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Killer stories about a killer coach

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Sep 18, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/09/18/sports/professional/chargers/23_26_229_17_05.txt" target="_blank">North County Times</a>

    By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer

    The Hall of Champions luncheon this past week honoring former Chargers and Aztecs coach Don Coryell offered a menu full of stories. The tales told by the likes of Willie Buchanon, Hank Bauer, Ed White and Fred Dryer trumps whatever I could write about the event.

    With that in mind, I'll step aside and just recant what was a glorious stroll down memory lane, with friends recalling Coryell's impact on San Diego football.

    "His first game with the Chargers we didn't know what to expect,'' Bauer said. "All we saw was this guy running around, going crazy and slapping people in the butt. We said, 'Wow, this is a little different than Tommy Prothro.' ''

    The first play was pure Air Coryell ---- a 989 call, which sent Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson deep, with Kellen Winslow finding a seam in the middle. Ray Perkins, the offensive coordinator, overloaded quarterback Dan Fouts with all the contingencies: the possible coverages, how they could derail the play, what the receivers would do, and on and on.

    Just before departing the sidelines, Fouts heard Coryell hollering for him, so he turned and rolled his eyes as if another batch of information was headed his way.

    "Just throw the son of a (gun) to J.J.,'' Coryell told Fouts.

    Of course, Fouts did and Jefferson caught the pass in traffic as a "hooray" engulfed the Chargers' bench.

    "Yeah,'' Bauer said. "We can play for this guy.''

    Bauer later coached with Coryell, and never forgot his first game week of meetings. It was late Thursday night, and Coryell had consumed a few glasses of wine.

    Offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese was chain smoking and drawing up plays for a goal-line scheme using an unbalanced line.

    "Coach is sleeping,'' Bauer said. "Then out of nowhere he says, 'If they don't shift, we'll just run the toss,' and he fell right back asleep. And I thought, 'That son of a (gun) really can coach, even when he is sleeping.' And we scored about three times on it.''

    Last add Bauer: As a player, he entered the training room early Monday morning to spot a bandaged Coryell on a table, with ice accompanying his arms and legs. This Coryell yarn is of him forgetting to take out the trash (which is different from the one where he forgot to take the trash out of his trunk and drove it to the stadium).

    On this occasion, his wife, Aliisa, asked him to deposit the trash cans at the curb before leaving for work. Halfway down their Mt. Helix home's steep driveway, Coryell remembered his honey-do list.

    "I forget the trash cans and thought , 'She is going to kill me,' " Coryell said. "I got out of the car and I forgot to put it in park. It started rolling down the driveway and I went to catch it and it ran me over.''

    One thing Coryell did over and over with the Chargers was ask his players to act like killer dogs. Or killer bees. Or killer ducks.

    "We started to get creative,'' White said.

    But the tradition died until a Monday night game when Coryell cornered White and asked if he would bark like a killer dog ---- on Coryell's cue ---- during the pregame speech.

    "All right, we're going to go out and be wild and crazy and bite them in the (rear),'' said Coryell, before shooting a look at White.

    White's response was more of an old beagle's howl instead of a blood-thirsty yap.

    "That's no good-damn killer dog!'' Coryell screamed. "Bark like a killer dog!''

    That ignited a memory for Buchanon, when the Chargers were in Philadelphia.

    "He sees all the fine statues, but there was pigeon mess all over them,'' said Buchanon, who declined an offer from the Padres while at MiraCosta College to instead play for Coryell at San Diego State, and later hooked up with him with the Chargers. "He said, 'I got it guys; we're going to be killer pigeons and (defecate) all over them.' ''

    Killer stories, all.

    All for a killer coach who forever changed San Diego's sports landscape. He also altered the state of the NFL with his brilliant passing schemes, something that for some reason isn't recognized with an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Hopefully, in true Coryell fashion, that omission also will come to pass.

    Near the program's end, one disappointed Chargers fan was still steamed over the Bolts' opening day loss to the Cowboys. She asked Coryell about the Chargers not giving the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson at the Dallas 7-yard line, instead allowing Drew Brees to take four cracks at it.

    "They passed four times or ran four times?'' Coryell asked.

    Pass, she said.

    "Oh,'' Coryell said, "well, hell yes, I would have done that.''

    At age 81, Coryell hasn't changed a bit.

    Throw on the Dallas 7? He would have heaved it from the Chargers' 1.

    "The more field you have the more fun you have,'' Dryer recalled Coryell once saying. "Hell, we have 99 yards.''

    Hell, we ran out of space before extinguishing our Coryell stories.

    Similar to watching his offense, there's no end of the joy sharing a room with Coryell and his appreciative ex-players.

    "He was successful because he was really truly concerned about his players,'' Buchanon said. "You could play for someone who you knew had your best interest in mind, on or off the field. That's Coryell.''

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