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San Diego Sportscene

Numbers All Point to Redden

July 11, 1987|DAVE DISTEL

Barry Redden, a statistics major at the University of Richmond, will be interested in knowing that the Chargers have a couple of figures in mind for him.

One is "1,000" and the other is "every."

The first, which represents the number of yards they hope he might carry the football this fall, relates quite closely to the second, which, arguably, is not even a figure. I use "every" as a figure in the sense that it represents all of whatever category is under consideration.

The Chargers consider Redden, whom they recently acquired from the Rams for Buford McGee and draft choices, to be a running back for every down.

Given Redden's academic background, I wondered if he had spent time applying statistics to the game of football. Since statistics have always interested me, I was curious about what interested him.

Had he made statistical studies of the National Football League? If so, surely he was encouraged by the relationship between a strong running attack and success. Surely he has charted the won-lost percentage of NFL teams in games in which a running back has rushed for 100 or more yards.

"I really haven't studied statistics in those terms," he said. "I don't relish the statistics of my profession. Maybe I should."

Come again? What statistics whet Barry Redden's numerical taste buds?

"The S's with two bars in the middle," he said. " Those stats."

Ohhhhh. Stupid me. It never occurred to me that a statistical study might be made of money, other than the diminishing figure in the checking account. Redden, being a recipient of rather healthy paychecks, has chosen to seriously analyze what happens to them.

But, Barry, I protested, how about analyzing the statistics that make those paychecks possible? Can't we talk about football statistics?

Redden shrugged.

"You take care of those stats, and other things follow," he said.

The thing about Redden's five years with the Rams was that he never had much of an opportunity to put together big numbers as a running back. He did very important things for the Rams, and was a very important person to them, but Eric Dickerson was the most important person. Redden blocked when Dickerson had the ball, which was most of the time.

And when did Redden carry the ball?

"Sparingly," he said. "I just want to put that behind me. The less we talk about it, the better I feel."

Would you say, then, that the Ram years were wasted years?

"I wouldn't say they were wasted," Redden said. "Let's just say I wasn't provided the environment to hone my skills."

This will soon change. This is the season, the first in Redden's career, in which his statistics will become very interesting, if not to him, to those who follow the Chargers.

Redden, you see, is a player whom Coach Al Saunders has wanted very badly. Saunders might not have known all along that Redden was the someone he wanted, but he knew Redden possessed what he wanted.

What Saunders has wanted is something he calls an every-down running back. It may sound a bit generic, but not every team has one . . . not in this age of specialization.

"An every-down running back, according to my interpretation, is a back who doesn't come in and out for situations like second and long or third and short or goal line," Saunders said. "Barry will be in there every down, first through third, pass, run or whatever."

A few people have wondered what Redden's arrival will do to Gary Anderson, and the answer is absolutely nothing. Anderson does some things as well or better than anybody, but there also are things he can't do well. He is a situation back, a big-play specialist who cannot handle the chores of an every-down running back.

The Chargers' situation is ideal in the sense that Redden and Anderson will complement each other as Redden and Dickerson couldn't. Redden and Dickerson were simply too much alike to coexist in the same offense, at least to Redden's liking.

Another notion, easily dismissed, is that no running back can gain attention in the Chargers' pass-oriented offense.

"Look at the history of San Diego," Redden said. "When the Chargers have had an every-down rushing back, he's usually led the AFC in rushing or finished near the top of the category."

Redden already has established that football statistics are not the ones he most avidly devours, so let's not nit-pick on how few Chargers--OK, three--have led the AFC in rushing in the franchise's 27 years.

However, Redden, for the first time, will get the opportunity to join the 1,000-yard club in single-season rushing. In his five years with the Rams, he gained 1,490 yards. In his last three years with the Rams, he did not gain the 1,179 yards a pedestrian running back named Earnest Jackson gained for the Chargers in 1984.

Redden, a resident of Sarasota, Fla., has spent some time in San Diego of late trying to get acclimated to the Chargers' offensive scheme. He likes what he sees.

"All I've ever wanted was a chance, but it's something I've never been given," he said. "I'm being given every opportunity here to hone my skills. If I stay healthy, I'll be able to do the things expected of me. This is my moment of truth."

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