Don ‘Air’ Coryell

Don 'Air' Coryell

Don Coryell (October 17, 1924 – July 1, 2010) was a former American Football coach, who coached in the NFL first with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973–1977 and then the San Diego Chargers from 1978-1986. He was well-known for his innovations to football’s passing offense. Coryell’s offense was commonly known as “Air Coryell”.

With Dan Fouts as quarterback, San Diego’s “Air Coryell” was the inventor of one of the greatest passing offenses in NFL history. The Chargers led the league in passing yards an NFL record 6 consecutive years from 1978-1983 and again in 1985. They also led the league in total yards in offense 1980-1983 and 1985. Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow would all be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame from those Charger teams, as well as Dan Dierdorf from the Cardinals.

Coryell’s direct development of future coaches included Super Bowl head coaches John Madden and Joe Gibbs, Super Bowl offensive coordinators Ernie Zampese and Al Saunders. Adding to the Coryell coaching tree, ’92 & ’93 Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl Offensive Coordinator, Norv Turner who tutored under Zampese, and St. Louis Rams Super Bowl Offensive Coordinator, Mike Martz who studied under both Zampese and Turner.

Dan Fouts San Diego Chargers Quarterback QB

Dan Fouts

Because of the pass-oriented nature of the “Air Coryell” offense, Coryell’s innovations also carried over to the defensive side of the ball.  His offense’s three and four-receiver sets forced  the opposition to scheme against it.

John Madden and Dan Fouts both credit Coryell with their induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Coryell has not yet been inducted to the Hall Of Fame, something Madden has lobbied for.  He was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 1986.


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