Another year has come and gone without Don Coryell getting into the Hall of Fame, and the door may have been shut entirely this time around.
Two coaches were getting into the NFL’s centennial Hall of Fame Class, one way or another. The newly formed “blue ribbon committee” would have the final say on the selection of those coaches.
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) January 13, 2020
The committee selected Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, as the two coaching entries into the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. The late Don Coryell, who was a finalist in 2019, misses out on the Hall of Fame again. This time, the window closing may be final.
Johnson and Cowher absolutely deserve enshrinement in Canton, but one has to wonder about what exactly went into the process of selecting them. Changing the selection process from the normal committee to the “blue ribbon” group seems to have elevated their chances. Cowher and Johnson did not make a finalist group prior to this year.
It’s also hard to look at the way the presentations were made on television and say that the two famous coaches’ standing as media members didn’t help them in some way. The late Coryell and the retired Tom Flores finished as finalists in 2019. Both obviously aren’t the football media stars today that Cowher and Johnson are.
While the Hall of Fame tends to be lenient on years of eligibility, as Coryell had been retired for more than 25 years prior to being a finalist a year ago, it’s hard to envision a path to the Hall of Fame now. Maybe it’s possible in 2021, but the momentum Coryell’s bid had in 2019 has been deflated from this blue ribbon committee centennial created class.
Again, Cowher and Johnson are perfectly deserving in their own right. But it becomes harder and harder to see the NFL not put such an innovative genius in Canton. Without Coryell, passing may not exist to the extent it does today in modern schemes.
Look at Austin Ekeler. Having running backs catching passes and come out of the backfield as a receiver was one of his revolutionary ideas. A nearly 1,000-yard receiving season might not have happened without the brilliance of Coryell’s idea to initially do that.
The game-breaking tight ends over the last few years, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz wouldn’t exist without the idea of having tight ends split out. Antonio Gates, an elite fan favorite amongst Chargers fans, may have gone on to play basketball instead.
The game simply doesn’t exist the way it does today without Coryell’s offensive “Air Coryell” philosophy. The knock against Coryell will be the lack of a Super Bowl title, but many in the Hall of Fame can’t claim they have one to their name.
To change the voting body and process to force Cowher and Johnson into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when they had never been voting finalists just feels wrong to me, especially when the NFL is indebted to Coryell on so much of what makes up modern football.