That sets the stage for a fascinating comparison. Mathews goes to a team that was terrible running the ball last season. Tomlinson goes to last season's No. 1 rushing team, one that sees him as a complement to feature back Shonn Greene. Will the Chargers get better running the ball? Will the Jets be as good as they were?
Is Tomlinson one of those rare backs who has something left in his 30s? Or is the suggestion that he was pushed aside in San Diego just spin to explain away his decline?
So far, Tomlinson has turned some heads at Jets camp. In a scrimmage this week, he found himself matched up against a linebacker on a go route down the sideline. Quarterback Mark Sanchez hit him in stride for a 70-yard touchdown.
"We've got a great back in LaDainian, he's tremendous," Jets Coach Rex Ryan said. "Does he look like he's through? Absolutely not."
Tomlinson knows, though, that the final measure of success won't be a big play in training camp or a heartfelt testimonial from his new coach.
"You can't talk about it, you can't disprove [critics] in that way," Tomlinson said. "You've just got to go out and perform on the field. That's the only way it can be done. That's where I am now."