Debating the greatest Chargers of all-time has been done in casual conversations for decades, over a game of cards or a few drinks at a local watering hole in San Diego. Fans of a franchise without a championship since before the Super Bowl era have few other superlatives to discuss, outside of the which year brought the biggest underachieving team. But narrowing down that list of greatest Chargers down to five offers a more challenging exercise, in which one must weigh the comparative importance of different position players and whether visionary head coaches and other front office personnel are eligible to make the cut. Despite their lack of success in the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers have had some memorable superstars wearing their signature powder blue uniforms over the years.
The influence goes beyond just accomplishments on the field, as legendary coaches Sid Gillman and Don Coryell made contributions on the sidelines that would help the sport evolve into the American staple that it has become today. But as great as those coaches were, Gillman for coaching the Chargers to five of six AFL championship appearances between 1960-1965 and Coryell for ushering in a new era of pass happy offenses into professional football in the late 70s and early 80s, players play the game and entertain the fans so we will focus on the best of that talented group.
Perhaps if it was a list of the worst Chargers of all-time, a few coaches and GMs might make the list. Norv Turner was ridiculed from the moment he was hired, mostly due to his past failures and the circumstances by which he took over arguably the league’s most talented roster in 2007. His predecessor Marty Schottenheimer was fired after a 14-2 season due to continued clashing with then-general manager A.J. Smith, who could also make such a list for some of the bonehead personnel decisions throughout his tenure. From a player standpoint, there is no competition for the person who stands alone atop this list. That would be quarterback and 1998 number two overall draft pick Ryan Leaf. Though some free agent disasters like David Boston and Jared Gaither could be mentioned too. And Marlon McCree for fumbling that interception that would have sealed the 2006 playoff game against the Patriots. But keeping things in a more positive light, here are my greatest San Diego Chargers of all-time.