The LA Chargers have been such an up-and-down franchise over the years. While every NFL team has its peaks and its valleys, the difference between the best teams in Chargers history and the worst teams in Chargers history is massive.
The hope is that the Bolts do not add any new teams to the worst teams in franchise history list with Justin Herbert under center (hopefully for a long time). It is important to remember just how bad it can get as a cautionary tale for the team moving forward.
Let's dive into the worst teams in Chargers franchise history, ranking the 10 worst by winning percentage and point differential.
The 13 worst teams in LA Chargers history:
Just for transparency's sake, we chose the 13 worst teams in franchise history instead of a round number as there are 13 teams with a .313 winning percentage or worse.
13. 2001 Chargers; 5-11, +11 point differential
The 2001 Chargers are such a hilarious case study as the team actually finished with a positive point differential but still lost 11 games. All 11 of the team's losses were within 10 points while four of the five wins were by 10 or more points.
12. 2019 Chargers; 5-11 record, -8 point differential
The 2019 Chargers are one of the most disappointing teams on this list as the Bolts were coming off of one of the best years in franchise history in 2018. This was not the way that Philip Rivers should have been sent off.
11. 2016 Chargers; 5-11 record, -13 point differential
This was the season that ultimately got Mike McCoy fired. There were so many comical losses for the 2016 Chargers and this team genuinely could have won nine games and fought for a playoff spot. This team has one of the worst regular season losses in franchise history as the team blew a 13-point lead against the New Orleans Saints with less than seven minutes left in the game.
10. 1998 Chargers; 5-11 record, -101 point differential
Not all 5-11 teams are built the same. The other three 5-11 teams in franchise history could have been much better but were unlucky/couldn't execute. The 1998 Chargers were simply bad. The -101 point differential is one of the worst on this list.
9. 1962 Chargers; 4-10 record, -78 point differential
The only pre-merger team on this list is the 1962 Chargers. This was a young Chargers team and some of the best early players in franchise history were on this team... they just were not ready yet to be difference-makers.
8. 1986 Chargers; 4-12 record, -61 point differential
This was the last year of the Don Coryell era. The Hall of Fame head coach changed the way that football was played in the 80s but at this point, his quarterback was old and the roster was not as talented. Coryell was let go after seven straight losses.
7. 1991 Chargers; 4-12 record, -68 point differential
This is one of the most forgettable seasons in franchise history. The team wasn't so bad that it was comically memorable (the Bolts ranked 21st in points scored and points allowed per game) but there was nothing to write home about. The quarterback was John Friesz. The best offensive player was Marion Butts. It was, however, Junior Seau's second year in the league. So there is that.
6. 2015 Chargers; 4-12 record, -78 point differential
A lot of the recent bad Chargers teams could have been so much better but they just had bad luck in key moments. That was not the case for the 2015 Chargers. This was simply a bad team. Philip Rivers did his best but with Keenan Allen missing eight games and Antonio Gates aging, there really wasn't many offensive weapons. Danny Woodhead led the team in receiving yards.
5. 2003 Chargers; 4-12 record, -128 point differential
Drew Brees had a promising second season as a starter with the Bolts but the 2003 season did not go as well. Defense was the main culprit for this team's struggles, though, as the Bolts ranked 31st in points allowed per game this season.
4. 1997 Chargers; 4-12 record, -159 point differential
The 1997 Chargers had a new head coach in Kevin Gilbride (who turned out to not be great) and also saw their starting quarterback miss half the season. With those two things combined, it is no wonder why this team had a 4-12 record and ultimately earned the No. 2 pick in the 1998 NFL Draft... where they drafted Ryan Leaf.
3. 1973 Chargers; 2-11-1 record, -198 point differential
Despite having the third-worst record, this Chargers team has the worst point differential in franchise history. The craziest part about this awful season is the fact that the Bolts had two different Hall of Fame quarterbacks start games. A 40-year-old Johnny Unitas started four games and a 22-year-old Dan Fouts started six games.
2. 1975 Chargers; 2-12 record, -156 point differential
Dan Fouts earned the starting role by the 1975 season but he did not yet have his Hall of Fame head coach to lean on. This Chargers team started the season with an 0-11 record but was able to secure back-to-back wins against the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets to save it from total disaster.
1. 2000 Chargers; 1-15 record, -171 point differential
This was the height of the Ryan Leaf era for the Chargers. Leaf started nine games for the Chargers (tied for a career-high) and won just one game. That one win was a 17-16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. This team was two points away from being 0-16.