The 10 best quarterbacks in the history of the LA Chargers (2024)

No position in professional sports is more important than quarterback. A great roster can be held back by a bad quarterback while an underwhelming team can be elevated if it has an all-time-great signal caller. Fortunately for the LA Chargers, the team has been pretty lucky at the quarterback position.

Where the Chargers have missed the mark is the rest of the roster around the quarterback. A franchise with as much quarterback success as the Chargers should probably have at least one Super Bowl to its name.

Alas, the lack of franchise success should not take away from the great quarterbacks who have suited up in the powder blue.

Many factors determine where a quarterback's legacy stands. Overall career stats don't necessarily tell the entire story, as some quarterbacks simply had longer tenures than others.

Tenure and career numbers certainly do matter, but these rankings also factor in how good a particular quarterback was in their prime. Team success is also a key factor as it can be directly tied to the quarterback.

Some factors don't show up in the box score. A quarterback's impact on the franchise, the city, and the sport itself can extend far past their completion percentage or their total number of touchdowns. All of those are important variables to factor in as well.

And of course, this list is a living thing. A certain quarterback has already carved his place in the franchise's top 10 and has a very good chance of steamrolling his way up the list. With all that being said, let's dive into it.

The top 10 quarterbacks in LA Chargers history:

10. Jim Harbaugh

The current head coach of the Chargers makes the cut as the 10th-best quarterback in franchise history. Harbaugh did not have the most successful career as the Chargers' signal caller, but there is a big drop-off from the top seven, so he makes the cut.

Harbaugh is 10th in franchise history in passing yards with 4,177 in 17 starts. Of the quarterbacks in the top 10, only six averaged more passing yards per game and had a better passer rating.

Harbaugh now has the unique opportunity to not only rank as one of the best quarterbacks in Chargers franchise history but one of the best head coaches as well.

9. Doug Flutie

Doug Flutie is most known for his Hail Mary touchdown pass with Boston College or his dominance in the Canadian Football League. He was a three-time Grey Cup winner and three-time CFL MVP prior to joining the Chargers.

Flutie started 22 games for the Chargers and finished with an underwhelming 8-14 record. Those 22 starts gave him enough of a runway to finish eighth in franchise history in passing yards. Only four quarterbacks in the top 10 in passing yards had a lower interception rate than Flutie's 3.0%.

While his numbers might not be the most impressive, Flutie does have a unique place in the Chargers' record books. He started a game at 42 years old in 2004, making him the oldest quarterback to start a game in franchise history.

8. Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp had the most prolific non-football career of any Chargers quarterback on this list. After hanging it up on the gridiron, Kemp took to the field of politics and served as the ninth United States Secretary of Housing and Development under President George H.W. Bush. He was a member of the House of Representatives prior to serving on Bush's cabinet,

Kemp had a 10-year football career before joining the political world with two-plus of those years coming with the Chargers. Most notably, he was the first starting quarterback in franchise history as he started 12 games for the Chargers in 1960.

That first season was a successful one for Kemp as a first-team All-AFL quarterback. The following year, he was named an AFL all-star.

Kemp's tenure with the Chargers ended in his third season after a broken finger caused a misunderstanding from then-coach and general manager Sid Gillman. Gillman placed Kemp on waivers to put him on the "injured deferred" list, allowing any team to claim him for $100. Gillman thought he could keep Kemp on the active roster if another team claimed him, but that was not the case as a new rule implemented by the AFL allowed the Buffalo Bills to claim Gillman.

As fate would have it, the Bills and Chargers met in the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championship Games. Kemp and the Bills won both games, 20-7 and 23-0, respectively.

7. Drew Brees

Drew Brees will forever be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but not for his time with the Chargers. Brees carved out his legacy with the New Orleans Saints with historic offensive numbers alongside Sean Payton — and a Super Bowl ring to boot.

Brees was not the same quarterback in San Diego that he was in New Orleans, although the potential was certainly there. The future Hall of Famer first became a starter in 2002 and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl with a successful 2004 campaign that saw the Chargers win 12 games and make the playoffs.

The Chargers were 9-5 to start the following season, in a key spot to make the playoffs once again. However, the Bolts lost the last two games, and Brees tore his labrum in the season finale. He then left for the Saints and now ranks sixth in Chargers history in both passing yards and touchdowns.

6. Tobin Rote

From a numbers standpoint, it may not seem like Rote should rank as high as he does on this list. After all, Rote ranks 12th in total passing yards and eighth in passing touchdowns in franchise history. Throw in a lowly 54.3% completion percentage and the top six looks a bit generous.

However, Rote has something no other player has as the Chargers' starting quarterback: a championship. The Chargers have one lone AFL Championship, and Rote was the captain of the team that won it.

Plus, Rote played in a different era in which passing stats simply were not as easy to come by. Compared to his peers at the time, Rote was one of the best in the sport. He won the Associated Press AFL MVP award in 1963, the same season he led the Chargers to the AFL Championship.

5. Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert is accomplishing things in his career that very few young quarterbacks, regardless of team, have ever done. Herbert's rookie season was one of the best in NFL history, and he has already had some historic seasons for a Chargers quarterback.

In 2021, Herbert set the new all-time mark for passing yards (5,014) and passing touchdowns (38) in franchise history. He has two of the six seasons in franchise history with at least 4,700 passing yards and two of the eight seasons with at least 31 passing touchdowns.

The former Oregon Duck is undoubtedly going to climb up this list, and if he can become the first quarterback in franchise history with a Super Bowl ring, then he might just jump to No. 1. Herbert has the case for being the most talented quarterback in franchise history but has to accomplish more to move up the ranks.

4. Stan Humphries

Stan Humphries does not have the passing stats or the talent ceiling that Justin Herbert has. In fact, Herbert has already passed Humphries in career passing yards with the Chargers and career passing touchdowns.

Humphries started 55 games for the Chargers, and prior to the 2024 season, Herbert has started 56. Herbert has 1,138 more passing yards, 29 more touchdowns and 31 fewer interceptions. There is no denying that Herbert is more talented than Humphries was.

But, at the end of the day, Humphries is the only quarterback in franchise history who has played in a Super Bowl with the Chargers. Humphries was the captain of a mid-'90s Chargers team that saw a lot of playoff success, thanks in large part to his contributions.

If we had a time machine and put Humphries on the 2023 Chargers, then the results might have been even worse. And if we put Herbert on the 1994 Chargers, then maybe they win the Super Bowl. But hypotheticals don't create rankings, and as the only quarterback with a Super Bowl appearance, Humphries has to be on the Mount Rushmore of Chargers QBs.

3. John Hadl

John Hadl may not have a Super Bowl appearance like Humphries, but he currently has a firm grip as the third-most-productive quarterback in franchise history. Hadl is third in franchise passing yards (26,938) and touchdowns (201). Even though he played in a completely different era, Hadl's 5.5% touchdown rate is the highest of any Chargers quarterback with at least 500 attempts.

Hadl has an interesting place in franchise history as he was the bridge quarterback between Kemp and Rote. He started 10 games in the 1962 season after Kemp's injury but was then reduced to being Rote's backup in 1963 and 1964.

Hadl is a champion like Rote, but he was not the starting quarterback for the Bolts in the 1963 AFL Championship. The third-best quarterback in franchise history did appear in the game, though, as he went 7-for-11 passing with a touchdown in mop-up duty.

Rote and Hadl split starting duties during the 1964 season, eventually leading Rote to leave the team and Hadl to be named the full-time starter. Hadl would hold that job through the 1972 season, when he then passed the baton to another all-time Chargers great.

2. Dan Fouts

Hadl's first season away from the Chargers was Dan Fouts' rookie season. As a third-round pick, Fouts was not the planned replacement for Hadl. The Chargers traded for future Pro Football Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas to replace Hadl, and it went about as poorly as it could have.

The Chargers benched Unitas after his first four starts resulted in a 1-3 record. Unitas completed 44.7% of his passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. It was clear his time was over, opening the door for Fouts to start.

The rest is history. Fouts went on to have a Hall of Famer career in which he revolutionized what an NFL passing offense looked like alongside head coach Don Coryell. At the time of his retirement, Fouts ranked second all-time in passing yards and fourth all-time in passing touchdowns.

Fouts' franchise records with the Chargers have since been surpassed. The gunslinging Hall of Famer is second in franchise history in passing yards (43,040) and passing touchdowns (254).

1. Philip Rivers

Could it have been anyone else?

There is a case to be made for Fouts over Rivers because of the overall impact on the sport that Fouts had. Fouts was also better compared to his peers than Rivers was. Fouts was undeniably one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he played, while Rivers often got lost in the shuffle with so many all-time greats playing at the same time.

However, it is impossible to ignore the numbers Rivers put together and the fact he is the most accomplished quarterback in franchise history. Sure, he does not have a Super Bowl appearance to his name, but neither does Fouts. Rivers finished with a better winning percentage (.526) than Fouts (.509) as well.

The former North Carolina State quarterback ranks sixth all-time in both career passing yards and career passing touchdowns. Rivers finished with 16,231 more passing yards than Fouts, which is more than Humphries had in his entire tenure with the Bolts.

There is no denying Rivers is the best quarterback in franchise history, and unfortunately, he will also always be remembered as one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks of all time.

Rank

Player

Years with Chargers

Passing yards

1.

Philip Rivers

2004-2019

59,271

2.

Dan Fouts

1973-1987

43,040

3.

John Hadl

1962-1972

26,938

4.

Justin Herbert

2020-present

17,223

5.

Stan Humphries

1992-1997

16,085

6.

Drew Brees

2001-2005

12,348

7.

Jack Kemp

1960-1962

5,996

8.

Doug Flutie

2001-2004

4,901

9.

John Friesz

1990-1993

4,396

10.

Jim Harbaugh

1999-2000

4,177

The 10 best quarterbacks in the history of the LA Chargers (2024)

FAQs

The 10 best quarterbacks in the history of the LA Chargers? ›

Philip Rivers has the most career wins by a Chargers quarterback, with 126 wins.

Who is the greatest QB in Los Angeles Chargers history? ›

Philip Rivers has the most career wins by a Chargers quarterback, with 126 wins.

Who is the 10 Chargers QB? ›

Justin Patrick Herbert (born March 10, 1998) is an American football quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers of the National Football League (NFL).

Who was the quarterback for the Chargers in the 80s? ›

Dan Fouts

Who was the quarterback for the Chargers in 1990? ›

On offense, the Chargers continued a recent trend of trying multiple starting quarterbacks during the season, with Billy Joe Tolliver seeing the most action.

Who is the best quarterback for the Chargers? ›

Justin Herbert continues to earn praise as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus recently compiled his list of all 32 starters in the league — and the Chargers quarterback rounded out the top five.

Who was the Hall of Fame quarterback for the Chargers? ›

Dan Fouts was selected to six Pro Bowls in a seven-year span and, at the time of his retirement, held or shared 42 Chargers records.

Who was the QB for the Chargers when they went to the Super Bowl? ›

Stan Humphries and Gale Gilbert played quarterback for the Chargers in 1995.
NO.NAME
113G. Gilbert
212S. Humphries

Who was the Chargers long time quarterback? ›

Philip Michael Rivers (born December 8, 1981) is an American former football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 17 seasons, primarily with the Chargers franchise.

Who was the Chargers quarterback in 1993? ›

Uncertainty at the quarterback position contributed to a slow start. Stan Humphries suffered a shoulder injury during the pre-season, and posted a quarterback rating of just 46.12 through the first four games; John Friesz replaced him, posting better numbers but going 2–4 as a starter.

Who was the Chargers QB in 1994? ›

The Chargers' offense was led by quarterback Stan Humphries, who was the Redskins' backup to Mark Rypien during the 1991 season, when they won Super Bowl XXVI. During the 1994 season for San Diego, Humphries completed 264 out of 453 attempts for 3,209 yards and 17 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions.

Who was the Chargers quarterback in 1992? ›

After starting quarterback John Friesz was injured in preseason, the Chargers lost their first four regular season games while being outscored 95–29, but rallied behind replacement quarterback Stan Humphries and a strong defense that featured Pro Bowlers on the defensive line (Leslie O'Neal), at linebacker (Junior Seau ...

What Chargers quarterbacks have the most passing yards? ›

The Los Angeles Chargers player with the most passing yards in franchise history was Philip Rivers with 59,271 yards as of March 2024. This is followed by Dan Fouts and John Hadl with 43,040 and 26,938 yards respectively.

What is Tom Brady's record against the Chargers? ›

Brady went 10-2 against the Chargers, 7-2 against San Diego teams and 3-0 in playoff matches against the franchise. The first playoff defeat contributed to coach Marty Schottenheimer getting fired. The second came with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated:

Views: 5855

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.