The Chargers made it official on Thursday, announcing their move to Los Angeles to become, immediately, the Los Angeles Chargers. There are many levels to discuss here, starting with how it relates to the Eagles both past and in the very near future.
Before that, though, some thoughts on the move: The NFL sees another franchise relocate, which has to be concerning. There are many questions to answer for the Chargers and for the NFL. What impact will the move have on the Chargers' franchise, which for two seasons could play at the StubHub Center, with a capacity of about 30,000 fans? What impact will the move have on the Los Angeles Rams, who have been back in L.A. for all of one season and who are desperately trying to grow roots there after an enormously disappointing 2016 campaign? What happens to all of those Chargers fans who supported the team in San Diego since 1961 (the Chargers started in Los Angeles in 1960)?
It won't be easy for the Los Angeles Chargers in any capacity, even with their new logo and their reported plans to rebrand the team. The team is in the process now of hiring a head coach and trying to get back into the AFC's playoff picture while quarterback Philip Rivers still has some life in his arm. This is not an enviable situation for the players, the coaches, the administration or any of the fans and it presents a huge challenge to the Los Angeles NFL market, which now has the task of supporting two franchises.
As far as the impact on the Eagles, well, there certainly is one. Philadelphia has a brutal road schedule in 2017 with games at the Rams and the Chargers and Seahawks, along with Kansas City and Dallas. Do the Eagles play back-to-back games in Los Angeles and, if they do (we'll find out in the spring), does the team stay on the West Coast for that week of preparation rather than have cross-country trips in consecutive weeks?
It is not an easy situation, if that's what the Eagles decide. Way back when, with Buddy Ryan as the head coach in 1986, the Eagles stayed on the West Coast when there were back-to-back games far away from Philadelphia. The Eagles stayed in Los Angeles for a week after losing to Seattle before defeating the Raiders 33-27 in overtime.
In 1989, the Eagles beat Denver 28-24 and then packed up their belongings and headed to San Diego for a week. The following Sunday, the Eagles lost to quarterback Jim McMahon and the Chargers, 20-17 when cornerback Izel Jenkins was beaten for a big play to put the Chargers in field goal position at the end of the game.
"It's not an easy trip, because you have to move everything to prepare for the week," said Mike Dougherty, who was the team's video director for decades before retiring two years ago. "It's not just finding a practice field. It's setting up your meals and video and the hotel. The players are free for much of the week and, back then, there were some guys who got into trouble.
"But for us, it was a lot of fun. Buddy Ryan was the head coach and he turned it into a good time for everyone. We went to warm-weather spots a few times in other situations because we didn't have an outdoor facility, like the team has now at the NovaCare Complex. We had trouble practicing in extreme cold weather."
The Eagles practiced at ritzy La Jolla High School in San Diego and got themselves ready for the Chargers back in 1989. That they lost in San Diego was no surprise – the Eagles won in San Diego in 1974 and then lost the next five times they played there. Overall, the Eagles were 4-7 against the San Diego Chargers.
Now, the San Diego Chargers no longer exist.
"It seemed like the move was inevitable because you know the amount of effort to stay. We all knew what was going on," said offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who coached in San Diego from 2013-15 first as the quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator. "There was no resolution after so many years of what seemed like, working in that building, legitimate, solid efforts at making something happen to keep the team there. It's a tough deal.
"I never felt like it was a distraction for the players or the coaches. The NFL is a narrow-focused world in that regard. You do your job, no matter what is happening around you."
Ultimately, the fans in San Diego are the ones who are left behind. The fans, and the legacy of the San Diego Chargers.
"That's really the part you think about," Reich said. "This is kind of a three-fold business – the team, the fans and the media and we all kind of share in this thing together in a lot of ways. You feel the disappointment, there's no doubt."
Beyond that, the Chargers' move from San Diego to Los Angeles impacts the Eagles in 2017. Just how much, we'll find out when the schedule is released in the spring.