BIGPLAY’s NFL 100: 100 Personalities From the NFL’s First 100 Years: #45 Don Coryell

Coach Don Coryell influenced so many in his coaching career.

Photo Courtesy of Codey Dauch, BIGPLAY

Don Coryell’s NFL coaching career lasted from 1973 – 1986. He was considered an innovator for his offensive schemes which became known as “Air Coryell.” His system was very quarterback friendly and the quarterbacks he coached in college and the NFL had some of their best seasons under Coryell’s tutelage.

Photo Courtesy of Ted Dargan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The first professional team he coached was the St. Louis Cardinals. The offense made great strides under Coryell. Running back Terry Metcalf, quarterback Jim Hart and wide receiver Mel Gray all had their only Pro Bowl seasons when they played for Coryell. Additionally, offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf would have some of his best seasons with Coryell as his head coach.

Photo Courtesy of AP

In 1978 Coryell took over as head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Once again, his high-powered offense was a sight to see. Quarterback Dan Fouts, wide receiver Charlie Joiner and tight end Kellen Winslow all saw their statistics improve and eventually all would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Coryell did not only influence the careers of the many players who played for him, but he also had a hand at influencing many other coaches. John Madden was a defensive assistant to Coryell at San Diego State University. Some of his NFL assistants include Joe Gibbs, Jim Mora, Jack Pardee, Gunther Cunningham and Al Saunders. Saunders would later be an assistant on the 1999 St. Louis Rams team that won the Super Bowl with many of the same offensive concepts that Coryell started decades earlier.

Coryell had a big impact on the NFL, most notably offensive play-calling. He has been a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame numerous times, but it is difficult for a coach to get in when there are so many deserving players. Hopefully one day Coryell will be in the Hall of Fame and he can be celebrated for all he did for the game of football. In the meantime, we are happy to be able to honor him here.

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