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What are the worst moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Super Bowl XXIX loss to San Francisco
Yes, the 1994 Chargers had no business being in the Super Bowl. But if you make the Super Bowl, you at least want the team to put themselves in a position to have a legitimate chance of winning. San Diego’s dream season landed them in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Francisco 49ers. In the eyes of Las Vegas, it still stands as the biggest mismatch in Super Bowl History, as the 49ers were 18.5-point favorites. Three plays into the game, Niners quarterback Steve Young threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice – the first of two in less than five minutes – and the route was on. The Chargers cut the lead in half late in the first quarter, but that would be as close as San Diego would be all night, as the 49ers scored twice more in the second quarter and would go on to win 49-26 behind six touchdowns from Young. It’s still the only Super Bowl appearance for the Chargers, as the team still searches for its first NFL title.
4. One and done in 2006
No team in the NFL had a better regular-season record in 2006 than the 14-2 Chargers. They entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, were guaranteed home games where they’d gone 8-0 on the season and were riding LaDainian Tomlinson’s record-setting MVP campaign that had them entering the postseason on a 10-game winning streak. Anything short of a Super Bowl would have been disappointing; losing in the divisional round, devastating, and that’s exactly what happened. The Chargers took an early 14-3 lead over the New England Patriots, and despite a Pats rally, seemingly could have wrapped up the game a little more than halfway through the fourth quarter when Marlon McCree picked off Tom Brady. That would have given the Chargers the ball near midfield, leading 21-13, with six minutes to go. Only McCree had the ball stripped away, the Patriots recovered and Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does – threw a touchdown pass to tie the game, then put his team in field goal position to win the game. San Diego had a chance to tie the game but kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 54-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds to go. It was the second disappointing home playoff lost in three years under head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was eventually fired after the Super Bowl.
3. The Ryan Leaf era
It’s bad enough the Chargers drafted Ryan Leaf with the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. But let’s not forget San Diego traded up one spot in the draft for the pick, sending a future first- and second-round pick along with Eric Metcalf to the Arizona Cardinals. The Chargers were determined to find a quarterback replacement for the retiring Stan Humphries, and with Peyton Manning going No. 1 overall to the Indianapolis Colts, the Chargers drafted the Heisman finalist out of Washington State. The writing was on the wall when Leaf fumbled on his first regular-season snap. Despite starting the season 2-0, Leaf would come crashing back to Earth in Week 3 with a statline that even Tim Tebow would find atrocious: 1 for 15, four yards, two interceptions. After all the hype and money ($31.25 million), Leaf was benched and replaced by Craig Whelihan and finished his rookie season with just two touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He would miss the entire 1999 season with a shoulder injury but still made waves for off-field incidents with a fan and general manager Bobby Beathard. Leaf wasn’t much better when he returned in 2000. If it weren’t for a 52-yard field game-winning field goal from the leg of John Carney, Leaf would have been 0-9 as a starter that season for the Chargers. San Diego eventually released Leaf on March 2, 2001, but not before securing the label as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
2. No longer the San Diego Chargers
And just like that, suddenly nobody wants the Chargers franchise. The city of San Diego was stripped of their football franchise at the hands of the Spanos family after a pair of stadium measures failed to pass in 2016. And so Dean Spanos packed up his team and left for Los Angeles where … they have not been embraced. Banished to the StubHub Center that is configured for 25,000 fans until their joint Inglewood stadium with the Los Angeles Rams opens in 2020, Chargers’ home games have turned into a hostile environment, as the opposing fan base has consistently packed the stadium on Sundays. Meanwhile, the city of San Diego is left without the team it had called its own since 1960.
1. Junior Seau’s suicide
When Junior Seau was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft out of the University Southern California, the linebacker quickly became the face of the franchise. Seau was born in Oceanside, California – a suburb north of San Diego – and attended Oceanside High School. During his 13 seasons with the Chargers, Seau made the Pro Bowl 12 times, helped lead San Diego to the Super Bowl in 1995 and continued to hold a special place in the hearts of fans long after his departure with stints in Miami and New England. This is why Seau’s May 2, 2012 suicide hit so hard for the San Diego community. Prior to his death, Seau drove his SUV off a cliff in 2010 after he was arrested for an alleged assault of his then-girlfriend. Rumors swirled at the time that Seau was attempting suicide, a claim that his ex-wife, Gina Seau, denied. In 2013, it was revealed that Seau’s brain showed signs of CTE and his family filed a lawsuit against the NFL.