Faces of the San Diego Chargers

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During the month of July, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will determine which three players deserve to be considered the faces of each franchise. For this series, we will only consider active players. In this edition, the San Diego Chargers are the focus.

Faces of the San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers

In 2004, the San Diego Chargers had a dilemma. They had the first overall pick and the player they wanted the most – Eli Manning – refused to play for them. San Diego drafted Manning and traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and two later round picks. It’s safe to say that the Chargers no longer have a dilemma.

Rivers has developed into a great quarterback, and is undeniably the driving force behind the San Diego Chargers year in and year out. Rivers has led the team to an 88-56 record as the starter, and the Chargers have only one season under .500 with him at the helm.

In the 2008 Divisional playoffs, Rivers tore both his ACL and MCL in a win against Indianapolis and had surgery on his MCL. He played through the torn ACL the next week in the AFC Championship game against New England. Despite the loss, it is a perfect example of the competitive spirit and toughness that he brings to the franchise.

Statistically, Rivers has been fantastic. This past season he had one of the best five-game stretches ever by a quarterback, breaking Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a quarterback rating of 120 or better. He ranks sixth in NFL career passer rating and leads that statistic for the Chargers. Only two touchdowns separate Rivers from Dan Fouts’ spot as the franchise’s passing touchdown leader.  Per pro-football-reference.com, Rivers has almost as many 4th quarter comebacks (20) and game winning drives (23) as Fouts (24 and 26 respectively) in 32 less games.

Rivers has dedicated himself to the San Diego community, and was nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2011 for the work he did with his Rivers of Hope Foundation. Rivers of Hope has raised more than $1,000,000 for unwanted, abandoned, and orphaned children.

Rivers has carried the Chargers since the decline and departure of LaDainian Tomlinson, and is on his way to becoming the best quarterback in San Diego’s history – and in the eyes of many he has already passed Fouts for that title.

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates has been Rivers’ running mate throughout both of their NFL careers, as the two have combined for 72 touchdowns. That is more than Joe Montana and Jerry Rice combined for (55), so it is no surprise that they are on this list together.

Gates is the NFL’s active receiving touchdown leader with 99 touchdowns and has been a model of consistency, posting at least seven touchdowns in all but two of his 13 seasons. He is the Chargers franchise leader in all three major receiving categories: receptions, yardage, and touchdowns.

Since joining the team as an undrafted free agent, Gates has been a prominent figure in the San Diego community.  Gates tested positive for PEDs this offseason, which surprised many, including himself: “I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL.” Gates will miss the first four games of the upcoming season.

Eric Weddle

Weddle has been involved in contract disputes with the team all offseason and clearly feels as though he deserves to be paid like an elite NFL safety. And he’s right.

Over the past five years, Eric Weddle hasn’t missed a game for the San Diego Chargers and has been one of the best players in the NFL. His name doesn’t often come up in conversations when talking about elite safeties, but it should.  Here are some notables:

  • Since 2010 Weddle has been named to AP All-Pro first team twice; in the years he wasn’t named to the first team, he was named to the second team.
  • ProFootballFocus.com, a website that grades every play for every player individually, has ranked Weddle high annually. In the five years he hasn’t missed a game, Weddle has ranked as such for safeties: 3, 4, 1, 6, and 1.
  • Bleacher Report ranked him as the top safety in the NFL BR1000 this year.

Despite San Diego’s consistently weak defensive backfields, Weddle has been a force.

Even though he may not be a face of the franchise for much longer, Weddle and his signature beard are one now.

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