Before Don Coryell coached his first NFL game, there was one player who threw for 4,000 yards in a season. Now, Peyton Manning has 10 4,000-yard seasons of his own.
Coryell certainly can’t be held solely responsible for the style of offensive football that we know today, but there’s no doubt that he got the ball rolling for pass-first, quarterback-heavy offenses. After all, it was his “Air Coryell” style that led to the end of a 12-year drought between the first 4,000-yard season by Joe Namath and the second by Dan Fouts.
A former coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers, Coryell finished with a 111-83 record in NFL games, but was also monumental in the building of the San Diego State football program at the collegiate level. He’s already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and many former players and coaches have lobbied for his entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Coryell passed away on July 1 at the age of 85, but not before he affected the game of football and the lives of those players that he coached, including Fouts.
Dan Fouts joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego with Darren Smith to reflect on Coryell’s life, his impact on the lives of his players both on and off the field and the coach’s absence from the Hall of Fame.
On the passing of Don Coryell:
“It is mixed emotions today with so many of us that played for Don. Obviously we’re sad that he’s passed away, but the fact that so many people are going to be able to celebrate his life … and have a reunion type of situation and really feel the love that Don felt for all of us and the fans of San Diego … it’s a strong feeling.”
On Coryell’s system and coaching style:
“It was just so simple and so perfect for our talent and our team and his personality. He’s totally fearless and when you throw the ball there’s a risk involved there and I threw a lot of interceptions. But I don’t think he ever criticized me. He never came to me, yelled at me. He always said, ‘We’ll get them on the next series of downs.’ That type of attitude, going for it and stretching the field, all the things that he stood for for so many years and throughout his coaching career, I obviously benefited greatly.”
On the first impression of Coryell:
“It was so uplifting, it’s incredible. We were 1-3, looking at another losing season, but we knew Don had had great success. We knew about him at San Diego State and he had done great things with the St. Louis Cardinals. When he walked in that locker room, and to a man I’m sure they would agree with me, it was like they turned on the air conditioner. It was cool from that moment on.”
On going public with his desire to see Coryell make the Hall of Fame:
“It’s the right thing to do, simple as that. No man in the last 30 to 40 years has contributed as much to the way the game is played today as Don Coryell. He’ll get into the Hall of Fame eventually, I’m sure of that. He got very close last year. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be here, but he was there with me back in 1993 as my presenter and we had a great time together back then. I know that he’ll be smiling down when he is inducted sometime in the very near future.”