LA Chargers: The one draft decision that likely cost a Super Bowl

The LA Chargers might have won at least one Super Bowl with one different decision.

The LA Chargers are one of 12 teams in the NFL to have never won a Super Bowl in their franchise history. Seven of those 12 teams have made it to only one Super Bowl or fewer, with the Chargers being one.

The team’s only appearance was in the 1994-95 season, where the Chargers were heavy underdogs and that showed in the final scoreline. The 18-point underdogs lost by 23 points in what is still the highest-scoring Super Bowl of all-time with 75 combined points.

The Chargers have gotten close since then but never made it to the big game. They made it to the Conference Championship in 2007, but both Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson were hurt, and seemingly had the team to win it all during the 2006 season, but suffered the most heartbreaking loss in franchise history to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.

It has been rough and Charger fans hope that one day they can get over the elusive hump and not just make it to the Super Bowl again, but win it.

But what if I told you that if we changed one draft decision in the early 2000s then the Chargers likely would have a Super Bowl win under their belt? Unfortunately, that might be the case.

The draft decision that cost the LA Chargers a Super Bowl:

It might sound outrageous to say that one decision kept the Bolts from winning the Super Bowl, but one small tweak in the 2003 NFL Draft and you could absolutely make the case.

The Chargers had the 15th overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft and instead of making a selection, the team opted to trade down with the Philadelphia Eagles (a trade that is the best in franchise history with the Eagles, but leaves a sour taste for other reasons).

The Chargers had multiple needs in that year’s draft, mostly in the secondary. With the picks that the team received from trading down, the Bolts selected cornerback Sammy Davis and safety Terence Kiel, both of which were serviceable NFL pros.

But there was an NFL Hall of Famer still on the board that fit the Chargers’ needs. And it is not like that Hall of Famer ended up going 20 picks later, he was picked one pick later. The Chargers, who needed help at safety, absolutely could have used the guy that went with the 16th overall pick.

Troy Polamalu.

The Steelers traded up in the draft to select Polamalu after the Eagles made their selection and the rest is history. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career and is one of the best safeties of all-time.

So would Polamalu have led to a Super Bowl? Probably. Of course, there is a sliding doors impact that we kind of have to assume and maybe the Chargers would not have had the first overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, maybe Polamalu would have had one crucial interception and they wouldn’t have had the first overall pick and ended up with Philip Rivers.

But let’s just assume that everything else stayed relatively close to the same of what happened, which is not a crazy assumption. As good as Polamalu was, he would not have made the Chargers so much better in 2003 that they would not have been able to draft Rivers.

There is one specific instance that we can look back on and see where Polamalu would have been beneficial. Not only would he have been an elite addition to the 14-2 Chargers, making them better than they already were, but he arguably would have prevented that meltdown against the Patriots in the Divisional Round.

With an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, safety Marlon McCree intercepted Tom Brady and essentially could have put the game on ice as the Chargers could have drained the clock and even taken a two-possession lead.

The problem is that he fumbled, re-giving the Patriots the ball, which eventually led to a Patriots victory. Put Polamalu in that situation and Brady not only would have had a tougher day overall, but that fumble doesn’t happen.

That Chargers team was so talented and adding one more Hall of Fame player would have absolutely put them over the edge. It sucks knowing that they had a Hall of Famer in the palm of their hands and let him slide.

Next: Four Chargers who could make their first Pro Bowl

It is a mistake that the LA Chargers may never live down. But hey, hindsight is always 20/20.