Statement: “The things that happened in San Diego, everything was taken away from me. There wasn’t an emphasis on running the football anymore,” LaDainian Tomlinson told the NY Daily News on April 2.
Analysis: The former Chargers star running back wanted to make it clear that his declining performance in recent years was a result of coaching choices, not his age or his skills. He also complained about the Chargers’ decisions not to keep key personnel, like former fullback Lorenzo Neal, on board — the ingredients he said had made him so successful.
It’s difficult to evaluate the effect of personnel changes or an athlete’s aging but we can look at the play calling. Does the data show the Chargers emphasizing the run less since Norv Turner took over as coach?
We compared the Chargers’ ratio of passes to runs for both the three years before Turner took over as coach, and the three years since.
We added up the total number of attempted passes and divided them by the number of runs for those three year periods respectively.
Indeed, when Marty Schottenheimer was coach, the Chargers were one of the few teams in the league who actually ran the ball more than they passed it. For every 20 rushing attempts, the Chargers passed the ball 19 times.
After Turner took over, the Chargers tried to pass the ball more often. For every 20 rushes, there were 22 pass attempts.
The Chargers used to rush more than all but three other teams. In recent years, 10 other teams rushed the ball more often (Note: I mistakenly said “11” in the television version of this check).
Personnel decisions may have made even more of an impact on LT’s performance and he may have lost a step. But the data does back up LT’s claim that the Chargers de-emphasized their rushing attack when Norv Turner took over.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.
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— SCOTT LEWIS