The San Diego Chargers are a professional football team in the National Football League (the NFL). The San Diego Chargers play in the American Football Conference (AFC) West Division with three other teams: the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. The San Diego Chargers have won 1 AFL Championship. Qualcomm Stadium, located in San Diego, California, hosts all San Diego Chargers home games.
In 1960, the Chargers franchise joined the ranks of professional football as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL). The Chargers originally played in the city of Los Angeles in the Los Angeles Coliseum. After only one season as the Los Angeles Chargers, the team moved to San Diego and played in Balboa Stadium from 1961 through 1966. The San Diego Chargers were one of the most successful teams in the history of the AFL. Head Coach Sid Gillman, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, was the only coach of the Chargers franchise during their 10-year AFL existence. On the offensive side of the football, the AFL Chargers were led by Quarterback John Hadl, Wide Receiver Lance Alworth, and Running Backs Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln. On the defensive side of the football, the AFL Chargers were anchored by the “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line which starred Defensive End Earl Faison and Defensive Tackle Ernie Ladd.
In the inaugural AFL season in 1960, the Los Angeles Chargers finished first in the AFL West, but lost to the Houston Oilers 24-16 in the AFL Championship Game. In 1961, following the move to San Diego, the San Diego Chargers finished first in the AFL West, but once again lost to the Houston Oilers 10-3 in the AFL Championship Game. The San Diego Chargers endured a losing season in 1962, but bounced back in 1963, finishing atop the AFL West with an 11-3 record. In the AFL Championship Game, the San Diego Chargers crushed the Boston Patriots 51-10 to win its first ever AFL Championship. At the time, no one knew that that 1963 AFL Championship would be its only championship during the franchise’s 45-year professional football existence. In 1964 and 1965, the San Diego Chargers finished atop the AFL West, but each year lost to the Buffalo Bills in the AFL Championship game. The San Diego Chargers recorded winning seasons from 1966 through 1969, but never had a good enough record to advance to post-season play. At the end of the 1969 season, the AFL merged with the NFL and the San Diego Chargers began play in the NFL.
In its first decade in the NFL, the San Diego Chargers endured tough times. For the first eight seasons in the NFL from 1970 through 1977, the San Diego Chargers did not record a winning record. In 1978, the San Diego Chargers finally recorded a 9-7 winning record, but that was only good enough for a 4th place finish in the AFC West and the San Diego Chargers did not qualify for post-season play. But things were changing in the right direction for the San Diego Chargers, and the future looked bright with Head Coach Don “Air” Coryell leading the way. The San Diego Chargers offense also garnered much attention with Quarterback Dan Fouts, Running Back Chuck Muncie, Wide Receiver Charlie Joyner and Tight End Kellen Winslow being able to score almost at will. In 1979, the San Diego Chargers won their first post-merger AFC West Title with a 12-4 record. This also marked their first trip to post-season play in the NFL, but the San Diego Chargers suffered an abrupt end with an early 17-10 loss to the Houston Oilers in the Divisional round of the playoffs. In 1980, the San Diego Chargers won their second consecutive AFC West title with an 11-5 record. This time, the San Diego Chargers defeated the Buffalo Bills 20-14 in the Divisional round of the playoffs to advance to their first ever AFC Championship Game. In the AFC Championship Game, the San Diego Chargers fell behind 21-7 after one quarter of play and could never recover. Although the San Diego Chargers cut the lead to 28-24 late in the 3rd quarter, they never got any closer and the Oakland Raiders defeated the San Diego Chargers 34-27. Two weeks later, the Oakland Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 to win Super Bowl XV. For the third straight season, the San Diego Chargers finished atop the AFC West in 1981 with a 10-6 record. In the Divisional round of the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins played in one of the most memorable playoff games in NFL history. Later called “The Epic in Miami”, the San Diego Chargers built a 24-0 lead after one quarter, but the Miami Dolphins, behind back-up quarterback Don Strock cut the lead to 24-17 by halftime. The scoring went back and forth in the 2nd half and the San Diego Chargers needed a Dan Fouts touchdown pass to James Brook with less than a minute to play in order to tie the game at 38. The Miami Dolphins had one last chance to steal victory away from the San Diego Chargers in regulation, but the San Diego Chargers Tight End Kellen Winslow blocked Uwe von Schamann’s field goal attempt as time expired. In overtime, the San Diego Chargers took the opening kickoff and marched all the way down to the Miami Dolphins 8 yard line. However, San Diego Chargers’ kicker Rolf Benirschke missed a 27-yard field goal attempt and the score remained tied at 38. After several more drives for each team stalled, San Diego Chargers lineman Leroy Jones blocked another von Schamann field goal attempt with less than 5 minutes to go in overtime. After the block, the San Diego Chargers drove back down the field and this time, Rolf Benirschke connected on a 29-yard field goal to give the San Diego Chargers the thrilling 41-38 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins. “The Epic in Miami” took a lot out of the San Diego Chargers as they couldn’t find their game in the AFC Championship game the next week in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bengals dominated the San Diego Chargers 27-7, once again denying the San Diego Chargers the opportunity to play in the NFL Championship Game.
The San Diego Chargers endured hard times from 1982 through 1991. Although the San Diego Chargers advanced to the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season, the San Diego Chargers lost to the Miami Dolphins in the 2nd round of the playoffs. From 1983 through 1991, the San Diego Chargers only recorded one winning season, an 8-7 record in the strike-shortened 1987 season. During that span, the team did not make the playoffs for 8 straight years. In 1992, the San Diego Chargers hired Booby Ross as their Head Coach and the team proceeded to lose each of its first 4 games. Miraculously though, the San Diego Chargers won 11 of its next 12 games to win the AFC West with an 11-5 record. The San Diego Chargers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 17-0 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but lost to the Miami Dolphins 31-0 in the Divisional round of the playoffs the next week. Although the San Diego Chargers finished with a .500 record the following season, the team was still maturing from its surprise 1992 playoff appearance. In 1994, things finally came full circle behind the steady running of Running Back Natrone Means and the defensive prowess of Linebacker Junior Seau. The San Diego Chargers finished atop the AFC West with an 11-5 record. In the Divisional round of the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers fell behind the Miami Dolphins 21-6 at halftime. But the San Diego Chargers defense took control in the 2nd half, limiting the Miami Dolphins to only 15 offensive plays during the last 2 quarters of the game. The San Diego Chargers regained the lead for good after a Stan Humphries touchdown pass to Mark Seay with less than a minute to play in the game. The San Diego Chargers defeated the Miami Dolphins 22-21. The next week, the San Diego Chargers once again found themselves behind at halftime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-3. However, the San Diego Chargers scored two 2nd half touchdowns, and limited the Pittsburgh Steelers to only 3 points in the 2nd half, to give the San Diego Chargers the upset 17-13 victory in hostile Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The San Diego Chargers finally advanced to their first (and to date only) Super Bowl berth. Unfortunately, the San Diego Chargers faced the high powered San Francisco 49ers offense and succumbed to the pressure of the big stage. Behind a record 6 touchdown passes by Steve Young, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49-26 to win its 5th Super Bowl Championship in 15 years. The San Diego Chargers would have to wait for its chance to bring an NFL Championship to the city of San Diego.
From 1996 through 2003, the San Diego Chargers did not record a single winning season. The San Diego Chargers finished 8-8 three different times in 1996, 1999 and 2002, but it was never good enough to make the playoffs during that 8-year span. The San Diego Chargers returned to glory in 2004 with a 12-4 record and a 1st place finish in the AFC West. Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer was named NFL Coach of the Year and Quarterback Drew Brees was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. The San Diego Chargers faced off against the New York Jets at home in the Divisional round of the playoffs, but fate was not on their side. Rookie Kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 40-yard field goal with the game tied at 17 at the end of regulation, and New York Jets Kicker Doug Brien went on to kick the 28-yard game winning field goal in overtime to give the New York Jets the 20-17 overtime victory. The future looks bright for the San Diego Chargers. The offense is led by young Quarterback Phillip Rivers, superstar Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson and spectacular Tight End Antonio Gates. Their young defense, led by Linebacker Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman, is also one of the up and coming defenses in the NFL. The San Diego Chargers should be competitive in the NFL for years to come.
After a disappointing 2005-6 season in which the San Diego Chargers won 9 games but failed to qualify for post-season play, the San Diego Chargers redeemed themselves by winning 14 games and finishing 1st in the AFC West during the 2006-7 NFL season. With a 1st round bye and home field advantage, the San Diego Chargers were shocked by the New England Patriots 24-21 in the divisional round of the playoffs. Following the season, in a personal dispute with General Manager A.J. Smith, long-time great head coach Marty Schottenheim resigned and was replaced with Head Coach Norv Turner. Despite a rough start to the season under Turner, the San Diego Chargers turned it around and finished with an 11-5 record which was good enough for a 2nd consecutive AFC West Division title. The San Diego Chargers defeated the Tennessee Titans 17-6 at home in the wild card round of the playoffs and then upset the defending Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts 28-24 in Indianapolis in the divisional round of the playoffs. In a daunting task against the 17-0 New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the San Diego Chargers fell just short of a 2nd franchise Super Bowl appearance when they lost 21-12. The Sand Diego Chargers offensive and defensive core still remains intact, so the San Diego Chargers should be a team to reckon with for the foreseeable future.
Hall of Famers
Seven men associated with the San Diego Chargers have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most notably, one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks, Dan Fouts, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993. Fouts was selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times during his career, he led the league in passing 4 seasons, he passed for over 4,000 yards in 3 consecutive years from 1979-1981 and he is only the 3rd NFL Quarterback of all-time to pass for over 40,000 yards during his career. Wide Receiver Lance Alworth played 9 years of his 11-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers. Alworth was the first San Diego Chargers player inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1978. Wide Receiver Charlie Joyner played the last 11 years of his 18-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers. Joyner was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1996. Tight End Kellen Winslow played his entire 9-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers. Winslow was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1995. Kellen Winslow’s son, also Kellen, is currently a Tight End in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns. Defensive End Deacon Jones only played for the San Diego Chargers for 2 seasons – he is more often remembered for his role with the Los Angeles Rams from 1961 through 1971. Jones was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980. Offensive Tackle Ron Mix played all but one year of his 12-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers. Mix was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1979. Lastly, Sid Gillman was the Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1960-1971. He coached the AFL Chargers in 5 AFL Championship Games from 1960 through 1965, and was the head coach when the San Diego Chargers won their first and only AFL Championship in 1963. Gillman was an innovator as well, becoming the first head coach to develop a more vertical passing attack between quarterbacks and wide receivers. Gillman was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1983.