No. 2: Don Coryell
Don “Air” Coryell should already be in the Hall of Fame. That’s hard to debate.
He has nearly 100 less career wins than Schottenheimer, so why is he higher on this list? That’s pretty easy to explain.
Coryell served in the military before his venture into football, which began as a defensive back at the University of Washington. While his playing career was short, his career as a coach was spectacular, as he coached at every level from high school to the pros.
Before coming to the NFL, he had multiple stops before coming to San Diego State University in 1961. He won over 100 games there on his way to three undefeated seasons and two wins in Bowl games.
That led to him coming to the professional level where he coached the St. Louis Cardinals for five seasons before his stop in San Diego as coach of the Chargers. So what made him so special?
His innovation and the impression he made on the game have carried over into today’s NFL. A pioneer of the I-formation, Coryell’s offense in San Diego is up there with the most potent the league has ever seen. To this day, teams take from what he did back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He attacked defenses down the field as often as possible. His ideals in the passing game in terms of his numbering system or “route tree” changed the way teams play offense and gameplan for opponents.
The St. Louis Rams’ team that won the Super Bowl in 1999 and is remembered as the “Greatest Show on Turf” was basically an extension of what Coryell did 20 years earlier.
His coaching tree includes names like John Madden, Joe Gibbs and Jim Hanifan. Madden and Gibbs, both in the Hall of Fame, have advocated for Coryell to someday join them. So has his former quarterback, Dan Fouts.
Why he isn’t in is a little strange. Maybe it’s the fact he won just three of nine playoff games, but that seems small when considering what he meant to the game, which includes becoming the first coach in history to win 100 games in both college and the professional ranks. He was selected to the Colle Football Hall of Fame, he just needs the recognition for everything else he did.
Sadly, if the call ever comes, it will be posthumously, as Coryell passed away in 2010.