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Top 10 San Diego Chargers in NFL History

Updated on September 6, 2014

They've built a reputation based on a high powered passing offense. Today, I rank the top 10 San Diego Chargers of all time.

10. Antonio Gates

He transitioned from basketball to football to have one of the most productive careers by a tight end.

After being a basketball player in college, Antonio Gates was seen as too small for the NBA and signed with San Diego as an undrafted free agent in 2003. In 2004, he tied the NFL record for touchdowns in a season by a tight end with 13. Using his rebounding skills as a basketball player, Gates possesses the ability to out jump defenders for the ball. In his 11 seasons in San Diego, he is one of five tight ends in history and second most touchdowns in team history.

Gates has been an eight time pro bowler, five time All-Pro, and a member of the 2000's all decade team.

9. Fred Dean

He is one of the must underrated pass rushers in league history.

A second round pick in 1975, Fred Dean made an instant impact on the defense. He recorded 15.5 sacks in 1978 and the next season, he and the defense allowed the fewest points in the AFC. In 1980, Dean led the defensive line known as the "Bruise Brothers" to leading the league in sacks with 60. He was traded to San Francisco midway through the 1981 season due to a contract dispute. It is considered one of the biggest blunders in franchise history.

Dean retired after 1984 as four time pro bowler, two time All-Pro, and two time Super Bowl champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

8. John Hadl

He was one of the best quarterbacks in the AFL.

A third round pick in 1962, John Hadl brought the high octane passing game to San Diego. He shared quarterbacking duties until 1966 when he became the starting quarterback, and averaged over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns per season for the next four years. In 1965 and 1968, Hadl led the AFL in passing. The passing combination of Hadl to Lance Alworth is still one of the best in league history. He holds the NFL record for the most tied games by a starting quarterback and is the last quarterback to where a jersey number higher than #19. He was traded to Los Angeles in 1973 for several players.

Hadl spent his final seasons in Green Bay and Houston before retiring in 1977. He was a four time AFL All Star, two time All-AFL, two time pro bowler, 1973 All-Pro, and AFL champion.

7. Ron Mix

"The Intellectual Assassin" is still the standard to which all Chargers offensive linemen are judged.

A first round pick in 1960, Ron Mix, who was 6' 5" and 270 pounds, was an early proponent of weightlifting to enhance athletic power. He was years ahead of the curve that soon at lineman and other football players taking up that practice to become better athletes. Mix was known for his physical play and was called for just two penalties during his ten years in San Diego. He was a factor in the teams 51-10 victory over the Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship.

Mix spent his final season in Oakland before retiring in 1971. He was a nine time AFL All Star, six time All-AFL, and AFL champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.

6. Charlie Joiner

He is one of the most productive receivers in league history.

After spending time in Houston and Cincinnati, Charlie Joiner was signed by San Diego in 1976. It was with the Chargers high flying "Air Coryell" offense that he had his most productive years exceeding 1,000 yards receiving in a season four times. In addition to good health and longevity, Joiner was an intelligent player and precise pass route runner. He retired as the then NFL leader in career receptions, yards, and games played by a wide receiver. At age 39, Joiner also retired as the then oldest wide receiver in NFL history. He finished his career 750 receptions for 12,146 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Joiner retired after 1986 as a three time pro bowler and 1980 All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

5. Kellen Winslow

He is arguably the greatest receiving tight end in league history.

A first round pick in 1979, Kellen Winslow quickly made his presence known. He became the first tight end in history to lead the league in receptions in back to back seasons. He also broke the then NFL single season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,290 yards in the 1980 season. In a 1981 regular season game, Winslow tied an NFL record by catching five touchdown passes. His most memorable moment came when he battled numerous injuries in "The Epic in Miami" and still caught a playoff record 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, while also blocking a field goal with seconds remaining to send the game to overtime in one of the greatest single player efforts in league history. He finished his career with 541 catches for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns.

Winslow retired after 1987 as a five time pro bowler, four time All-Pro, and two time league receptions leader. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.

4. LaDainian Tomlinson

He is the most productive running back of the 2000's.

A first round pick in 2001, LaDainian Tomlinson made an instant impact on the offense. In 2003, he became the first player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards and record 100 receptions in the same season. In 2006, Tomlinson set numerous records most notably the single season touchdown record with 31. He also holds the record for most points scored in a single season, most games with two or more touchdowns, and most seasons with 10 or more touchdowns among others. He is ranked fifth in league history in career rushing yards, second in career rushing touchdowns, and third in career total touchdowns.

Tomlinson spent his final seasons with the Jets before retiring after 2011. He was a six time All-Pro, five time pro bowler, two time NFL rushing leader, and the 2006 NFL MVP.

3. Junior Seau

The "Tasmanian Devil" was the face of the Chargers defense for over a decade.

A first round pick in 1990, Junior Seau made an instant impact on the San Diego defense. He was known for his passionate playing style including a fist pumping dance he performed after big plays. In one of the greatest games in his career, he recorded 16 tackles in the 1994 AFC Championship Game while playing with a pinched nerve in his neck in a 17–13 victory over Pittsburgh. He was an explosive player, he’d defeat one-on-one blocks, and he was a great tackler. Seau was praised by teammates for his work ethic and leadership, he would play hurt, and often refused to leave games.

Seau spent his final seasons in Miami and New England before retiring after 2009. In 2012, he committed suicide and it was discovered that he had CTE. He was 12 time pro bowler, 10 time All-Pro, and the 1992 defensive player of the year.


2. Dan Fouts

He is one of the greatest gunslingers of all time.

A third round pick in 1973, Dan Fouts didn't make much of an impact early on. With the arrival of Don Coryell, the team had an offense the fit Fouts skill set. He led the team by finishing first in the league in passing seven times including a league record six straight. He set NFL season passing yardage records in three consecutive seasons and became the first quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in three straight seasons. He led the NFL in passing yards four straight years from 1979 to 1982. In "The Epic in Miami," Fouts led the team to a 41-38 victory by completing 33 of 53 passes for a franchise record 433 yards and three touchdowns. His completions, attempts, and yards in the game were all NFL postseason records at the time.

Fouts retired after 1987 as a six time pro bowler, four time All-Pro, and 1982 NFL MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

1. Lance Alworth

"Bambi" was arguably the best player in the history of the AFL.

A first round pick in 1962, Lance Alworth became an instant weapon for the offense. His slender build, speed, grace, and leaping ability gave him instant notoriety. In Alworth's 8 AFL seasons, he led the league in receiving yards and receptions three times. He also set a Chargers record with 83 touchdowns. He held records for the most consecutive games with a reception and most consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards. He still holds the league record for the most games with 200 yards or more receiving.

Alworth spent his final seasons in Dallas before retiring after 1972. He was a seven time AFL All Star and All-AFL, the 1963 AFL player of the year, the 1969 AFL MVP, AFL champion, and Super Bowl champion. In 1978, he became the first San Diego Charger and the first player who had played in the AFL to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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