Talk of Fame Network
There are few running backs who were more productive or effective than LaDainian Tomlinson. The NFL’s fifth all-time rusher, he set the single-season record for touchdowns when he scored 31 times in 2006 – a record that still stands -- and was a two-time NFL rushing leader, a five-time All-Pro and a member of the 2000 all-decade team.
Soon, of course, he'll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so he qualifies as an expert on the game … and on his position. And, as that expert, he’s not mystified by what’s happened to both in an age defined not by running backs … but by quarterbacks.
“I really think it has to do with the evolution of the college game,” he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “If you think about it, over the history of the National Football League … and football in general,… the National Football League always followed what colleges are doing. When colleges had the one-back system, and there was one guy toting the rock … the NFL followed suit.
“But now it’s a different game. The evolution of this pistol formation, combined with the spread, the wide-open offenses … it has changed the way the NFL is playing the game of football. The rules are catered more to the passing game, so it’s easier to move the football.
“But make no mistake, gentlemen. When you need a touchdown … when you need a guy in the red zone to be able to run the football as the field gets constricted … you need a running back. And still, even late in the season as it turns cold and playoff football starts to appear, you still have to have a guy who can take it the distance 80-90 yards.”
He should have notified Seattle. The Seahawks missed that memo, choosing to pass rather than give the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIX. Seattle paid for its mistake with a loss, and rightly so. Tomlinson didn’t understand the call then … and he doesn’t understand it now.
“I was livid,” he said, “because the play before (Lynch) almost scored. They didn’t tackle him. He tripped over someone. The natural thought for a running back is, ‘Oh, my goodness, give it to me again. Let’s go. It’s over.’ When they threw the pass, I couldn’t help but think: You know what? Running backs, we are becoming extinct. If you can’t give the ball to a running back on the one-yard line … my goodness.”
New England coach Bill Belichick later said he didn’t fault the call and that it was criticized by people he doesn’t respect. Of course, thanks to that call Belichick won a Super Bowl he could’ve … maybe should’ve … lost.
“Exactly,” Tomlinson said.