NFL legend questions whether Cam Cameron sabotaged Chargers in playoffs before landing job with Dolphins

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Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports Copyright © 2006 Stan Liu

LaDainian Tomlinson is expressing some lingering hard feelings toward former Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron, questioning whether his former offensive coordinator sabotaged a playoff game while with the San Diego Chargers in order to move on to a new job.

“What job did he get right after we lost?” Tomlinson asked, referencing the job Cameron landed with the Dolphins. “… So, in my mind, ‘Did we just throw the game? For a head-coaching job?'”

Tomlinson was speaking about an AFC Divisional Round game from the 2006 NFL season between his Chargers and the New England Patriots. Under head coach Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego was the No. 1 seed in the AFC sporting a 14-2 record. Tomlinson scored an NFL record 31 touchdowns (on the ground and through the air) during the regular season.

However, the Chargers were eliminated when they lost to the Patriots 24-21 at home. That was despite the Chargers building a 14-3 lead in the second quarter and holding a 21-13 advantage in the fourth quarter after Tomlinson’s second touchdown run of the game.

New England then rallied and won on a late field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Tomlinson finished the game with 23 carries for 123 rushing yards and was visibly upset afterward, having to be restrained from going after a Patriots player.

“You play football a certain way,” Tomlinson said. “If you’re up by 11, or if you’re up in the second half…what we doin’? We totin’ that thing. How do I not get the ball?”

The contest was played on Jan. 14, 2007. Less than a week later, Cameron was hired to replace Nick Saban as the Dolphins’ head coach. He reportedly was one of at least 13 candidates to interview for the position.

“And that’s why I said we have all had a chance to think about this stuff, process it,” Tomlinson said. “And the fact that someone gets it right after we lose, ‘Guys I appreciate everything. You guys played hard for me. I’m gonna take this Miami job.’ What?”

It did not work out for the Dolphins – at all – as Cameron lasted just one season (2007), posting a 1-15 record that remains the worst in franchise history. He never became a head coach in the NFL again.

He was replaced by Tony Sparano, who made the playoffs in his first season but was ultimately fired during his fourth campaign.

Schottenheimer also was let go by the Chargers after that playoff failure and was replaced by Norv Turner. San Diego reached the AFC title game the following season but ironically lost to the Patriots again.

Tomlinson helped the Chargers to the playoffs the next two seasons as well, but they ultimately fizzled out both times. Despite a legendary Hall of Fame career, the running back never got to play in a Super Bowl.

For their part, the Dolphins have not won a playoff game in over two decades and are still searching for their first Super Bowl championship in more than 50 years.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NFL for almost three decades. He has been an avid follower of the AFC East since the days of Bob Griese and is looking forward to an exciting new era in the division.