By Curtis Egan<em>
BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
<em><img src="http://img239.imageshack.us/img239/2980/dcye9.jpg" title="Don Coryell" alt="Don Coryell" align="left" height="217" width="220" />Coach Don Coryell; Kwak asked me the following question; What is up with Don Coryell and has there been any talk of him getting on the HoF ballot? Which he rightfully deserves.</em>
The answer to which is both easy, and difficult. Don Coryell is enjoying retirement at his home in Washington, but he deserves much better- Please read on.</em>
There was a time when teams hated facing the San Diego Chargers. They hated it with a passion because they knew that they would be in for a war, they would be facing an explosive offense, arguably the most explosive offense the league has seen to date. The offense was the vaunted Air Coryell attack, an all out passing attack that used all of the field, and passed on any down, in a time when the league was a run first, pass only when needed league.
Don Coryell, who now enjoys retirement at his home in Washington State, is one of the architects of the modern NFL offense. One that uses the passing attack as an integral part of the offensive scheme to move the ball up the field and attack the opposing defense.. West Coast offense, the Greatest Show on Turf, and many other offensive schemes can have their roots traced to the Air Coryell system.
Ironically, for a coach who is known for his system "Air" Coryell, it was Coryell who is accredited with inventing the "I" running formation, when he was a running back coach at Wenatchee Junior College. In 1961, something that one might not expect from the architect of the modern passing attack.
Coryell was selected as the NFL Coach of the Year in 1979. Just one of the many accolade he accrued during his coaching career. He was the first coach ever to win more than 100 games at both the collegiate and professional level. He won two consecutive division titles in 1974, and 1975 with the Cardinals and three straight division titles in 1979, 1980, 1981 with the Chargers, He took the Chargers to the playoffs four times With Dan Fouts as quarterback leading the attack and other players such as John Jefferson, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow, San Diego's "Air Coryell" was among the greatest passing offenses in NFL history.
Charlie Joiner said of Don Coryell in an interview for the Sporting News on July 26, 1996 â€˜Before his time - former NFL coach Don Coryell - First Person' "If Don hadn't come to San Diego, I don't think I would have made the Hall of Fame. He gave me an opportunity to perform and show my wares, which I needed at the time. When he got there, I was in my 10th year and at the stage of my career where I was starting to think about retirement. But Don picked me up. He gave me new life, new enthusiasm. Then my competitive nature took over and my career took off. I guess you could say I was a very good short- to medium-range receiver. Going deep was not my forte, I wasn't a speedster. Most of all, I prided myself on being extremely dependable. When I played under Bill Walsh when he was the quarterbacks/receivers coach in Cincinnati, he tried to instill the thought of being perfect in your patterns. I took that with me to San Diego. I always tried to be as perfect as I could for the quarterback; he was the one guy on the field I didn't want to fool. If I had to compare myself with anyone in the league while I was playing, it would be Steve Largent. Our size was comparable, we weren't big. He was a smart player, and I think I was, too. I wasn't a home-run hitter or a big deep threat and neither was he. We both specialized in setting up defenses and running precise patterns. At the height of our skills, I think we were very comparable.
Don Coryell was never a man who was hungry for personal fame, as was exemplified by the way he responded when he first heard the term â€˜Air Coryell'. He absolutely hated it. He insisted it put too much focus on one person, and not on the players who made the system work. Don will turn 83 next month and his mind set has not change all that much in the, he looks frail, has had a knee replaced but still shows a passion for the game that he has done so much for.
Don Coryell had success with the Chargers even though he had no voice in how the team was put together. Neither in St. Louis nor San Diego did Don have any say in the personnel decisions. Something that proved very frustrating to him, and which eventually lead to his dismissal from the Cardinals when he â€˜lost his head' and blew up at management. To this day he is a little bitter over that, feeling that he could have done even more if he had a voice in those matters.
Some great names form the rolls of NFL coaches also learned their trade from Coryell, whether when he was a head coach at San Diego State, St. Louis Cardinals, or the San Diego Chargers. John Madden, Joe Gibbs, Jim Hanifan, Rod Dowhower, and Ernie Zampese all came from the coaching tree of Coryell.
Gibbs took the offensive knowledge he obtained while working for Coryell with him to the Redskins, adding twists such as the Bunch which was three wideouts bunched together, on the line of scrimmage who would then go in different directions after the snap to confuse the coverage. Zampese took the knowledge he gained from Coryell with him to the L.A. Rams, where he would eventually became offensive coordinator. Norv Turner, the current head coach of the San Diego Chargers worked under Zampese in L.A., where he absorbed the offensive scheme which he used to win Superbowls in Dallas.
Don Coryell was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 1986. Coryell is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. An interesting thing about Coryell, given that he was an offensive genius as a coach, and architect of the modern NFL offense, he did not use a playbook.
Don Coryell never did win any Superbowls, partially due to his teams high potent offense. They would score a lot, but quickly. As a result his defenses were on the field a lot, other teams could control the clock, wearing Coryells defenses down and scoring on them. Coryell's system was weak in that manner; the clock was actually their enemy.
However the impact that Don Coryell had upon the NFL cannot easily be measured, it defiantly cannot be summed up by simply looking for Lombardi trophies and scoffing at their absence. No, he should be in the NFL Hall of Fame because other than Sid Gilman, who influenced the development of Coryell's system, no one other coach has had such an impact upon the game. The West Coast Offense, The Greatest Show on Turf, ny of the modern day passing marvels owe at least some of their success and development to Don Coryell. The modern game is now designed for the pass catcher. The rules are designed to allow for yards through the air, making for an exciting and marketable product.
When ever anyone talks about a potent or powerful offense, there are two name that are currently mentioned with reverence and respect. Bill Walsh and Don Coryell, those are the names that are synonymous with high powered offenses. There is a reason for that, but is the only reason Bill Walsh is in the Hall of Fame because his team has a Lombardi? I hope not, because coaches can have a lasting impact on the game without even going to a Superbowl. To discount the innovations set forth by Don Coryell because there are no Superbowl rings with the diamonds forming the shape of a lightning bolt is and oversight that should be corrected as soon as possible. I for one would love to see Don at Canton in person to accept what he so richly deserves.
He coached arguably the greatest offensive attack the NFL has seen to date with his Chargers Air Coryell attack. So I ask you, how can it be that this man is not in the NFL Hall of Fame? If it is solely because he did not go to a Superbowl and win then I am ashamed for the shortsightedness of the NFL and those who vote on the Hall of Fame inductees. Canton, make a space for Don's bust, everyone knows he deserves to be there.
If you would like to see Don Coryell in the Hall of Fame, simply visit this link and add your name to the many people who appreciate what Don has done for the game.
<a href="http://www.petitiononline.com/coryell/petition.html" target="_blank">http://www.petitiononline.com/coryell/petition.html</a>