The fifth leading rusher in NFL history has signed a one day contract with the team with whom he spent the bulk of his Hall of Fame career. Former Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson will officially retire today. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to respect him. And Raider fans typically range somewhere between hate and respect.
Tomlinson made a habit out of destroying the Raiders in his career. It didn't help the Raiders that while Tomlinson was in his prime, the Raiders were in the cellar. He spent 11 seasons in the NFL, the first nine with the Chargers where the Raiders had to face him twice a season.
The Raiders made the Super Bowl in Tomlinson's second season. But as we know, after that Super Bowl run, it was a long run of double digit loss seasons that followed. And the one sentiment about those Raider teams is the lack of run defense. Tomlinson was known for feasting upon that porous run defense.
Tomlinson ran for over 1000 yards in all of his first eight seasons in the NFL while being named to the Pro Bowl five times and All Pro three times. During the six seasons of Raiders futility from 2003-08, while Tomlinson was in his prime, he ran for an average of 132 yards per game against the Raiders (the best yards per game average he ever had in a season was 113). That was 12 games and he went for 1582 yards. In that time he had games of 243, 198, 187, 164, and 153 yards against the Raiders. The 243 yard game was the best of his career and the next two make up three of his top ten rushing performances ever. No other team is listed more than once in his top ten.
To put his rushing totals against the Raiders into the context of a single season; over his first 16 games in the NFL versus the Raiders, he ran for 1906 yards with 22 touchdowns (3 receiving). That's better than any single season rushing total he had in his career and would be the second most TD's he ever had in a season.
That 243 yard career game by Tomlinson to end the 2003 season began a 13-game Chargers winning streak over the Raiders. It was Tomlinson's third season, and that streak was not snapped until 2010-- the year Tomlinson left the Chargers. The first game the Raiders faced the Chargers without Tomlinson, they ended the streak. That isn't a coincidence.
Even after he joined the Jets, his career may have been slowing down but his Raider dominance didn't stop. In his one and only game as a Jet versus the Raiders last season, he had 116 yards receiving-- his best receiving total since 2003-- and a touchdown. And though he had just 38 yards rushing, it was on six carries for a 6.33 yards per carry average-- his second best of that season.
Yeah, it's safe to say Tomlinson loved playing against the Raiders and Raider fans hated to see him run all over their team.
He will be giving his retirement speech today at a press conference and he should probably thank the Raiders for all their help over the years. If not, perhaps in his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.