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Lowe, Muncie, LT represent a lot of Chargers ground work

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Chris Jenkins
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    SAN DIEGO – Straight out of Cal, remember, he started with New Orleans. The so-called Big Easy long had been an exciting and fun town, unless you were talking about its National Football League team. The Saints, oh yes, they went marching in all right.
    Left-hut. Right-hut. Left, right, left.
    “We had, you know, the traditional two-back set,” said Chuck Muncie yesterday, recalling his first four-plus years in the NFL. “Run some sweeps here, run left off-tackle, right dive there, maybe catch a swing pass here and there.”
    Really, though the Saints weren't that much different or less clever than most other NFL teams. And then in 1980 Muncie was traded to San Diego, which to an offensive football player was like a different planet. Or an amusement park, complete with its own Walt Disney.
    “With Don Coryell, things changed,” said Muncie. “I was averaging 14-15 carries a game, but I was catching another five or six balls during the game in that single-set offense with one back. I'll never forget when 'Monday Night Football' came out with the first overhead camera, because we did so many things offensively, the things we did as a team were so innovative as a team, they had to add cameras to cover all our movement … “Coryell and the people he had here – Ernie Zampese, Joe Gibbs, Earnel Durden, my running back coach – they utilized me in a way I never even thought I could be used. They had me doing everything, lining up in a wing position, a slot position, out wide. Back in the '70s and '80s, that stuff wasn't ever done with the running backs.”
    But it was San Diego. Same as it was from the start. Same as it is now.
    That the Chargers yesterday assembled three of their greatest running backs – Muncie, Paul Lowe and LaDainian Tomlinson – was more than a way of covering almost all five decades in the history of a franchise celebrating its prominent place in the 50th anniversary of the American Football League. The trio personified the Chargers' lifelong identity, from birth, as a team unafraid to try almost anything and everything to move the ball downfield.
    It began with the pass-happy genius of Sid Gillman, the original Chargers head coach, widely considered the man who opened up the field of play to all possibilities. Lowe said he remembered being at Chargers camp in La Mesa and seeing Coryell – then at San Diego State – show up with pen, paper and eyes agog over the X's and O's.
    Well, the X's. The O's, not so much.
    Muncie was asked just what Tomlinson might've expected to do if he'd been available to Air Coryell.
    “Little bit of everything,” said Muncie. “He'd have been running back punts, running back kickoffs. They'd have put him in the slot position, put him in the flanker position. He might've even been taking a few snaps like he is now.”
    The “wildcat” offense is getting to be the rage in today's NFL, and in his first try at it a couple of weeks ago, Tomlinson scored a touchdown. For years, though, Tomlinson has been a threat to throw the ball as well. He's one TD shy of Walter Payton's all-time record of eight scoring passes by a running back.
    The “wildcat” doesn't seem as wild in San Diego as it does most anywhere else in the NFL, given the Chargers' history for playmaking and playmakers.
    The Chargers lit up the scoreboard with Lowe – who personally provided the Chargers a perfect beginning to their history with a 105-yard return of the first kickoff in the inaugural AFL preseason – plus quarterback John Hadl, flanker Lance Alworth, running back Keith Lincoln, tight end Dave Kocourek and return man Speedy Duncan.
    Muncie was the primary running back in an aerial-mad offense orchestrated by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and featuring Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receivers John Jefferson, Wes Chandler and Charlie Joiner, the latter also in the Hall of Fame.
    For obvious and logical reasons, the Chargers have been more geared to the ground game since Tomlinson came to San Diego in 2001, but he's also been part of an offense that's featured a couple of the game's premier passers (Drew Brees, now Philip Rivers), an incomparable pass-catching tight end (Antonio Gates) and an emerging array of lethal targets in Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee.
    Throughout yesterday's proceedings, Tomlinson remained the quietest of the three, his silence clearly a sign of respect for the two elders who ran so long and hard before him in a Chargers uniform.
    “In their generation, you'd have to be a tough son of a gun,” said Tomlinson. “That's just the way it was. Guys hit you in the knees all the time. But my mind-set would've prepared me to play in their generation, that tough football. I love running downhill and hitting people in the mouth. It would've been a lot harder to play when they did, but to make the money …”
    All three laughed at the word “money,” which is a huge difference between today's game and yesteryear, especially 50 years ago. Once the ball's in your hands, though, the running back of 2009 is doing pretty much the same thing as the one in 1960 and the other in 1980.
    “Whether it was back when Paul played or I played or like it is now, the bottom line is, you're the fox in the fox hunt,” said Muncie. “You've got all these hounds chasing you.”

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