It all began on draft day in 2001, when after finishing last in rushing offense the season before and finishing with the worst record in the NFL, the San Diego Chargers traded the #1 pick to the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons selected Michael Vick with the #1 overall pick. In return for their #1 pick, the Chargers received the #5 pick and a 3rd round choice that year’s draft, a 2nd round pick in 2002 and WR/KR Tim Dwight. San Diego selected LaDainian Tomlinson with the #5 pick in 2001. CB Tay Cody and WR Reche Caldwell were drafted with the other two picks acquired form the Falcons.
Dwight, Caldwell and Cody aside, the chargers made out like bandits with this trade. LaDainian has produced more and smashed more records than Michael Vick. Especially now that Vick’s playing career is on hold and in question all together, the bolts are definitely on the winning end of this trade. But even if Vick had continued his career without the dogfighting conviction he wouldn’t have produced more than Tomlinson will.
A few years ago Tomlinson talked to USA Today about the trade. He said, “I don’t really think about it. I’m real focused on my career and I’m pretty sure Michael is as well. But at the same time, the whole trade went down like it did, and it just so happened that for right now I think both teams:are getting what they traded for. So if we both end up in Canton on day, then hopefully everybody will be happy.” Well L.T., everybody isn’t happy, at least in Atlanta, as Michael Vick will undoubtedly reach The Hall of Fame. Tomlinson however is currently on the fast track to Canton.
The 2001 draft set the building blocks of the great roster in San Diego but another draft day trade put the finishing touches on one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. The Chargers finished with a league-worst 4-12 record and were awarded the first pick in the 2003 NFL draft. Eli Manning was the consensus #1 pick but prior to the draft Manning and his agent Tom Condon informed the Chargers that if they selected him with the first pick he would not sign. The Chargers made the smart move by drafting Manning anyway with the first overall selection in the 2004 draft. After serious negotiations a trade was finally reached with the New York Giants just prior to them making the fourth overall selection.
The Giants agreed to draft QB Philip Rivers and trade his rights to the Chargers along with the Giants’ 3rd round pick in that year’s draft and their #1 pick in 2005 for the rights to sign QB Eli Manning. The Chargers would go on to draft K Nate Kaeding with the 3rd round pick in 04′ and OLB Shawne Merriman with the 1st round pick in the 05′ draft. To recap: The Chargers received QB Philip Rivers, K Nate Kaeding and OLB Shawne Merriman for QB Eli Manning. Rivers, Kaeding and Merriman have all made it to the pro-bowl while Manning has yet to be invited to Hawaii.
The recent history of the San Diego Chargers is an example of how with a few key moves a team can go from the bottom of the league to the top in just a few years. This should give hope to the fans of struggling franchises because they are could be just a few draft day trades away from being in the front of the pack.