It’s been more than 35 years since the late Don Coryell coached an NFL football game.
Yet, the former Cardinals and Chargers head coach’s impact upon the sport is still felt each and every Sunday.
Coryell, one of the most revolutionary offensive coaches in NFL history, was announced on Wednesday as a coach/contributor finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023.
Coryell, who died in 2010 at the age of 85, coached the Cardinals and Chargers for a combined 14 seasons, compiling a 111-83-1 overall record with six playoff appearances. His greatest influence was his offensive approach and innovations. The one-back formation, the use of receiver option routes, the development of tight ends moving around and being used more as pass catchers or as a “joker,” running back screens and pre-snap motion are all credited to Coryell. It was during his time with the Chargers that Coryell, and the aptly nicknamed “Air Coryell” offenses are most fondly remembered and were most revolutionary.
In July, Coryell was named as one of 29 semifinalists in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s coaches/contributors category. Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley, who were among 25 semifinalists from the seniors committee, were announced as senior finalists for the Hall’s ’23 class on Aug. 17.
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame due to his success at San Diego State, Coryell had future Pro Football Hall of Famers John Madden and Joe Gibbs as assistants during his time with the Aztecs. His coaching tree also extends to include the likes of Jim Hanifan, Ernie Zampese, Rod Dowhower and Al Saunders.
The first coach to win 100 games in the college ranks and the NFL, Coryell produced winning records with the Cardinals (42-27-1) from 1973-1977 and the Chargers (69-56) from 1978-1986.
The 1974 AP NFL Coach of the Year with the Cards, Coryell’s time helming the Chargers was likely what he’s most remembered and hailed for. Coryell captained the Bolts to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in the 1980 and 1981 seasons. It was during that time in which the Chargers were amid an NFL-record six-year streak of leading the league in passing yards. Coryell’s Chargers also led the NFL in scoring offense on three occasions, in total offense five times and in passing offense seven years overall.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts was Coryell’s quarterback in each of the coach’s nine seasons with the Chargers.
Coryell presented Fouts for his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement, just as he did for Joe Gibbs.
Coryell has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist six times prior. He’s once again at the doorstep of joining Gibbs and former players such as Fouts, Dan Dierdorf, Charlie Joyner and Kellen Winslow in Canton.
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