The 5 best head coaches in the history of the LA Chargers

San Diego Chargers
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The head coach is more important in the game of football than in any other sport in the world. Talent can overcome a bad basketball head coach or a clueless baseball manager. Talent cannot overcome bad coaching, and the LA Chargers know this all too well.

There have been quite a few bad head coaches throughout the history of the Chargers that have held back All-Pro-caliber players from having success. However, it has not been all bad as there are some coaches throughout the history of the team who actually accomplished something.

Taking into consideration a mixture of coaching record, team accolades, and influence on the sport, let's dive into the best head coaches that the Bolts have ever had (and if all goes as planned, Jim Harbaugh will eventually make this list).

The top 5 head coaches in Chargers history:

5. Marty Schottenheimer

Some fans probably expected to see Marty Schottenheimer higher than fifth on this list and may be surprised who ranks ahead of him. But we will get to the reasoning once we get to that specific head coach.

Schottenheimer is tied for the second-best winning percentage in franchise history and coached arguably the greatest team in Chargers history. The 2006 Chargers were special with a 14-2 record on the coattails of a record-breaking MVP season from LaDainian Tomlinson. Unfortunately, as every Chargers fan is painfully aware, that team could not get it done against the New England Patriots.

Schottenheimer was fired after that playoff letdown in a move that was vastly criticized at the time, and for good reason. Schottenheimer made the playoffs twice in his five years with the Chargers and led the team to a combined 35-13 record (.729 winning percentage) in his final three years.

Despite all of this success, though, the fact remains that Schottenheimer never won a playoff game with the Bolts.

4. Norv Turner

This might seem like a hot take considering Chargers fans have a special place for Schottnehimer since he was treated so poorly by the team. To be fair, Schottenheimer's best season with the Chargers is better than any regular season Turner had and Turner also took over the roster Schottenheimer helped build.

But from a pure results standpoint, it is hard to argue against Turner being the fourth-best head coach in franchise history. He is tied for the most playoff wins in Chargers history with three while checking in with the third-most career wins (56).

Turner's Chargers got very close to the Super Bowl in his first year, losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game thanks in no small part to Philip Rivers playing on a torn ACL. The Chargers then pulled off the miraculous overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts the following year, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Round.

Turner's 2009 postseason is by far his worst as the 13-3 Chargers were defeated by the 9-7 New York Jets in the AFC Divisional Round, 17-14.

3. Bobby Ross

Bobby Ross is the only head coach in Chargers history that led the team to the Super Bowl. Granted, the Chargers were absolutely walloped in that Super Bowl 49-26 but it is still an accomplishment that cannot be ignored.

All in all, Ross had a very successful tenure with the Bolts that had very few bad moments. He never had a losing record while coaching the Chargers and made the playoffs three times in five years with the Bolts. Like Turner, Ross also has a franchise-high three playoff wins to his name.

Unfortunately, Ross' tenure with the Chargers ended sooner than it probably should have. Ross left the Chargers after an 8-8 season in 1996 to coach the Detroit Lions, where he was given more power in player and personnel decisions.

2. Sid Gillman

Sid Gillman is the only coach in Chargers history who has won a championship with the team. Granted, Gillman coached in a completely different era and he helped lead the team to the AFL Championship, not the Super Bowl.

That being said, the first head coach in Chargers history was a great one as Gillman made the Bolts one of the most successful teams in the AFL. His 86 career wins with the Chargers is the most in franchise history and are 17 more than second place. His .619 winning percentage is the best as well.

As one of the pioneers of modern football, Gillman has a lengthy and impressive coaching tree that is still prominent in the league today. Seven current head coaches all stem back to Gillman and join legendary coaches John Madden, Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh and Tony Dungy, just to name a few.

1. Don Coryell

In a move that was years in the making and should have happened much sooner, former Chargers head coach Don Coryell was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023. Coryell isn't just the best head coach in Chargers history, he is one of the best head coaches in NFL history.

Coryell does not have the overwhelming success that other all-time great head coaches have. After all, in his nine years with the team, he had a 69-56 record (.552) and went 3-4 in the playoffs. His seven playoff games coached is the most in franchise history while his 69 wins are the second most in franchise history.

In addition to being a great head coach, Coryell was influential for the entire game as he completely changed what a passing offense looks like. The "Air Coryell" offense with quarterback Dan Fouts was well ahead of its time and is the first version of the pass-heavy offenses that dominate the league today.

If Coryell had a better roster, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, then perhaps he would have more lifetime success in the playoffs. Regardless, he is the best head coach in Chargers history.

The 5 best head coaches in Chargers history by wins:



Years with Chargers

Lifetime record


Sid Gillman




Don Coryell




Norv Turner




Bobby Ross




Marty Schottenheimer