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Chargers won struggle to stay in AFC, but Seahawks cashed in

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 31, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/9197478">CBS Sportsline</a>

    By Clark Judge

    <strong>DETROIT</strong> -- Most people here want to talk about the roles Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck played in Seattle's first-ever trip to the Super Bowl. Not me. I want to know about the San Diego Chargers.

    You heard me.

    Without the Chargers, the Seahawks don't represent the NFC. They represent the AFC. But tell me how you like their chances of making it to the top in a division with Denver, Oakland and Kansas City and conference playoffs that included Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis.

    Yeah? Me, neither. But it could've happened, folks, if San Diego hadn't acted.

    Rewind the videotape to 2001 when realignment was the hot topic of discussion in the NFL, with San Diego or Seattle destined to leave the AFC to make room for Houston, the league's 32nd franchise. Neither was all that interested, with San Diego adamant that it remain in the AFC West.

    Most of the league's owners agreed, but Seattle was stubborn and pushed the idea of San Diego moving anyway -- with the Chargers refusing to budge.

    "Seniority played a role in all the discussions," said Chargers president Dean Spanos. "They wanted to sell their fans on a new stadium with the balance in the division and the rivalries -- and keeping all of that intact. Our position was the same."

    Only the Chargers' position was stronger.

    They were one of the original members of the AFC West. Seattle was not. In fact, Seattle wasn't one of the original members of the AFC. When the Seahawks joined the league in 1976 as an expansion franchise, they joined as a member of the NFC. OK, so it was for only a year. But San Diego's point resonated with the league.

    Rivalries were more important to the Chargers because they'd been involved in them longer -- almost two decades longer (think AFL). And they weren't interested in jumping into a division with St. Louis, San Francisco and Arizona (which switched divisions in 2002) -- no matter what the competitive advantages might be.

    "Keeping those rivalries intact seemed more important," said Spanos.

    So San Diego stayed in a division where it was 9-7 and the third-best team this season. Seattle moved to a division where it was the only winning member and where it won 12 of its last 13, including all six this year.

    Now the Seahawks are in their first Super Bowl, and more power to them. They took advantage of an opportunity, and the evidence, please: Seattle played only five opponents this year with a winning record and played the softest schedule out there -- with opponents combining for a .430 winning percentage.

    Sure, they won three of their four starts against AFC opponents, but look a little closer. They lost to Jacksonville. They buried Houston, but so what? The Texans were the league's worst team. They nosed out Tennessee, a 4-12 finisher, and beat Indianapolis when the Colts rested Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison most of the game.

    Now look at what San Diego had to endure. The Chargers played five games in the Eastern time zone. They played five consecutive opponents that did not play the previous Sundays. They played a schedule of opponents with a winning percentage of .559, by far the league's most difficult.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    No doubt about it, Seattle did what it had to do -- which is to take advantage of a good situation. But let's not forget about those Chargers: Without their refusal to move, there was a possibility -- and a strong one -- that it would have been San Diego, not the Seahawks, forced to jump conferences.

    Seattle, you have friends down south. Plenty of them. And you owe them a debt of gratitude.

    "I don't think anyone here is looking at it that way," said Spanos. "We're here, and we like the division we're in."
     

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