Fouts chosen as all-time 'Greatest Charger'

Former UO standout, longtime Sisters resident is honored in vote of San Diego fans as top player in the franchise's 50-year history

By Bill Bigelow / The Bulletin

Published Nov 28, 2009 at 04:00AM

Dan Fouts, a longtime Central Oregon resident and Hall of Fame quarterback who was one of the most prolific passers of his era during a 15-year National Football League career with the San Diego Chargers, has been selected the “Greatest Charger of All Time.”

Fouts, who makes his home in Sisters, was chosen in a vote of more than 400,000 Charger fans, who were asked to pick the franchise's 50th anniversary team. Results of the voting were announced last week.

“I'm pretty thrilled about it,” Fouts said this week from Detroit, where he served as analyst for a national radio broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

“I played my whole career in San Diego,” the 58-year-old Fouts added, “so obviously that makes it pretty special.”

Fans chose Fouts over a long list of current and former Charger stars, including four fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame members: wide receivers Lance Alworth and Charlie Joiner, tight end Kellen Winslow, and offensive tackle Ron Mix.

Fouts was an all-Pac-8 quarterback at the University of Oregon in 1972 and was a third-round draft pick by San Diego in 1973. He played with the Chargers until retiring after the 1987 season.

A three-time All-Pro choice and six-time Pro Bowl selection, Fouts was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. More than 20 years since his retirement, he still holds 17 Charger team passing records. This week, Fouts was quick to acknowledge his teammates for their role in his long run of success with the Chargers.

“The (50th anniversary) team is dominated by players I played with,” he observed. “There's all of my receivers (Joiner and Winslow, along with Wes Chandler and John Jefferson), and four-fifths of my offensive line (center Don Macek, guards Ed White and Doug Wilkerson, and tackle Russ Washington). It's a great group.

“But really,” Fouts continued, “it's a tribute to our coach, Don Coryell.”

Fouts was the centerpiece of the famous “Air Coryell” offenses that routinely lit up opposing defenses during Coryell's nine seasons as the Chargers' head coach (1978-86). While passing for career totals of 43,040 yards (currently ninth all time) and 254 touchdowns (12th all time), Fouts became the first player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons (1979-81).

Though Fouts never led San Diego to the Super Bowl, he guided the Chargers to AFC West championships in 1979, 1980 and 1981. In the 1980 and '81 seasons, he led the team to the AFC championship game.

After his retirement as a player, Fouts followed the lead of his father and fashioned a successful career as a football broadcaster. (Bob Fouts was a longtime radio announcer for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.) In more than 20 years in broadcasting, Fouts has served as commentator for ABC's Monday Night Football (with famous anchor Al Michaels) and has shared the booth as a college football analyst with broadcasting legends such as Keith Jackson and Brent Musburger.

Following the Thanksgiving game in Detroit, Fouts said, he planned to travel to San Diego, where on Friday a Chargers 50th Anniversary Block Party was staged in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter.

Fouts said a players-only function was planned for today. And on Sunday afternoon, the Greatest Chargers will be honored during festivities at Qualcomm Stadium before the current Chargers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Once the pregame ceremonies conclude, Fouts will take his spot in the CBS booth alongside another sports broadcasting icon, Dick Enberg, for television coverage of the game.

But as Fouts said, it will hardly seem like going back to work. Of his second career as a broadcast analyst for pro and college games, he said he likes the opportunity to remain close to football.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “It's like I'm still on scholarship.”

Dan Fouts, at a glance

A look at some of the accomplishments of the San Diego Chargers quarterback:

• NFL seasons: 15 (all with San Diego Chargers)

• Pro Football Hall of Fame (inducted 1993)

• All-Pro (1979, '82, '85)

• Pro Bowl (1979, '80, '81, '82, '83, '85)

• NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1982)

• Career passing yards: 43,040 (ninth all time)

• Career touchdown passes: 254 (12th all time)