Top 4 Pivotal Debut Seasons: How Chargers Head Coaches Left Their Mark in Year One

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The Los Angeles/ San Diego Chargers have been looking for the right blend of players and coaches to push the team into contention for the Super Bowl finally. They have for the 18th time hired a new head coach in that effort. Optimism reigns on high this offseason as Jim Harbaugh looks to continue his ways; making losing football teams into winners.

The Chargers have had several head coaches push the team into national prominence, so look at the four best coaching debut seasons.

Top First-Year Chargers Coaches

Sid Gilman (1960-1969)

In 1960, Sid Gillman, a pioneer of the pass-heavy offense, arrived in Los Angeles not only as a head coach but as a head coach and general manager for the newly formed American Football League’s Los Angeles Chargers. Despite initial struggles (2-3 start), Gillman’s innovative schemes, emphasizing speed and passing, quickly clicked. The Chargers finished the season 10-4, capturing the AFL Western Division title and a berth in the first-ever AFL championship game.

That first season set the tone for the Chargers in the AFL, going to the AFL Championship game four times, winning in 1963.

Don Coryell (1978-1986)

Don Coryell’s debut season with the Los Angeles Chargers in 1978 wasn’t a fairytale start. Tommy Prothro abruptly resigned after the team went 1-3 to start the year. Coryell was hired and lost three of the next four games. But following that stretch, the Chargers won seven of the last eight games of the season, salvaging the season with a winning 9-7 record.

Over the next four seasons, the Chargers went 38-18 making the conference championship twice with quarterback Dan Fouts throwing for over 4,000 yards in three of those seasons.

While the win-loss record wasn’t stellar in his first year, the foundation was laid for the high-powered Chargers offense that would dominate the league.

Bobby Ross (1992-1996)

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Bobby Ross was the first Chargers coach to take the team from worst to first in his debut season. In 1991, they went 4-12, the first season under Ross they won 11 games and made their first playoff appearance in 10 years. Ross was hired after a stint as head coach of Georgia Tech. It would be his first time coaching in the NFL.

While they finished the 1992 season 11-5 its start seemed like a lost season. The team went 0-4 before winning 11 of the last 12 games, losing only to the Kansas City Chiefs by two points in that stretch.

Ross would lead the team to their only Super Bowl appearance two seasons later. Two seasons after that  Ross resigned with two years remaining on his contract.

Norv Turner (2007-2012)

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers
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Not many coaches have the duty of replacing a legendary coach who was fired after going 14-2. But that was the nearly impossible task given to Norv Turner in 2007 when he was hired in the wake of Marty Schottenheimer‘s undue firing.

Turner went 11-5, winning the division on the back of a six-game winning streak to end the season which propelled the Chargers into the playoffs. Most importantly Turner led that team to its first playoff victories in 13 seasons.

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams
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