San Diego Chargers. AFC Playoffs
Twenty years have gone by since our beloved Chargers played in their one and only Super Bowl. Let that sink in….20 years. Where were you on January 29th, 1995? Were you born yet? Were you entering middle school? Or were you old enough to be overcome with awesome disbelief as you watched your Cinderella Chargers defeat Miami and Pittsburgh in order to play in their first ever Super Bowl?
Many of you that are old enough to remember know exactly where you were and who you were with when you sat down to watch Super Bowl XXIX. San Diego was not expected to enter the playoffs let alone play in the NFL title game during the 1994 season; a solid 9-7 was what most “experts” expected out of America’s finest city.
Now that I have you going back in time, do you wonder what those players from the ‘94 season are up to? Let’s take a look at a few players on this special team that defied all odds.
Head Coach – Bobby Ross came to San Diego in 1992 after taking the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to an 11-0-1 record and winning the ACC Championship. Coach Ross would lead the Bolts to three playoffs, two division titles and one illustrious Super Bowl during his 5 years. After his departure, Ross went on to coach the Detroit Lions for 4 year before retiring. After four years of retirement, with the encouragement of his wife, he came back from retirement to coach Army’s football team. Three years later he retired again and has not coached since 2006. He currently resides where he was born 78 years ago – in Richmond, VA. He is active in his community and speaks often at schools and banquets.
Offensive Coordinator – Ralph Friedgen was 47 when he was the OC for San Diego. Prior to the NFL, he was the OC for Georgia Tech under Bobby Ross and both left the college game in 1992. In 1996 Coach Friedgen was released and went back to Georgia Tech where he was the OC for four years. He then moved on to be the Head Coach for the Maryland Terps for 10 years. Last season, Ralph moved on to Rutgers University where he is currently the OC.
Defensive Coordinator – Bill Arnsparger, 88 years of age, coached for many years in the NFL. After leaving the Dolphins in 1983, he became the Head Coach at LSU until he left in 1986 to become the AD at the University of Florida. Bill walked into major issues in Florida where both the football and basketball programs were put on probation. He was able to come out of that mess by hiring Steve Spurrier to coach the Gator football program. Coach Arnsparger became the DC for San Diego the same year as Ross and Friedgen, 1992. Shortly after the Super Bowl loss, Coach Arnsparger retired for good, stating it had to do with the prostate cancer surgery he had the previous year. In 1998 his book “Coaching Defensive Football” was published where it received good reviews from readers.
Quarterback – Stan Humphries Is known for leading our Bolts to the first ever Super Bowl in franchise history. In 1992 he is lead the Chargers to their first playoff appearance in over a decade, while starting 0-4 to begin the season – currently the only NFL team to ever start 0-4 and make the playoffs. Stan was inducted to the San Diego Chargers Hall Of Fame in 2002. Currently Stan, at the age of 49, is the assistant coach for the women’s basketball team at his alma mater University of Louisiana of Monroe. He has been coaching women’s basketball going on 12 years and was brought to ULM last season.
Running back – Natrone Means had his best year in the NFL with San Diego in 1994. He ran for 1,350 yards with 12 touchdowns and at the time, became the youngest NFL running back to score a TD in a Super Bowl. Means was released before the 1996 season where he then landed in Jacksonville for two seasons. As an unrestricted free agent, Natrone was back in America’s finest city where he played for two more seasons. In 2000 he did sign with Carolina, however he did not have one rush attempt and retired after the season. He coached at Livingston College, first as a Running Backs Coach and then as the Offensive Coordinator. Natrone, 42, currently is the Running Backs coach for Winston-Salem State University and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Wide Receiver – Mark Seay’s story is one of tragedy, inspiration and fortitude. Before playing college football in 1988, he attended his sister’s Halloween party where gun shots were fired outside the home. When he heard the gunfire, he quickly used his body to shield his 2 yr old niece; subsequently a bullet hit him through the pelvis, hip and lung and blowing out one of his kidneys. The bullet was on its way to his heart but it stopped prior, and remains in his body to this day. After filing a lawsuit when Cal State Long Beach refused to bring him on the team, CSLB coach George Allen was able to bring him on board while appeasing everyone with Mark wearing extra protection and taking a urine test after each game. Mark came to San Diego from San Francisco in 1993. His most memorable play was the game winning catch against Miami in the 1994 AFC Divisional playoff game. Mark only played 3 more years in the NFL after the Super Bowl run, one with the Chargers and two with the Eagles, ending his NFL career after the 1997 season. In 2003, Mark’s older brother was shot in San Bernardino, later passing away after being in an 11-month coma. In 2006 his younger brother was shot to death in the family’s backyard by two assailants – this happened while Mark was in the middle of a 48 week police academy course. He currently tours the country as a motivational speaker. Here is a video:
Wide Receiver – Tony Martin played four seasons in Miami before making the cross-country trip to San Diego in 1994. Tony was the main target of Stan Humphries and even recorded a 99 yard touchdown reception. Martin caught 9 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the ‘94 playoff games. Tony played 3 more seasons with the Chargers as the #1 WR until he left for Atlanta in 1998. Tony was charged with money laundering after his Falcons lost in the Super Bowl. He was later acquitted while under contract with the team that drafted him, the Miami Dolphins, where he played two more seasons before heading back to Atlanta for his final NFL season in 2001. There is not much information on Tony and his life after football.
Tight End – Alfred Pupunu played with the Chargers from ‘92-97 before he went to Kansas City, NY Giants, back with San Diego and finishing his career with Detroit in 2000. Although he didn’t score many touchdown in his career, albeit he scored against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, his famous dance after those scores was a famous one. After a brief time being a volunteer assistant with the University of Utah from 2005-2007, he then became the RB/TE coach for Southern Utah University. Since 2010, he has been on the coaching staff for the University of Idaho.
Kicker – John Carney played in the NFL for 23 years on teams of Tampa Bay, LA Rams, San Diego, New Orleans, Kansas City, NY Giants and ending his career back in New Orleans. Currently he still owns the Chargers record for all time leading scorer. John currently runs a pre-season kicking training camp called “The Launching Pad.”
Inside linebacker – Dennis Gibson played 7 seasons with Detroit before coming to San Diego for 2 season before retiring. Of course Charger historians will know his name for the 4th down pass deflection in the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh that sent San Diego to it’s first Super Bowl. Currently, Dennis owns and operates Encore Pizza Company out of Johnston, Iowa; a suburb of De Moines.
Defensive End – Leslie O’Neil played a long career in the NFL from 1986-1999. Leslie was the first Charger to ever be bestowed with the Defensive Rookie Player of the Year in 1986. His career accolades include 6 Pro Bowls, leading the Chargers in sacks from 1990-1995 and is currently tied for 11th in career sacks with 132.5. He was inducted into the San Diego Chargers HOF in 2014, but has not yet been voted into Canton
There have been 8 players from this 1994 squad whom have passed away tragically and far too young, in this writer’s opinion.
David Griggs – Linebacker
David played 6 seasons, five with Miami and one with San Diego. Five months after playing in the Super Bowl as a Charger, he died in a fatal car accident when his car slid off the ramp on the Florida Turnpike near Fort Lauderdale – he was 28 years of age.
Rodney Culver – Running back
Rodney didn’t carry the ball much during the Super Bowl run but made an appearance with the holdout and injury to Natrone Means in 1995. After that season, in May of 1996, he and his wife boarded ValueJet Flight 592 which crashed into the Florida Everglades killing every passenger – he was 26 years of age.
Doug Miller – Linebacker
Doug was a member of the Charger for two seasons; recording no stats. He was struck by lightning twice during a camping trip in Colorado in July of 1998 – he was 29 years old.
Curtis Whitley – Center
Curtis played in 30 games from 1992-1994 with San Diego. After which he played in 42 games for the Panthers from 1995-1997. A day after his birthday in May of 2008, local Sheriff deputies located Whitley dead from a drug overdose in his trailer home in Fort Stockton, TX. – he was 39 years of age.
Chris Mims – Defensive End
Chris was drafted in the first round by the Chargers in 1992 where he played until 1996. After a short stint with Washington, he returned to San Diego for two more seasons. His best season was in 1994 where he recorded 11 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 35 tackles. In October of 2008, Los Angeles Police officers were doing a welfare check on Chris when they found him dead. The cause of death was cardiac arrest as his heart was enlarged. At the time of death, Chris weighed 456 pounds – he was 38 years young
Shawn Lee – Left Defensive Tackle
Shawn played his first four years in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Miami. He came to San Diego in 1992 and played through the 1997 season. During the SB run, he recorded 6.5 sacks with 30 tackles and one forced fumble. The last few years of his life, Shawn was struggling with diabetes. In February of 2011, after suffering through double pneumonia, he died from a cardiac arrest – he was 44 years old.
Lewis Bush – LInebacker
Lewis was drafted by San Diego in the fourth round of the 1993 draft. He played for the Chargers from ‘93-99 and then ended his career with three season in Kansas City. Lewis recorded 3 tackles during the SB run. As he began to start in more games beginning in 1995, he showed a big improvement. In December of 2011, less than a week after his birthday, he was found dead of heart attack – he was 42 years old.
Junior Seau – Linebacker
Junior is probably one of the best players to ever put on a San Diego Charger uniform. There is much I can say about this remarkable man and football player. His intensity, leadership and drive to make everyone around him better on and off the field, just tips the iceberg on this Hall of Fame player. In May of 2012, his girlfriend found him in his home with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest – he was 43 years old.
Well I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane with me. During this writing, I was overcome with excitement and then overshadowed with sad emotions. What a team……what a ride.
Thanks for reading.
The San Diego Chargers are known for their usual slow start and hot finish in the month of December. But what about the start/finish in the game itself? There is an obvious advantage to scoring first and leading at halftime. Defining a team/franchise’s character includes many factors, including but not limited to, their ability to fight back in the face of adversity as well as keeping the gas pedal down to separate from one’s opponent.
Theories about starting out fast and procrastination have been researched using marathon runners all the way to college students. Marathon runners are typically told to run slower at the beginning of the race in order to have the energy to finish strong. On the other hand, students who procrastinated find themselves often physically sick, having a nervous breakdown and ultimately receive worse grades than those who perform right away. I decided to look into the end results of Charger games when they had to lead compared to being behind at halftime.
From the 2006 season through last season, not counting the postseason, when the Bolts have a lead at half, their record is 56-15. That equates to a 78.9% of games where San Diego leads at half, they win the game. That is incredible. You could spin it to the likes that the team doesn’t let off the gas pedal. Another spin would be that they have a huge lead and coast to victory; ending what should have been a blow-out to a nail-bitter. Both of those would be correct. There are many games where the blue and gold continued their dominance til the end. However, there are equally the same amount of games where they coasted and had to score in the 4th quarter to preserve a win. Either way you slice it, statistically for them to lead at half is an almost guarantee. Now let’s look at the flip-side.
During the same span, when the team from America’s finest city were down at halftime, their record is 17-30 – or a 36.2% of winning those games. A significant drop compared to when they are leading at the break. Sure there are games when the Chargers fought back only to lose by a few points, but the stats are there; as clear as a sunny day in San Diego.
Why the disparity in records when it comes to halftime? Perhaps one theory is that they tend to negate the run game and air it out; becoming one-dimensional. When any team becomes facile, defenses key on it and emphasis their attack one that one weapon. There is no more trick plays or play-action passes that will work in these scenarios. Of course another theory could be that the teams doesn’t have what it takes to come back and fight victoriously when seemingly defeated. I will let you decide.
Now of course, like snowflakes that will never see the gorgeous city of San Diego, every season is different from the others. In fact, there have been two seasons in which the Bolts had a winning record when losing at halftime; last season (3-2) and the infamous 2006 season (4-1). During that 14-2 run in ‘06, the one game which impressed me the most was against Cincinnati in week 9. The Chargers were down 28-7 and ended up victorious with a score of 49-41. This game was near the beginning of a 10 game win streak for the blue and gold and it also happened to be the biggest deficit at half where the end result was a win. Now I am sure you are wondering about how this relates to our playoff games.
In our 9 playoff games from 2006-2013, the Chargers have been up at half only three times – with a record of 1-2. Going against their normal self-parody of leading at the break, this is unnerving as we can all agree how important playoff games are in order to claim the sought after Super Bowl title. On the other hand the usually porous record when behind going into the second half, the Bolts are an even 3-3 in playoff games. Emotional roller coaster is one way to sum up all this data. Spinning this in a positive light, we know for a fact that the Chargers are never giving up in games that matter the most.
So far this season? San Diego is a dismal 1-3 in games they are trailing at half. Out of their combined 4 losses thus far, the only game the Super Chargers lost while leading at half was against Kansas City. There are only 5 games left in the season, and I don’t know about you, but I want to see our Bolts begin red-hot and enter the locker room with the lead.
What are your opinions/theories on this information? Why do the Chargers seem to need a halftime lead in order to be triumphant? Is it a character flaw? Or is it as simple as becoming too one-dimensional? Comment below and let the debate begin!!
Thanks for reading.
For the first time in four years, the football gods smiled down on the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers entered Sunday as a long shot to snag the sixth seed in the playoffs. They Chargers need a win and a lot of help from other teams. The Ravens needed to lose at Cincinnati and the Jets had to win in Miami to open the door for the Chargers to get into the playoffs with a win over visiting Kansas City.
Things did not start well. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception on the first play and it led to three Ravens points. On the Bengals second possession Dalton threw another interception, which led to another Ravens field goal. On the Bengals third possession, Dalton threw a perfect deep ball to AJ Green to put the Bengals ahead 7-6. From there the Bengals never looked back, leaving the punchless Ravens scratching their heads and out of the playoffs after paying quarterback Joe Flacco mega millions to make sure that exact thing does not happen.
In Miami, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill began the game by leading a touchdown drive. From there, the Jets defense took over, intercepting Tannehill three times and pressuring him many more. Dolphins receivers dropped balls, Tannehill overthrew wide open targets and only completed 20 of his 40 attempts. The Jets won easily. Both games were played in the early time slot so the Chargers knew their fate before they took the field. The right teams lost. The door was open.
All they had to do was beat Kansas City.
In another example of Chargers kismet, Chiefs coach Andy Reid decided to rest his starters. No Jamaal Charles, the man who is second in the league in rushing. No Alex Smith. No Dwayne Bowe, out with a concussion. No Tamba Hali. The Chargers were essentially facing the Chiefs second and third teams. Easy breezy right?
Kansas City took the first drive straight down the field and running back Knile Davis ran 17 yards up the middle almost untouched for the first score of the game. The Chargers answered with a touchdown of their own. Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel threw a touchdown. Rivers answered with a second touchdown of his own. At any time the Chargers defense would start rag dolling these second teamers and cruise into the playoffs. Any time now…
Knile Davis rushed for his second touchdown just before the half and the Chargers found themselves behind 21-14 at halftime in a game that should have been cake. They entered the tunnel to a chorus of boos from the home crowd. They all knew the Chiefs were playing backups and found it embarrassing the Chargers were having such a difficult time dispatching them.
The home crowd neglected to acknowledge three things. It’s still a huge rivalry game against a division opponent. Any game against a division rival is going to be more hard fought than a game against an out of conference opponent. Secondly, they may be backups but they could have an advantage because they’re fresher. They haven’t been taking the week in week out beating the starters are. This was their chance to shine and prove themselves worthy of keeping their jobs as the inevitable roster turnover begins after the Super Bowl. Thirdly, these are the Chargers. We love them to death but they don’t give us easy games. Unless they’re playing Jacksonville or against Eli Manning that is. If you’re a Chargers fan, heart palpitations and anxiety attacks are listed in the program. This game was no exception.
The Chiefs kicked a field goal to go up 24-14 after three quarters. As things looked darkest as minutes ticked away in the fourth quarter, the defense stiffened and the offense scored. Rivers hit Royal for a touchdown. Ryan Mathews picked up chunks of yardage. The defense registered two sacks, they started getting tackles for loss by sniffing out screen passes. Novak hit a field goal with with 3:21 to go to tie the game. The Chargers scored 10 unanswered in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs took the ball and drove down the field. The defense, for all their effort, couldn’t get Daniel off the field. Daniel completed passes of 14, 11 and 24 yards to three different receivers, crossing into San Diego territory and more importantly, field goal territory.
The Chiefs rushed the ball for small amounts of yardage, milking the clock under ten seconds. The Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop ran onto the field. The stadium sat in stunned silence. The Chargers have suffered this kind of fate over and over the last four years, losing in excruciating fashion. The snap was clean, the hold was clean. Succop boomed the ball toward the goalposts.
The football gods smiled.
The kick sailed wide right. The Chargers special teams ran off the field in jubilation. Overtime.
The Chargers won the overtime coin flip and took the ball. After failing to complete on third and two, the Chargers lined up to punt. Then the gutsiest call of the day was made. Direct snap to Weddle. Weddle took the ball and followed the surging offensive line up the middle for the first down, shocking everyone in attendance and the Chiefs themselves. From the Chargers own 28-yard line, it was the last thing you’d expect. Brilliant. Offensive Coordinator Whisenhunt called his best clock killing drive of the season. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead combined for 9 of the 15 plays the Chargers ran. Mathews picked up big yards on the ground, Woodhead caught passes. Nine and a half minutes later, Novak nailed a 36-yarder to put the Chargers ahead for the first time in the game 27-24.
The Chiefs took the ball. McCluster had a big pass play over the middle for 28 yards but the Chargers defense finally held, and forced the Chiefs into a fourth down incompletion for the win. It was a grueling contest which should have been anything but if you ask anyone, including the wiseguys in Vegas who had the Chargers as 10 point favorites. The Chargers have made the playoffs.
I repeat. The Chargers have made the playoffs!
The football gods finally smiled upon the Chargers and apparently blinded the referees. Due to a new rule in the NFL pertaining to special teams on kicks, a team is prohibited from lining more than six players on any one side of the ball. The Chargers had lined seven men to the left side of the line. A flag should have been thrown and Succop given a rekick. The referees missed it. The Chargers win.
This is the kind of win that lays a new culture of winning. The new regime drafted expertly, signed the right free agents and put a team on the field that could compete with the best teams in the league. The competed and they won against some of the best teams in the league. Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle were both elected to the Pro Bowl. New GM Tom Telesco’s brilliant third round pick Keenan Allen should be the easy choice for offensive rookie of the year.
The new system brought over by new coach Mike McCoy and implemented by new Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has worked fabulously for the most part. Ryan Mathews completed his first 16 game season and posted a career high in yards. There is a lot to look forward to with Telesco in the war room and McCoy calling the shots.
Getting into the playoffs in the first year of the new regime is the best thing that could have happened. In doing so, they created separation from the Norv/AJ years, the last three in particular. We will now see the two regimes separately more so now than we did at the beginning of the season. The foundation is laid. All the Chargers have to do is win.
There will be playoff football for San Diego now, and for years to come.
The Greg One
After Thursday night’s awesome win over the division-leading Broncos, the Chargers are right in the thick of things for the sixth seed in the AFC. They will most likely need to win out while getting a little help from the foes of both the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.
The Bolts only have two games left and those contests happen to be against the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. The NFL scheduler makers were a bit kind to San Diego giving them 4 of their last 5 games at the house that Jack Murphy built. Both remaining games are at home.
The million dollar question that remains on the minds of Charger fans everywhere is will the Chargers make the playoffs? San Diego looked like a complete team versus Denver. The combination of a dominant running game and a solid defense is that of which playoff success is built upon. Not to mention, Mike Scifres and Darrell Stuckey showed why the Charger special teams’ ability gives them one of the better units in the league.
So I’ll leave it to all of the fans. There is a poll below for you to place your vote. Be sure to vote and leave a comment as to why you voted the way you did.