Don “Air” Coryell
Don Coryell was one of the greatest offensive minds the league has ever seen and to this day, ideas that he implemented are still being mimicked.
Following a stint in the United Stated Army, Coryell played defensive back at Washington before going on to coach several high school and small college teams before getting a spot as an assistant at USC.
Coryell, a pioneer of the I-Formation offense, would use it at each of these stops, leading to a head coaching position at San Diego State. In 12 seasons there, he was very successful and began to show what his future influence would be on the passing game.
His first professional football head coaching job came with the St. Louis Cardinals where he had some terrific seasons with a bad team. He left that job in 1977 and when the Chargers jumped out to a 1-4 record in 1978, the Chargers decided to see what the former San Diego State coach could do, hiring him to succeed Tommy Prothro.
It ended up being one of the best moves the franchise ever made.
Coryell led the Chargers to places the team had never been, developing the “Air Coryell” offense that to this day is arguably the best offense the league has ever seen. From 1978-83, the Chargers led the league in passing all six seasons. That hadn’t been done before or since.
While those who don’t feel Coryell was a Hall-of-Fame coach will point to his poor defenses, so many others will stand up for what he did for offensive football that still holds true in today’s game. He had a big part in players like Fouts, Joiner and Winslow reaching the Hall of Fame and all three of those players would likely say they wouldn’ be there if it weren’t for him.
Of course, should Coryell earn the induction, it will come posthumously, as he passed away in 2010. However, he no doubt deserves a spot in Canton.