The Los Angeles Chargers recently went through a changing of the guard at the running back position. The team let Melvin Gordon walk in free agency while retaining Austin Ekeler to be its starter in the backfield. However, neither Gordon nor Ekeler crack the team’s top-three running backs of all-time.
The criteria includes players who suited up for the San Diego and Los Angeles Chargers since they’re the same franchise. Only the franchise’s location has changed throughout history, which doesn’t alter team records or statistics.
Before jumping into the top three, several players deserve honorable mentions. Marion Butts is third in franchise history with 4,297 yards, and he barely missed the list. Darren Sproles experienced plenty of personal success with the Chargers, but most of it came as a return man. Former Pro Bowl fullback and halfback Keith Lincoln also missed the cut.
Now, let’s meet the three best running backs in Chargers’ history.
3. Chuck Muncie, (1980-1984)
Muncie ranks seventh in team history in rushing yards. However, he received the fewest carries among any back in the top seven by far. Muncie also ranks fourth in rushing yards per game, one spot ahead of Gordon.
Four games into the 1980 season, the New Orleans Saints traded Muncie to San Diego. Muncie made the Pro Bowl in 1979, so the Chargers knew he possessed incredible potential. It didn’t take the Pennsylvania native long to catch on in San Diego.
In 1981, Muncie rushed for 1,144 yards and a league-leading 19 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl. Muncie averaged 107 rushing yards per game in San Diego’s two playoff matchups that year as well.
Unfortunately, injuries slowed the Pro Bowl back down after 1981. He did make the Pro Bowl in 1982 and averaged 94 yards per game in the playoffs, but Muncie never replicated his 1981 production. His 43 rushing touchdowns are the second-most in franchise history.
2. Paul Lowe, (1960-1968)
Lowe’s 4,972 rushing yards rank second in franchise history. The old AFL star spent seven full seasons with the Chargers before the franchise traded him to Kansas City after one game in 1968.
During his 90 games with the Chargers, Lowe averaged 4.9 yards per carry. That’s the highest average among the top ten leading rushers in franchise history. Lowe led the AFL in rushing yards in 1965, and he led the league in rushing touchdowns twice.
A member of the 1963 AFL championship team, Lowe made two Pro Bowls and earned two First-Team All-AFL selections during his career. Shortly after Lowe retired, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selected him as a member of the AFL All-Time First-Team.
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, (2001-2009)
This selection shouldn’t surprise anyone. During Tomlinson’s nine seasons with the Chargers, he amassed 12,490 rushing yards and 138 rushing touchdowns. His 16,445 yards from scrimmage and 153 rushing/receiving touchdowns are also team records.
San Diego selected Tomlinson with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. The move paid off immediately as Tomlinson opened his career with eight consecutive seasons of at least 1,100 rushing yards.
During his time with the Chargers, Tomlinson led the NFL in rushing yards twice and rushing touchdowns three times. He also set the single-season rushing touchdown record.
In 2006, Tomlinson won the regular-season MVP award. He scored 31 rushing/receiving touchdowns that year while throwing two more.
Tomlinson averaged 88.6 rushing yards per game during his career with the Chargers. The Pro Football Hall of Fame officially inducted the TCU product in 2017.