The news spread quickly through the football community recently of the passing of legendary NFL head coach Don Coryell. People wouldn’t often think to use the term legendary for a coach who never won an NFL title, but it is the right word in this case.
Coryell came out of the college coaching ranks, where he had been the head man at San Diego State for more than a decade, to take over the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. After five seasons there, he would find himself as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 1978. Coryell had success in St. Louis, but it was in San Diego where he would make a name for himself.
The Chargers’ “Air Coryell” offense as it was called led the league in passing yards an NFL record six straight years. There seemed to be no one who could stop it. He took advantage of the talents of great players like Dan Fouts, Fred Dean, John Jefferson, James Brooks, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, Louis Kelcher, Lionel “Little Train” James, and more to help make the Chargers a perrenial power.
He had a profound influence on a generation of coaches that would follow him and changed the way the passing game was used in the NFL. He also was instrumental in redefining how a tight end was used at the time.
Here is a look at some interesting facts surrounding the legendary, yes legendary, head coach Don Coryell.
-While the head coach of the San Diego State football team, three times he would lead them to an undefeated record: 1966, 1968, and 1969.
-Two of his assistant coaches while he was the head coach at San Diego State were John Madden and Joe Gibbs, both of whom would go on to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
-In 12 seasons of coaching at San Diego State, his record would end up being 104-19-2.
-Coryell was the first coach to ever win more than 100 games as both a college football coach and a professional football coach.
-Two players who played football for Coryell in college would go on to become Hollywood actors, Fred Dryer and Carl Weathers.
-Don Coryell was born in Seattle and played defensive back in college at the University of Washington.
-His best record as a professional coach came in 1979 when the Chargers went 12-4.
-Though he is more remembered for his days coaching the high powered “Air Coryell” offense of San Diego, he actually had a better winning percentage as the head coach of the Cardinals. His record in San Diego was 69-56 (.552 pct) while his record in St. Louis was 42-27-1 (.609 pct).