Los Angeles Chargers
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If ever a team were made to fit its home city’s extant sports landscape, it was the Changers in San Diego. Like the Padres of Major League Baseball, the San Diego had their eras of excitement and competitiveness and even played in the big game under wacky circumstances – not to mention the underappreciation of a would-be fanbase in a (let’s face it) not-so-great sports town.
As the 2010s rolled on, San Diego Chargers ownership and management took the franchise down a road familiar to sports fans in, likesay, St. Louis and Baltimore. Majority owner Alex Spanos petulantly made unreasonable demands for a shiny new stadium to be paid by taxpayers made evermore apathetic by the team’s mediocrity. Despite boasting perpetual All-Pros such as Drew Brees, Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson and Melvin Gordon, the Chargers went from five playoff runs between 2004 and ’09 to mustering a single postseason appearance between 2010 and ’17.
The end result? Spanos said goodbye, the San Diego citizenry replied “don’t let the door hit your .500-playing asses on the way out.” For the 2017 season, as well as the ’18, ’19 and essentially however long it takes the subcontractors to build Stan Kroenke’s pleasure dome, the now-Los Angeles Chargers call the 30,000-seat StubHub Center (a soccer stadium!) home – and they can’t even sell that out!
But allow NFLbets to rewind the tape momentarily, back to the beginning, to the team’s last season in Los Angeles. Year 1960 marked the first season of the rogue American Football League, and the Los Angeles Chargers were one of the first eight charter members. The 1960 L.A. Chargers were coached by Sid Gillman and featured at quarterback the then-unknown Jack Kemp. After being drafted in the 17th (!) round in 1957, Kemp played in just five games over the next three seasons, four with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. When plugged into the Chargers’ starting lineup for week 3, Kemp then led the team on a 9-3 record and the AFL West division title.
Faced with a loss of $900,000 for the 1960 season, Chargers ownership decided that competition from the Rams in the Los Angeles area was too great. Choosing San Diego over Seattle and Atlanta as a new home, the Chargers made it back-to-back title appearances in ’61; unfortunately, the result was also a repeat loss to the Houston Oilers. Gillman’s Chargers would finally win the AFL title in ’63 with stud WR Lance Alworth the sparkplug; this was chased by two more title-game appearances, both losses.
And then, a decade of silence, followed by an awakening and a glimpse of the future of NFL offensive schemes. Don Coryell was hired to the head coach position toward the end of the 1978 season and within a year and a half, Coryell’s high-playing point-a-minute offense was easily tops in the NFL in yardage and overall efficiency. Dan Fouts led a Chargers offense which would soon be known as simply “Air Coryell”, and the QB was given All-Pro 1,000-yard targets like Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler to throw to.
From 1979 to ’82, the Air Coryell Chargers made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, leading the NFL in yardage thrice and points scored twice. In the days of limited NFL coverage, the Chargers became must-see TV with scores in the 40s commonplace. Unfortunately, NFL history records this offense most prominently as the best never to make the Super Bowl; this ignominious reputation is thanks to the laughably bad defense: From 1980 through Coryell’s firing in ’86, the Chargers defense was bottom five in points allowed and yards allowed.
San Diego enjoyed a brief period of success in the early 1990s under head coach Bobby Ross, and following the 1994 season, the Chargers shocked the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers in due course to reach Super Bowl XXIX. What happened there in never discussed among remaining Chargers fans.
For the official Los Angeles Chargers website, click here.