A Loose History of the Fumble

We know what the fumble is, and what it does. But, still, no one has quite figured out football's oldest flub.
Share |
Dropped something.

Image via Flickr/A.J. Guel.

The fumble, that shock drop and bounce: we know this story in our bones, know what fumbles do and where they lead. Think David cracking that Too Tall son of a bitch upside the head, only to leave it on the turf with Uriah’s wife; think Natural Selection, moving the chains with steady gradualism until—fumble—punctuated equilibrium, the catalytic event upending pure survival of the fittest. Or, if you prefer, just think of San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.

Equal parts prodigal hero and mercurial change agent, the habitually dispossessed ballcarrier is the NFL’s most uncontrollable X-factor, and the Chargers have an elite exemplar of this hybrid in Mathews. Adding the barometric tension of a bad breakup to a surly September heat wave, Mathews' future in San Diego hangs in the balance every time he cuts past rip-stripping lineman and ball-hawking Mikes. Mathews is good enough to have made last season’s Pro Bowl, and bad enough to have registered a mighty eleven fumbles in just over two seasons (tied for the second-most among tailbacks in that span). Just one week removed from killing a crucial early drive by losing the rock a mere lunge from paydirt, Mathews spent Week 4 backing up his backup, Jackie Battle. Nor was he in the starting lineup Sunday night when the Chargers coughed up a seeming gimme against the Saints. He was not beaten-out, but benched.

No disrespect to Battle, the journeyman has a badass name and hits the hole hard—solid qualities that translate into a mess of second and eights. Matthews, on the other hand, has “it”—whatever you want to call it, that thing, the Shaolin combo of lateral maneuverability, variable acceleration, and field vision that mark Matthews a lethal threat every time he touches the ball. Matthews earned the bulk of the carries against New Orleans, but because of the fumbles—and because Coach Norv Turner doesn't have much rope to spare after two seasons as a postseason spectator—Mathews remains a risk to lose it: control of the ball, possession, his job. The serially tepid Norv knows which back gives him a better chance to win and which makes him more at risk to lose: while Jackie Battlemay not be anyone’s idea of a difference-maker, with over 200 carries to his admittedly badass name, Norv’s interim number one has never lost a fumble. It matters that much.

***

Serious talk of the chronic fumbler typically diverts to the corrections made by Adrian Peterson and Tiki Barber, and ball security frequently does improve with age and experience—see also Ottis Anderson, who all but stopped fumbling as his career went on (and on, and on). But what of the lifelong incorrigibles? Some are still out there, working still.

The inveterate fumbler is like Cormac McCarthy’s defiantly self-destructive Suttree, like Barry Hannah’s magnetically wayward Ray, like Ryan Gosling’s rock-smoking educator in Half Nelson: the only way to keep royally fucking up is to be so charmingly exceptional someone will always offer second, third, and fourth chances. Our heroes and their exposed Achilles heels—this is also a story we know well. Even Gosling understands the gridiron’s hard line—that's him front and center in Remember The Titans, gimlet-eyed and dreamy as Denzel promises to "break my foot off in your John Brown hind parts" if Mr. Hey Girl puts the ball on the turf. It's a commandment as old as the game itself. John Heisman reportedly said very much the same: "Gentleman, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football."

No one fumbled in the leather-helmet era. Not Bronko Nagurski, not Red Grange, not Whizzer White. At least as far as we know: the fumble wasn’t recorded as an individual statistic until 1945. Since then, Jim Brown fumbled 57 times in his nine seasons, which probably isn’t the sort of thing you should mention to his face. In his All-Pro season of 1967, Jim Nance dropped the ball 10 times.

There is no style of tailback uniquely predisposed towards the fumble. The League has witnessed Crisco-fingered jitterbugs—Greg Pruitt and 83 career fumbles; Joe Cribbs winning the 1980 rookie of the year with a symmetrical 1600 yards from scrimmage and 16 fumbles in 16 games. Rangy, upright runners have also struggled to tuck the ball—the aforementioned AP, galloping Eric Dickerson, and the Bolts' own Chuck Muncie. What made Chuck unique was that he didn’t even need to take a hit to give up the rock, so prone was he to waving the damn thing like a weapon, as if fixing to truncheon a path through filling linebackers and arm-tackling defensive backs.

There was Wendell Tyler, high-stepping, sharp-cutting—a prototype. Except instead of being mentioned in the same breath with Sweetness, Ram and Niner fans recall his three seasons with double-digit fumbles and mutter Tyler's name under theirs. Eric Metcalf was a one-man Lucretian swerve, a game-changer capable of lining up all over the field, with the potential to punctuate equilibrium for either uniform. He also never enjoyed a fumble-free season and logged his 53rd and final fumble in the first quarter of the last game of his 13-year career.

Long before players reached a free agent "walk-year" following a handful of active seasons, the chronic fumbler typically ran out of chances and was shown the door at that same three-to-four year mark. George Rogers—a bigger Willis McGahee, a faster Larry Johnson, a South Carolina legend who had his jersey retired while still an active player—was traded from the Saints to the Redskins after four fumble (and injury) marred seasons. Trumping 12 touchdowns with 25 fumbles, Joe Washington was sent from Baltimore to Washington after three seasons. Muncie himself lasted four full seasons in New Orleans before being shipped to San Diego; Dickerson four years with the Rams before becoming a Colt.

Mathews is in his third NFL season.

Probability and his condition being what they are, sooner or later Matthews will fumble again. What happens after that is less definite. When the ball skids off the turf, will Norv flyswat his play-card and execute the full-body, spinal-jelly shimmy for which he is known? Probably, but that's Norv. The bigger question, especially for Mathews, is how steadily GM A.J. Smith responds.

Smith is himself a classic fumbler, a no-name scout who took over the Bolts and whopped Goliath upside the head with killer 2004 and 2005 drafts, fully restocking a down franchise before coughing it up with years of lackluster picks, misguided signings, and progressively baroque John Wayne hard-assery. Other than retaining his gift for spotting linebackers, Smith has recently hung his hat on playing hardball with other people’s money: cutting Mathews loose after a fumble-riddled year seems the sort of thing that might actually give Smith a sour, defiantly self-destructive sort of pleasure.

Matthews’ nasty injury bug might alone make him expendable, but Smith has shown patience in that regard: the Bolts carried first round bust Buster Davis on the IR for multiple seasons, and Larry English and his bad wheels remain in San Diego’s defensive mix. But where Smith announces zero-tolerance, he’s shown, well, not a lot of tolerance—most notably fumbling his leverage with Vincent Jackson and ensuring that Philip Rivers' most dangerous downfield threat would leave San Diego as soon as free agency offered the chance.

But in this case, Smith seems prepared to play things according to precedent. Speaking with Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune about Mathews, Smith broke down the career arc of the chronic fumbler. First those players take a seat, then they lose reps on the field. If the fumbling continues in limited duty, Smith concluded, "then you will be someone else’s fumbler." The implied lesson is as old as the sport, or older: hold on.


Share |

Comments

This type of is apparently absolutely outstanding. These kinds of tiny fact is made making use of wide variety regarding certification know-how. My partner and i favour the theory much. Bola88

I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post. Thanks crown138.win

i read a lot of stuff and i found that the way of writing to clearifing that exactly want to say was very good so i am impressed and ilike to come again in future.. Chiropractor Bournemouth

Gadget Feed Media and Marketing Package Gadget Feed Media and Marketing Package

This particular is usually apparently essential and moreover outstanding truth along with for sure fair-minded and moreover admittedly useful My business is looking to find in advance designed for this specific useful stuffs… intimacykit.org

Hot Make USA was recognised in 2006 in Southland Beach, Florida, and is one of the maximal and oldest printing companies in U.s.. cheap55printing.com deals on Cheap Flyers Printing

It covers the pursuing substance: one way one-way link effect on a scenario senior, and growing one way back-link technique. Online seo sevices | Good Quality Blogs

As the power of PageRank is getting lower, flow metrics matter. Google gives a huge importance to metrics like domain authority, trust flow or citation flow as a ranking factor. backlinks

You ought to know the little-known techniques to kick you off and on the off chance that you choose to purchase 500 Instagram adherents it can be a productive venturing stone. free instagram followers | likes for likes instagram

based locally proper right here within the heart of Manchester, united kingdom, we are delighted to satisfaction ourselves on a few years of enjoy. Instagram Online Viewer

Never found such informative articles in-home care in hanford

Having said that nofollow is not totally junked, Yahoo and Bing do not see this as any diametrical as their rule does not demand this encipher.You need to get reliable that your situation still has whatsoever nofollow backlinks to materialise to be born to Google. seo package pricing

The following appears to be like unquestionably fantastic. Almost all these minor points are built by using number of foundation awareness. I enjoy them considerably. fair trade jewelry

This is why it is far better that you can pertinent analysis ahead of producing. It will be possible to post greater article using this method. rn ceu

It feels entirely appropriate. Every one of smaller aspects were created through many record education. I really like the application plenty. gold plated gifts

That is the reason focus on you must specific groundwork well before authoring. Will be possible to more desirable blog post in this manner. halloween

We viewed at a distance your website seeing as With regards to through listened to a lot of based on a persons content. authority site review

Largely, I understand genital herpes virus treatments really are debating into your blog. That time period still, Now i'm damaged or lost. http://sherryslife.com/african-hair-braiding/

There are particular dissertation web-sites via the internet to create secure seemingly recorded in your website online. Silk Necktie

The following appears to be like unquestionably fantastic. Almost all these minor points are built by using number of foundation awareness. I enjoy them considerably. Bill Twyford

This unique appearances utterly suitable. Each one of modest data are prepared with the help of great number of experience practical knowledge. I'm keen it again very much. plumber in st.louis mo 

I seriously get pleasure from just looking at your websites. Post worldwide ads

This really is additionally an excellent publish that we truly loved reading through. It's not daily which i possess the likelihood to determine some thing. carports austin tx

This is exceptionally instructive substance and composed well for a change. It's pleasant to see that a few individuals still see how to compose a quality post! girlsdoporn

This is certainly as well a really good posting we seriously experienced looking through. It is far from on a daily basis we have risk to check out a little something. slots

Rapidly this website may unquestionably end up being well-known amongst just about all running a blog individuals, for the meticulous content articles or even evaluations. one step cleanser

Which i viewed as gone your blog seeing that On the topic of across discovered a lot of connected to a person's articles or blog posts. accommodation augusta wa

I truly value the sort of subjects you post here. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing us an extraordinary data that is really useful. Great day! navi test

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. how to reduce belly fat quickly at home

Hi buddies, it is great written piece entirely defined, continue the good work constantly.quantum success coaching academy qsca

Wonderful, just what a blog it is! This blog has provided the helpful data to us continue the good work.www.easyonlinepaydayloan.com

These are the great blogs; I assure you that I really enjoyed a lot in reading.inbox blueprint 2.0

Much thanks for keep this data. cccam server in Europe

Much thanks to you for another extraordinary article. Where else would anyone be able to get that sort of data in such a flawless method for composing? I have a presentation one week from now, and I am on the search for such data. http://cccamserver568.hatenablog.com

I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. discussion groups

You made such an interesting piece to read, giving every subject enlightenment for us to gain knowledge. Thanks for sharing the such information with us to read this...Thought leadership

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. Merchant Services Orlando

I recently found many useful information in your website especially this blog page. Among the lots of comments on your articles. Thanks for sharing. Self defense products

no credit check loansSuch a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article

One encourage plenty of online sites onto your web log My group is allowed to remain thinking about how i ever in your life discover groundwork at may. افلام

One of many blog sites on line, I like to browsing the ones you have just about the most; everyone supply individuals a huge amount of advice of hospitality attire minor article. My organization is in need of together with seeing that you now have a heart and soul meant for informative posting, mystic ct

Nice answers in replace of the question with real point of view and explaining about that. life insance quote

Thankfulness to my dad who informed me relating to this blog, this website is really amazing.virginia payday leders online

I tag it to my most love’s web webpage rundown and will be returning soon. Kindly look at my site additionally and let me comprehend what you ponder Panic Away. forex

payday loans for bad credit
I haven’t any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us.

Great job for publishing such a beneficial web site. Your web log isn’t only useful but it is additionally really creative too.
self defense videos

This is also a very good post which I really enjoy reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this. yoga teacher training rishikesh

Mystic CTAlways so interesting to visit your site.What a great info, thank you for sharing. this will help me so much in my learning

Pomáháme vám a vaší rodině kvalitněji bydlet za méně peněz. Certifikované, patentované a světově ověřené technologie. Zděné domy a dřevostavby na klíč. rodinne domy

This is also a very good post which I really enjoy reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this. date rape drug detection products