There are three NFL teams in California. The 49ers play in San Francisco while the Rams and Chargers both play in Los Angeles. As recently as 2020 California had four professional football teams, but the Raiders have since moved from Oakland to Las Vegas.
I became a huge football fan in the late 90s, and I’ll probably always associate the Chargers with San Diego and the Rams with St. Louis, no matter how long they stay in Los Angeles. It’s hard to imagine how I’d feel if my Vikings ever left Minnesota, but it makes me hurt for those diehard football fans in San Diego and St. Louis that no longer have a team.
In this article, we’ll summarize the history of these three franchises, their success, and their failures. All three have had at least some recent success, although the poor Chargers are still looking for their first championship after more than 60 years.
- The Chargers, Rams, and 49ers all currently call California home.
- Until 2020, the Raiders also played in California.
- The 49ers are the most successful of California’s teams with 5 Super Bowl titles and 7 appearances
San Francisco 49ers
Named for the thousands of gold miners that flocked to the state in the mid-1800s, the 49ers’ inaugural season was 1946 in the All-American Football Conference. 
The team enjoyed immediate success, posting winning seasons in each of their first four seasons. But the club’s struggles began when the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950 with only a single playoff appearance over the next two decades. 
It wasn’t until the arrival of head coach Bill Walsh in 1979 that the 49ers managed to turn things around. Walsh inherited a team that won just two games the previous season. Along with an influx of talent and the emergence of quarterback Joe Montana, the 49ers won 13 games in 1981 on the way to their first Super Bowl title.
That title set off the golden era of 49ers football. From 1981-1998 San Francisco reached the playoffs 16 times and won all five of their Super Bowl appearances. 
Since the legendary run of Walsh, Montana, and Steve Young, the 49ers have been up and down. They’ve returned to the Super Bowl twice, losing both times and have reached the NFC Championship four other times. 
The 2023 season finds them at a crossroads, having said goodbye to quarterback Jimmy Garoppollo and having to choose between two young quarterbacks, former first-round pick Trey Lance and the unheralded final pick in the draft, Brock Purdy.
Los Angeles Chargers
One of the eight original American Football League (AFL) teams, the Chargers played a single season in Los Angeles before moving south to San Diego. The franchise enjoyed plenty of success early on thanks to coach and general manager Sid Gillman who was one of the first tacticians who focused his offensive strategy around the passing game.
But after five championship appearances and a title in their first six years, the Chargers drifted into obscurity. Their 1970 merger with the NFL did not improve their fortunes, and the team would not make the playoffs again until 1979. 
The Chargers’ longest run of success came in the 00s behind quarterback Philip Rivers and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. They made the playoffs four straight years including seasons with 14 and 13 victories. But their playoff runs were filled with heartbreak and the team’s only Super Bowl appearance remains a thrashing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.
Los Angeles Rams
One of the more migratory NFL franchises, the Rams have relocated four times since their inception in 1936. They can trace their roots to Cleveland as a member of the American Football League but joined the NFL after just one season. The club struggled early on and saw the 1943 season canceled due to a shortage of players because of World War II.
The club won their first title in 1945, but it wound up being their game in Cleveland as owner Dan Reeves moved the club to Los Angeles the following year. The Rams took home another title in 1951 thanks to the play of quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, one of the league’s first great signal callers. 
From 1973-1989 the Rams were one of the league’s best franchises. While they didn’t win a Super Bowl, they posted 14 winning seasons and reached the Super Bowl in 1979, a 31-19 loss to the Steelers.
But the Rams struggled in the early 90s, and plummeting attendance led to the franchise looking for a more profitable city. They settled in St. Louis, moving to Missouri in 1995. After four more years of subpar play, the team roared to the top of the league in 1999 behind former arena league quarterback Kurt Warner. Dubbed, “the greatest show on turf,” the 99 Rams set the record for most points scored in a single season and won their first title since 1951. 
After being upset by the Patriots in the 2001 Super Bowl, the Rams once again faded into obscurity. They’d make the playoffs just two more times before new owner Stan Kroenke forced his way out of St. Louis and back to Los Angeles where he built one of the most expensive stadiums in history. 
While overall interest in the team remains lukewarm, the Rams have played well since the move with four playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title in 2021. 
Read more: WHO WERE THE ORIGINAL 8 TEAMS IN THE NFL?
California has seen its share of relocation among its franchises with only the San Francisco 49ers remaining in one place. Los Angeles has seen the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders (now in Las Vegas) pass through town, but with so many entertainment options, even the country’s most popular sport has struggled to pay attention.
How would you feel if your team kept moving? Would you still root for them if they moved away from your city? Let us know in the comments below.