The San Diego Chargers are no more.
The team's owner, Dean Spanos, announced today the team is relocating from San Diego to Los Angeles for the 2017 NFL season. The Chargers have been in San Diego for 56 years following their first year of existence in Los Angeles in the old American Football League.
They had success in the old AFL, winning the championship title in 1963 before eventually joining the NFL in the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that brought about the modern day league with the AFC and NFC conferences in the National Football League.
During the 1970's it was lean times for the team as they continually finished in the cellar of the AFC West division behind Oakland, Denver and Kansas City.
That began to change in 1978 when the team hired Don Coryell as Head Coach and the term "Air Coryell" soon followed up as the Chargers won division titles three straight seasons from 1979 to 1981 while leading the league in offense and scoring with Hall-of-Fame player Dan Fouts at quarterback.
Fouts teamed up with tight end Kellen Winslow, wide receivers Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson (and also Wes Chandler when Jefferson was traded to Green Bay in 1981) and running backs Chuck Muncie and James Brooks to form a formidable offense.
San Diego "SUPER Chargers" was the team's theme song.
The team twice lost in the AFC Championship games (1980 to Oakland and 1981 to Cincinnati) before falling back to mediocrity through the rest of the '80's and into the early 1990's. One of their most memorable games in the decade of the 1980's was the "Epic in Miami" in the 1981 playoffs when they outlasted the host Dolphins, 41-38 in overtime.
In that game, kicker Rolf Benerschke won the game with a 28-yard field goal but it was Kellen Winslow who stole the show, blocking a potential game winning field goal by the Dolphins in the OT session while also making numerous catches. The 'Bolts raced to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter before Miami mounted a fierce rally to get the game into overtime.
In the 1990's the team enjoyed their highest measure of success when they reached the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.
With Stan Humphries at quarterback and Natron Means (running back) and Tony Martin as the primary wide receiver, the Chargers offense did enough to complement the rugged defense, led by the late Junior Seau (linebacker) and defensive back Rodney Harrison, which propelled them to Super Bowl 29, where they were soundly defeated 49-26 against the San Francisco 49ers.
The team fell off again after that and hit rock bottom in the 2000 season, going 1-15 to earn the top draft pick heading into the 2001 season.
They got running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Drew Brees and they were on their way for the rest of the decade as they built the team up for the next four years.
In 2004, they picked Eli Manning with the top draft choice, but traded him for Philip Rivers (New
York Giants selection with 4th pick) because Manning played the prima dona role, stating he would not play for the Chargers.
The Chargers went 12-4 in 2004, winning the AFC West and making the playoffs for the first time in nine years. They lost in OT to the upstart New York Jets.
In 2005, they slipped to 9-7 with a talent laden roster that included future Hall-of-Fame players Drew Brees (QB) and LaDainian Tomlinson (RB) along with running backs in reserve Michael Turner and rookie Darren Sproles. Also included was tight end Antonio Gates and first year wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. The defense was led by rookie stud linebacker Shawne Merriman, who led the NFL with 17 QB sacks.
The 2006 season saw the Chargers go 14-2 and run away with the division title and the best record in the NFL. Tomlinson had a MONSTER season, leading the NFL in rushing while scoring 31 touchdowns (28 rushing TD) to set the records for scoring by an individual player in a single season. In fact, Tomlinson outscored the Oakland Raiders team by himself in the 2006 season.
However, once again the team fell short in the playoffs, losing 24-21 to the New England Patriots. They blew an 11-point lead and inexplicably went away from giving the ball to LT in the second half, a mistake which would cost Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer his job.
Norv Turner was hired in the off-season and the 2007 Chargers team went 11-5 and again won the AFC West (the second of four consecutive division titles) and this time around they won TWO playoff games, beating Tennessee 17-6 in the Wild Card round and then stunning the heavily favored and defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, 28-24 as Rivers and LT suffered knee injuries that knocked them both out of the game.
Once again, the New England Patriots proved to be too much as they beat the 'Bolts, 21-12 in snowy New England in the AFC Championship Game. Tomlinson sat for much of the game as he could not rebound from his knee injury suffered the week before. Rivers played through his knee injury, but it wasn't enough.
Both 2008 (8-8 finish) and 2009 (13-3) produced division titles, but again the team lost in the playoffs, falling short of the Super Bowl. Tomlinson was released following that season as well as Merriman and eventually others followed their exits one by one as the team fell back to mediocrity the last seven seasons. The only playoff appearance was in 2013 with Rivers leading the way on offense.
In fact, only Rivers and Gates remain (on offense) from the "glory years" of 2004-2009.
So now it is on to Los Angeles for the Chargers, back where it all began for the team back in 1960 when the team was founded.
Thanks for the memories.