The San Diego Chargers are a professional football team based in San Diego, California. They have been members of the Western Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL) since 1970. The club began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League, and spent its first season in Los Angeles, California before moving to San Diego in 1961. The Chargers play their home games at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers continue to be the only NFL team based in Southern California, with no teams in Los Angeles since 1994.
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 thirteen 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).
Main article: History of the San Diego Chargers
The following text needs to be harmonized with text in History of the San Diego Chargers.
1959–1969: AFL beginnings
The San Diego Chargers were established with seven other American Football League teams in 1959. In 1960, the Chargers began AFL play in Los Angeles. The Chargers' original owner was hotel heir Barron Hilton, son of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton.
According to the official site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Barron Hilton agreed after his general manager, Frank Leahy, picked the Chargers name when he purchased an AFL franchise for Los Angeles: “I liked it because they were yelling ‘charge’ and sounding the bugle at Dodgers Stadium and at USC games.” The Chargers played in Los Angeles in 1960 and moved to San Diego in 1961. From 1961 to 1966 their home field was Balboa Stadium in Balboa Park. As of August 1967, they moved to the newly constructed Qualcomm Stadium (then named San Diego Stadium), where they still play their home games.
The Chargers only spent one season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961. The early AFL years of the San Diego Chargers were highlighted by the outstanding play of wide receiver Lance Alworth with 543 receptions for 10,266 yards in his 11-AFL/NFL-season career. In addition he set the pro football record of consecutive games with a reception (96) during his career.
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 Lance "Bambi" 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 excelled 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 four 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.
In 1970, the Chargers were placed into the AFC West division after the NFL merger with the AFL. But by then, the Chargers fell on hard times; Gillman, who had returned as general manager, stepped down in 1971, and many of the Charger players from the 1960s had already either retired or had been traded. The Chargers acquired veteran players like Deacon Jones and Johnny Unitas, however it was at the later stages of their careers and the team struggled, placing third or fourth in the AFC West each year from 1970 to 1978.
Main article: 1978 San Diego Chargers season
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, 1978, 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, down 20–14. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler took the snap and found himself about to be sacked by Chargers linebacker Woodrow 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 kicker 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 fumble 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.
1979–1988: Fouts and Air Coryell
Main article: 1979 San Diego Chargers season
Kellen Winslow in 2008. 1979 marked a turning point for the Chargers franchise as The Sporting News named team general manager John Sanders NFL Executive of the Year after balloting of other NFL executives. Fouts set an NFL record with his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game, in a game in which he threw for 303 yards against the Raiders. Coached by Don Coryell (with an offense nicknamed "Air Coryell"), featuring Fouts throwing to tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receivers John Jefferson and Charlie Joiner, they clinched their first playoff berth in 14 years with a 35–0 victory against the New Orleans Saints. On December 17, the Chargers defeated the Denver Broncos 17–7 for their first AFC West division title since the AFL-NFL merger before a national Monday Night Football television audience and their home crowd. Their time in the playoffs was short as they would lose to the Houston Oilers 17–14 in the divisional round. Ron Mix became the second AFL player and second Charger to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, during halftime of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl.
Main article: 1980 San Diego Chargers season
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. Jefferson (1,340), Winslow (1,290), and Joiner (1,132) became the first trio on the same team to have 1,000 yards receiving in a season. The Chargers' defense led the NFL in sacks (60) spearheaded by the frontline of 1975 Chargers' draftees Dean, Gary "Big Hands" Johnson and Louie Kelcher. The trio, along with Leroy Jones formed a defensive frontline that was locally nicknamed Bruise Brothers, coined from a popular act at the time, The Blues Brothers. 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.
Main article: 1981 San Diego Chargers season
In 1981, the Chargers won their third straight AFC West title with a 10–6 season. After the division titles of the 1979 and 1980 seasons, contract disputes arose and owner Klein would refuse to renegotiate players' contracts. 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 Dean also became involved in a hold out and was traded to the 49ers. Dean contends he was making the same amount of money as his brother-in-law who was a truck driver. Dean would win UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year (while playing in only 11 games) that same year en route to a Super Bowl victory and help the 49ers to another Super Bowl title two years later. Dean's loss was particularly damaging to the Chargers' Super Bowl chances as the defense weakened afterwards, surrendering the most passing yards in the NFL in both 1981 and 1982.
In the 1981 playoffs, the Chargers managed to outlast the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round, 41–38, in a game that became known as The Epic in Miami. The 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 one blocked field goal, 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.
"I can't say how much it affected us, because we did make it to the AFC championship game," said Johnson on the loss of fellow lineman Dean. "But I could say if we had more pass rush from the corner, it might've been different. "
During the strike shortened 1982 season, Fouts averaged what is still a record of 320 yards passing per game. Highlights that season included back-to-back victories against the 1981 Super Bowl teams San Francisco (41–37) and Cincinnati (50–34) in which Fouts threw for over 400 yards in each game to lead the Chargers to shootout victories. The December 20th, 1982 Cincinnati game was a rematch of the 1981 AFC Championship Game. 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. Also during the year, Chandler, set the record of 129 yards receiving per game that is still an NFL record. The Chargers made it back to the playoffs, 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 playoffs every season.
In 1984, Klein cut salary in preparation of selling the team, sending defensive linemen Johnson and Kelcher to San Francisco, where they would join Dean and offensive tackle Billy Shields for another 49ers championship in Super Bowl XXIV. Alex Spanos purchased a majority interest in San Diego from Klein on August 1. Alex G. Spanos still owns 97% of the team and George Pernicano owns the other 3%. 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. Lionel "Little Train" James, a mere 5'6" and 171 pound running back, set NFL record of 2,535 all-purpose yards while also setting a record of 1,027 receiving yards by a running back. 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 a 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.
1989–1995: Super Bowl bound
In 1989, Dan Henning, a former Chargers quarterback, Washington Redskins assistant, and Atlanta Falcons head coach, was named the eighth head coach in Chargers history. Marion Butts set a club record with 39 carries and a team rookie record with 176 yards in Chargers' 20–13 win in Kansas City. After a three-year stint as Director of Football Operations, Steve Ortmayer was released after the season and replaced by Bobby Beathard.
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 the Washington 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 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).
1994: AFC Champions
Main article: 1994 San Diego Chargers season
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).
Main article: 1995 San Diego Chargers season
The Chargers follow-up year in 1995 did not 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.
1996–2003: Losing seasons and mediocrity
In 1996, running back Rodney Culver and his wife, Karen, were killed in the crash of ValuJet Airlines Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. Culver was the second player in team history to die while on the active roster after David Griggs was killed in a one-car accident in Davie, Florida 11 months earlier. 1997 would find Ross and Beathard at odds with one another and would result in Ross and his staff being released. The Chargers selected Kevin Gilbride to become their new head coach. Gilbride, whose coaching background with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oilers featured a more open passing attack would mark a major change in offensive style from the ball control ground game of Ross. Beathard drafted quarterback Ryan Leaf after the Indianapolis Colts selected Peyton Manning with the first pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. The Chargers ended up trading several players and draft choices to the Arizona Cardinals in order to move up to the second pick and select Leaf. Leaf turned out to be arguably the biggest bust in NFL history. His poor play and attitude caused his departure after the 2000 season. In 1998, the Chargers went 5–11. Said safety Rodney Harrison, "If I had to go through another year like that, I'd probably quit playing".
The Chargers drafted running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001.
The Chargers would see the team struggle in pass protection resulting in Humphries suffering several concussions and his retirement from the game. Gilbride was replaced by interim head coach June Jones, who was on the Chargers' staff before the hire. Jones would leave the team at the end of the season to coach at the University of Hawaii and the Chargers would name former Oregon State University head coach Mike Riley as their new head coach. Leaf wound up having a disappointing career with the Chargers after a great deal of controversy with both the Charger management as well as the press and his teammates. His failure to be the player the team envisioned was seen as a black mark on the franchise and will be remembered by some as one of the worst draft/trades in the history of pro football. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who was acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for a conditional draft choice in 2000, became the Chargers starting quarterback. Beathard retired in April 2000 and was replaced January 2001 by John Butler, former general manager of the Bills. From 1996 to 2003, the Chargers had eight-straight seasons where they were .500 or worse.
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 Jimmy Johnson. Turner learned the offense from Ernie Zampese, former offensive coordinator during the Coryell era, while the two were on the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff. 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.
2004–09: Contending, Drew Brees and the Philip Rivers era
Vincent Jackson #83 and Antonio Gates #85 in 2008 Although the Chargers were tied with three other teams for the worst record of the 2003 NFL season, the league’s tie-breaking system gave San Diego the number one pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. With this pick, the Chargers selected quarterback Eli Manning from the University of Mississippi despite Manning's stated desire to play elsewhere. New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, who had been in trade negotiations for several weeks before the draft with the Chargers, selected quarterback Philip Rivers fourth and traded him along with additional draft picks to the Chargers. Rivers was expected to compete for the starting quarterback job, but he held out of training camp in a contract dispute. Drew Brees, who received the majority of snaps at quarterback during Rivers's hold out, would retain the starting quarterback position. The team earned a trip back to the postseason in 2004 by capturing the AFC West division title with a 12–4 regular season record. The Chargers entered the first round of the playoffs but were eliminated by the New York Jets, who won in overtime 20–17. Rookie kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 40-yard field goal that would have advanced San Diego into the next round, thus opening the door for a Jets victory. Despite an abrupt ending to their season, Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer was named NFL Coach of the Year for the season, and Brees was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Philip Rivers drops back to pass in 2006. During the 2005 NFL Draft, the Chargers drafted linebacker Shawne Merriman 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 one-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. Brees, whose contract expired at the end of that season, left the team and would sign with the New Orleans Saints.
The 2006 campaign would see the Chargers set the team's single-season record for wins with 14, while Tomlinson would enjoy the finest statistical season of his career, leading the league with 1,815 rushing yards and setting an NFL single-season record by scoring 31 touchdowns. However, the team would come up short in the playoffs again, blowing a fourth quarter lead at home in a 24–21 loss to the New England Patriots. In the ensuing offseason, massive changes occurred to the coaching staff, as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron left to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, while defensive coordinator Wade Phillips would fill the head coaching vacancy with the Dallas Cowboys. After a brief struggle for control over filling these vacancies, team owner Dean Spanos fired Schottenheimer, ending the dysfunction between him and GM A. J. Smith, replacing him with Norv Turner, who had been a head coach with two other NFL teams and had previously served the Chargers as offensive coordinator.
The 2007 season began with the team trying to equal their 2006 regular season success (14–2) and avoid another early departure in the playoffs. After a disappointing start under new head coach Norv Turner (1–3), they finished the regular season strong, with six straight wins, an overall record of 11–5, and the AFC West title. More importantly, they went further in the playoffs than the previous year, but fell again to the New England Patriots, this time in the AFC Championship game.
San Diego Chargers playing against rival Denver Broncos in 2008.
After beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, December 21, 2008, the Chargers stood at 7–8, one game behind the Denver Broncos. Denver's loss to the Buffalo Bills later that same day created a primetime showdown between Denver and San Diego in San Diego for the AFC West Championship, as well as the fourth seed in the playoffs. The Chargers won the 2008 AFC West championship in convincing fashion by beating Denver in a 52–21 blowout. On January 3, 2009, the Chargers defeated the Indianapolis Colts 23–17 in overtime to advance to the AFC Divisional Playoff round. On January 11, 2009, the Chargers were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers 35–24 in the AFC Divisional Game ending the 2008 season.
Main article: 2009 San Diego Chargers season
The Chargers started the 2009 campaign slowly, with a 2–3 record, a trend under coach Norv Turner (1–3 in 2007 & 2–3 in 2008). By that time, the Broncos were 6–0, and had a 31⁄2 game lead over the Chargers. Most pundits said the AFC West was already decided and the Chargers would have to play for the wildcard. Most fans wanted the coach to be fired, especially after a lackluster performance at Oakland & Pittsburgh. But then, like all of their seasons under Turner, they played their best football at the end of the regular season. This was a season of the continual improvement of Philip Rivers & the passing game, and LaDainian Tomlinson no longer being the focus of the offense. Rivers threw for 4,254 yards (8th), 28 TD's (tied-6th), 8.8 yards per passing attempt (1st), 64 completions of 20+ yards (1st), only 9 INT's (4th with a minimum 400 pass attempts), and a 104.4 passer rating (3rd – only beaten by Drew Brees & Brett Favre). They would go on to win the AFC West, (their 4th straight division title, only Oakland with five straight 1972–1976 is better), along the way blowing out the Denver Broncos with a convincing 32–3 victory at Denver and defeating every NFC East team. They finished the regular season with 11 straight wins (tying the 1961 team record & is also tied for the 5th longest win streak entering the playoffs), finished with an impressive 13–3 record, (including 4–0 in December, extending their NFL record with 18 straight wins in December, & also tying the Dolphins 1970–1974 in November for the longest winning streak in any month). They locked up the second seed as well as a first round bye but this served them no advantage in the playoffs as they lost at home to the Jets 17–14 (the only home team with a bye to lose in the divisional round).
2010–2012: End of the Norv Turner/AJ Smith era.
Main article: 2010 San Diego Chargers season
2010 was the 1st season without LaDainian Tomlinson since 2000 (let go by management due to an over-sized contract relative to production and other issues, he went on to lead the Jets in rushing with 914 yards & tied for 3rd in receptions with 52). The 2010 campaign started off slowly again, this time 2–5 (including losses to some of the worst teams in football at the time – KC, OAK, SEA & STL). The losses were due to turnovers & mental mistakes by young players on special teams allowing blocked punts & kick/punt return TD's. The loss to Oakland ended their 13-game winning streak against the Raiders since their last loss on September 28, 2003. The Chargers then went on another second half run with four straight wins but this time instead of keeping the streak going the entire second half they had a big let down losing at home to the Raiders again, this time 28–13 (ending their shared NFL record, with the Dolphins, of 18 straight wins in December). Despite the loss, they still had a chance to win their 5th straight AFC West title, tying the Raiders, but they had another bad loss at the Bengals 34–20 ending their chances. The Chargers beat Denver to end the season with a 9–7 record & out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005. They finished the season as the 8th team in NFL history to rank #1 in overall offense (395.6 yards/game), and overall defense (271.6 yards/game), and became only the 2nd of those teams to not make the playoffs (1953 Eagles 7–4–1). They were second to the Colts in passing yards per game (282.4), second to the Patriots in points scored per game (27.6), 1st in passing yards allowed per game (177.8), 4th in rushing yards allowed per game (93.8), and tied for 2nd in sacks (47). On the negative stat sheet, they gave up the most punt return yards per game (18.9) & had 29 turnovers. Philip Rivers had another great season with a career-high 4,710 yards (#1 in the NFL), 294 yards passing per game (tied for 1st with Manning), 66% completion pct. (third to Brees & Manning), 30 TD's, only 13 INT's & a 101.8 passer rating (second to Brady). Mike Tolbert 11 rushing TD's & Antonio Gates 10 receiving TD's were among the league leaders in TD's scored. On defense, Shaun Phillips' 11 sacks were in the top 10.
With the special teams failure of the 2010 season campaign, the Chargers hoped to rebound with a strong performance to start the season, and a way to overcome slow starts.
Main article: 2011 San Diego Chargers season
The Chargers started off the 2011 season with a 4–1 campaign, with their only loss to the New England Patriots. From that point on, however, the Chargers began a six game skid with losses to the Jets, Chiefs, Packers, Raiders, Bears, and Broncos, with the first four by only a score and against Denver in overtime. Injuries to both the offensive and the defensive line have hit the Chargers hard. But finally on December 5, 2011, the Chargers got their first win in over a month against the Jacksonville Jaguars, beating their also-struggling team. The Chargers then began a three-game winning streak most notably beating the Ravens by more than any team has beat them this season. However, the Chargers were beaten, 38–10, by the Detroit Lions to drop their record to 7–8 and eliminate the possibility of being in the playoffs. After a 38–26 victory over the Raiders in week 17, the Chargers finished at 8–8 and in a numerical tie for first place in the AFC West along with Oakland and Denver. However, the Chargers were beaten out by Denver for the Division Title via tie-breaker.
Main article: 2012 San Diego Chargers season
On October 21, 2012, a line judge saw what he thought was a suspicious substance on hand towels used by the players. If the NFL determined the Chargers were using banned adhesives during game time, they would've suffered the consequences, such as a fine or loss of an important draft pick for next season. However, on November 7, the league announced that the Chargers did not cheat, though the team was fined $20,000. After missing the playoffs for the third straight season in 2012, the Chargers fired general manager Smith and head coach Turner.
2013-present: A New Era
The Chargers made offseason changes including a new General Manager, Tom Telesco, and head coach, Mike McCoy, the former offensive coordinator for the rival Denver Broncos.
Main article: 2013 San Diego Chargers season
On January 9, 2013, the Chargers announced that Tom Telesco, former Vice President of Football Operations with the Indianapolis Colts, would take over as General Manager following the firing of A. J. Smith. On January 15, 2013, Broncos offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, was hired as the new head coach and Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator. The San Diego Chargers selected D. J. Fluker, Manti Te'o, and Keenan Allen in the first three rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Chargers finished the 2013 season 9-7 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They entered the playoffs as the sixth seed. On January 5, 2014, the Chargers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium (27-10) to advance to the AFC Divisional Playoff Round. The Chargers then lost to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High the following Sunday, January 12, 2014 (24-17).
Main article: 2014 San Diego Chargers season
On January 13, 2014, the Tennessee Titans hired Ken Whisenhunt, former Chargers' offensive coordinator, as their new head coach. On January 14, 2014, the Chargers announced Frank Reich would replace Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator. Reich spent last season as the Chargers' quarterback coach. Chargers also made key moves to re-signing Donald Butler, Chad Rinehart and Darrell Stuckey. They also cut free-agent bust Derek Cox. In addition, they added the running back Donald Brown via free agency.