2001 San Diego Chargers season
OwnerAlex Spanos
Head coachMike Riley
General managerJohn Butler
Home fieldQualcomm Stadium
Division place5th AFC West
Playoff finishDid not qualify
Pro BowlersLB Junior Seau
DE Marcellus Wiley
FS Ryan McNeil
SS Rodney Harrison

The 2001 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 32nd season in the National Football League (NFL) and the 42nd overall and the third and final season under head coach Mike Riley. The team improved on their 1–15 record in 2000 to finish 5–11 but missed the playoffs for the 6th straight year. It was Mike Riley's final season as the team's head coach. At the end of the season running back LaDainian Tomlinson won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Despite finishing 5–11 after losing their final nine games of the season, eight of the Chargers’ losses were by less than a touchdown, five of them were by three points, and three of them were by ten points.


Becoming the “Bills West”

In December 2000, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson fired his general manager, John Butler, and his entire staff. The Chargers immediately signed Butler, and within weeks, Butler had lured several recognizable names from the 2000 Bills team: defensive end Marcellus Wiley, linebackers Sam Rogers and John Holecek, kicker Steve Christie and most notably, quarterback Doug Flutie, who had been cut by the Bills in a bitter quarterback controversy involving Rob Johnson. With so many former Bills connections, the team was often referred to as the “Bills West”.[1][2] (See also the 1995 Carolina Panthers season, in which Bill Polian brought several Bills contributors from the team's Super Bowl era to Carolina in its inaugural year of play.)

As such, the October 28 matchup between the Bills and Chargers in San Diego was heavily promoted as a dual grudge match, not just between Johnson and Flutie, but also between Wilson and Butler, with Wilson having been quoted as wanting to win the Chargers game more than the Super Bowl.[1] Despite the fact that the Bills were having a very bad season, and the Chargers’ fortunes (at the time) had turned significantly, the game was very competitive, coming down to the final minutes play. Trailing 24–20, Flutie scrambled 13 yards to put the Chargers up 27–24; when kicker Jake Arians attempted a 44-yard field goal to tie the game, it was blocked.[3] The Chargers, then 5–2, would not win another game the entire season, going 0–9 in the remaining nine games.

NFL Draft

Michael Vick was selected in the 2001 NFL Draft as the first overall pick and first African American quarterback taken number 1 in the NFL Draft. The San Diego Chargers had the number one selection spot in the draft that year but traded the rights to the first overall choice to the Atlanta Falcons a day before the draft, for which they received the Falcons’ first round pick (5th overall) and third round pick in 2001 (used to draft CB Tay Cody), a second round pick in 2002 (used to draft WR Reche Caldwell) and WR/KR Tim Dwight.[4] With the Chargers’ downgraded spot (the 5th overall), they selected Texas Christian University running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who went on to become league MVP in 2006.[5] Although Vick has never become league MVP, he finished second in voting in 2004.[6] In this way, Tomlinson and Vick are linked as having been "traded" for each other, although the transaction was actually the result of traded draft picks and contract negotiations. The Chargers’ other notable draft pick was Drew Brees, who would eventually win Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the Saints.

2001 San Diego Chargers draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 5 LaDainian Tomlinson *   RB TCU Pick from ATL
2 32 Drew Brees *  QB Purdue
3 67 Tay Cody  CB Florida St Pick from ATL
4 112 Carlos Polk  LB Nebraska Pick from PIT
5 132 Elliot Silvers  OT Washington
5 139 Zeke Moreno  ILB USC Pick from New England Patriots
7 201 Brandon Gorin  OT Purdue
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career



2001 San Diego Chargers staff
Front office
  • Chairman of the Board – Alex Spanos
  • President/Chief Executive Officer – Dean Spanos
  • Executive Vice President – Michael Spanos
  • Executive Vice President/General Manager – John Butler
  • Assistant General Manager/Director of Pro Personnel – A. J. Smith
  • Vice President of Football Operations – Ed McGuire
  • Director of Player Personnel – Buddy Nix
  • Director of College Scouting – Jimmy Raye

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

  • Special Teams – Bruce Read
  • Special Teams Assistant/Quality Control – Craig Dickenson

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning – John Hastings
  • Assistant Strength and Conditioning – Mike Schleelein


2001 San Diego Chargers final roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
, 5 practice squad

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance
1 September 9 Washington Redskins W 30–3 1–0 Qualcomm Stadium 60,629
2 September 23 at Dallas Cowboys W 32–21 2–0 Texas Stadium 63,430
3 September 30 Cincinnati Bengals W 28–14 3–0 Qualcomm Stadium 56,048
4 October 7 at Cleveland Browns L 16–20 3–1 Cleveland Browns Stadium 73,018
5 October 14 at New England Patriots L 26–29 (OT) 3–2 Foxboro Stadium 60,292
6 October 21 Denver Broncos W 27–10 4–2 Qualcomm Stadium 67,521
7 October 28 Buffalo Bills W 27–24 5–2 Qualcomm Stadium 63,698
8 November 4 Kansas City Chiefs L 20–25 5–3 Qualcomm Stadium 58,789
9 November 11 at Denver Broncos L 16–26 5–4 Invesco Field 74,951
10 November 18 at Oakland Raiders L 24–34 5–5 Network Associates Coliseum 61,960
11 November 25 Arizona Cardinals L 17–20 5–6 Qualcomm Stadium 49,398
12 December 2 at Seattle Seahawks L 10–13(OT) 5–7 Husky Stadium 55,466
13 December 9 at Philadelphia Eagles L 14–24 5–8 Veterans Stadium 65,438
14 December 15 Oakland Raiders L 6–13 5–9 Qualcomm Stadium 67,349
15 December 23 at Kansas City Chiefs L 17–20 5–10 Arrowhead Stadium 76,131
16 December 30 Seattle Seahawks L 22–25 5–11 Qualcomm Stadium 51,412
17 Bye

Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.

Game summaries

Week 1

1 234Total
Redskins 0 030 3
• Chargers 10 10010 30
  • Date: September 9
  • Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
  • Game start: 1:15 p.m. PST
  • Elapsed time: 3 hours 2 minutes
  • Game attendance: 60,629
  • Game weather: 72 °F (22.2 °C); wind 8 miles per hour (13 km/h)
  • Referee: Jim Sprenger
  • TV announcers (FOX): Kenny Albert, Tim Green, and Dyrol Joyner

Week 7

1 234Total
Bills 0 10014 24
• Chargers 10 3014 27



AFC West
(3) Oakland Raiders 10 6 0 .625 399 327 L3
Seattle Seahawks 9 7 0 .563 301 324 W2
Denver Broncos 8 8 0 .500 340 339 L1
Kansas City Chiefs 6 10 0 .375 320 344 L1
San Diego Chargers 5 11 0 .313 332 321 L9


  1. ^ a b Roth, Leo. Bills East vs. Bills West. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. October 23, 2001.
  2. ^ Banks, Don. AFC is where all the action is lately. SI.com. October 19, 2001.
  3. ^ Flutie works his magic – again – to beat Bills 27–24. Associated Press. October 28, 2001.
  4. ^ ESPN – Chargers big winner in different draft-day deal – NFL
  5. ^ NFL Most Valuable Players – NFL MVP Player of the Year
  6. ^ Barry Wilner (January 11, 2005). "Manning NFL MVP again: 49 TDs, passing rating of 121.1 make Colts QB near-unanimous pick". The Decatur Daily. Archived from the original on May 23, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2007.
  7. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2014-Oct-19.