The Athletic’s Mike Sando has covered a lot of football and, inherently, a lot of good football teams. He spent 12 years at ESPN before joining The Athletic in 2019 and has covered every Super Bowl since 1998.
In his latest piece, Sando takes to ranking the single-greatest teams/seasons for each of the 32 NFL franchises and puts them up against each other in a final list to show how each NFL teams’ single most-dominant season compares to those of every other team.
Here are the criteria by which Sando graded each team’s season:
• Regular-season win-loss record (35 percent). Dominant teams should win most of their games.
• Regular-season points-per-game ratio (35 percent). We divided PPG scored by PPG allowed to produce a ratio rewarding dominance across eras.
• Postseason winning percentage (10 percent). Dominant teams should win in the postseason, but we didn’t want a single playoff defeat to disqualify teams outright, which is why the weighting was lower.
• Postseason PPG ratio (10 percent). The 1985 Chicago Bears scored 9.1 points for every point allowed during the playoffs. We wanted that type of dominance to count for something.
• Regular-season and postseason point differential versus teams that finished the regular season with winning records (10 percent). We rewarded teams that played more games against strong opponents and dominated in those games.
If you want to see the original piece where Sando ranked the 25 most-dominant teams in NFL history, you can see that here. Otherwise, let’s take a look at where the Chargers’ most-dominant season landed among the ranks.
24. Los Angeles Chargers (2006, when in San Diego)
What Sando had to say about the ranking: This was the Chargers team that went 14-2 during the regular season with a 30.8-point scoring average, only to fire coach Marty Schottenheimer when the team failed to win a postseason game. That early playoff exit and a relatively modest differential against winning teams explain why this Chargers team ranked only 76th overall. The 1979 team was next among Chargers teams on the strength of a 1.7 PPG ratio and plus-70 differential against winning teams. The Chargers’ lone Super Bowl team (1994) ranks 10th among the franchise’s 14 playoff teams for dominance after going 11-5 during the regular season and finishing minus-34 in point differential against winning teams.
Now I was actually only 12-years old when the Chargers went 14-2. While I wasn’t terribly cognizant of everything that was happening that season, it was impactful enough to make me a Chargers fan for life. I was hooked the second I saw LaDainian Tomlinson running through defenses with that pitch-black visor en route setting a plethora of NFL records.
LaDainian Tomlinson, who turns 40 today, was one of the best to ever do it. Here are some reasons why:— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) June 23, 2019
That was obviously the year he rushed for 28 touchdowns while adding three receiving scores and throwing for two more to total an NFL-record 33 touchdowns. Antonio Gates was the leading receiver with nine touchdowns and 924 yards while Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips combined for 28.5 sacks to lead a top-10 scoring defense.
While the team was offensively dominant, the early exit in the playoffs halted any chance they had to continue building a semblance of dominance into the postseason. Most of the teams ranked about them were not one-and-done squads.
But, for what it’s worth, the team right behind the 2006 Chargers team in Sando’s rankings is the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs who, ya know, just won the Super Bowl and everything. Although they got to the promised land, the ‘06 Bolts had a better record, a higher point-differential, and a better points per game ratio.
Obviously fans would prefer a Lombardi Trophy, but I guess any bragging rights are better than no bragging rights.