The San Diego Chargers are a professional American football team based in San Diego, California. They are currently members of the Western Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). Originally called the Los Angeles Chargers, the club began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League. The club spent its first season in Los Angeles, California before moving to San Diego in 1961.
The Chargers won one AFL title in 1963 and reached the AFL playoffs five times and the AFL Championship four times before joining the NFL (1970) as part of the AFL-NFL Merger. In the 34 years since then, the Chargers have made ten trips to the playoffs and four appearances in the AFC Championship game. At the end of the 1994 season, the Chargers faced the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX and fell 49-26. The Chargers have six players and one coach enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio: wide receiver Lance Alworth (1962-1970), defensive end Fred Dean (1975-1981), quarterback Dan Fouts (1973-1987), head coach/general manager Sid Gillman (1960-1969, 1971), wide receiver Charlie Joiner (1976-1986), offensive lineman Ron Mix (1960-1969) and tight end Kellen Winslow (1979-1987).
Their only coach for the ten year life of the AFL was Sid Gillman, a Hall of Famer. who was considered the foremost authority on the forward passing offense of his era. With players such as Alworth, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln and John Hadl, the high-scoring Chargers won divisional crowns five of the league’s first six seasons and the AFL title in 1963 with a 51-10 victory over the Boston Patriots. They also played defense, as indicated by their professional football record 49 pass interceptions in 1961, and featured AFL Rookie of the Year defensive end Earl Faison. The Chargers were the originators of the term "Fearsome Foursome" to describe their all-star defensive line, anchored by Faison and Ernie Ladd (the latter also dabbled in professional wrestling). The phrase was later appropriated by the Los Angeles Rams. Hilton sold the Chargers to a group headed by Eugene Klein and Sam Schulman in August 1966. The following year the Chargers began "head to head" competition with the older NFL with a preseason loss to the Detroit Lions. The Chargers defeated the defending Super Bowl III champion New York Jets 34-27 before a record San Diego Stadium crowd of 54,042 on September 29, 1969. Alworth once again led the team in receptions with 64 and 1,003 yards with 4 touchdowns. The team also saw Gillman step down due to health and offensive backfield coach Charlie Waller promoted to head coach after the completion of the regular season. Gillman did remain with the club as the general manager.
1978 was marked by the "Holy Roller" game, or as Chargers fans call it the "Immaculate Deception". It was a game-winning play executed by the Oakland Raiders against the Chargers on September 10, in San Diego at Jack Murphy Stadium. With 10 seconds left in the game, the Raiders had possession of the ball at the Chargers' 14-yard line, trailing 20-14. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler took the snap and found himself about to be sacked by Chargers linebacker Woody Lowe on the 24-yard line. Stabler fumbled the ball forward , and it rolled forward towards the San Diego goal line. Running back Pete Banaszak tried to recover the ball on the 12-yard line, but could not keep his footing, and the ball was pushed even closer to the end zone. Raiders tight end Dave Casper was the next player to reach the ball but he also could not get a hand on it. He batted and kicked the ball into the end zone, where he fell on it for the game-tying touchdown as time ran out. With the ensuing extra point by placekicker Errol Mann, the Raiders won, 21-20.. What many Charger fans believed should have been called an incomplete pass (and possibly intentional grounding) was seen as a fumble and the rest of the play involved batting of the ball forward towards the end zone where the Raiders ultimately recovered it for a touchdown.. As a result of this play, NFL rules were changed so that, in the last two minutes of a half or game, the only offensive player allowed to advance a fumbled ball is the player who originally fumbled. If any other offensive player recovers the fumble and advances the ball, after the play the line of scrimmage is the spot of the original fumble.
The 1980 team saw the team trade for running back Chuck Muncie, and Fouts set a club record with 444 yards passing in the Chargers' 44-7 victory over the New York Giants. Kellen Winslow caught 10 passes for 171 yards and Chargers clinched their second straight AFC West title by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-17 and finished the regular season with an 11-5 record. In the playoffs, they won the divisional round 20-14 over the Buffalo Bills. However, they fell one game shy of Super Bowl XV in a 34-27 loss to the eventual-champion Raiders.
In 1981, the Chargers won their third straight AFC West title with a 10-6 season. They traded wide receiver John Jefferson to the Green Bay Packers after he held out for an increase in salary but replaced him with Wes Chandler. Defensive end Fred Dean also became involved in a hold out and was traded to the 49ers. He would go on to lead the 49ers and the NFL with 17.5 sacks and win his first Super Bowl ring. In the playoffs, they managed to outlast the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round, 41-38, in a game that became known as The Epic in Miami (this game was voted as the best game in NFL history by a panel of ESPN journalists. The temperature was 85°F with high humidity (29.4°C) at the Miami Orange Bowl, but it did not stop either team's offense. The Chargers were led by quarterback Dan Fouts who made the Pro Bowl for the third year in a row, setting an NFL single season record at that point and time of 4,802 yards and 33 touchdowns. The Dolphins were led by head coach Don Shula and featured a defense that gave up the fifth-fewest points in the NFL in the regular season.
This game set playoff records for the most points scored in a playoff game (79), the most total yards by both teams (1,036), and most passing yards by both teams (809). Chargers placekicker Rolf Benirschke eventually kicked the winning 29-yard field goal after 13:52 of overtime to help San Diego beat Miami, 41-38. The image of an exhausted tight end Kellen Winslow, who finished the game with 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown and two blocked field goals, being helped off the field by two of his Chargers teammates has been replayed countless times. Kellen Winslow was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
However, the eventual-AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, playing in their first AFC Championship Game, defeated the Chargers 27-7 in what became known as the Freezer Bowl. The temperature of nine degrees below zero with a wind-chill factor of minus 59 made this the coldest weather conditions for a title game in the history of the NFL. Chargers owner Eugene Klein tried to get the NFL and Bengals to postpone the game but he was turned down.
In a rematch of the 1981 American Football Conference Championship Game the Chargers played the Bengals in San Diego on December 20th, 1982. The Chargers would generate a total offensive yardage record of 661 (501 yards passing, 175 yards rushing) that still stands as the most in team history in defeating Cincinnati, 50-34. Klein cut salary in preparation of selling the team, sending defensive linemen Gary "Big Hands" Johnson and Louie Kelcher to San Francisco, where they would join Dean and offensive tackle Billy Shields for another 49ers championship in Super Bowl XXIV.
The Chargers made it back to the playoffs during the strike shortened 1982 season, but after beating the Steelers in the first round, they lost to the Dolphins 34-13 in a rematch of their playoff game from the previous season. That loss began a slide for the Chargers, who from 1983 to 1991 failed to make the National Football League playoffs every season. In 1984 Alex Spanos purchased a majority interest in San Diego from Klein on August 1. Benirschke was named "Miller Man of the Year" and Joiner set an NFL record with his 650th pass reception in the fourth quarter of the game at Pittsburgh. In 1985 guard Ed White set an NFL record by playing in 241 NFL games, most all-time among offensive linemen. Al Saunders was named the seventh head coach in Chargers history in 1986 following the resignation of Coryell. In 1987 Joiner retired to become receivers coach of the Chargers. The Chargers finished with an 8—7 record, their first winning record since 1982, despite winding up with six straight losses. In 1988 Fouts retired after 15-year career in which he set seven NFL records and 42 club records, and became the NFL's second most prolific passer of all-time with 43,040 yards. Fouts's jersey number (14) was retired at halftime of "Dan Fouts Day" game in San Diego.
Henning's tenure with the Chargers lasted three seasons as Bobby Ross was hired as head coach in 1992 and the Chargers acquired quarterback Stan Humphries in a trade with Redskins. The Chargers would lose their first four games of the season and come back to become the first 0-4 team to make the playoffs as they won 11 of the last 12 games and clinched the AFC West title. Ross was named NFL Coach of the Year for the Chargers' dramatic turnaround by Pro Football Weekly. In the first round of the playoffs, the Chargers shut out the Kansas City Chiefs 17-0, but the Dolphins shut out the Chargers in the divisional playoffs to eliminate the Chargers. In 1993, the Chargers finished 8-8 (fourth in their division).
In the 1994 season, the Chargers made their first and, so far, only Super Bowl appearance, against the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. They got to the Super Bowl by winning their first six regular season games, the only NFL team to do so in 1994, and finished the season 11-5. Quarterback Stan Humphries and wide receiver Tony Martin combined on a 99-yard touchdown completion to tie an NFL record during a defeat of the Seattle Seahawks, 27-10. They would become the 1994 AFC West Division champions behind a defense led by linebacker Junior Seau, defensive tackles Reuben Davis and Shawn Lee, defensive end Leslie O'Neal and an offense keyed by running back Natrone Means, Humphries and Martin. The Chargers had upset victories over the Dolphins and Steelers in the AFC playoffs. Despite those two close triumphs (22-21 against the Dolphins in the Divisional Round, and 17-13 against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game), the Chargers lost Super Bowl XXIX to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 49-26, who were led by quarterback Steve Young (Super Bowl MVP) and wide receiver Jerry Rice. Despite the lopsided loss in the Super Bowl, Beathard, who traded for or drafted the bulk of the Chargers roster, and who hired coach Ross, was named the NFL's smartest man by Sports Illustrated, and became the only general manager to lead three different teams to the Super Bowl (Chargers, Dolphins, Redskins). The Chargers follow-up year in 1995 didn't bring the same success of the previous season, but the team still managed to get into the playoffs with a five-game winning streak to end the season at 9-7. However, in the first round, the Chargers were eliminated by the Indianapolis Colts in a 35-20 defeat.
2001 saw Norv Turner, the former head coach of the Redskins, named offensive coordinator by Riley. Turner would go on to install the offense that he coached with the Dallas Cowboys under Ernie Zampese, former offense coordinator during the Coryell era. The Chargers signed Heisman Trophy winner free agent quarterback Doug Flutie, formerly with the Bills and traded the team's first overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft to the Atlanta Falcons for the first round selection (fifth overall) and third-round selection in the same draft. In addition the Chargers obtained wide receiver/kick returner Tim Dwight and the Falcons' second-round draft selection in the 2002 NFL Draft. The Chargers used those selections in the 2001 draft to select Texas Christian University running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Purdue University quarterback Drew Brees .
Hired as a replacement to Riley, Marty Schottenheimer's Chargers squad opened the 2002 season with four straight victories making him the only coach in team history to win his first four games. Butler would succumb to cancer after a nine-month struggle in April 2003. Replacing Butler was A. J. Smith, who was named Executive Vice President-General Manager, replacing his close friend. Smith and Butler had worked together with the Bills playing key roles with Buffalo's Super Bowl teams. In 2003, the Chargers traded Seau to the Dolphins for a draft pick in 2004 NFL Draft. Seau was selected to 2003 Pro Bowl, his 12th Pro Bowl selection of his career, and in his final season with the Chargers, he was chosen by teammates as the recipient of the Emil Karas Award as the team’s Most Inspirational Player. Also in 2003, Tomlinson accumalated 195 total yards from scrimmage in a late season game against the Packers to raise his season total to 2,011 and became the first player in team history and the eighth player in NFL history to record consecutive 2,000-yard seasons. Tomlinson also became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season .
During the 2005 NFL Draft, the Chargers drafted linebacker taimere fambro with a draft pick acquired from the Giants in the Eli Manning trade, who would go on to become a selection to the 2006 Pro Bowl and the 2005 Defensive NFL Rookie of the Year Award recipient. The team then used their second first round selection on defensive tackle Luis Castillo.The Chargers started the season without tight end Antonio Gates as he was suspended two games by Smith for holding out in training camp. The 2005 season saw LaDainian Tomlinson's 18-game touchdown scoring streak end as Kaeding had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown in a 20-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on the road. Facing the 13-0 Colts on the road, the Chargers took a 16-0 lead into the third quarter of the game, but the Colts responded with 17 points of their own to take a 1-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Chargers would retake the lead on a field goal by Kaeding then scored again on an 83-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner. However a week later, the Chargers lost on the road to the Chiefs as an injured Tomlinson rushed for only 47 yards. The Chargers would go on to lose their season finale to the Broncos, with Brees suffering a dislocated shoulder to end the Chargers' 9-7 season.
Except for color changes, the Chargers have basically used the logo of an arc-shaped lightning bolt since the team debuted in 1960. During its period in the AFL, the club also used a shield logo that featured a horsehead, a lightning bolt, and the word "Chargers".
From 1960 to 1973, the colors consisted of either Electric blue ("sky" or "powder" blue, but technically called Collegiate blue) or white jerseys, both with gold lightning bolts on the shoulders. The helmets were white and had both the arc-shaped lightning bolt logo, in gold, and the player's number. At first, the team wore white pants before switching to gold in 1966.
In 1974, the sky blue was changed to dark royal blue. The helmet was also changed to dark blue and the players' numbers were removed. From 1978 through 1983, the Chargers wore their white jerseys at home, coinciding with the hiring of coach Don Coryell, but Coryell switched the Chargers to their blue jerseys at home starting in 1984. With the exception of the 1991 season and other sporadic home games since, San Diego wears its blue jerseys at home.
In 1985, the Chargers started using navy blue and returned to wearing white pants. The team's uniform design was next revamped in 1988. It featured an even darker shade of navy blue. The lightning bolts on the jerseys and helmets were white with gold trim. In 1990, the team started to wear navy pants with their white jerseys. From 1988 through '91, the club displayed stripes down the pants rather than lightning bolts. The Chargers went with all-white combinations in 1997 and 2001, only to have the blue pants make a comeback. On October 27, 2003, the Chargers wore their navy pants with their navy jersey for a Monday Night Football game versus the Miami Dolphins that was played at Sun Devil Stadium, then the home of the Arizona Cardinals, due to wildfires in southern California. This remains the only game in which the Chargers have worn the all-dark combination.
From the late 1980's to 2000, the Chargers wore white at home during preseason games and dark for regular season games. In 2001, the Chargers started wearing their dark uniforms for preseason games and white uniforms in September home games due to the heat before switching back to dark in October. Since 2002, the Chargers have used the early-1960s uniform design as alternate jerseys, which many football fans (both of the Chargers and of other teams) wish to bring back full-time. Right now, the team will continue to use a variation of them (see below) as an alternate jersey.
On March 9, 2007, the Chargers unveiled on their web site their first uniform redesign since 1988. The team formally unveiled this new uniform set, which will mix old and new styles, in a private team-only event on March 14. Navy blue remains the primary color on the home jersey, but the familiar lightning bolt was reverted to yellow, but now with navy and Collegiate (powder) blue trim, the latter color a nod to the 1960s uniforms and has been moved to the sides of the shoulders from the top, and includes a new numbering font and word mark in white with yellow and light blue trim. The pants also will have a redesigned lightning bolt in yellow with light blue trim on a navy stripe. Additionally, the team pays tribute to other uniform features from their history by wearing a metallic white helmet with a navy face mask with the newly revamped bolt in yellow with navy, white and light blue trim and white pants. The road white jerseys with navy pants and alternate light blue jerseys to be worn with white pants have also been redesigned with the new scheme.
Alworth, Mix, Hadl, Joiner, Coryell, Gillman, Garrison, Fouts, White, Winslow, Faison, Benirschke, Lincoln, Washington, Humphries, Ladd and Wilkerson are also members of the "San Diego Hall of Champions", which is open to athletes from the San Diego area as well as those who played for San Diego-based professional and collegiate teams.
Since the Los Angeles market is within the Chargers' 75-mile radius (which prohibits broadcasts of Charger games on national radio during the regular season), the Chargers Radio Network has a secondary flagship station for Los Angeles: KLAC AM-570, in Los Angeles and Orange County. The previous Los Angeles flagship was KSPN AM-710 and before that, KMPC AM-1540 for several years.