The Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders have a history dating back to the days of the American Football League. Since 1960, the Chargers and Raiders have shared a common division, first in the AFL and then the AFC West in the modern day National Football League. The two franchises have met 118 total times, but just once in the playoffs at the end of the 1981 season. There is more to this rivalry than just a common division.
History of the Chargers vs. Raiders Rivalry
Al Davis was hired by Los Angeles head coach Sid Gillman to be an assistant coach for the Chargers in 1959, but then in 1963 Davis jumped the ship to become the head coach and general manager for Oakland. Many Chargers fans saw this as a traitorous move by Al Davis and never forgave him for it. Oakland had always been the “little brother” to Los Angeles, but upon Davis’ arrival in Oakland, the Raiders began to challenge the Chargers’ supremacy out west.
In 1978, the rivalry reached a new high after the play deemed “The Immaculate Deception” by Charger fans and “The Holy Roller” by Raider fans. The refereeing blunder that ruled a clear incomplete pass a fumble led to the Raiders beating the Chargers by one. Every Charger fan considered this cheating, and the play caused an NFL rule change.
In 1980, the now San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders both ended the regular season with a record of 11-5. The two franchises met in the AFC Championship round, where the Raiders bested the Chargers 34-27 and went on to win the Super Bowl that year. This game left a sour taste in Charger fans’ mouths after getting so close to the Super Bowl only to be spurned by their divisional and regional rival.
In the 1990’s and up to present day, there has been an aura of lawlessness surrounding the Oakland Raiders. Many attribute this to the “wild west” nature of Al Davis, while others just use this term in comparison to the more docile Chargers franchise. A local bail bonds company in San Diego aired a commercial on local television depicting San Diego residences locking up their homes and establishments while stating “The Raider Fans Are Here.”
Head to Head Analysis of Chargers vs. Raiders
This is truly a rivalry that has gone back and forth over the years. The Raiders hold the advantage in the all-time series with a mark of 63-54-2, and they won the only playoff game between the two teams in 1980-1981. The Raiders have five Super Bowl appearances, winning in 1976, 1980, and 1983, while the Chargers lost their only appearance in 1994.
The 1960’s saw the Chargers jump out to a huge advantage over the fledgling Oakland franchise, winning the first six games in the series before Oakland started to catch up. By the end of the decade, the Chargers still held an 11-9 lead over Oakland, but it was clear that the gap was getting smaller. The 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s were three decades of complete domination by Oakland, as they went 40-19-2 over the Chargers. In this period, the Raiders won the division nine times compared to just five for the Chargers.
A Glance at Postseason Success in Chargers vs. Raiders
The turn of the millennium dawned a new era In the rivalry as the then San Diego Chargers began to exert their dominance over the fading Raiders. In the 2000’s, the Chargers finished the decade with a 14-6 record against their rival, including a historical winning streak of thirteen games from 2003-2009. Oakland’s last divisional championship came in 2002, while the Chargers won the division five times after that.
The 2010’s have seen an interesting trend develop in the head-to-head matchups between these two. Oakland started the decade with a three game winning streak, followed by one of their own by the Chargers. Oakland got a lone win in 2013 before the Chargers had another three game streak. Then The Raiders won four in a row in 2015 and 2016 before the Chargers won four in a row, a streak they are currently on.
Chargers vs. Raiders Rivalry Outlook
Both franchises are in interesting positions moving forward, as the Raiders just gave the prodigal son Jon Gruden a long term contract to lead the Raiders back to prominence and the Chargers are seeing their window close with the aging Phillip Rivers at quarterback. The jury is still out on what Gruden can do with the Raiders, but the first year returns were disastrous as= Oakland finished at the bottom of the AFC West, and traded away their two best players. A rebuilding process is certainly underway in Oakland, and their future rests solely on how well they draft in the next few seasons.
The Chargers, now back in Los Angeles, just finished one of their best seasons in franchise history. They finished just behind Kansas City for the divisional title, but won their wild card playoff match up before being destroyed by the Super Bowl bound New England Patriots. 2004 first round pick Phillip Rivers will turn 38 during the next NFL season, and it will be interesting to see how much he has left. That talk may be premature, though, as Rivers is coming off of one of his best seasons since coming into the league.
Both franchises have a bugaboo in the division after the emergence of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Chargers are right there ready to compete with Kansas City, but Oakland seems years away from challenging for AFC West dominance. Los Angeles should have the advantage in this rivalry moving forward as long as Rivers is healthy and playing at a high level, but with the wealth of draft picks the Raiders have collected, expect them to become increasingly competitive in the next decade.