It's another long weekend for me and another jersey number post for today. The Stephen Cooper X's and O's, which has been fairly shocking to write but is not quite ready, will be up by Monday at the latest.
#12. It's a big number in Chargers history. Do you remember why? There are six nominees, all of them quarterbacks, and one that has been talked about since we started this series. As always, your nominees and winner are after the jump.
- Tom Flick - Flick was the backup quarterback for the 1986 Chargers, starting three games and leading the team to a 1-2 record in those games. After being a backup who never saw the field with other teams, he got his biggest shot with the Chargers and did not perform the way he wanted to. He finished the season with a 45.2% completion rate, 2 TDs, 8 Ints and a QB rating of 29.9.
- Babe Laufenberg - Besides from having a much more interesting name, Babe did not differ much from Tom Flick. In 1988 he was given his first real chance at being a starting quarterback anywhere, leading the Chargers to 2 wins in 6 starts. He finished that season with a 47.9% completion rate, 4 TDs, 5 Ints and a QB rating of 59.3.
- Erik Kramer - Hold your hand up if you were excited when the Chargers signed him. Yeah, me too. He was scrappy and did not have overly impressive stats, but in 1999 I thought he was the best option the Chargers had and I was always excited to see him on the field. Unfortunately, so were opposing defenses. In the 1999 season, Kramer started 4 games for the Chargers and leading the team to a .500 record in those games. That would seem to tell the story of one good season with the Chargers before Kramer's retirement, but in that season he completed 55.3% of his passes (his lowest in 8 years), threw only 2 TDs and was intercepted 10 times. His QB rating for that season was 46.6, well below his career average.
Bruce Mathison, QB - Mathison was drafted by the Chargers in the 10th round of the 1983 NFL Draft. Although he played a part of 5 games with the Chargers over three seasons with the team, he never started a game and only threw 5 passes. He completed 3 of those passes and 1 was interception. He never threw a TD as a Charger. After two seasons of not seeing the field much, Mathison was given the chance to be the starting QB for the Buffalo Bills. In seven games he threw 4 TDs against 14 Ints before being benched. Mathison returned to the Chargers for one season after that before leaving for Seattle.
James Harris, QB - Harris is famous for being the first black player to start a season at quarterback and the second black player to start in any game as quarterback in the modern era for a professional football team. He played three seasons with the Bills and four seasons with the Rams, getting voted into the Pro Bowl in 1974, before spending three seasons with the Chargers. In three years, Harris led the Bolts to a 4-7 record in games he started and threw 7 TDs to go along with 21 Ints. He completed just 50.6% of his passes with the Chargers and held a QB rating of less than 50 for those 3 years (against his career QB rating of 67.3).
Stan Humphries, QB - Like a lot of great football relationships, the Chargers found Humphries after an injury. The Chargers were in need of a QB after their starter, John Friesz, was injured in a preseason game. They called the Redskins, who ran the same offense for them and therefore could offer QBs that could start quickly, and made a deal for the 27 year old Humphries.
In six years as the Chargers starting quarterback, Stan "the man" provided the team with toughness and leadership that helped the team win clutch games, including playoffs games against the Dolphins (led by Marino) and the Steelers. Both wins included Humphries rallying the Chargers from 4th Quarter deficits to take the lead in the final minutes of the game. The Chargers would then advance to Super Bowl XXIX for the first, and so far only, trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history.
Humphries eventually had to retire at the age of 32 after taking too many big hits resulting in too many concussions. With the Chargers, Stan completed 56.8% of his passes, 85 TDs, 73 Ints and finished with a QB rating of 75.8. He was, quite simply, the right player at the right time for the right team in the right town. It doesn't matter that the team did not win the Super Bowl, getting there with a team like that put the Chargers and it's fans on the map in the 1990s. You can't pay a quarterback, or a player, a much higher compliment than saying he was the leader of an over-achieving, conference championship team and that's exactly what Humphries was. There was never any doubt that Stan Humphries would represent jersey #12 for the Chargers in our series.
For those that are curious, Stan is currently the head basketball coach for the St. Mary's Lady Tigers in Natchitoches, LA, where his daughter, sophomore Chelsea Humphries, is the starting forward.