of Wither: The Curse of the San Diego Chargers
by Craig Curtice
can’t come soon enough for the San Diego Chargers,
who are already on the clock with the first pick in the
upcoming NFL draft. Anyone who happened to witness their
abysmal 2003 season knows how important this draft is
for an underachieving team that hasn’t seen a post
season for nine years now. Cripes that’s like 63
seasons in dog years.
the only thing that went right for the Chargers last year
was the play of running back extraordinaire LaDainian
Tomlinson. In fact, the team might want to change their
name to the Tomlinsons, because without his incredible
season, well, you could just imagine the horror. Behind
a terrible offensive line, he ran for 1,645 yards and
led the AFC in receptions with 100 (which set an NFL record).
He scored 17 touchdowns, even threw for another, and most
amazingly he never lost a fumble all season. And in just
three seasons he’s accumulated 6,144 combined rushing
and receiving yards and scored 43 touchdowns. I understand
his Pro Bowl snub – it’s the Chargers Curse.
Sure, a Curse. How else can you explain everything that’s
worn on this hard-luck franchise that the NFL insists
on moving to Los Angeles? Years of wasted drafts, poor
personnel moves, lousy head coaches, phantom interceptions,
and scorched secondaries have doomed the psyche of this
once mighty team.
Has Drew Brees been surfing with an evil talisman? How
improbable that of all the remaining Charger greats, Junior
Seau would be run out of town? Just speculating here,
but is it possible a Dolphins fan secretly started the
wildfires in San Diego so that last year’s Monday
Night game would be moved to Arizona? Worse yet, the Chargers
played so badly in that game it’s unlikely that
they’ll ever play in prime time again.
Talk about your bad karma moves – in 1981 San Diego
Stadium was renamed Jack Murphy Stadium to honor the beloved
San Diego sportswriter, but due to corporate greed in
1997, it was renamed again to Qualcomm Stadium. Could
there be a more stupid sounding name for a stadium?
All the uniform changes over the years haven’t helped
either. The old school baby blue uniforms of the 1960’s
were sweet, and the Air Coryell years were flashy, but
the current dark navy colors lack soul. Oddly enough,
when the Chargers wear their “throwback” baby
blue uniforms, they lose.
Beginnings of blasphemy started slowly creeping into this
organization in the early 1980’s when then owner
Gene Klein refused to deal with players over salaries.
San Diego was on the verge of a Super Bowl berth when
they parted ways with sticky-fingered receiver John Jefferson
and sack master Fred Dean, who ironically left to help
San Francisco start their dynasty.
And just as Klein pissed away indispensable players, it
continued last year when owner Alex Spanos went insane
and dished Junior Seau to the Dolphins, and let safety
Rodney Harrison move on to New England. Consequently Harrison
had a great year helping the Patriots get back to the
Super Bowl, while the Chargers finished with the worst
record in the league.
But the cruelest twist of Charger fate has to be the January
1982 AFC Championship game held in Cincinnati, which was
almost cancelled by the NFL due to brutal weather conditions.
Playing in a wind chill of minus 59 degrees below zero,
Air Coryell was grounded in the freezing temperatures
and lost 27-7. Just a week earlier, the Chargers won an
epic overtime playoff game in balmy Miami 41-38, and afterwards
players were treated for heat exhaustion. The thriller
over the Dolphins cemented the Hall of Fame entry of tight
end and game hero Kellen Winslow, who sadly was forced
to retire early just a few years later due to a devastating
Then there are the tragic and downright macabre facts
about this organization that suggest a curse. General
Manager John Butler passed away in 2002 of cancer, linebacker
David Griggs died in a car accident in June 1995, and
almost a year later, running back Rodney Culver perished
in the Valu Jet plane crash in the Florida Everglades.
Sadly, quarterback Stan Humphries had to retire due to
concussions after leading the Chargers to their only Super
Bowl appearance, which of course was a San Francisco 49ers
blowout. How’s that for karma?
as the Chargers continue to struggle year after year,
the legend of Dan Fouts continues to grow stronger.
Ever since Fouts retired after the 1987 season, no less
than twenty different quarterbacks have toiled in an excruciating
mediocrity. Remember names like Babe Laufenberg, Billy
Joe Tolliver, Bob Gagliano, or Moses Moreno? How about
the tenure of Jim McMahon, Craig Whelihan, John Friesz,
David Archer, or Gale Gilbert? You probably forgot about
the “Marks Bros” too — Malone, Vlasic,
and Herrmann. Most likely you’ll remember the Queen
Mother of all wasted draft picks – Ryan Leaf. Ugh.
With the exception of Stan Humphries’ mildly successful
stint, Chargers quarterbacks just rip your heart out.
in a small, yet symbolic step in the right direction,
something happened that might help change the tide after
all these wasted years. A few weeks ago an NFL edition
of Wheel of Fortune aired that saw Dan Fouts
doing word-battle with ex-Redskins QB Joe Theisman and
former Bears DT Dan Hampton. Playing for charity, each
player was paired with a female contestant who wore that
Fouts and his beard looked the same as he did during his
playing years, and showed he still has a sharp mind after
all the broken noses and cheap shots by Raiders defenders.
He solved the last three puzzles and nailed the answer
in the bonus round, winning more than $66,000 for Oregon’s
Sisters Schools Foundation.
seems to be about the only way that San Diego Chargers
fans can trash talk lately. Who knows, maybe with a decent
draft to compliment Tomlinson, the Chargers can go from
worst to first and lift the curse. If that happens it
will likely pave the way for David Lee Roth to reunite
with Van Halen, and Roger Waters will rejoin Pink Floyd.
Curtice is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)