1978 San Diego Chargers Season
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1978 San Diego Chargers Season

1978 San Diego Chargers season
Head coachTommy Prothro (weeks 1-4)
(5th season)
Don Coryell (weeks 5-16)
(1st season)
General managerJohnny Sanders
(Since 1976)
OwnerEugene V. Klein
(Since 1966)
Home fieldSan Diego Stadium
Division place3rd AFC West
Playoff finishdid not qualify
Pro Bowlers
AP All-Pros

The 1978 San Diego Chargers season was the team's 19th season, and 9th in the National Football League.

The Chargers improved on their 7-7 record in 1977. This season included the "Holy Roller" game. It was Don Coryell's first season as the team's head coach, replacing Tommy Prothro after four games, and the team's first 16-game schedule.

Said the 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus,[3] "The Chargers were one of the worst franchises in the NFL before they hired Don Coryell four games into the 1978 season. The Chargers were 1-3 at the time, but finished 8-4 under Coryell, winning seven of their last eight games for the franchise's first winning record since 1969. Blessed with Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, the creative Coryell always designed potent offenses, but the San Diego Defense didn't catch up until 1979...."

It wasn't all roses for new Head Coach Coryell as he lost three out of his first four games, before ending the season by winning seven out of the last eight.

Early-season resignation of head coach Tommy Prothro and hiring of Don Coryell

The previous season Prothro had told team owner Gene Klein that he would coach for only one more year. After the teams third loss in a row, Prothro stayed at the stadium until almost midnight watching game films, and it was during this time that he decided to resign. In a public statement, he said, "I still believe this is a good football team and it is a playoff contender. However, after disappointing losses to Oakland and Denver and the disaster against Green Bay, I feel a fresh approach and a rude awakening may be what this team needs." Klein asked Prothro to stay on in an open-ended position to work in such areas as drafting and trading.[4]

The Chargers hired former St. Louis Cardinal Coach Don Coryell who had been asked to step down from an active role by St. Louis at the end of the last season. Because he still had two years left on his contract with St. Louis, the two teams negotiated and it was agreed upon that the Chargers would give St. Louis a third round draft pick to fully release Coryell from his remaining contract. Coryell had previously coached at San Diego State University from 1961 to 1972 before going to St. Louis. He said, "I'm pleased with the opportunity to coach again in San Diego because it's like a dream come true."[4]

1978 NFL Draft

1978 San Diego Chargers draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 14 John Jefferson *  Wide receiver Arizona State
      Made roster    +   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career


Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 3, 1978 at Seattle Seahawks W 24-20
2 September 10, 1978 Oakland Raiders L 21-20
3 September 17, 1978 at Denver Broncos L 27-14
4 September 24, 1978 Green Bay Packers L 24-3
5 October 1, 1978 at New England Patriots L 28-23
6 October 8, 1978 Denver Broncos W 23-0
7 October 15, 1978 Miami Dolphins L 28-21
8 October 22, 1978 at Detroit Lions L 31-14
9 October 29, 1978 at Oakland Raiders W 27-23
10 November 5, 1978 Cincinnati Bengals W 22-13
11 November 12, 1978 Kansas City Chiefs W 29-23
12 November 19, 1978 at Minnesota Vikings W 13-7
13 November 26, 1978 at Kansas City Chiefs L 23-0
14 December 4, 1978 Chicago Bears W 40-7
15 December 10, 1978 Seattle Seahawks W 37-10
16 December 17, 1978 at Houston Oilers W 45-24


AFC West
Denver Broncos(3) 10 6 0 .625 7-1 8-4 282 198 L1
Oakland Raiders 9 7 0 .563 3-5 5-7 311 283 W1
Seattle Seahawks 9 7 0 .563 4-4 6-6 345 358 W1
San Diego Chargers 9 7 0 .563 5-3 7-5 355 309 W3
Kansas City Chiefs 4 12 0 .250 1-7 4-10 243 327 L2


  1. ^ "1978 NFL Pro Bowlers". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  2. ^ "1978 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  3. ^ Pro Football Prospectus 2006 (ISBN 0761142177), p.73-75
  4. ^ a b Prothro Out, Coryell Hired, Washington Post, Sept. 26, 1978.

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