Posts Tagged ‘Kellen Winslow’

The NFL draft begins Thursday and I am noticing I’m not really looking forward to it.

That’s an odd feeling in that I covered the draft as a professional more than a dozen times at either the professional or college level. And always made sure my Saturdays were clear to watch it prior to that well before this decade’s dumb three-day format.

Analyzing things, I can see why I’m not all that interested in the 2017 NFL draft.

That’s because this is the first draft in my lifetime in which my hometown doesn’t have an NFL team.

Not the least bit interested in who the Los Angeles Chargers pick. Geez, it is hard writing that city’s name before Chargers.

The Chargers belong to San Diego, not the smog clowns and silicone fakes of Los Angeles. The draft is really the first time a big NFL event happens in which the Chargers aren’t referred to as “San Diego Chargers.”

When Roger Goodell reads that phrase off the cue card as the Chargers make their first-round pick, it is a loud reminder to the football world that San Diego is no longer an NFL town.

Dean Spanos had ample opportunities to make it work in San Diego and didn’t have the big-boy leadership abilities to make it happen. Good riddance to him and his poorly run organization.

That is where we will miss the draft — mocking the Chargers for their sad first-round picks.

The lousy picks roll off the tongue easily — receiver Walker Gillette in 1970, running back Leon Burns in 1971, fullback Bo Matthews in 1974, cornerback Mossy Cade in 1984 (Google him to see what a total reject he is) and the biggest draft bust of all-time in quarterback Ryan Leaf in 1998.

There are many other busts — one of my favorites being receiver Craig “Buster” Davis in 2007. I called up Davis’ receivers coach at LSU while writing a profile story and got greeted with all kinds of criticisms of Davis’ desire, toughness and inability to stay healthy.

Guess what Davis was known for during his 26 total games over four seasons with the Chargers? Yep, low desire, no toughness, always injured.

During Davis’ second season, I already wrote song lyrics about him called “Wasted Draft Pick,” to the tune of Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation.”

Great pick, A.J. Smith! Might want to talk a player’s position coach before you select him.

Of course, there were superb first-round picks over the years too — defensive tackle Gary “Big Hands” Johnson in 1975, tight end Kellen Winslow in 1979, defensive end Leslie O’Neal in 1986, linebacker Junior Seau in 1990, running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 and the great quarterback maneuver of 2004 when Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers but Smith drafted him anyway before working out a trade with the New York Giants for Philip Rivers.

General manager Tom Telesco has fared well in the first round of the last three drafts with cornerback Jason Verrett, running back Melvin Gordon and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The Chargers select seventh this time around so they are positioned well to land another good talent.

But there will be a different feeling when Telesco makes his pick.

You see, these aren’t the San Diego Chargers anymore. So it no longer is a big deal if the team scores with its pick or lands another bust.

Perhaps that is why the draft’s appeal isn’t there for me this year. My hometown doesn’t have a team and the fun is gone.

You see, I could care less if a team from Los Angeles messes up its draft.

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San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey plays in the final game of his standout career on Saturday and he should be recognized as the all-time leading rusher in college football history when it ends.

But alas, that won’t be entirely true.

The NCAA is a weirdo organization and it doesn’t recognize bowl statistics if they are from before 2002. But eventually, the NCAA is going to come to its senses and count those games.

Even that group of people won’t be dumb forever, right?

So come Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl, Pumphrey (6,290) needs 108 rushing yards against a tough Houston Cougars’ defense to surpass Ron Dayne (6,397) as the all-time record holder. But he really needs to gain 836 yards if he wants to keep the record.

Count Dayne’s bowl games and the Wisconsin star — who played from 1996-99 — rushed for 7,125 yards.

Pumphrey may get the record Saturday to cap off a fantastic career but he will only be renting it.

Here is the stellar Las Vegas Bowl preview — http://www.albanyherald.com/sports/las-vegas-bowl-capsule/article_3e2232c7-43c3-5573-a907-b154c71c1d26.html

 

The San Diego Chargers are playing their next-to-last game in San Diego on Sunday as there won’t be a January reprieve this time around.

The team is off to Los Angeles, which means Dean Spanos gets to play second fiddle to Kroenke the Donkey (Rams owner Stan Kroenke) until the end of time. Or a shorter time span if Donald Trump learns where the bomb buttons are hidden.

Regardless, rubbing salt in the wounds of San Diego sports fans is this nugget: The Oakland Raiders can clinch a playoff spot by beating the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

Now that really hurts.

Oakland is on the verge of ending a 14-year playoff drought and has one of the top quarterbacks in the game in Derek Carr and one of the elite pass rushers in defensive end Khalil Mack. The Raiders can make some noise in the postseason too.

But Chargers’ fans don’t want to see this clinching, that’s for sure. There are already enough bad memories with the Raiders — Stabler to Banaszak to Casper rates as the worst and the 1980 AFC title game is right behind — and Oakland celebrating a playoff berth on the field once home to Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson would be one final act of rubbing it in the faces of San Diegans.

The Chargers may be goners but San Diego’s intense hate of the Raiders will live on.

Here is the stellar Raiders-Chargers preview (back to the New York Times link!) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161218024

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday.

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday. Photo credit – Secret airport source.

 

So for one last time the “San Diego Chargers” will take the field.

Probably never to be referred to in that way again on a football field.

Sunday’s road game against the Denver Broncos will likely mark a sad end for a franchise that was adored by San Diegans for most of the past five-plus decades. And the only reason why enthusiasm dimmed this season was due to the club’s actions.

The stage was set when owner Dean Spanos made it clear he wanted to move the team. Proposals by the city of San Diego were scoffed at by Spanos and team spin doctor Mark Fabiani.

Instead of looking at a way to make things happen, Spanos and Fabiani repeatedly pointed out why the city’s proposals for a new stadium wouldn’t work.

Regardless, the City of San Diego submitted its proposal to build a $1.1 billion stadium for the team to the NFL on Wednesday. It’s a last-ditch effort by the city to keep the team but Spanos isn’t listening.

He is ready to apply for relocation as soon as Monday and is hoping to gain approval to move the team on either Jan. 12 or 13 when the league’s owners meet in Houston.

All along, Spanos has been working his fellow owners behind the scenes in hopes of approval to move the franchise.

Spanos envisions playing at a stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. The greed of an NFL owner knows no limits and once the St. Louis Rams began looking at moving to Los Angeles, Spanos couldn’t help himself.

His greedy hands kept picturing the possibility of adding billions of dollars to his family’s net worth.

And now he is just a couple of weeks away from having his wish granted.

Once approval occurs, a team that began playing in San Diego in 1961 will flat-out vanish.

Too bad Spanos couldn’t just vanish and leave the team alone.

Good on-field play certainly disappeared this season as poor Philip Rivers has tried to carry a team with little talent. The squad carries a 4-11 record into the season finale as coach Mike McCoy continues to make poor decisions and display that he should be an offensive coordinator and not an NFL head coach.

The Chargers aren’t part of the playoff field for the fifth time in six seasons and this year’s record is the franchise’s worst since 2004.

Of course, winning has never been a Spanos specialty. The Chargers have made the playoffs only nine times in 32 seasons under the family’s ownership.

They were the owners for the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance when San Diego was smashed by the San Francisco 49ers following the 1994 season.

But coach Bobby Ross and general manager Bobby Beathard couldn’t get along and Spanos showed Ross the door after the 1996 season.

And they certainly were in position to reach the Super Bowl in the middle of last decade but again the lack of top-flight leadership by Spanos curtailed the possibility.

San Diego recorded a franchise-best 14-2 mark in 2006 but was ousted in the opening round of the playoffs by the New England Patriots. Once again, the coach and general manager didn’t know how to communicate and Spanos kept hard-nosed GM A.J. Smith and sent coach Marty Schottenheimer packing.

Spanos termed the situation as “dysfunctional” and apparently wasn’t smart enough to figure out his lack of a spine over the previous two seasons was a major factor. What leader would allow two of the most crucial people in the organization to go that long without talking?

Making the whole situation sadder is that the Chargers then hired Norv Turner as coach. Handing a team built to win a championship to a mediocre coach and leader assured the Chargers would miss their championship window – and they did.

Spanos will arrive in Los Angeles with a lousy football team and that isn’t going to help matters.

Know this: USC is the preferred football team in Los Angeles and there is no chance of the Chargers ever surpassing the Trojans when it comes to popularity.

Spanos also has to fire McCoy. You can’t arrive in Los Angeles with that kind of guy as your coach. He also needs a different public relations staff as having a staff in which the top two guys are lifetime wimposauras is going to be a detriment to doing PR properly in the multi-dimensional Los Angeles market.

Taking the history to Los Angeles will be awkward. You just can’t have Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts or LaDainian Tomlinson show up to wave to the crowd of a city that never watched them play.

Not to mention honoring the “Air Coryell” era or Junior Seau’s tremendous tenure or the franchise’s 1963 AFL title. Kellen Winslow’s performance in the epic playoff game in Miami on Jan. 2, 1982 certainly will never feel like a “Los Angeles” thing.

Added up, it’s just an all-around uncomfortable feel. A greedy owner didn’t get his way in San Diego so he is going to pick up his football team and move it 100-plus miles up the road.

The team will be missed for sure. The ownership won’t be.

And with his two overmatched sons lined up to run the team, the long-standing tradition of Spanos-led teams losing will surely continue.

Good luck, Los Angeles. And brace yourself for decades of buffoonery.

Ever think where the San Diego Chargers might be if they didn’t have Philip Rivers on their team?

Um, no, smartass, saying “in Los Angeles” isn’t the proper answer.

They also wouldn’t have been in the game against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers if not for Rivers having a superb contest.

The Chargers suffered a painful 27-20 loss to the Packers on Sunday in what was an absolutely stellar effort by the veteran quarterback.

Rivers had the most prolific game by a quarterback in Chargers history – the type of performance that would even make Hall of Famer Don Fouts blush.

Rivers set clubs records for completions (43), attempts (65) and passing yardage (503). He broke his own club record for passing yardage – 455 against the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 – while becoming only the 17th player in NFL history to top 500 yards in a single game.

Receiver Keenan Allen caught 14 passes – one short of the franchise record he shares with Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow – before leaving with a hip injury.

But all that production didn’t equate to a victory. The Chargers only scored 20 points despite accumulating 32 first downs, possessing the ball for 38 minutes and running 89 plays to Green Bay’s 49.

The Chargers had a chance to force overtime but a third-and-goal run by Woodhead was halted for a 1-yard loss and Rivers’ fourth-down throw into the right flat never reached Woodhead as the pass was broken up by Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall.

Just like that, Rivers’ big game wasn’t enough.

Here’s the number why the Chargers head home disappointed – 20.

All that production and San Diego only scored 20 points.

Rough way to drop to 2-4 and pretty much know that you are out of the AFC West race with the Denver Broncos being undefeated.

The Packers remained unbeaten with the victory and recorded their 13th straight home win. Oh yeah, they are also 10-1 lifetime against the Chargers.

So the history wasn’t good as San Diego’s lone win against the Packers came on Oct. 7, 1984 and you may know it is also one of the most-ignored victories in franchise history.

That’s because the Padres beat the Chicago Cubs to reach the World Series for the first time that same afternoon. Winslow set his franchise record during that contest but the only receptions most San Diegans saw were on the Monday Night Football halftime highlights the following night.

So considering the history, it wasn’t looking too good for the Chargers when they spotted Green Bay a 17-3 lead.

Aaron Rodgers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to James Starks in the first quarter and Starks later added a 65-yard touchdown run. Starks appeared stuffed in the middle of line before reversing to the right and taking advantage of the fact the Chargers backside defenders over pursued and meandered down the field for the score.

But the Chargers regrouped and scored a significant touchdown right before halftime. Allen caught a pass near the goal line with 12 seconds left – a review confirmed he was a foot short – and San Diego nearly let time run out before using one of its two timeouts.

Nearly a pretty major gaffe by coach Mike McCoy, who has made a habit of curious decisions during his head-coaching stint. There was no reason to be scrambling to the line and trying to get set to snap the ball at the last second. He had TWO timeouts.

If the play gets reviewed, the result can only be improved for the Chargers. The replay officials may have ruled Allen got in as opposed to being a foot short. So no need to hurry and get a play off.

Then weirder, McCoy ran in the field-goal kicking team while the play was under review. It is OK if you used your Nancy Kerrigan “WHYYYYYYY?” voice because that was even sillier than the timeout fiasco.

Finally, San Diego got the offense back on the field and cashed in as Rivers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dontrelle Inman. Trailing 17-10 at halftime in Lambeau Field provided hope and that was infinitely much better than trailing 17-3 or 17-6.

Helping matters more is that the Chargers continued to play strong at the outset of the third quarter and tied the contest on Rivers’ 19-yard scoring pass to Ladarius Green.

But Rodgers finally got Green Bay moving again after going more than 20 minutes without a first down. Once the Packers went ahead 24-17 on Rodgers’ 8-yard pass to James Jones with 46 seconds left in the third quarter, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if things fell apart.

It didn’t happen as the Chargers moved back within four points on Jeff Lambo’s 32-yard field goal and were able to make the Packers settle for a 28-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2:37 remaining.

But the final drive didn’t produce the tying points. Rivers drove the Chargers down the field but the offense stalled after reaching the 3-yard line. Two Woodhead runs and two incomplete passes later, San Diego walked off the field with its third road loss of the season.

Just don’t put any blame on Philip Rivers.

Sure, he only guided his club to 20 points but what more could he do?

He did it all on Sunday and it still wasn’t enough for a victory.

If somebody had told me five months ago that two NFC North teams would be meeting in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, I would have had to spend some time figuring out which team the Minnesota Vikings would be playing.

Obviously, I would have deleted the Detroit Lions from the possibilities immediately with full apologies to terrific defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

But Brett Favre and the Vikings are nowhere to be found either as the NFL’s best day of football arrives. Instead, the quarterback Green Bay fans weren’t so keen about three short years ago is playing with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

In fact, I see Aaron Rodgers and the Packers defeating the bitter rival Chicago Bears at Soldier Field to advance to the Super Bowl in Jerry Jones’ mega playtoy facility in Arlington, Texas.

Chicago may be regretting it lost to the Packers in Week 17 now that Green Bay is the hottest team in football. A Bears’ win in that final week would have made the Packers spectators for the playoffs.

The Packers have notched consecutive playoff road wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. The 48-21 drubbing of top-seeded Atlanta was particularly impressive.

In my view, the only thing that can derail the Packers would be frigid conditions and wind from nearby Lake Michigan that cripples Green Bay’s passing game. The Packers can’t run the ball – they know it too – so they will be putting everything on the powerful arm of Rodgers and a defense led by cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams and linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk.

I can’t think of Matthews and his long hair without picturing San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. You may recall the 2009 NFL Draft was littered with top-flight USC linebackers Matthews, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga and the Chargers were positioned perfectly to nab one of them with the 16th overall pick.

But perhaps there was no alternate plan when Cushing went 15th overall to the Houston Texans. Instead of grabbing Matthews or Maualuga, the Lord of No Rings went for Northern Illinois linebacker Larry English. You know English, he’s the guy who scares nobody and had three whole sacks this season.

Or in more specific terms, 10 1/2 fewer sacks than Matthews, who was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

The Bears have some stellar defensive players of their own in linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and rejuvenated defensive end Julius Peppers. But Chicago needs quarterback Jay Cutler to avoid meltdown mode to win this contest.

Another thing that would help is forcing a lot of Green Bay punts. Devin Hester may only be the second-best returner in Bears history – Gale Sayers still holds that honor – but Hester is still the top returner in the NFL. You don’t want to give Hester more than two or three touches on punt returns.

And if Chicago wins – we’ll be subject to hearing something over and over that none of us want to hear for two weeks until Super Bowl Sunday: That offensive coordinator Mike Martz is once again a genius.

Just more reason right there to predict the Packers.

AFC Championship Game

There’s a smiling player on the New York Jets that I don’t quite recognize.

I know the face and the Texas twang in his voice sounds familiar. I know I’ve dealt with the guy before.

Woah! Is that really LaDainian Tomlinson lining up in the backfield of the AFC Championship Game?

Obviously, that wouldn’t have occurred if Tomlinson was still playing for the underachieving Chargers. But there he is just one victory away from that elusive Super Bowl appearance as the New York Jets venture into Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers.

Tomlinson has obviously proven that there was still tread on the tires even though A.J. Smith was adamant the wheels could no longer turn. Can you imagine the anger at the Chargers’ Murphy Canyon facility if Tomlinson were to play in this season’s Super Bowl during a campaign in which San Diego didn’t even qualify for the postseason?

But sentiments don’t come into play when a Super Bowl berth is on the line. If they did, San Diego’s “Air Coryell” trio of Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow would have made the big game at least once during the early 1980s.

I see the Steelers edging the Jets in a close hard-fought battle to be the AFC representative. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to avoid the big mistakes – too bad he can’t seem to do that in the offseason – and big-play receiver Mike Wallace has added a game-breaking dimension to the Steelers’ offense.

Heard a lot of chatter about the Jets being concerned with Hines Ward’s whereabouts. Why spend so much time worrying about Ward when he’s not the guy who can hurt you most?

The Jets had Darrelle Revis shadow Ward in the regular-season contest and if they go that direction again, it leaves Antonio Cromartie covering Wallace. If there’s a big play to be had, it will be Roethlisberger and Wallace taking advantage of Cromartie’s infatuation of going for the ball instead of maintaining his technique in coverage.

You certainly can’t discount the Jets’ chances of leaving Pittsburgh as the AFC’s top team after beating the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning and the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks. But you legitimately have to wonder whether second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez can get the job done against star safety Troy Polamalu and the NFL’s top linebacking group.

That foursome of James Harrison, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley is one stellar crew of linebackers and Polamalu appears destined for the Hall of Fame.

Hey, didn’t A.J. Smith pass on Polamalu too? Yeah, you betcha. Smith chose some cornerback named Sammy Davis in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft instead of Polamalu. Makes you wonder what the Lord of No Rings has against USC defenders.

Oh yeah, Davis has been out of football since 2007.

Picking Davis ahead of Polamalu would be like choosing Norv Turner as coach over Rex Ryan. Oops, Smith did that too.

But I see Steelers coach Mike Tomlin advancing to the Super Bowl instead of Ryan so pencil me in for Pittsburgh to be seeking its seventh Super Bowl title two weeks from today.

Growing up as a football fan in San Diego was fun, mostly because of one person: Don Coryell.

The San Diego Chargers were one of the NFL’s biggest laughingstocks until Coryell came back to town in 1978. His hiring was big news because he had been a major success at San Diego State from 1961-72.

Almost instantly, the Chargers went from bumbling buffoons to the most exciting team in the league. Dan Fouts went from an average quarterback to a Hall of Famer and “Air Coryell” became synonymous with high-octane football.

The Coryell Chargers reached offensive heights never before seen in pro football. The scoring and passing statistics were mind-boggling for an NFL that revolved around running the football. First down became a passing down with Coryell as head coach.

The multi-set offensive schemes you see in today’s modern football world were first introduced to the game by Coryell. The nickel and dime coverage packages came into play as opposing defenses tried to figure out how to deal with Coryell’s advanced three-receiver, one-back sets that also featured Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow split wide. Charlie Joiner went from an OK receiver to a Hall of Famer under Coryell’s tutelage.

When it comes to offensive football innovators, Coryell’s name is on the short list of the best ever.

Coryell, one of the most beloved people in San Diego history – not just sports – died Thursday at age 85 after a long illness.

He was a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist earlier this year for the first time ever. Can’t figure out how it took so long for him to become a finalist. He should have been inducted years ago.

He was the first coach to win 100 career games as both a college and NFL coach and he has an impressive coaching tree of people who learned from him, including Hall of Famers Joe Gibbs and John Madden.

The Chargers never won a Super Bowl during his tenure, twice losing in the AFC Championship Game, and there’s been speculation that his omission from the Hall of Fame might be tied to that. But it was the shaky San Diego defense and that frigid Cincinnati weather (minus-59 wind chill) that helped keep the franchise from making it to the Super Bowl.

All of Coryell’s contributions to the game dwarf not coaching on Super Bowl Sunday. By a long post pattern.

I’m sure the Chargers will honor Coryell during the 2010 season – how about a DC decal on the helmets or DC patch on the jerseys? – as will San Diego State, a program that went an unbelievable 104-19-2 during Coryell’s tenure.

Here’s how popular Coryell remains in the San Diego area: There will be a public memorial service for him on July 12 and it will be held in San Diego State’s 12,400-seat basketball arena.

You don’t need a venue that large to remember someone who didn’t make an impact during their life.

The saddest thing about the timing of Coryell’s passing is he died without getting his due recognition in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Coryell was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and it makes no sense that his pro football contributions (which includes taking the 1970s St. Louis Cardinals from bottom feeders to the playoffs) haven’t been properly recognized.

The good thing is former players like Fouts and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf (Cardinals) never miss an opportunity to salute their former coach and often remark about his omission from the Hall of Fame.

Eventually, the voters will get it right. The Pro Football Hall of Fame isn’t complete without a sculptured bust of Don Coryell inside the hallowed halls of Canton.

RIP to a true sports legend and one of the most-beloved people in San Diego’s history. Coryell’s class, intensity and exciting brand of football will never be forgotten.

The inevitable release of LaDainian Tomlinson occurred Monday as the San Diego Chargers officially parted ways with the veteran running back who was the face of the franchise for nine years.

The business side of pro football had made his 2010 release a reality from the moment Tomlinson barely survived being released last year at this time. He would have needed to have had a monster 2009 season for the Chargers to have considered retaining him and he definitely didn’t do that, rushing for a career-low 730 yards with a paltry 3.3-yard average.

With a $2 million roster bonus due in early March and Tomlinson publicly expressing that he wouldn’t take a pay cut (he was due to make $5 million in salary in 2010), the decision wasn’t even the least bit difficult.

Tough way for a San Diego sports icon to leave town but it had to happen. The 30-year-old version of Tomlinson was several notches below the 27-year-old model who was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2006 while rushing for a league-high 1,815 yards and scoring an NFL-record 31 touchdowns.

If you know anything about NFL running backs, you know the older they get, the faster they decline. Particularly for a guy like Tomlinson, who has had more than 3,400 regular-season touches (2,880 carries, 530 receptions) during his time with the Chargers. That’s a lot of hits absorbed to go with the usual wear and tear.

Tomlinson wants to continue playing so that means he will have to let go of his superstar persona. He’s no longer capable of being a featured back and will have to accept a split-duty or complimentary role.

If the New Orleans Saints hadn’t won the Super Bowl, they would have been the most likely place for Tomlinson to land. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a close friend and former Chargers’ teammate, would have lobbied hard that Tomlinson might be the piece that could get the Saints over the hump. But how does one figure the Saints need Tomlinson now?

Regardless, some team will take a chance that Tomlinson can still be productive. He ranks eighth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list (12,490 yards) and third on the career touchdowns list (153) and will have a lot to prove after his substandard 2009 season. And at least you know he’s never going to end up on the police blotter (then again, who knew Tiger Woods was the exact opposite of his image?)

Tomlinson feels he’s got a lot left in the tank, but in reality that’s just a case of a highly accomplished athlete not yet ready to recognize that his skill level has dropped. Sure, the Chargers’ offensive line has declined rapidly since 2006 – guard Kris Dielman is the only lineman still competing at a star level – but the plays Tomlinson used to break for long gains were routinely shut down by defenders for short gains in 2009.

Tomlinson just no longer has the speed and elusiveness he did as a younger player.

Now the chapter closes on his run with the Chargers and he joins franchise icons such as Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow as team stars who never played in a Super Bowl. Think about it, the Chargers made the playoffs five times in Tomlinson’s nine seasons and only advanced to one AFC Championship Game.

Tomlinson will search for that elusive championship with another franchise but he will always be known as a San Diego Charger. Eventually the team will retire his number and he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But that’s stuff for the future. When it comes to the present, it was time for the Chargers and Tomlinson to part ways. The business side of the NFL leaves no room for an overpaid and underproductive 31-year-old running back on the 2010 roster.

Even when he’s been the classy face of the franchise for nearly a decade.