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A Look Back at 1985: San Diego Sports' Highs and Lows

January 01, 1986

As the San Diego sports curtain drops, there is always the ensuing review.

The critics can certainly find fault. The Padres pennant scene ended too soon and nearly cost manager Dick Williams his leading role; the Chargers defensive cast certainly didn't support the offense and Don Coryell's long reign was nearly ended. The Sockers had too much dialogue at times and the Aztecs were inconsistent in football and basketball.

But there are highlights as well: a girls' high school basketball team that refuses to lose and a myriad of prep excitement.

As in any major production, the sports theater in San Diego featured happiness and gloom, cheers and tears, winning and losing.

Here's a look at 1985:


The drink that stirs the tight end: Reggie Jackson had his candy bar. Now Kellen Winslow has a soft drink.

When the veteran tight end disappeared for two days in early November, there was concern for his well-being. Not to worry. He had flown to Vancouver, B.C., to promote a Gator Ade-like beverage in which he has invested.

Winslow rejoined the team, his billfold slimmer by $500, the sum he was fined by Coach Don Coryell.

No kicks for critters: Rolf Benirschke suffered a groin injury in August and missed the entire regular season, leaving his beloved animal friends without the financial contributions they once received after every field goal.

The Chargers suffered, too. Bob Thomas replaced Benirschke and had a mediocre season. Particularly forgettable was an overtime sequence in Denver, when the Broncos blocked two field goals, returning the second for a touchdown that won the game.

Emotional parting: A host of familiar faces departed over the summer. Included in a pre-training camp purge were veterans Cliff Thrift, Ron Egloff, Jewerl Thomas, Ray Preston, Ken Greene, Bob Gregor, Reuben Henderson, Andre Young and Chuck Loewen.

Thrift, who wound up winning a job with the Chicago Bears, was bitter about leaving San Diego. He decried the "pressure-cooker atmosphere" that he felt had been created under the Alex Spanos regime.

"And I'm not through yet": Those words seemed to accompany every personnel move instituted by Spanos.

Raiding the USFL, he landed running backs Tim Spencer and Gary Anderson plus wide receiver Trumaine Johnson, among others. He also traded a former No. 1 draft pick, Mossy Cade, for a No. 1 in 1986. Spanos signed offensive tackle Jim Lachey, the team's first-round selection in 1985, to a multi-year contract, and picked up a valuable backup quarterback, Mark Herrmann, in return for a conditional 10th-round draft choice.

Cleaning up: Linebacker Mike Green agreed to submit to random drug tests in the aftermath of his arrest on charges of possession of cocaine in July. His was the only reported instance of drug involvement by a Charger this year.

Open wide, insert foot: Rookie defensive back Wayne Davis amused some and irritated others with his boasts during training camp.

Reality set in early in the regular season when Seattle's Daryl Turner and Steve Largent burned him for four touchdowns in one game.

Davis, however, was unchanged.

"This is going to make me a greater player," he said. Greatness was delayed when he was demoted to backup status a few weeks later.

Beat me, whip me: Quarterback Dan Fouts had another All-Pro year despite injuries to each knee.

A month into the season, his right knee was damaged when struck by the helmet of a Cleveland lineman. Late in the year, his other knee was damaged in a game against Philadelphia.

Fouts, who was pleased with his quick recovery from the first injury, expects to be as fit as ever in 1986, a belief seconded by team physician Gary Losse. Only the strong survive 14 years.

And now a few words from our leader: A week after criticizing the team's defense for lack of innovation and aggressiveness, Spanos dumped Tom Bass as defensive coordinator and named Dave Adolph to the post.

Coryell, a close friend of Bass, had to break the news. Afterward, he reportedly went to his office and cried.

Millions well-spent: The lengthy pursuit and signing of Gary Anderson to a $2.5 million contract was eminently justifiable in the eyes of one scholar, Lester Hayes of the Raiders.

"He is the best back in the National Football League right now," Hayes said after the Chargers' 40-34 win. "He's the second coming of Gale Sayers, only faster. He's unbelievable. He's stupendous. If he stays healthy, his destiny is Canton, Ohio."

Before he makes it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however, Anderson will have to spend a few more minutes absorbing Air Coryell in all its complexity. Once he learns all the plays, Anderson may be able to match the feats of teammate Lionel James, who set a NFLrecord for all-purpose yards. Stay tuned.

And a happy new year: It was a suspenseful season for Coryell, who was under an ultimatum to produce a .500 record or face being fired.

A day after the regular season concluded, Coryell's contract was extended through 1987.


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