Coincidence or Curse? The bizarre story of the 1994 San Diego Chargers


May 10, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; LaDainian Tomlinson (left), Bobby Ross (center) and Dan Fouts at the Celebration of Life for Junior Seau at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Being raised by a very spiritual mother, I have always believed there is no such thing as a coincidence. Whenever something adverse happened to a person, my mother always claimed it to be karma. “Bad things happen to bad people,” seemed to be her axiom as I recall. One would be inclined to believe something so simple and precocious, since we always heard that good things happen to good people. As much as I value my mothers opinion and hold her in the highest regard, I’m going to have to say that her mantra does not ring true in all cases. My argument against it? The 1994 San Diego Chargers.

The ’94 Chargers were led by coach Bobby “Boss” Ross, who came to them in 1992. With his military like persona, Ross was an instant success in San Diego. He lead them to an improbable division title in ’92 and after missing the playoffs in ’93, expectations within the organization were high for the upcoming 1994 season. A stout defense lead by future Hall of Famer Junior Seau and an offense that featured the under the radar yet extremely effective triumvirate of Stan Humphries, Natrone Means and Tony Martin the Bolts raced out to a 6-0 record enroute to winning the AFC West for the second time in three years. After overcoming a 15 point deficit at home to defeat the Dan Marino lead Dolphins, the Chargers traveled to Three Rivers Stadium and shocked everyone by defeating the heavily favored Steelers. In Super Bowl XXIX they would face the red hot San Francisco 49ers. They succumbed to Steve Young’s six touchdown passes in a 49-26 rout. For most teams, losing the Super Bowl would be the low point. As you will see, the tragedy for this team was just about to begin.

A scientist said that the chance of five players from the same fifty-three man roster dying before the age of fifty is one percent. The 1994 San Diego Chargers have lost eight players in various ways before the age of forty-five. Not long after Super Bowl XXIX (five months to be exact), tragedy struck the Charger family. Outside linebacker David Griggs drove his car off a freeway ramp in Florida slamming into a sign pole. He was killed instantly. An autopsy later revealed that his blood alcohol content was double the legal limit. Running back Rodney Culver was next, when in 1996 he and his wife were aboard ValuJet Flight 592 traveling from Miami to Atlanta when it crashed into the Evereglades killing everyone on board. In 1998 linebacker and special teamer Doug Miller was struck by lightning while camping in Colorado. While CPR was being performed, he was struck by a second bolt. A Charger being killed by a bolt of lightning? The deaths stopped for ten years when in 2008 C. Curtis Whitley was found dead at his Texas home. Whitley had a history of substance abuse and had twice been suspended by the NFL. Toxicology results pointed to an accidental overdose. Also in 2008, defensive end Chris Mims was found lying facedown on the bathroom floor of his Los Angeles home. The autopsy revealed an enlarged heart. Mims weighed 456 pounds at the time of his death. In 2011 defensive tackle Shawn Lee died of a cardiac arrest after years of battling diabetes. In December 2011, Lew Bush was the seventh member of the team to die at an early age. Bush died of a heart attack at his San Diego home. Since his retirement in 2002, friends said he struggled with weight. Finally, in May of 2012 Junior Seau died of a single self inflicted gunshot to the chest. The face of the franchise and the heart and soul of that team took his own life at the young age of forty-three. We’ll have to wait and see if post concussion syndrome had a hand in his death.

There is no explanation to why these eight tragedies have occurred to men who triumphed and suffered loss on the same team. Like I said earlier, losing a Super Bowl is the worst thing that could happen to a player in his NFL career. Sadly for the the 1994 Chargers, that may have been the pinnacle of their careers.