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Historical football question - Chargers of the early 80's.

jcn56 : 11/8/2019 9:36 am
My son and I were watching the game last night and we somehow got on the topic of Dan Fouts. He asked me for a current day comp to Fouts and the Chargers, and I thought the closest for him would be the Saints.

I caught the end of Fouts' career, don't really remember the team much outside of him and Winslow and some of the crazy offensive performances. I do recall that they were one of those teams that were viewed as unable to get to the big game, bounced late in the playoffs despite having beaten one if not both of the SB winners in each of those seasons.

The other crazy stat I came across after digging a little was that the Chargers turned the ball over at a crazy rate in the playoffs from 79-82.

For those old enough to have seen them and remember them well enough, what kept them from getting over the hump at to the Super Bowl? Was their D a problem? How the hell did they turn over the ball so often in their playoff appearances?
I believe  
BIG FRED 1973 : 11/8/2019 9:59 am : link
They were the one seed in 1979 and 1980 ,I know they lost in a shootout with Oakland in the championship game .In 1981 they beat the Dolphins in an awesome game then got beat by the Bengals in that cold championship game .i think their D let them down in most of their playoff losses ..Still one of my favorite games is when we played them in 1983 ,that was a fun game I remember the refs screwed us when we were driving for a winning score and Brunner fumbled where it looked like a pass
I was very young....  
bw in dc : 11/8/2019 10:04 am : link
but have done a lot of reading on them because Coryell was such an innovator in the game.

They were really good in '79 or '80, but lost to Houston in the playoffs where Fouts threw something like 4 INTs. I think he had a wrist or thumb issue. But that was a very balanced team.

They were very good in '80 or '81 when they lost at Cincinnati in the AFC Championship in bitter cold and wind. The weather that day simply derailed their wide open attack.

After that, San Diego was still very prolific offensively but their D started to slip considerably. So they basically had to outscore most of their opponents.

They did have Chuck Muncie at RB at one point and his nickname was Chuck "Fumble" Muncie. I'm sure that was a problem with their turnovers. And I think their other RB James Brooks could also be prone to turnovers. But I'm mostly guessing at this point how that figured in the big picture...
High risk; high reward offense  
HomerJones45 : 11/8/2019 10:11 am : link
middling defense. Their passing game was a precursor to what you see today.

Supposedly, the Oilers were able to pick off 5 passes in 1979 playoff game because they had decoded the hand signals used to relay plays between the sideline and Fouts (this was pre-wireless mic in the helmet days).

In 1980, the Chargers got down by 14 in the first half (Plunkett was on a tear in the playoffs if I recall) and then staged a comeback in the 2nd half. But, the Charger defense let the Raiders run out like the last half of the 4th quarter and SD couldn't get the ball back.

And then the following year, I think they played the Bengals in the AFC championship game and it was really, really cold. For an aerial circus like the Chargers, it did not go well.

Great team, 2 conference championship games in 3 years is nothing to sneeze at.
As others have said, they turned the ball over a *ton*  
Mad Mike : 11/8/2019 10:20 am : link
5 turnovers in their playoff loss in 1979 (and 6 games in the regular season with 3 or more)

3 turnovers in each of the playoff games in 1980 (and 8 games in the regular season with 3 or more, including a few with 6 or 7)

4 in each of their playoff games in 1981

7 in their playoff loss to the Dolphins in 1982.

When their offense was clicking it was beautiful to watch, but they were so aggressive on offense and got bitten for it a lot.
that '82 game in Cincinnati was the second coldest in NFL history  
Greg from LI : 11/8/2019 10:24 am : link
Temperature was -9 and wind chill was -59.
Coryell was a great offensive coach  
bluepepper : 11/8/2019 10:24 am : link
who was clueless about defense. His defenses in St. Louis blew which is why they never won in the playoffs.

He inherited a decent amount of defensive talent in SD (Fred Dean for one) and in his early years there the defense was good but gradually declined.
Thanks all, interesting context  
jcn56 : 11/8/2019 10:47 am : link
I knew about the cold bowl and figured a high octane offense probably wouldn't work as well (and guessing from the era a lot of AFC football had to go through cold playoffs in places like Cincy, Pittsburgh and Cleveland).

Thought maybe there were some injuries, but hadn't ever heard about the signals being tipped.

The one thing that stood out was that strike shortened season of 1982. Just a quick glance at pro football reference, but I'm pretty sure if you extrapolate those numbers Fouts, Winslow and Chandler would have had stats that wouldn't just be impressive for that era, they'd probably be records today. Crazy.
Two reasons they didn't make a Super Bowl IMO - defense and weather  
PatersonPlank : 11/8/2019 11:12 am : link
1) Their defense. Like todays wide open teams, their d wasn't strong enough. Other good teams could control the ball. For example in the 1980 NFC Championship they gave up 34 to the Raiders.

2) In their biggest opportunity, the high flying San Diego offense had to go to Cinncy in 1981 for the AFC Championship, where the weather as -9 degrees and wind chill was -59. No way their passing attack could survive, since they really didn't run much, and they lost 27-7. If this game was in San Diego they likely would have won
RE: Thanks all, interesting context  
bw in dc : 11/8/2019 11:14 am : link
In comment 14669163 jcn56 said:
Quote:

The one thing that stood out was that strike shortened season of 1982. Just a quick glance at pro football reference, but I'm pretty sure if you extrapolate those numbers Fouts, Winslow and Chandler would have had stats that wouldn't just be impressive for that era, they'd probably be records today. Crazy.


They once had John Jefferson, too. Who was an unbelievable WR. But Klein wouldn't pay him so they shipped Jefferson off to Green Bay, where I think he ended up with some leg issues. And don't forget about HoF receiver Charlie Joiner, who was great at moving the sticks.
The Chargers were very good in 1980 & 1981  
truebluelarry : 11/8/2019 11:14 am : link
Their defense let them down against the Raiders in the AFCCG.

In 1981 it was the Freezer Bowl. I remember Bill Walsh saying once that the best thing that happened for the 49ers was the weather in Cincinnati. He feared facing the Chargers in the Super Bowl in a dome.
I will also say the 1981 playoff game between the Chargers and Miami  
PatersonPlank : 11/8/2019 11:16 am : link
was about the greatest game I've seen one player ever have, Kellen Winslow. IMO it really set the future for what a TE would become. The guy had 166 yards receiving on 13 receptions, and blocked the game saving FG attempt. Even more was that he as exhausted. He'd catch a 15 yard pass, then have to be carried off the field, only to come back on and catch another one (and repeat). They couldn't stop the guy
Really dynamic team there for a few years  
Jimmy Googs : 11/8/2019 11:44 am : link
they even had some talented defensive players (on the d-line I recall) but they did not play good defense, particularly in secondary.

That is was why they didn't get over the hump in the AFC...but were close.
Defense was just not good enough  
jeff57 : 11/8/2019 12:17 pm : link
But they were a fun team to watch, with Fouts, Winslow, Jefferson, Chandler and Muncie.
RE: I will also say the 1981 playoff game between the Chargers and Miami  
Coach Red Beaulieu : 11/8/2019 12:19 pm : link
In comment 14669208 PatersonPlank said:
Quote:
was about the greatest game I've seen one player ever have, Kellen Winslow. IMO it really set the future for what a TE would become. The guy had 166 yards receiving on 13 receptions, and blocked the game saving FG attempt. Even more was that he as exhausted. He'd catch a 15 yard pass, then have to be carried off the field, only to come back on and catch another one (and repeat). They couldn't stop the guy

He was the straw that stirred the drink for that offense, yet Giants can't do jack squat with EE, who is basically the same player.
RE: I will also say the 1981 playoff game between the Chargers and Miami  
jeff57 : 11/8/2019 12:19 pm : link
In comment 14669208 PatersonPlank said:
Quote:
was about the greatest game I've seen one player ever have, Kellen Winslow. IMO it really set the future for what a TE would become. The guy had 166 yards receiving on 13 receptions, and blocked the game saving FG attempt. Even more was that he as exhausted. He'd catch a 15 yard pass, then have to be carried off the field, only to come back on and catch another one (and repeat). They couldn't stop the guy


Yep, that was an amazing game. One of the best post-season games ever.
Chargers  
Payasdaddy : 11/8/2019 1:09 pm : link
Louie kelcher and big hands Johnson plus f dean. Killer pass rush
John Jefferson , joiner, Wes chandler

Lotsa talent. May have won in 81. (At least abc) except for cold
Lotsa talent
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