing for a second consecutive season behind a terrible offensive line that did him next to no favors. He scored early and often. If you had taken the over on his touchdowns, your ticket cashed halfway through the season. He also held onto the ball. He looked like an altogether different and far better football player. He even developed as a pass blocker and pass catcher. He looked like a running back you wouldn’t be crazy to trade up to draft (and that’s high praise in today’s NFL).
Unfortunately, early in week 13 at the Carolina Panthers, Gordon tried to recover a fumble early in the game and ended up needing to be carted off the field looking for all the world like a player that had seen his last snap of the 2016 season. Now, as we sit four days out from the Chargers’ last game of the season, Gordon is being discussed as a game-time decision. This is ludicrous. The Chargers have been eliminated from the playoffs and there is nothing good that can come from winning their last game let alone risking the health of a key player to do so.
Some will point to the fact that Gordon is three yards short of 1,000 rushing yards on the year. That should absolutely not be a consideration here. Assigning some special value to an arbitrary round number is something we love to do in life and especially in sports, but the number is completely arbitrary (rookie deals don’t have bonuses tied to hitting benchmarks like that). Gordon has had a very successful sophomore campaign and he has nothing left to prove this year. The fact that he is a game-time decision means he is not 100% and even if he was there would be a fairly compelling argument to spare his body the wear and tear of playing vs. the Chiefs this weekend.
Risking the health of important pieces of the team’s future in the final game of a lost season is irresponsible and self-defeating on multiple levels. If Gordon suits up on Sunday, Chargers fans should be upset and ownership should reconsider the future employment of everyone involved in the decision to let him do so.