The Chargers have had a long list of great quarterbacks, but John Hadl was the first, at least on a long-term basis. Sandwiched between the eras of Jack Kemp and Tobin Rote, Hadl began with the team during its time in the AFL.
His career between the AFL and NFL spanned 18 seasons, 11 of which came in San Diego. A four-time AFL All-Star, Hadl was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl twice after the merger.
He still ranks third in team history in passing yards (26,938) and touchdown passes (201), despite completing just 50 percent of his passes during his time with the team.
Lance Alworth, the best wide receiver in team history, caught most of his passes from Hadl.
Though there’s never been much talk of putting Hadl in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was an easy choice to be included in the College Football Hall of Fame following a legendary career at Kansas. His No. 21 jersey is one of just three retired by the school.
Following a successful career with the Bolts, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, where he would go on to win the NFC Player of the Year in 1973, leading the Rams to the playoffs.
He was traded to the Green Bay Packers a couple of years later, by which time his career was clearly on the downside. He still lasted a couple of years with the then-Houston Oilers after that before deciding to retire and get into coaching.
Hadl is another star from the Chargers’ AFL days who should be remembered for some great games with the team. He was never on the level of a guy like Dan Fouts or Philip Rivers, but he should be regarded as the third-best quarterback in team history, mainly because Drew Brees has done most of his damage as a member of the New Orleans Saints.
Some may view Hadl as being too high on this list. However, for a guy who helped get the team to back-to-back-to-back AFL Championship games, he should get a lot of credit, particularly because the Chargers haven’t experienced success on that level since those days.