After 56 seasons, the San Diego Chargers are no more. And considering the city isn’t flush with funds, has a general apathy for anything not involving the ocean or yoga, and Dean Spanos is universally regarded as a boob, maybe that was inevitable. The stinky, concrete bog called Qualcomm Stadium is a turd relative to professional US sports stadiums, especially the new builds. And Spanos doesn’t have Kroenke money where he can pay for a decent share of his own.
But there might have been two moments in time that could have changed that.
In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts were playing in a crappy inflatable balloon, coming off a 3-13 season and had the drunken owner who moved the team from Baltimore pass away. They “beat” the Chargers out for the number 1 pick, and in the offseason, fired head coach Lindy Infante and traded QB Jim Harbaugh.
The Colts and Chargers were both going to take quarterbacks, and despite how insane it seems now, not everyone was convinced that the best bet was Manning. If old Bob Irsay was still alive, he might have just told Bill Polian to trade the pick away or take Leaf.
Under Polian and Manning, the Colts won their only Super Bowl in Indianapolis, and went to the playoffs 10 times in 11 years. Amongst that euphoria, the city and Colts ponied up for a new stadium to replace the balloon and host everything from the Combine to the Big Ten Championship game, Final Fours and a Super Bowl.
Instead of the disaster that Leaf’s selection left, the Chargers might have been a different animal under Manning. Or maybe not.
After Leaf ran the joint into the toilet, the Chargers traded away the opportunity to pick Michael Vick. While aside of LaDanian Tomlinson, they spunked away the extra picks they got (Tay Codey, Reche Caldwell, Tim Dwight), they might have dodged a bullet on that one. They also, unbelievably, had Drew Brees on the roster back then, but he wasn’t Drew F*&(ing Brees at that point.
Sure enough though, they were back with the number 1 pick in 2004. Their intention was to pick Eli Manning, but his Machiavellian father decided that because of the Chargers’ historic record as a shithouse with terrible management that little bro was not going there. The Mannings told Spanos that if they picked him, he wouldn’t be going to San Diego.
The result was the unhappiest face of a number 1 draft pick of all time. The Giants, picking at number 4, picked the Chargers back-up option, Philip Rivers, and the two teams swapped those players, along with picks that became Shawn Merriman and a kicker.
The Chargers have been to the playoffs 6 years since, going no further than the AFC Championship game. The Giants, since 2004, have also been to the playoffs 6 times. The Chargers have a better record over that period.
However, Manning seems to undergo some sort of occasional metamorphosis on the odd playoff run, and has twice won Super Bowls, and Super Bowl MVPs with the Giants.
In an alternate universe, if Manning had performed that magic on the Chargers, there’s not a chance a team with two Super Bowls in 10 years would have been allowed to leave their home town.
Peyton arriving is obviously the more sure thing, but either Manning coming to the Chargers in the last 20 years would have made them much harder, if not impossible, to move from San Diego.
Or maybe the Spanoses would have fucked them up too.