This is a great time of year to be thankful for what we have, where we have been, and what the future holds. Although the Chargers have lost their way a bit in recent years, the month of December used to hold such incredible promise! This advent calendar is an attempt to hearken back to these days of December joy. Each day will bring a new advent from the Bolts’ history that make it wonderful to be a Chargers fan.
Dec. 9: April 21, 2001
Few dates are as pivotal in Chargers history as April 21, 2001. The Chargers were not good in the new milennium. To show for it, they owned the first overall pick in the 2001 draft. Their 1-15 2000 record was forgettable, and they were eager to move to a new era of success. That generally means a change in QB.
The San Diego Chargers, who held this most coveted pick, were certainly interested in finding a quarterback for their team (Let’s Leaf their reasons unspoken). Unfortunately, they were unable to reach a contract agreement with Michael Vick in the weeks leading up to the draft. On the day before the draft, San Diego traded this choice to Atlanta for the Falcons’ first-round (#5) and third-round (#67) picks in this draft, Atlanta's second-round selection (#48) in the 2002 draft, and wide receiver/kick returner Tim Dwight.
Let’s put that into perspective.
The Chargers dropped 4 places in the draft, but picked up an active utility player, a high 3rd round pick, and a second-rounder the following year. Tim Dwight, by the way, returned a kickoff for a 94-yard TD in the 1999 Super Bowl. He was injury prone with the Chargers (and most of his career), but it was still a solid value even before the picks were in.
The Chargers desperately needed the QB of the future, or so conventional wisdom suggested. You could argue all day whether they dodged a bullet by missing Vick or missed out on 6 productive years, but the fact of the matter is that the first overall pick was not one to be spent on a running back. We will never truly know if the Chargers coveted Tomlinson to such a degree that they were willing to trade down (and thus receive a good value for their gamble), or if he was just the next best man on the board when their pick was on the clock.
But the Tomlinson pick changed the Chargers for over a decade and a half. Heck, if the Chargers were looking for a solid QB, Tomlinson has the 4th best number of TD throws since joining the Chargers (7).
Draft Day is always a boom-or-bust scenario, and it often takes years for a team to know just exactly how they did. In 2001, San Diego either lucked its way or skillfully navigated its way to one of the greatest players to ever wear Chargers blue.