Whatever happens in this weekend's season finale, they will miss the playoffs.
No grand finishes. No last-second rabbits out of the hat. It's over.
Maybe that makes Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos fairly inconsequential, but the Chargers (8-7) insisted on Monday the divisional game will be anything but meaningless.
“The phrase 'the game doesn't mean anything' bothers me more than anything ,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It means something to play in this league and to play in this game. I'll never underappreciate the opportunity to play in an NFL game. ...If we had a pickup basketball game outside it'd mean something. We're going to play in it. We're going to try to win and get to 9-7. We want to finish over .500.”
The never-die-quietly attitude has served the Chargers well in the most recent three of their four consecutive AFC West title streak, which came to an end Sunday with a 34-20 loss to Cincinnati.
They opened 2007 at 1-3, 2008 at 4-8 and 2009 at 2-3. They fought, and they perservered.
This time, the Chargers may have more to lose than gain by scratching until the end in Denver.
A serious injury to a player, such as what happened to Brees in 2005 when sustaining a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery, could jeopardize that player's status or ability for next year when the next playoff run begins.
Even a win, while providing the posterity of a winning record and beginning the off-season on a somewhat uplifting note, would lower the team's selection order in next April's draft and clinch a top three pick for the rival Broncos (4-11).
Maybe it is as simple as pride, but the Chargers aren't about to roll over for any team.
“We're going to play the game to win,” coach Norv Turner said. “...Every time you go out and play you’re representing yourself and you’re representing your organization.”
No matter what isn't at stake.