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Sports fans love to reminisce over the days when it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
|CNNSI.com asked if Chargers fans had any opinions on the subject. And guess what ... they did.
Click here to read a sampling of what CNNSI.com users had to say.
By releasing Ryan Leaf this offseason, the San Diego Chargers put an end to a big ol' checkered square in their long, checkered history. Besides the Leaf mess, Chargers fans remember the bitter trades of players like John Jefferson and Fred Dean in 1981; Jim Lachey in 1988; and the trade they didn't make in 1983, when they drafted Gary Anderson instead.
Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Whichever way Indianapolis went with the first overall pick, San Diego GM Bobby Beathard felt pretty good about having the No. 2 overall selection. He needed a quarterback desperately after the Chargers scored a league-low 17 touchdowns the previous season.
| March 12,
| San Diego flips first-round picks with Arizona, which also gets a 2nd-round pick (No. 32 overall)
in '98, a 1st-round pick in '99, KR Eric Metcalf
and LB Patrick Sapp
Things could only get better. Right?
When Leaf won his first two games, Chargers fans were pretty sure the Colts had made a mistake by taking Manning at No. 1. In fact, Leaf was the first rookie since John Elway in 1983 to win his first two games. John Elway!
Then the wheels fell off. Leaf lost six of his next seven games, lost his job, was involved in a barroom incident while attending Washington State's homecoming weekend, teed off on a reporter in the locker room while television cameras rolled, posted the worst quarterback rating in at least 22 years, tore up his shoulder, missed the entire '99 season while complaining about the team's medical treatment, returned with an alleged change of attitude for the 2000 season only to be outplayed by Moses Moreno.
To this date, there is no proof he was responsible for the energy crisis in California or the labor riots in Seattle last year.
Ryan Leaf's rookie quarterback rating was 39. Stephen Dunn/Allsport
|| Leaf a Chargers train wreck?
Track record is ominous
San Diego Union-Tribune -- July 28, 1999
By Nick Canepa
The Minnesota Vikings once gave away 10,000 lakes and some first-born sons to the Dallas Cowboys for Herschel Walker. The Chargers once passed on Alan Page for Ron "The Beast" Billingsley, who played more like Barbara Billingsley. There have been many other NFL disasters. So it may be a tad too soon to call the Bolts' gambling with their future to draft Ryan Leaf one of the worst catastrophes in pro football history.
But it's getting there.
I mean, it's leaning at the tape with the others. By the time it's over, it could be the winner.
It would be one thing if the Chargers had just expended their 1998 No. 1 on Leaf and that was that. There are CPAs out there who couldn't count the number of first-round busts there have been.
So that would be awful, but it happens. Thing is, it went way beyond that. Chargers GM Bobby Beathard switched No. 1 picks with Arizona last year to get Leaf. He also gave the Cardinals his 1998 No. 2 and 1999 No. 1, plus Pro Bowl punt returner Eric Metcalf and reserve linebacker Patrick Sapp.
That's an awful lot to give up for a quarterback who threw 15 interceptions and fumbled the ball away four times his rookie year, behaved like an ass off the field, alienated just about every one of his teammates, lied to his head coach (which is like lying to the pope) and now has gone down with a season- ending shoulder injury following his first practice in training camp.
"If he doesn't turn this thing around," Beathard says of his deal for Leaf, "this could go down as one of the all-time (bleep)-ups."
|| Mario Romo, San Diego, Calif.:
I understand at the time they needed a quarterback but the thing that kills me is that the Chargers knew that this guy was a jerk but they still would have drafted him even before Peyton Manning. I mean they could have gone for a free-agent quarterback a la Rob Johnson and took the best player in the draft a la Randy Moss. They could have even traded their pick for more picks and then drafted Brian Griese. But they didn't.
The only good thing is that Bobby Beathard is gone and now the Chargers have a quality GM in John Butler. Look for the Chargers to redeem themselves in this year's draft by drafting the best available player in Michael Vick.
As the '70s came to a close, San Diego was letting it all hang out under Don Coryell's "Air Coryell" offense that featured the strong arm of Dan Fouts and the gifted hands of John Jefferson. The Chargers hauled in AFC Western Division championships from 1979 to '81. But that didn't make owner Gene Klein any more generous at pay day.
| September 17,
| San Diego trades WR John Jefferson to Green Bay for two 1st-round picks, two 2nd-round picks and WR Aundra Thompson
Three Pro Bowl seasons after being the Chargers' first-round pick, Jefferson soon found himself embroiled in a salary impasse despite having led the league in receiving yards and touchdowns in 1980. Klein wouldn't relent on his policy to renegotiate and sent Jefferson to Green Bay.
He wasn't the same player out of Coryell's offense. After hauling in 36 TDs in his three years in San Diego, he had but 11 in four years with the Packers. He never again broke 1,000 yards receiving, a mark he surpassed in each of his three seasons with the Chargers.
Even though the Chargers would win the division again in 1981, Jefferson's departure was a harbinger of things to come as the team's best players would continue to parade out of San Diego amid contract disputes with Klein.
|| Cris, San Diego, Calif.:
John Jefferson was the heart and soul of the Chargers, hyping fans up in pre-game activities. The draft choices we got from Green Bay were great, and we got Wes Chandler, but still, the Chargers lost the team spirit.
A few weeks after Klein shipped off Jefferson, he sent holdout defensive end Fred Dean to San Francisco, which was stockpiling Chargers castoffs en route to a five-title dynasty.
| October 2,
| San Diego trades DE Fred Dean to San Francisco for a 2nd-round pick in '83
It didn't take long for the move to pay off for Dean, who earned his first Super Bowl ring with the Niners that season. In 1983, Dean led the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks.
A year later, Klein was cutting salary in preparation of selling the team. He sent defensive linemen Gary "Big Hands" Johnson and Louis Kelcher to San Francisco, where they would join Dean (who ended another holdout 12 games into the campaign) and offensive tackle Billy Shields for another Niners championship in Super Bowl XXIV.
Not a bad alternative to being on a team that was 0-8 in divisional play.
That made for 10 ex-Chargers going to the Niners between the 1977 and 1984 seasons.
The northern migration started with PK Ray Wersching signing as a free agent, followed by OT Dan Audick, OT Ron Singleton, DB Jeff Allen, RB Amos Lawrence, LB Bob Horn, Dean, Owens, Kelcher and Johnson. Even Niners coach Bill Walsh was a former Charger.
|| San Diego Connection' has 49ers in Super mood
San Diego Union-Tribune -- January, 15, 1985
By Clark Judge
Tony Bennett left his heart here. The Chargers left parts of their ballclub.
Over the past four years, the Chargers have traded 10 players to the 49ers, including defensive end Fred Dean and a No. 2 pick in the 1983 draft, later to become running back Roger Craig.
All Dean did was take the 49ers to the Super Bowl as an All-Pro choice his first year here; Craig led the team in catches this year with 71 and produced over 1,300 yards rushing and pass receiving.
Some people take their problems to a counselor or a medicine cabinet. The Chargers take theirs to the Golden Gate Bridge and push them off on the grateful 49ers.
|| Gabe, San Diego, Calif.:
When the Chargers on the verge of going to the Super Bowl (about '79), traded Fred Dean because he wanted too much money. It ruined a better than average defense, and I've hated then-owner Gene Klein ever since.
| August 1,
| San Diego trades OT Jim Lachey to L.A. Raiders
for OT John Clay and 3rd- and 4th-round picks
San Diego took Jim Lachey with the 12th overall pick in 1985 and watched as he developed into an All-Pro left tackle.
Jim Lachey fit in nicely with Washington's Hogs.
But as was so often the case for the stars in San Diego, he ran into a contract impasse and was traded. Clay reported to the Chargers at 320 pounds, complained about the trade and flunked his physical thanks to a lower back strain. He played two games for the Chargers.
Lachey wound up starring with the Redskins until injuries ended his career.
On a side note: It's tough to get Chargers fans to think ill of the Lachey selection in 1985, but it is fun to remind people that four picks after San Diego took Lachey, San Francisco took Jerry Rice.
|| John Barker, San Marcos, Calif.:
I may not remember all the facts, but ...
In the early '80s, the San Diego Chargers hired GM Steve Ortmeyer from the hated Raiders. While head coach Don Coryell was off on a fishing trip, Ortmeyer gutted the club. Many starters were sent packing (I think 8)--- and many were simply released.
All San Diegans remember Ortmeyer getting Raider John Clay for All-Pro Jim Lachey. Halfway through the ensuing season, Ortmeyer made the unprecedented insulting move of making Al Saunders co-head coach with Coryell. Don soon retired, forever. Has anyone ever had such a devastating impact over such a short period of time as Ortmeyer in San Diego?
It is still widely believed in San Diego that this was all carefully orchestrated by Raiders owner Al Davis as a continuation of his feud with the late Chargers' owner Gene Klein. Sabotage? Planned? Who knows. Painful? For evermore!
There wasn't anything wrong, per se, about the selection of Gary Anderson. The Chargers had three first-round picks in 1983, and you could have done worse than the running back from Arkansas.
| San Diego selects RB Gary Anderson with the 20th overall pick
Except, the Chargers did do worse somehow. New England reportedly offered cornerback Mike Haynes to the Chargers in exchange for the pick that wound up being Anderson. The Chargers declined, and Haynes ended up winning a Super Bowl in Los Angeles with the Raiders.
Tampa was home for Gary Anderson. Scott Halleran/Allsport
To make matters worse, Anderson jumped to the USFL before joining the Chargers in 1985. After having his best season with 1,119 rushing yards and a 5.0 average in 1988, team MVP Anderson held out the entire 1989 season before the Chargers traded him to Tampa Bay, where he had starred for the Tampa Bay Bandits, for two draft picks.
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