Lost in the shuffle of the ongoing developments in the bounty case is the fact that one of the greatest running backs in NFL history no longer will be the subject of any actual, alleged, or perceived bounties.
LaDainian Tomlinson officially called it quits on Monday, and I carved out a small portion of PFT Live to pay homage to his accomplishments.
Apart from the fact that Tomlinson finished fifth on the all-time rushing list, Tomlinson holds a record that, like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, may never be broken — at least not by a running back.
In 2006, Tomlinson set the single-season touchdown record, with 31. It represented the culmination of a steady climb, with Shaun Alexander setting the record via 28 touchdowns the prior season, Priest Holmes notching the prior high of 27 two years earlier, and Marshall Faulk set the former high-water mark with 26 three years before.
Five years before that, Emmitt Smith broke John Riggins’ 12-year-old record, pushing the record from 24 to 25.
Riggins had broken O.J. Simpson’s 1975 record of 23 touchdowns, in the same year Chuck Foreman had 22. A decade before that, Jim Brown had scored 21 times.
Since L.T. extended the record to 10 touchdowns beyond the mark Brown established 41 years earlier, no running back has even matched Brown’s number. In 2011, LeSean McCoy scored 20 touchdowns, the most for any running back since Tomlinson’s current record. (DeAngelo Williams also scored 20 in 2008.)
With the ongoing trend toward the use of multiple running backs, it’s unlikely that any running back with the skill to surpass Tomlinson’s record will get the opportunities — especially with the league continuing to emphasize the passing game.
And so Tomlinson’s record could last for a long, long time.
Unless, of course, a receiver breaks it.