I don’t think there’s any question that the Chargers’ 2006 season should be viewed as the team’s best season this century. That squad finished with a 14-2 record which was propelled by the incredible and record-breaking performance of running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
By the year’s end, Tomlinson had rushed for over 1,815 yards and scored 31 total touchdowns, showing off the incredible versatility that led plenty of fantasy football pundits to also name claim it as arguably the best fantasy season in history.
Without much thought, you could rightfully assume this was one of the best overall seasons by a running back in NFL history. But where exactly should it be ranked amongst the rest of history? CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo just posted his rankings for the top 10 seasons in NFL history for running backs and I think you’d all be surprised to know that LT’s historic season actually failed to make the top five, landing as the first one out at number six.
“The league’s MVP that season, Tomlinson led the league with 1,815 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns. Tomlinson’s 31 total scores that season broke Shaun Alexander’s year-old record by three touchdowns. Along with his rushing and scoring prowess, Tomlinson caught 56 passes for 508 yards. His accumulation of yards and touchdowns that season helped the Chargers go 14-2 during the regular season while simultaneously making scores of fantasy football players happy. “
The five seasons that DeArdo ranked ahead of LT were (from five to one): Jim Brown in 1963, OJ Simpson in 1973, Terrell Davis in 1998, Eric Dickerson in 1984, and Barry Sanders in 1997. Of these seasons, all but Brown rushed for 2,000 or more yards. Brown’s 1963 campaign still saw him rack up 1,863 yards while playing in just 14 games which only goes to show how dominant he was almost 60 years ago while playing at a similar size to today’s Derrick Henry.
The remaining seasons included by DeArdo are (in descending order): Walter Payton in 1977, Adrian Peterson in 2012, Earl Campbell in 1979, and Chris Johnson in 2009.
I know it’s tough to read a list like this and not let some of that bias shine, but I think there’s a real argument to putting Tomlinson higher up on this list. In a world where you weigh both yardage and touchdowns to find a final metric of value, how does 1,800+ yards and 28 rushing touchdowns not find itself higher?
Things become extremely subjective when we take the eras into account in which these seasons took place, but the next closest in touchdowns among the top five is Davis who scored 21. The next closest is Dickerson at 14. I’m not going to make any definitive statements as to who should be lower, but the incredible production by LT being at number six just feels...wrong.
What are all of your feelings on this list? Did DeArdo come close to nailing these rankings or miss the mark? Where do you feel Tomlinson should be among these all-time great seasons? Let me know all of your thoughts below.