It started with the trade. Moving up in the draft to get the running back of the future. The comparisons of Mathews to Tomlinson (unfair or not) were always going to be made. He’s 3 years in and it’s been a rocky start. Fumbles and injuries have derailed the start of his promising NFL career. On film, he has the speed and tools to be a solid NFL back. But as my fellow writer Nick Shepherd pointed out earlier this week, Mathews struggles with vision and reading the running lanes.
On-field performance aside, we expect a certain level of dedication from players and the desire to learn and improve their game. This is what we get with our quarterback. Rivers puts in more time than most and while the expectation isn’t to have Mathews beat Rivers to the facility, he should be working harder than most to improve. On the Mighty 1090 yesterday, Rivers was given the opportunity to throw Jared Gaither (the big lazy) under the bus. “It’s too bad. It really is too bad. That’s all I can say. It’s too bad the way the whole thing happened. Again regardless of whose fault or how it was handled, what could have been done differently; I’m talking about the last 9 months. But, you know the guy is a heck of a tackle when he’s out there on the field.” A guy that absolutely deserved it, Rivers takes the high road.
On top of that Rivers was asked about how the loss of offensive personnel (i.e. Sproles, Jackson etc.). Host Darren Smith set up the question perfectly asking Rivers, “Of the players who have left here in free agency, and we all know what the list looks like, that maybe the biggest effect on you, has been Darren Sproles.” Rivers Replied, “It’s certainly been huge, and again Darren I never like to say the biggest effect on me, I think it’s been one of the biggest effects on our offensive unit.”
Given his struggles over the past two years, it’d be easy for Rivers to pick any one of the departing free agents/retirements as an excuse. But again, taking the high road and saying that it’s had a greater impact on the team.
Now let’s get back to Mathews. He appeared on NFL AM this morning talking about all things Ryan and Chargers. He talked about being complacent over the past year under Norv Turner. From the outside, most Charger fans would dub Norv, President and CEO of complacent island. But throwing the coach right under the bus for something that EVERY Charger fan already knows comes off as an excuse. You can watch the full interview on NFL.com but Mathews said of Norv Turner: “I think he did everything he could to try to make us win, no doubt about it. I just think we really got complacent to where we were and what we were doing and thought we were owed to win games.”
I’m not big on criticizing players, because I know their job is tough and in the public eye. But I’ll take a guy who puts the work in and takes accountability for himself any day of the week. We can’t always control what goes on around us, but we can control ourselves. I know my motivation comes from within, but inspiration comes from guys like #17.