COMMENTARY | Hall of Fame inductees including Lance Alworth, and future Canton-enshrined players like LaDainian Tomlinson and the late Junior Seau, have plied their trade in San Diego.
Of all the greats to wear Chargers blue-and-gold, one stands out as the impact player the club's current incarnation could most use: Hall of Fame tackle Ron Mix.
Mix was the foundation of the Charger offense throughout the 1960s. He earned nine American Football League All-Pro nods in the decade to solidify his place in Canton's Class of 1979.
A 1990 Los Angeles Times profile of Mix credits the tackle's play in helping the AFL gain legitimacy . He was the second AFL player inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The protection Mix provided quarterback John Hadl allowed Hadl to connect with Alworth for most of the receiver's 10,266 career yards.
Imagine a more confident Philip Rivers in the pocket, afforded time to scan the field looking for Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd. Upheaval across the offensive line in recent seasons led to dramatic declines in Rivers' production. He threw more interceptions in 2011 and 2012 than the previous three seasons combined, and his average of yards per completion dipped below eight.
Rivers was under constant pressure, taking 49 sacks and sustaining dozens of hits more. The blitzes opposing defensive coordinators dialed up on the porous San Diego offensive line became the scourge of Rivers' season. He could use Mix, picking up rushes off the edge.
His ability not only to contain blitzes but read defenses earned him the nickname "Intellectual Assassin," as detailed at the San Diego Hall of Champions -- an extension of the coaching staff onto the offensive line.
There is no coincidence the Charger teams of the AFL era are remembered for their prolific passing game. Pundits today call the NFL a passing league like it's a major revelation. Paying even the slightest attention, the importance of a potent aerial strategy is apparent.
Yet even with the emphasis placed on the pass, there is also no coincidence that six of the league's top eight rushing teams reached the playoffs. Offenses need a healthy rushing attack to keep opposing defenses honest.
While the AFL Chargers were renowned for their passing, Mix paved plenty of holes for ball carriers. He was clearing paths for San Diego's 1963 AFL championship-winning team, which gained 2201 rushing yards -- more than any team in the league.
Compare that with the club's 2012 team. At 707 yards, Ryan Mathews was San Diego's top ball carrier. Four decades earlier running behind Mix, Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln went for 1010 and 826 yards -- and both had fewer carries than Mathews.
Ron Mix in his prime is the perfect piece from the Charger past missing in the franchise's present.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist and blogger. He covers the University of Arizona for the Rivals.com network site GoAZCATS.com, and is the founder/managing editor of the college football site SaturdayBlitz.com. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Philip Rivers
- Lance Alworth
- San Diego
- American Football League
- Pro Football Hall of Fame