Spander: Chargers no strangers to falling short in postseason 

This is the conundrum for sports fans: Is it better to have a bad or mediocre team — the Raiders and 49ers immediately come to mind — that numbs you into a state of indifference, or one like the San Diego Chargers that raises hopes and then inevitably collapses?

Up north, we’ve had our pleasures. The recent years have been less than enthralling, but on their résumés the Niners and Raiders can show multiple Super Bowl victories.

The Chargers don’t have any. None.

The old naval town, the place Jim Murray once labeled “San Don’t Go,” remains in a state of bell-bottomed gloom.

Eleven straight victories for the Chargers and then when it counted Sunday, in an AFC divisional playoff game against the New York Jets, a defeat. A stab in the heart, a blow to the head. A choke-job of noble proportions, one of bad snaps, bad play-calling, too many penalties — very Raider-like in that area — and most glaringly, missed field goals.

Mr. Reliable, the Chargers’ Nate Kaeding, who never misses, was Mr. Impossible, missing when it mattered. In the postseason, there never is a field-goal attempt that it doesn’t matter.

We haven’t had much by the Bay, but when they are called upon, Sebastian Janikowski and Joe Nedney produce as required.

You wonder how Al Davis views all this. The Raiders and Chargers, the team where Al worked before coming to Oakland as head coach in 1963, are particularly dedicated rivals, perhaps even hated rivals.

Once, Harland Svare, then the San Diego coach, was so convinced the Raiders had bugged the visitors locker room at the Oakland Coliseum that he yelled at an overhead light fixture, “Damn you, Al Davis, I know you’re listening.”

Al, when informed, gleefully explained, “The bug wasn’t in the light bulb.”

Maybe someone should have put a figurative bug in Davis’ ear regarding Rob Ryan, who was the Raiders’ defensive coordinator until he was dismissed by Lane Kiffin, himself dismissed shortly thereafter by Davis.

Rob’s brother, Rex, with some brilliant ideas, some excellent personnel and some delightfully immodest predictions, has as a rookie head coach turned the Jets into this season’s gotcha.

You wonder if Rob, given the same latitude and maybe a couple more linemen, could have created similar success if he, not Kiffin, had been chosen to run the Raiders.

Other than the Jets, who were 9-7 during the regular season — one game better than the Niners — the other three teams in this weekend’s conference championships are not a surprise.

Nor is it a surprise that the three, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Minnesota, play in domes. In the playoffs, dome teams that are home teams invariably are winning teams, because the opposition is unable to call audibles over the crowd noise.

The Chargers play outdoors, where a California team would be expected to play. On their home field Sunday, they played poorly. As history shows in the postseason, that’s how a Chargers team would be expected to play.

The man coaching the Chargers, Norv Turner, previously was the Niners’ offensive coordinator. He accepted that position after being fired as Raiders head coach by, yes, Al Davis.

It’s the California connection, and it’s not working very well at either end of the state.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and E-mail him at

AFC Championship

Jets vs. Colts
WHEN: Sunday, Noon
WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
TV: CBS (KPIX, Ch. 5)

NFC Championship

Vikings vs. Saints
WHEN: Sunday, 3:40 p.m.
WHERE: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
TV: Fox (KTVU, Ch. 2)

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
Pin It

Speaking of...

Latest in Other Sports

© 2019 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation