Before the NFL became a league in which quarterbacks throwing for 4,000 yards a season became a regular thing, Dan Fouts was one of the game’s most prolific passers…. ever.
Fouts played his college ball at Oregon and wasn’t selected until the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft. When he came aboard, Johnny Unitas was on the roster. During his rookie season, Fouts started six games while Unitas and Wayne Clark each started four.
Unitas retired following that season and Fouts became the team’s primary starter in 1974. It took until 1979 for him to get the Chargers to the playoffs. However, adding Don Coryell as head coach in 1978 was the move that took Fouts from a good quarterback to a great one.
Fouts thrived in Coryell’s open offense and was perhaps the perfect quarterback for that system. He put up numbers in the early 1980s that would still look good today. In 1981, he threw for 4,802 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading the Chargers to one step from the Super Bowl.
He led the league in passing yardage four times and touchdown passes twice. Because he never reached the Super Bowl, he’s on a short list of players considered to be the best that didn’t play in the big game.
Fouts has a list of accomplishments a mile long. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, his first year of eligibility. His No. 14 jersey is one of just four to ever be retired by the team.
When the team announced its 50th Anniversary Team in 2009, Fouts was chosen by the fans as the best player in franchise history.