With the situation regarding the Falcons and star quarterback Michael Vick looking worse, the Chargers couldn't look better.
If not for a late trade on the eve of the 2001 draft, Vick was likely going to be a Charger. The Chargers, coming off a 1-15 season, held the No. 1 pick and everyone believed it would be Vick.
But the Chargers decided to pass on Vick. Then-general manager John Butler wasn't convinced, like everyone else, that Vick's skills would be as impressive at the NFL level.
And on top of that, the Chargers were reluctant to burn such a high pick on a quarterback. The aftermath of drafting Ryan Leaf - and the estimated $14 million he received for being a flop - was still fresh in the Chargers' minds.
So they rolled the dice and swapped first-round slots with the Falcons in a package in which the Chargers also got two later picks and return specialist Tim Dwight.
While Vick was hailed as a savior for the Falcons when selected, the Chargers held their breath to get the running back they felt would be the building block for their reclamation project: TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson.
Butler, along with his right-hand man and current general manager A.J. Smith, saw a familiar force in Tomlinson. They compared him to Thurman Thomas, who they drafted in Buffalo and saw how his impact spread across a roster that dominated the AFC.
But snagging Tomlinson, the 2006 NFL MVP, was no sure thing. With Vick off the board to the Falcons, the Cardinals skipped over Tomlinson - they were content with Michael Pittman - and took offensive lineman Leonard Davis. Cleveland, at No. 3, was the biggest concern. They needed a running back, but figured their defensive line was a bigger need so they went with Gerard Warren. The Bengals, at No. 4, already had running back Corey Dillon. So they went with defensive end Justin Smith.
With that, the player the Chargers really longed for - Tomlinson - fell into their lap at No. 5.
While Vick led his team to a conference title game - the Chargers have yet to even win a playoff game with Tomlinson - it's obvious the Chargers got the better of the deal.
Tomlinson is not only in the midst of a Pro Football Hall of Fame career, but he has become the face of a franchise that was a league-best 14-2 last year and has set season-ticket records this year.
Tomlinson's work off the field is such he was co-recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award this past season...