In a beautifully poetic sense, this season has been circular for Ryan Mathews, and often frustrating, and seldom satisfying. It started with a broken right clavicle in the preseason during the first series in the Chargers’ first meaningless game, way back in those early sunny days of August.
Now, the circle is complete, as Mathews broke his left clavicle during a 31-7 loss to the Panthers today, ending his season. He is both circular and symmetrical now. And hated. Really, really hated.
At least by now Mathews has become good at self diagnosis, which is expected since he’s broken at least 85 percent of his body. He came off the field early in the second quarter and said “I think I broke it” to the Chargers’ sideline. At the time it wasn’t clear what “it” was. But now we know: Mathews broke his soul.
He missed the majority of training camp with the same injury, sitting out four weeks. At the time that led to a frenzied fantasy debate which now provides high comedy in hindsight. We knew of Mathews’ breakability, and we knew that he’d miss a minimum of one game to start the year, and likely two (indeed, he missed two). Yet for some reason far too many of us were willing to spend an early-round pick on Mathews, sometimes as high as the third round.
Need a good cry? Look back at Mathews’ final ADP in ESPN leagues. It’s 37th. As in 37th overall, meaning that it was deemed by ESPN drafters that there were only 36 players in all of fantasy football worthy of being drafted higher than Mathews.
My intention here isn’t to insult the intelligence of those drafters. Sadly, they weren’t unique, and instead they’re an illustration of the common mindset regarding Mathews throughout fantasyland prior to this year. Sure he’s an injury mess, we thought, but he’s still super awesome when healthy. Now we can look back on a season in which Mathews’ missed games total will finish at four (a quarter of a season). Alright so whatever, right? We expected that.
But we didn’t expect him to unearth a fumbling problem, and fade into a time share with Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley. We didn’t expect only 3.8 yards per carry, a season after he averaged 4.9. We didn’t expect only one touchdown, a year after he scored six times. We didn’t expect his per game rushing average to fall by 15.6 yards, and his per game receiving average to tumble by 10.3 yards.
More simply, we didn’t expect Mathews to dedicate himself to sucking so thoroughly. Yet here we are, lamenting another lost season, and knowing that when you’re on the clock in the middle rounds next summer, you’ll let Mathews fall. And fall some more, and then some more. Maybe he’ll wake up in 2013, and the guy who finally caves in, say, the eighth round will get a pretty ballin’ bargain. And good for you, hypothetical guy.
This much I know: I won’t be that guy.