San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers were one of the most exciting teams in the AFL under head coach Sid Gillman in the 1960s. Moreover, under head coach Don Coryell, the Chargers broke all passing records in the early 1980s. But there were also lows: Championship games were mostly lost, and also their only Super Bowl appearance ended with a loss for the Chargers.
In 1959, Barron Hilton, a 32 year old hotel manager from Southern California, participated in the founding of the AFL and received the highly coveted franchise for Los Angeles. He also landed a big coup when he searched for a coach for the team: He succeeded in enticing Sid Gillman away from the Los Angeles Rams. Gillman then put together a team that was most certainly among the most spectacular of the young AFL. The high-risk game of the Chargers, led by quarterback John Hadl and wide receiver Lance Alworth, wowed the audience and led to many points on the scoreboard.
The Chargers – who already moved to the neighboring city San Diego in the second year – dominated their division in the early 1960s and were in the AFL Championship Game five times between 1960 and 1966. They were not very successful in these games, though. Only in 1963 they were able to come out on top with a convincing 55:10 victory over the Boston Patriots. However, with their game, the Chargers contributed a lot to the emerging respect of the NFL for the AFL and the merger of the two leagues in the 1960s.
In 1967, the Chargers moved to their current stadium, but the glorious early days faded away slowly and Gillman resigned in 1971. Although the Chargers drafted Dan Fouts, a new quarterback, the team from the “ocean’s pearl” was not able to become more successful again.
However, this changed abruptly when Don Coryell, a new head coach took over the team during the 1978 season. With him he brought his passing system which was already very successful during his time at the St. Louis Cardinals and which was the successor of the popular “West Coast offense” that you can see watching San Diego Chargers online today. The system also put quarterback Dan Fouts back on the map. With the so-called “Air Coryell” offense, Fouts and his pass receivers, including wide receiver Charlie Joiner and tight end Kellen Winslow, led the Chargers into the AFC Championship Game in 1980 and 1981, but both times the Chargers were not able to move on into the Super Bowl.
Because of injuries and resignations, the Chargers then quickly lost its effectiveness again, in 1986 Coryell left the team and a year later Fouts resigned. Only under head coach Bobby Ross, who took over the control in 1992, the San Diego Chargers experienced another boom: In his first year, Ross led the team back into the playoffs. In 1994 they reached the Super Bowl after a surprising 17:14 triumph in the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. There, they were defeated defeat, however, by the superior San Francisco 49ers with a score of 26:49.
After this defeat, the Chargers became more and more unsuccessful in their division. In 2000, a season with only a single victory marked the low point in the team’s history. However, in 2001, owner Alex G. Spanos – who ownd the team since 1984, team owner – was able to hire John Butler, a highly experienced General Manager. In the same year, they also drafted running back LaDainian Tomlinson, under whose leadership, the Chargers were able to re-establish themselves among the top teams of the NFL.