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History of the Chargers and their Move Back to Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Chargers are back to the NFL playoffs after a four-year absence. Despite many injuries and a series of tough fixtures, the team clinched a playoff berth. They finished the season with an impressive 10-7 record.

 A successful playoff campaign will do wonders for the team, which has been struggling to solidify a new fanbase in LA. The Chargers relocated to Lose Angeles from San Diego in 2017—a city they had called home for 57 years.

Seeking a Bigger Market in L.A.

The San Diego Chargers have been attempting to upgrade their stadium for over 15 years. However, owner Dean Spanos wanted financial help from the city if his team were to stick around. 

The city initially offered to contribute $350 million toward building a new stadium for the Chargers. But Spanos felt the amount was too little. San Diego put the decision in the hands of voters.

They rejected any attempt to raise taxes in exchange for a new sports facility overwhelmingly, killing any hopes the Chargers would remain in San Diego. Surprisingly, the Chargers paid the NFL a $650 million relocation fee, prompting fans to wonder why Spanos couldn’t use the money to fund a bigger stadium.

In his defense, Spanos said San Diego wasn’t big enough a market to warrant such a huge investment. He preferred L.A. instead. In all fairness, L.A. is one of the biggest sports cities in the country. 

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The Chargers Were Born in LA in 1959

The Chargers were launched in 1959 together with seven more teams that made up the American Football League. Some original teams still exist, including the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Texans, Buffalo Bills, and the Denver Broncos.

 The team’s first owner—hotel executive Barron Hilton—chose LA as his new team's home. After one season, however, Hilton realized the Chargers were not getting as much love from fans as the LA Rams. So, he chose to move the Chargers to San Diego in 1961. 

In San Diego, the Chargers were a beloved team that played beautiful football and won five of six AFL divisional championships. Thanks to the team’s tremendous success in the 1960s, they accrued a huge enough fanbase to move to a new stadium with more than 60,000 seats.

First and Only Super Bowl Appearance in 1994

After the Chargers upgraded their stadium in 1967, their fortune changed. A team that was previously winning games dominantly turned mediocre. San Diego waited for 13 more years to win another championship in 1979.

One of the key reasons was that the franchise’s legendary coach Sid Gillman got ill and later passed away. That being said, San Diego returned to its winning ways during the era of coach Don Coryell.

Coryell led the Chargers to three AFC West Divisional titles in 1979, 1980, and 1981. After Coryell left San Diego in 1992, he was replaced by coach Bobby Ross, who led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance in 1994. They lost to the San Francisco 49ers.

Relocated to Los Angeles in 2017

The Chargers left LA because they couldn’t compete with the Rams. But in 2016, owner Dean Spanos was confident his franchise could compete and thrive in L.A. better than it did in San Diego.

L.A. is a much bigger market today than it was the last time the Chargers called the city home. With millions of sports fans, experts believe the city is big enough to accommodate two properly marketed teams.

Indeed, the Chargers have earned an enormous fanbase since moving to the newly launched SoFi Stadium in 2019—an arena they share with the L.A. Rams. In the 2021 season, the Chargers had an average attendance of 71,000 fans, more than the 25,000 average they recorded at the small StubHub Stadium in nearby Carson. 

To be clear, the Chargers moved back to L.A. in 2017 after the City of San Diego turned down a request to help the franchise fund the majority of a new larger stadium. The city offered $350M, but owner Spanos was ready to move back to L.A.

On and Off Playoff Contenders

The Chargers are playing in the 2022-23 playoffs with one of the youngest quarterbacks in the league—24-year-old Justin Herbert. The team is playing in the playoffs only for the second time since they relocated to L.A. 

The Chargers made it to the Divisional round of the 2018 playoffs after defeating the Ravens in the Wild Card game. They lost to the Patriots in the Divisional Round.

Before 2018, the Chargers had missed out on the playoffs for five seasons. Post the team’s SB appearance in 1994, the Chargers’ best playoff appearance was in 2007, when they advanced to the Conference Championship but lost to the New England Patriots. 

Future Super Bowl Winners?

The L.A. Chargers are one of the few original NFL teams to have never won a Super Bowl. Some fans blame the Spanos family for not investing in quality players and coaches during the years they've owned the franchise.

In all fairness, San Diego was never an ideal destination for SB-worthy players. Many NFL superstars prefer to play for historically successful franchises. Or, they choose teams located in major cities like L.A. and New York.

With the Chargers now in Los Angeles, fans have every reason to believe their team could morph into Super Bowl Champions. The team is generating much more money than it did in San Diego. More importantly, it’s in a major sports city, giving it an ideal chance to attract top football talents.

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