Rivers, Chargers could be playing last season in San Diego
SAN DIEGO (AP) The San Diego Chargers appear to be on the move.
Maybe moving up in the standings, from the consecutive third-place finishes they've had under coach Mike McCoy? It'll take some work, but they like their chances with franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, who's in the fold through 2019.
Maybe, after their 55th season in San Diego, moving up the freeway to Los Angeles?
Chargers chairman Dean Spanos, enticed by heaps of cash pouring in from a market that has survived 20 years without the NFL, seems eager to jump on Interstate 5 right now. His representative walked away from the negotiating table in mid-June after ripping San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer since January.
The Chargers have hopped into the proverbial hot tub with their biggest rivals, the Oakland Raiders, by planning a $1.7 billion stadium in suburban Carson - on the site of a former toxic dump - if plans in their home markets fall through. The hysteria for the Chargers and Raiders started when St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans for a stadium in Inglewood. It's possible the Chargers or Raiders could end up as a tenant in Kroenke's palace.
So, fans are bracing for the last season in which the ''San Diego Super Chargers'' disco ditty could be ringing out in dilapidated Qualcomm Stadium.
The Chargers were born in Los Angeles in 1960. Their original owner, hotel magnate Barron Hilton, moved the team to San Diego the next year (and got a sweet location on Mission Bay for one of his hotels). The Rams, Raiders and Chargers shared Southern California from 1982-94, before the Rams and Raiders bailed.
Here are some things to watch for, with a Los Angeles-flavor, as the Chargers open what could be their final season in San Diego:
CARSON CALCULUS: The Chargers want to move to the Los Angeles area to protect what they say is 25 percent of their fan base. The team refuses to release specifics on its fan base north of San Diego County, although some think it's largely through ticket brokers. Curiously, the Spanos family has been unable to get a new stadium built in San Diego even though it owns a construction company.
SANTA MONICA SPANOS: Dean Spanos, son of owner Alex Spanos, has chosen to let lawyer Mark Fabiani, a former deputy mayor of L.A., handle the stadium push since 2002. Things might have been different if Alex Spanos were still in control of the club he bought in 1984. The negotiations would have been bruising, for sure, but there's no doubt Alex Spanos, not an attorney, would be leading the charge.
MALIBU MIKE: Coach Mike McCoy knows all about the L.A. area. He was a walk-on quarterback under George Allen at Long Beach State, then transferred to Utah after the 49ers dropped football. In 1994, McCoy returned triumphantly to the L.A. area, leading the Utes to a thrilling Freedom Bowl victory against Arizona. Coincidentally, that was the Rams' final season at the Big A before they moved to St. Louis. It was also the last Freedom Bowl, cementing McCoy's name in lore. The Chargers have twice finished third in the AFC West under McCoy. His predecessor, Norv Turner, never finished below second.
MAYFLOWER LINE: Who knows whether the Chargers will use Mayflower or Bekins if they relocate. Whatever, they hope their rebuilt offensive line can open holes big enough for a moving van - or, at the very least, rookie Melvin Gordon - to go through. The line also needs to do a better job than the unit that allowed Rivers to be sacked seven times in a season-ending loss at Kansas City that cost the Bolts a playoff spot. The Chargers re-signed left tackle King Dunlap, brought in left guard Orlando Franklin from the rival Broncos and right tackle Joe Barksdale from St. Louis, and moved D.J. Fluker from right tackle to right guard. Chris Watt is the incumbent center after starting five games as a rookie, one of five players to start at center.
REDONDO BEACH RIVERS: Earlier this year, Rivers seemed hesitant to go along if the team moved to L.A. ''My lack of excitement for a potential move was more about the thought of leaving this community than it was about a disdain for L.A.,'' Rivers said. ''Again, those are still out of our control. Nobody still knows. ... This is where all but one of my children have been born and where our family has grown over a decade.'' Rivers' wife, Tiffany, is expecting their eighth child.
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