When Archie Manning threw his entire weight behind his youngest son becoming a New York Giant instead of a Charger in the 2004 NFL Draft, a guaranteed lifelong hatred would begin between America’s Finest City and football’s First Family.
Maybe there were other motives old Archie was harboring. Perhaps he remembered the rough treatment he’d received at the hands of the Chargers when he'd played them ages ago.
Whereas the famous football clan from New Orleans might have gotten the better financial deal out of the feud and a Super Bowl ring, San Diego has simply owned the Mannings on the gridiron.
Their sad history against the Chargers can be easily summed up: while neither Archie nor Eli has defeated the Bolts in five tries, Peyton has gone 4-5 against them—including two gut-wrenching playoff losses.
That's a collective 4-10. It’s a success story that can only partially be explained.
Dan Marino’s record was even at 3-3. Hall of Famer Bob Griese also sported a .500 record at 4-4. Joe Namath was only 5-5 against the Bolts.
Against other quarterbacks, the Chargers weren’t so lucky.
Depicted here are five quarterbacks (plus one honorary mention) that have contributed largely to the Chargers’ empty trophy case. With an accumulative 17-57 record, these are the guys that San Diego fans wish were born in Europe and pursued soccer instead of football. Or careers in renewable energy.
Surprisingly, Bledsoe owns a perfect 5-0 career record against the Chargers.
Even more maddening was the fact that Bledsoe had the mobility of a telephone booth, always appearing to be within the reach of that one good smack up the helmet that would put him on a stretcher.
Somehow it never happened.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 1993 draft completed 59 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions, which amounted to a 100.3 overall rating in his games against San Diego.
Although Drew Bledsoe always left his own teams unfulfilled and yearning for more, they couldn’t complain about his performances versus the Chargers.
The Chargers celebrated in abundance when Joe Montana left the San Francisco 49ers (albeit for division rival Kansas City), blissfully ignorant of the fact that they had been transferred from the stake to the gallows.
As if to make up for lost time, Steve Young turned the lightning bolt on the Chargers and zapped them in four victorious regular season matchups, throwing for seven touchdowns, no interceptions, an insane 72.3 percent completion rate and a 123.0 QB rating.
Career victory number five, of course, would easily supersede all of the previous agonies the Chargers had endured against Young and send them to an entirely new level of torment.
In Super Bowl XXIX, the left-hander would complete 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards, a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes and 49 rushing yards. Needless to say, he did not throw a pick in the biggest game of his career either.
Steve Young would joke on the sidelines about how his teammates could now get that monkey off his back—a jab at his own failures in big games until then.
The Chargers wouldn’t get the monkey named Steve Young off their shoulder pads until his retirement in 1999.
Another left-handed quarterback, Stabler’s 58 percent completion percentage and lifetime 86.7 QB rating are certainly not the stuff legends are made of, nor are his 18 touchdowns thrown versus a surprisingly high 13 picks in his career against San Diego.
Which makes his 11-3 career record versus the Bolts all the more remarkable.
Ken "The Snake" Stabler would often boast in his biography how he would stay up all night before game day and read the playbook by the light of the jukebox. We don’t know how Stabler felt the next morning, but we know how hung over the Chargers often felt after the game.
Sometimes Ken Stabler would pick them apart outright, leaving the final score against his longtime AFC West rival in little doubt.
The most memorable defeat against the Raiders would come courtesy of the "Holy Roller" in September of 1978.
We know the story. Raiders trailed by six with seconds to go, ball at the Charger's 14-yard line. About to be sacked, Stabler "fumbles" the ball forward.
Several Raiders bat the ball into the air and perform various break-dancing acts around it until tight end David Casper miraculously recovers the ball in the end zone. The Raiders end up winning 21-20, prompting league officials to re-write the rule book.
This was a shocking defeat. You had to compare it to the bully losing his marbles but winning them back (and yours) after claiming that he was allowed to shoot from an inch, whereas you had to shoot from a foot away.
The Immaculate Deception aside, Kenny Stabler remains a bona fide lifetime Golden-Thorn recipient for his sickening victorious services rendered against the Chargers.
This was the main guy responsible for the Chargers wishing the Seahawks could have been relocated to the NFC West years earlier.
Dave Krieg’s career record in the NFL at 108-91 was above average, at best. Yet on Sundays against San Diego, television cameras would zoom in on the tattoos imprinted on the Chargers players' biceps that read "© by Dave Krieg."
That’s because few quarterbacks owned the Chargers the way Krieg did.
With a 15-4 career record against the Bolts, Krieg posted a 61.1 percent completion rate, 31 touchdowns on 16 interceptions and a 91.4 QB rating.
Even Dave Krieg’s name (krieg being German for war) indicated the trouble in store for the Chargers whenever they faced him.
Enjoy retirement, Mr. Krieg. Few players could apply pain to a certain part of the Charger fans' lower anatomies the way you could.
The ultimate Charger killer.
Although Elway has more losses versus the Bolts (21-10 lifetime record) than the four mentioned before him combined—not to mention inferior stats—the nauseatingly consistent way in which he beat the Bolts baffled Charger fans the most.
In Elway’s career from 1983-1998, the Broncos were never swept by the Chargers.
Elway possessed that annoying finding-a-way-to-win mentality when all doors were bolted (pun intended), every receiver covered and every passing lane blocked.
His 38-36 touchdown-to-interception ratio was no better than average. So were his 58.4 percent completion rate and his 77.3 QB rating in his career against San Diego.
A lot of these wins were the product of guile, will and guts.
If the QB known as "Mr. Ed" would complete 11 of 28 passes on a particular day, then he would pick up those four legs of his and run for the 50 or 60 yards needed to beat you.
For an encore, he would flash that horseface smile at you and neigh. He'd make you want your kicker pull a Charlie Brown, miss the football by miles and run over to the Broncos sideline to kick those laughing oversized teeth in.
Whereas other quarterbacks would simply pick you apart, Elway would needle you until the final minute, which is when he would finally come to his senses and tear your heart out.
Although Ryan Leaf never threw a pass against the Bolts, you can argue that this was a quarterback as instrumental in crippling the Chargers as any other quarterback who actually played against them.
"Cryin’ Ryan," as we recall, was the kid the Bolts traded the Coronado Bay Bridge for during the draft of 1998.
Two full seasons (not including the 1999 season when he was injured), 33 interceptions and as many temper tantrums later, the boy among men would leave America’s Finest City with as many touchdown passes as losses (14).
The case of Ryan Leaf prompted the league to alter a little known rule that would subsequently no longer allow NFL teams to draft middle schoolers.
Ryan, we hardly knew ye.