LaDainian Tomlinson retired from the NFL on Monday, after re-signing with the Chargers so he could do it as a member of the team that selected him in the 2001 draft and he played for through the 2009 season.
Of all the numbers he put up during his 11-season career (the last two with the Jets) – including 13,684 rushing yards and 145 rushing touchdowns – it’s Tomlinson’s 31 touchdowns in 2006 that standout the most. He broke the single-season record of 28 that had been set by the Seahawks’ Shaun Alexander in 2005.
And Alexander’s mark was the latest in a progression of record-setting efforts since Bears rookie Gayle Sayers scored 22 touchdowns in 1965.
The Vikings’ Chuck Foreman tied that mark in 1975, only to have O.J. Simpson break it by one (23) the same season. The Redskins’ John Riggins then one-upped that mark (to 24) in 1983. Next up to one-up (to 25) was the Cowboys’ Emmitt Smith in 1995. He was followed by the Rams’ Marshall Faulk (26 in 2000), the Chiefs’ Priest Holmes (27 in 2003) and Alexander.
Tomlinson’s mark prompted Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk to evoke memories of another seemingly unbreakable record – Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
“Tomlinson holds a record that, like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, may never be broken – at least by a running back,” Florio wrote.
The most TDs by a running back since Tomlinson’s 31? It’s 20, by the Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams in 2008 and the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy last season.
“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,” Florio wrote. “So Tomlinson’s record could last a long, long time. Unless, of course, a receiver breaks it.”