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PFR: HoF Candidate – Don Coryell

Posted by Neil on December 13, 2011

Don Coryell

Donald David Coryell

Born: October 17, 1924 in Seattle, WA
College: Washington

Year Age Tm Lg G W L T W-L% G plyf W plyf L plyf W-L% Rank Notes
1973 49 St. Louis Cardinals NFL 14 4 9 1 .308 4
1974 50 St. Louis Cardinals NFL 14 10 4 0 .714 1 0 1 .000 1
1975 51 St. Louis Cardinals NFL 14 11 3 0 .786 1 0 1 .000 1
1976 52 St. Louis Cardinals NFL 14 10 4 0 .714 2
1977 53 St. Louis Cardinals NFL 14 7 7 0 .500 3
1978 54 San Diego Chargers NFL 12 8 4 0 .667 2
1979 55 San Diego Chargers NFL 16 12 4 0 .750 1 0 1 .000 1
1980 56 San Diego Chargers NFL 16 11 5 0 .688 2 1 1 .500 1
1981 57 San Diego Chargers NFL 16 10 6 0 .625 2 1 1 .500 1
1982 58 San Diego Chargers NFL 9 6 3 0 .667 2 1 1 .500 2
1983 59 San Diego Chargers NFL 16 6 10 0 .375 4
1984 60 San Diego Chargers NFL 16 7 9 0 .438 5
1985 61 San Diego Chargers NFL 16 8 8 0 .500 3
1986 62 San Diego Chargers NFL 8 1 7 0 .125 5
14 yrs 195 111 83 1 .572 9 3 6 .333 2.5 Avg Finish
9 yrs SDG 125 69 56 0 .552 7 3 4 .429 2.7
5 yrs STL 70 42 27 1 .609 2 0 2 .000 2.2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/13/2011.
Overall Offense Rushing Off Passing Off Defense Rushing Def Passing Def
Year Tm Tms WL% T/G Pts± Yds± Yds Pts GvA Att Yds TD Y/A FL Att Yds TD Int NY/A Yds Pts TkA Att Yds TD Y/A FR Att Yds TD Int nY/A
1973 STL 26 20 18 19 25 12 11 8 25 22 12 13 8 5 5 9 10 12 26 23 24 14 17 19 18 13 26 26 25 26 26
1974 STL 26 4 4 7 12 10 9 1 16 13 16 5 2 8 7 4 1 12 17 8 22 9 15 12 19 24 23 19 4 19 12
1975 STL 26 4 16 9 10 5 7 17 8 6 7 3 19 18 6 6 15 1 18 11 13 11 10 15 11 16 26 24 12 10 16
1976 STL 28 7 14 12 6 3 8 20 4 8 8 18 26 7 5 7 5 3 12 16 9 10 12 22 17 9 7 15 9 12 19
1977 STL 28 14 19 18 15 7 11 17 16 12 4 10 16 12 2 14 13 1 24 23 19 11 22 10 26 20 21 26 27 17 22
1978 SDG 28 8 27 7 4 4 6 26 9 20 12 25 21 4 1 2 23 3 8 21 19 4 15 5 24 18 18 7 27 13 3
1979 SDG 28 1 5 1 4 5 2 8 25 27 2 26 1 5 1 6 22 3 5 2 3 1 8 17 15 10 19 7 1 3 5
1980 SDG 28 4 25 6 1 1 4 28 17 16 8 24 27 2 1 3 22 2 6 18 13 8 10 20 16 5 20 6 8 18 4
1981 SDG 28 6 13 5 6 1 1 13 20 16 1 10 24 2 1 1 7 1 27 26 11 9 5 27 7 12 28 28 14 11 27
1982 SDG 28 5 5 3 1 1 1 10 19 11 1 4 5 2 1 1 13 1 25 24 7 2 9 21 24 5 27 28 8 10 24
1983 SDG 28 23 27 26 11 1 12 27 25 25 14 24 23 2 1 9 28 3 26 28 22 21 18 27 11 13 24 25 24 24 24
1984 SDG 28 17 15 17 7 4 6 16 22 24 6 24 20 1 2 7 13 5 26 24 12 8 10 26 18 9 21 28 23 16 27
1985 SDG 28 12 22 11 10 1 1 27 20 20 4 21 18 1 1 1 27 1 28 25 7 12 13 27 18 15 27 28 25 5 27
1986 SDG 28 24 26 23 17 12 15 27 15 24 6 27 13 2 7 13 28 14 23 24 12 13 7 15 3 1 13 25 25 24 24
14 yrs %tile 65 43 61 70 86 79 41 41 41 77 44 46 85 93 82 45 87 33 33 53 69 59 36 45 59 26 28 44 49 36
9 yrs SDG 64 38 64 79 92 85 31 35 31 82 30 43 95 97 87 31 90 35 27 62 73 66 30 50 69 25 31 42 54 38
5 yrs ARI 67 51 55 53 76 69 57 52 58 68 68 51 66 85 74 71 82 31 44 38 63 47 45 36 42 26 21 46 41 33
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/13/2011.
Name Role
Joe Gibbs Offensive Coordinator
Jim Mora Defensive Quality Control, Defensive Assistant/Secondary
Jack Pardee Defensive Coordinator
Ray Perkins Offensive Coordinator
Ray Willsey Defensive Coordinator
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/13/2011.

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13 Responses to “PFR: HoF Candidate – Don Coryell”

  1. Packerfan4ver Says:

    I don't see him being inducted for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Bill Parcells is the coach that will get in.

    Don needs to go to the Hall of Fame though. He didn't win a super bowl or go to one, but he was innovator for offense in terms of a modern passing game.

    His offense was responsible for other teams winning Super Bowls with.

  2. steve norris Says:

    at some point probably so. those offenses were amazing. ahead of his time. having joe gibbs on his staff might be helping or hurting his case depending on how you look at it. since gibbs had lesser players on offense than coryell and went to 4 super bowls winning 3, it might look bad. his genius cant be forgotten tho. smart people surround themselves with smart or smarter people. thats says something.

  3. Charles Butler Says:

    I agree with both of you when it comes to Don Coryell about his innovative ability when it comes to offense in the NFL! However, his playoff record in the NFL is horrendous! Guys like Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer of the Dallas Cowboys have a better overall record that Coryell and to put Coryell in ahead of someone like a Jeff Fisher or maybe even a Bill Cowher is almost impossible. To me you don't have to win a superbowl but you do have to have lasting sucess as a coach! There is no way that I can vote for a Coryell into the hall under any circumstance.

  4. captainofthelist Says:

    Are some of you on crack? Of course Coryell should be in the HOF! Air Coryell's offensive framework won Superbowls for the Redskins, Cowboys and Rams. And modern deep passing game is based on what Coryell put together. Anyone with 3 straight winning records for the freakin' Cardinals should be an HOFer anyway!

    Coaches who change the way football is played and how offenses work shoudl be in the HOF!

  5. Coryell most certainly did NOT create the blueprint for passing success and it was NOT implemented by the Cowboys, Redskins and Rams.

    First - Understand 1978-1981 NFL and how those rules were transitioning how the game was going to be played. Those rules were the Mel Blount Rule, plus what the OL and DL were allowed to block and rush the passer.

    The result - teams had more success running the same offensive schemes they had been running for years - deep passing and power running. The high reward passing also came with high risk - even the elite QBs threw for a high INT total. Terry Bradshaw won the NFL MVP with 20 INTs (can you imagine that today?) and Fran Tarkenton and Ken Stabler both passed the 30 INT mark. It was a trend that continued for most of the franchise QBs in the NFL over the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    Several coaches began to adapt - most notably Bill Walsh - by utilizing a shorter and more efficient passing strategy. However, even though the Chargers were being successful - winning the #1 seed in the AFC in 1979 and 1980, and reaching the AFC Championship in 1980 and 1981 - Coryell was not adapting. He was becoming more reliant on Dan Fouts (3 year averaged 4533 passing yards, 29 TDs and 22 INTs) and not trying to employ balance between rushing and passing (despite having a young talented James Brooks). In the end, the defense had too much pressure put on it with more time on the field and defending against too many turnovers.

    1979 - 46 passes, 5 turnovers in Divisional round loss to Oilers at home
    1980 - 46 passes, 3 turnovers in AFC Championship to Raiders at home
    1981 - 28 passes, 4 turnovers in AFC Championship to Bengals on road

    That style - too much passing, not enough rushing, higher turnovers - was not what the Redskins, Cowboys and Rams used. The Redskins and Cowboys of the 1980s and 1990s used powerful offensive lines to dominate the line of scrimmage -- using the run to set up the pass and crush teams with balance. With their control of the clock and focus on defense - Jimmy Johnson and Joe Gibbs were nothing like Don Coryell

    Since it's established that Coryell was not changing the way the game was played - you judge him on what he accomplished, and he is lagging far behind a lot of coaches with more accomplished resumes:

    Super Bowl Winners with more than his 111 regular season wins:
    Bill Parcells (2/1) - 172
    Bill Cowher (1/1) - 149
    George Seifert (2) - 114
    Tony Dungy (1) - 139
    Dick Vermiel (1/1) - 122
    Active:
    Mike Shanahan (2) - 152
    Bill Belichick (3/1) - 172
    Tom Couglin (1) - 129

    Super Bowl Winners with less than 111 wins, but more HoF worthy:
    Brian Billick (1) - 80
    Jon Gruden (1) - 95
    Jimmy Johnson (2) - 80
    Tom Flores (2) - 97

    Super Bowl Losing Coaches/Non Super Bowl Coaches with more wins:
    Dan Reeves (0-4) - 190
    George Allen (0-1) - 116
    Marty Schottenheimer - 200
    Chuck Knox -186
    Andy Reid - 118

    That makes 17 Head Coaches potentially on the ballot with more their resume than 111 wins (or 114 including post-season), 5 Division Titles, a .572% and 0-2 in AFC Championship Games. That makes it a long-shot for Coryell at best.

    Then - consider the following 3 - all young, but have already established themselves with over 60 wins (combined regular and post-season), multiple conference championship games and a Super Bowl on their resume. Considering all 3 have legitimate Super Bowl chances in 2011, they are hardly done establishing their legacy.
    Mike Tomlin (1/1) - 53
    Mike McCarthy (1) - 58
    Sean Peyton (1) - 58

  6. Packerfan4ver Says:

    Bill,

    You didn't put into account that Don actually used his offense in College as a head coach and the fact you ignored the head coaches or offensive coaches of the Redskins, Cowboys and Rams during their super bowl years actually were disciples of Dan Coryell or the offensive coaches of those teams were coached under disciples of Dan Coryell. The reason those offenses looked so different because changed parts of it it fit their personnel and to put a different spin on that offense. That is no different than the West Coast Offense in that regard.

    Take a look at the West Coast Offense the 49ers used under Bill Walsh and take a look at the West Coast Offense the Green Bay Packers use with Aaron Rodgers. There is a big difference between the two because of personnel. The Green Bay Packers matter of fact hired Mike McCarthy because Brett wanted a head coach that uses the West Coast Offense. The Bill Welsh version didn't have a quarterback that had a strong arm. Joe Montana had average arm strength and Aaron Rodgers had the stronger arm and the Packers have a deeper core of receivers. I saw Montana play back in the 1980's and I am not talking about NFL Films either or anything on the NFL Network.

    Bill Walsh did not start using the short passing game due to the Mel Blount rule because he created the West Coast Offense in the NFL way before that Rule existed. Bill Walsh created the short passing game when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals from the late 1968 to 1975 under Paul Brown. Bill Walsh created the West Coast offense because he had a quarterback with a average arm at best starting in Virgil Carter matter of fact. Ken Anderson matter of fact used the West Coast Offense when Bill Walsh was with Cincinnati and was the first very good or great West Coast Offense Quarterback.

  7. I think that Coryell was one of the greatest innovators in NFL History. His offense translates into any era. The 99-01 Rams offense was based on what Coryell was doing with St. Louis and San Diego. The results? 1569 points over 3 seasons, 2 NFC Championships, and 1 Super Bowl.

  8. Super Bowls and wins are important, but any coach with the sustained level of success and direct influence of Coryell deserves to be in. He was an offensive coach, and when he had a top ten defense, his teams were Super Bowl contenders.

    Look at his sustained record of success. His offenses led the league in yards four straight and five of six years, and in points three of those years. You might point out that his team was near or at the top in passing attempts while he coached, but this reflected their effectiveness. In 11 years (1975-85), his teams lead the league in net yards/attempt five times and were in the top 3 ten times. He helped show the entire league you could pass much more than you ran and not lose effectiveness--and that is the modern NFL. Even if he were only a coordinator, and forgetting about his college achievements, he would deserve enshrinement.

    As far as his record as a head coach, take a look at the Cards and Chargers records year by year. His years as coach were an oasis of success for both.

    The Cards were 12 games below five hundred in the four seasons prior to Coryell's hiring, and 18 games below five hundred in the four seasons after.

    The Chargers were 23 games below five hundred in the four seasons prior to his arrival (and hadn't had a winning year since 1969). The were minus 11 in the four complete seasons after he left.

    So in 13.5 seasons of his coaching, his teams were better than two games above five hundred on average. And in the 16 years before and after his reigns, those same teams were four games BELOW five hundred.

    In other words, Coryell was worth three wins per season. You would be hard pressed to find a similar record of success duplicated across two hapless franchises.

  9. This is a tough one, but ultimately I say, Yes to the Hall of Coryell.

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  11. Good coach in the 70's and 80's, but doesn't belong anywhere near the HOF.

  12. david lebida Says:

    he took two sorry franchises,which barely knew how to win,and made them into winning franchises,if that is a not "a Hall of Fame"calibre coach,than what is?

  13. ChargerDave Says:

    Don't forget Chuck Muncie set a rushing TD record under Coryell, and was a 1,000 running back. And later on Earnest Jackson led the AFC in rushing under Coryell.

    From Nick Canepa, San Diego Union-Tribune (May '09):

    What Don Coryell had was a great tank commander's vision, and thus the spine and guile to attack Point B from Point A the quickest and most devastating way possible, using X's and O's tactics previous football minds never imagined. Except his policy wasn't so much scorched earth, but scorched air. He not only exhausted opponents' bodies, but their brains.

    The more I think about it – and I've been thinking about it more and more lately – the more I'm convinced. Coryell may be the single most important football coach of the past half century. Certainly the most innovative and daring. His fingerprints remain all over the sport at every level, and it's highly doubtful they will be smudged anytime soon.

    Because no man had so profoundly brought about change – not just offensively, through his vaunted aerial scheme – but, because of it, also the defensive side of the ball. If you pay attention, it can be seen without a manual. Watch a game. Any game.

    And yet Coryell, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame for his work at San Diego State (as an assistant coach he also brought the I formation to USC), has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's 85 now. The man who remains the only coach to win at least 100 games at the collegiate and professional level is overdue. It's time.

    I know I've written this before. I can't write it enough. If his snub is due to his failure to get to a Super Bowl, there's precedence. Sid Gillman, another innovative Chargers coach, is in the Hall, and he never got to one, either.

    Sensing this are those who played for Coryell (Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts for one), coached under him (Hall of Famers Joe Gibbs and John Madden for two), and those coaches who faithfully have adopted his scripture (Norv Turner and Mike Martz for another two).

    Fouts, who piloted Air Coryell during the glory years with the Chargers, has sent a letter to the Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors – of which I am one – asking that Coryell be seriously considered for induction.

    In the letter, Fouts notes the Chargers' passing statistics from 1978-1985. San Diego led the NFL in passing yardage from 1978 (Coryell's first season) to 1983. Miami, with Dan Marino, led in 1984, the Chargers again in 1985.

    “Nowhere in the history of the NFL,” Fouts wrote, “has there ever been one team rule a statistical category over such a span of time.”

    Coryell the passing master is well known, but Fouts also points out how Coryell's offense affected defenses. Teams were scared to death of this offense. Coryell forced change. Those defensive substitutions you see now didn't happen accidentally. He made them happen.

    “I remember seeing the change and how we had to adjust our thinking,” Fouts was saying over the phone from his Oregon home. “They started substituting nickel and dime backs, situational pass rushers, faster defensive linemen, taking out safeties that couldn't run and putting in an extra corner. No question, Don profoundly affected both sides of the ball.

    “All you have to do is watch the game with educated eyes and see what's happening now and what didn't happen before Don. And Saturday afternoon. His influence is there. He's contributed to everything. All that spells change, and he changed the game.”

    Fouts was the perfect Coryell instrument. Smart, tough, incredibly competitive, accurate, in charge and totally without fear. This was not for the squeamish.

    “The biggest thing Don contributed to the pro and college game was the fearlessness of throwing the ball and how it can pay huge, huge dividends,” Fouts said. “What Don did with the Cardinals and Chargers was to utilize the tight end as more than a blocker, but a serious threat down the field, and he spread things out.”

    Before serving as the Rams head coach and St. Louis' offensive coordinator when it won Super Bowl XXXIV, Martz was a young San Diegan, attending Madison High during the week and watching Coryell's Aztecs Saturdays and Gillman's Chargers Sundays.

    He, as did Turner, studied under wizard Ernie Zampese, who as Chargers (and later the Rams' and Cowboys') offensive coordinator, seemingly stretched Coryell's offense to the limit. Except Martz, with the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis, took it ever further, proving there may be no top to Coryell's famed passing tree.

    “Just the impact Coach Coryell has had on today's game; it's affected everybody,” says Martz, currently out of football and residing in San Diego. “The game he engineered seeped through the whole league. I can't imagine anyone having a greater impact on the game.

    “He has touched this game permanently. He has changed it forever. I can't think of anyone more deserving.”

    As Fouts rightfully says: “I would not be in the Hall of Fame myself had it not been for my nine years as Don's quarterback.”

    Time for the coach to join him. Don Coryell was football's Ground Zero.

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