Air Coryell influence on Pro Bowlers
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Air Coryell influence on Pro Bowlers

Cardinals and Chargers that Coryell made Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers

Photo: Don Coryell turned Jim Hart into a four-time Pro Bowler

Before Fred Dryer played the TV detective "Hunter," he was a 12-year NFL veteran and All-American defensive end for Don Coryell at San Diego State.

“Hunter” had a detective hunch about Coryell’s Pro Bowl influence on his Chargers and Cardinals players. Dryer believed comparing a star's Pro Bowl trips before and after they played for Coryell would be quite revealing.

His theory was based on playing in Coryell’s system at San Diego State; he felt it was superior to what he encountered with the New York Giants in 1969 as a first-round draft pick. His thoughts have been echoed by Brian Sipe and Willie Buchanon, two other San Diego State stars for Coryell that found success in the NFL.

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“Hunter’s” hunch was spot-on.

Seven Cardinals and Chargers never made a Pro Bowl before they played for him. Others added to their previously thin Pro Bowl resume under Coryell.

But that's not all. Three of the five Cardinals to make their first Pro bowl under Coryell didn’t earn a return trip after the Cardinals fired him.

Four – the Chargers’ Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow and the Cardinals’ Dan Dierdorf -- were propelled to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

The following is a research focused on Coryell’s offensive players, a reflection of his advanced Air Coryell passing schemes that pushed forward the modern game into the 21st century. It also doesn’t include three Pro Bowl Chargers, Winslow and two offensive linemen, Ed White and Russ Washington.

Winslow was drafted by the Chargers under Coryell and essentially played for no other coach before his knee injury.

White was an established Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings (1975, 1976 and 1977) before he joined the Chargers in 1978; he made the 1979 Pro Bowl under Coryell.

Washington was an established Pro Bowler with the Chargers in 1974, 1975 and 1977 before returning under Coryell in 1978 and 1979.

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PRO BOWLERS


DAN FOUTS (Chargers), 1973-1987, Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (6) 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985.

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CHARLIE JOINER (Chargers), 1969-1986, Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: (1), 1976.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (2) 1979, 1980.

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DOUG WILKERSON (Chargers), 1970-1984.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1980, 1981, 1982.

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CHUCK MUNCIE (Chargers), 1976-1984.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1979, 1981, 1982.

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JOHN JEFFERSON (Chargers), 1978-1985.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3), 1978, 1979, 1980.

Pro Bowls after Jefferson was traded in 1981 to the Packers: (1) 1982.

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WES CHANDLER (Chargers), 1978-1988.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: (1), 1979.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1982, 1983, 1985.

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DAN DIERDORF (Cardinals), 1971-1983, Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (4) 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977.

Pro Bowls after Cardinals fired Coryell: (2) 1978, 1980.

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JIM HART (Cardinals), 1966-1984.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (4) 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977.

Pro Bowls after Coryell: none.

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TOM BANKS (Cardinals) 1971-1980.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1975, 1976, 1977.

Pro Bowls after Coryell: (1) 1978.

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TERRY METCALF (Cardinals), 1973-1977, 1981.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1974, 1975, 1977.

Pro Bowls after Coryell: none.

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JIM OTIS (Cardinals), 1970-1978.

Pro Bowls before Coryell: none.

Pro Bowls with Coryell: (1) 1975.

Pro Bowls after Coryell: none.

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QUOTES

A list of Coryell testimonials could go on and on. Here is a sampling from his Chargers and Cardinals players, San Diego State stars that made it to the NFL and coaches on his staffs.

DAN FOUTS, Chargers quarterback, Pro Football Hall of Fame

“He influenced offensive and defensive football because if you are going to have three or four receivers out there, you better have an answer for it on the other side of the ball. If it wasn’t for Don, I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.”

BRIAN SIPE, SDSU quarterback and 1980 NFL MVP with the Browns in 10-year NFL career

“When I went to the Browns in 1972, Don Coryell’s offense was ahead of anything I saw in the NFL. I think the only reason I had the career I had, is I was so quickly able to step in and know what I was looking at. The NFL was easy for me. I felt like I was taking a step backward in terms of preparation.”


JOHN MADDEN, San Diego State assistant, Super Bowl champion coach with Raiders, TV analyst, Pro Football Hall of Fame:

"I met Don at the (college) Coach of the Year clinic in the early 1960s. John McKay won a national title and was speaking on the I-formation. The I-formation was the hot new thing and everybody copies. I was coaching at Hancock College, taking notes. In the middle of John's speech he said, 'The I-formation isn't mine.' He said, 'Don Coryell was an assistant of mine at USC, and he put it in. He is really the father of the I-formation.' He introduced Don. After the thing is over everyone runs up to the podium to get more out of John McKay. I figured, hell, I'm going to talk to the guy that taught the guy the I-formation. I sat with him the rest of the clinic. You think of Air Coryell, but it's not only his record (in college and the NFL) and the passing. There was a time when he was all about I-formation and power and running. If you see two backs in the NFL, that's the I-formation. We all learned a lot from him."

DON SHULA, long-time Coryell NFL coaching rival during his Miami years, two-time Super Bowl champion, Pro Football Hall of Fame 

“He was one of the great coaches who had a major in?uence in developing and opening up the passing attack in the NFL. Back then most teams emphasized the running game, with only occasional passes, but he was way ahead of his time and took the sport to the next level by making the passing game his team’s strength. He had a perfect quarterback in Dan Fouts to run his offense, and they changed the way the game was played.”

MIKE MARTZ, San Diegan, Super Bowl champion as Rams offensive coordinator and NFC champion head coach of Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf.”

“Don is the father of the modern passing game. People talk about the ‘West Coast’ offense, but Don started the ‘West Coast’ decades ago and kept updating it. You look around the NFL now, and so many teams are running a version of the Coryell offense. Coaches have added their own touches, but it’s still Coryell’s offense. He has disciples all over the league. He changed the game."

WILLIE BUCHANON, San Diego State All-American cornerback, 1972 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, two Pro Bowls and 11 NFL seasons

“When I got in the NFL, it was easy after playing at San Diego State. I learned everything I knew from Don Coryell, Ernie Zampese and Claude Gilbert. We had a system. Coryell developed the tight end as a wide receiver when he split Tim Delaney 5 yards out. They call the passing games today the West Coast offense. That was Don Coryell’s system.”

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Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light http://tinyurl.com/knsqtqu

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

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Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and Chargers.com. He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer, MLB.com, Rivals.com and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications


David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."