(This is my first FanPost. I am stil figuring out how to make it look shiny.)
I have been a Chargers fan for 30+ years. I wouldn’t trade my experience with any other team’s fans. There have been a lot of ups and downs. (Full disclosure: More downs than ups.) I thought that I would leverage my many years of fandom (I get the impression from other commenters that I have been a fan longer than a lot of folks on BFTB) and write about the ten most heart-wrenching losses in all my years as a Charger fan. Anyone can cheer during the good times; I carry these losses as a badge of pride and honor. When we finally win the Super Bowl, it will be because of these losses that the victory will be ever so sweet. Without further ado, my top ten “gut-punch” Charger losses of the last 30 years:
1. 1/14/07 New England 24-21
The single most painful loss of my Chargers fan career. (Even more than Super Bowl 29.) We were by far and away the best team in football. We should have won the Super Bowl going away. I will NEVER forgive Marlon McCree. EVER.
2. 01/10/93 @Miami 31-0
Ahh, the 1992 season. One of my very favorites. We started the season 0-4 looking progressively worse each week. People were calling for rookie HC Bobby Ross’ head one month into his coaching career. Then something miraculous happened. We started winning. A lot. We knocked off the Seahawks and headed into an early bye week. We came out of the bye to find a really unusual scheduling quirk. We played the Colts twice that year and did so in 14 days (10/18 and 11/1). It is the only time in our history that we have played two regular season games against a non-divisional opponent in the same season. We bookended a sweep of the woeful Colts around a hard fought victory against the Donkeys. After starting 0-4, we found ourselves at 4-4. We dropped the next game to the Chiefs on a FG as time expired. However, we ripped off 7 straight wins to end the season. We were playing amazing football as the year closed. We opened the playoffs on the road at Arrowhead. The Chiefs had swept us during the year and were the only team to beat us since September. We went to KC and shutout the Chefs 17-0. All of this set us up for our trip to Miami. I genuinely thought that we were Super Bowl bound. That came to a crashing halt as we became the first team to shutout an opponent in a playoff game and get shutout the next week. We played TERRIBLY. Stan the Man was 18-44 140 0TDs and 3 picks. And he might have been the best Charger on the field that night…
3. 11/22/87 @Seattle 34-3
We started the season 8-1 and had a ton of momentum heading into this game vs. Seahawks. After dropping season opener to KC (13-20), we ripped off 8 straight wins (including 3-0 in the strike/scab games). I specifically remember Don Criqui during the opening minutes of this game vs. the Seahawks saying that no team has ever started a season 8-1 and missed the playoffs. The Seahawks came out and crushed us 34-3. We looked terrible; it was disheartening. Moreover (although we didn’t know this at the time), Dan Fouts would retire after this season. The season ended with 6 straight losses to finish 8-7 (only 15 games played that year because of strike). We became first team in NFL history to start season 8-1 and not make playoffs. This was the first time I specifically remember being genuinely sad as a result of my Charger fandom. Of course, it would not be my last. (Only positive of losing streak to end season (and Fouts’ career) was that the week before, we beat the Raiders 16-14 and that means that the last win of Danny boy’s career was against the Faders.
4. 1/20/08 @New England 21-12
This is recent enough that I don’t need to rehash it. Every Charger fan knows that if PR17, LT and Gatesy were healthy, we defeat the 18-0 Patriots in New England and go on the next week to defeat Elisha in the Super Bowl.
5. 1/17/2010 New York Jets 17-14
The culmination of the disappointing, underachieving, unlucky A.J. Smith era. As you know, I am a big fan of A.J. Smith. After years of bad football, A.J. Smith brought hope for most of the 2000s, but facts are facts. We had a couple of teams that could have won Super Bowl. We had bad luck, injuries and bad decision-making from coaches; I’m not saying that it is all A.J.’s fault. But that stuff still happened. Losing to the Jets this day the way we did (Kaeding missed FGs, Cro being bad Cro, etc.) was the unfortunately appropriate ending to the era.
6. 09/20/98 @Kansas City 23-7
The Ryan Leaf Debacle Game. This was the game that even the most ardent, blinded by fandom Chargers fans knew that Leaf was a HUGE mistake and it was going to take years to recover from. This is arguably the worst performance by a QB in NFL history. (If I’m being fair, Arrowhead is a tough place to play and Leaf was treated for stomach flu in the hospital during the week, so he didn’t practice. But I have no intention of being fair to Mr. Leaf.) This is his box score for the game: 1-15 for 4 YARDS 0 TDs 2 INTs 3 Fumbles. Good lord.
7. 11/3/02 New York Jets 44-13
This game was eerily similar to the 1987 Seattle game. We started this year 6-1 and went to our bye week feeling good about ourselves. We had LT/Brees and life was great. We came out of our bye week to face the Jets and were DESTROYED. We never looked the same the rest of the year and managed to miss the playoffs after another huge start. (See, for you youngsters, we used to start hot and fizzle out. Not the other way around.)
8. 9/14/08 @Denver 39-38
Hochuli Game. Nuff said.
9. 10/23/05 @Philadelphia 20-17
This was a tough game. We finished this season 9-7, one game out of the playoffs. If we win this game, we make the playoffs and Chargers history is changed (?) as Brees isn’t hurt in vain in the final game of season. What would we have done if we had to play a post-season game one week after Warren destroyed Brees’ shoulder and Rivers had to start his first game ever (in a playoff game, no less) and he was terrible? Do we re-sign Brees? Trade Rivers? Yikes. As far as the game, this is the one where we had it all but won (Up 17-13 lining up for chippy FG for a 7 point lead) and Matt Ware returned the blocked 35-yard FG attempt with 2:25 left in game for a TD to win by three. Ugh.
10. 11/3/13 @Washington 30-24 OT
I still think Woodhead scored when the ball hit the pylon. The series that followed from the one yard line (should have been the one inch line), literally made me cry. Seriously. Grown man tears.
Well, now I'm bummed. Maybe I should do our top ten best wins of last 30+ years...