Chargers make another tough decision

Doug Flutie will always be remembered for the pass. It was the highlight of a remarkable career that put him in some form of football for 35 years. In San Diego, however, he will be remembered for his youthful energy and spunk when he entered the game.

Doug Flutie had been in the game for 21 years and has seen it all. He was a starter, came on in relief and even played third string.

Not a word of complaint ever crossed his lips during his time with the Chargers and he was thankful to the end.

After four years, he leaves behind Flutie fans and number seven jerseys. He also leaves with his magic still intact.

On the final game of the regular season, Flutie got the start. He went 13-for-22 for 199 yards with a touchdown. He also added in a rushing score and secured a 17-3 first half lead over the Kansas City Chiefs. He played with second and third stringers against the first team defense of Kansas City and still found a way to sprinkle some pixie dust on the ball.

The last play of his career with San Diego was a touchdown pass caught by Ryan Krause.

But his legacy will live on and general manager A.J. Smith spent some time talking to Flutie on Friday morning, recalling the past.

"Doug and I talked more about the past than the future and the relationship we have had over the years, when I got him down from the Toronto Argonauts to the Buffalo Bills back in '98," said Smith. "It was a terrific conversation."

Now the Chargers will be without his 14,686 yards passing and 86 career touchdown passes. They will enter the 2005 season with no quarterback older than 26.

"It really wasn't salary cap related at all," Smith added. "The reason we had four quarterbacks last year – we had Brees, two young guys in Philip and Cleo – and felt we had veteran leadership in the mix and felt comfortable with that. Doing that we sacrificed a player on the roster."

Telling is how they feel about their current quarterbacks and more specifically Philip Rivers and Cleo Lemon. They didn't want to lose Lemon a year ago and now are poised to slot him in as the number three this season.

"This year we felt more comfortable with the development of Philip Rivers and Cleo. We would go with three and wouldn't sacrifice that young player. The reason Doug is not here is because we see a development (with Cleo) and Philip.

"Doug is 42-years old in the twilight of his career, he totally understood," Smith said. "It also gives him an opportunity to explore a number of things."

That doesn't mean he won't be missed. Flutie brought certain intangibles that won't be found in the clipboard holder this year. They won't be able to look Flutie in the eye – well, look down into his eyes, to gain the knowledge he possesses.

It was a fact that Smith conceded on Friday.

"The leadership is first," the general manager began. "The competitiveness. The experience – there is probably nothing he hasn't seen or been a part of. He would relay that to our players and our quarterbacks. We are going to miss that.

"I felt good that he was going to do everything he can to help us win."

Now, as is often inevitable in the NFL, business dictates that they trudge forward and look to the future.

Somewhere, Philip Rivers is smiling.


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