Photo: Don Coryell
This weekend's Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies and an excellent story Clark Judge wrote for Talk of Fame Sports reminded me of a story I wrote in 2008 for Voice of San Diego making a case for Don Coryell's enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. Note the research on Pro Bowls for Coreyll-coached players that I dug up on the suggestion of Fred Dryer, who played for Coryell at San Diego State. It's a mystery why the case has fallen on deaf ears with Hall voters.
By Tom Shanahan
August 2, 2008 is almost here. The day will mark the induction of another class of Pro Football Hall of Famers that is missing someone.
Hall of Fame? Don Coryell has yet to get his due. Is it because he wasn’t as funny as John Madden or as scholarly as Bill Walsh?
Yes, it’s true -- Coryell didn’t win a Super Bowl, like Madden and Walsh, although the Chargers advanced to two AFC Championship games. One loss was skewed by a fluke bounce of the ball to Oakland Raiders tight end Raymond Chester for a touchdown and the other by Antarctic conditions in Cincinnati.
But if George Allen, a defensive genius, is in the Hall of Fame — Class of 2002 — is Coryell any less deserving?
His passing attacks were ranked No. 1 in the NFL seven times. He originated the “digit” play-calling system still used by many NFL teams.
Listen to Mike Martz, who won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the “Greatest Show on Turf” with the St. Louis Rams and advanced to another Super Bowl as the Rams’ head coach.
“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.”
Listen to Willie Buchanon, a Pro Bowl cornerback and 1972 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Green Bay Packers, who was an All-American cornerback for Coryell at SDSU.
“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.”
A list of testimonials could go on an on from those that believe Coryell belongs in the NFL.
But Fred Dryer, a Pro Bowl defensive end in the NFL that was an All-American for Coryell at SDSU, cites new evidence. Dryer suggests looking at Coryell’s players with the Cardinals and Chargers and checking their Pro Bowl trips before and after they played for Coryell.
It’s quite revealing:
- DAN FOUTS (Chargers), 1973-1987, Hall of Fame: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none; Pro Bowls with Coryell: (6) 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985.
- CHARLIE JOINER (Chargers), 1969-1986, Hall of Fame: Pro Bowls before Coryell: (1), 1976; Pro Bowls with Coryell: (2) 1979, 1980.
- DOUG WILKERSON (Chargers), 1970-1984: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none; Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1980, 1981, 1982.
- CHUCK MUNCIE (Chargers), 1976-1984: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none; Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1979, 1981, 1982.
- JOHN JEFFERSON (Chargers), 1978-1985: Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3), 1978, 1979, 1980; Pro Bowls after Jefferson was traded to the Packers: (1) 1982.
- WES CHANDLER (Chargers), 1978-1988: Pro Bowls before Coryell: (1), 1979; Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1982, 1983, 1985.
- DAN DIERDORF (Cardinals), 1971-1983, Hall of Fame: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none; Pro Bowls with Coryell: (4) 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977.
Pro Bowls after Coryell: (2) 1978, 1980.
- JIM HART (Cardinals), 1966-1984: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none
Pro Bowls with Coryell: (4) 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977; Pro Bowls after Coryell: none.
- TOM BANKS (Cardinals) 1971-1980: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none
Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1975, 1976, 1977; Pro Bowls after Coryell: (1) 1978.
- TERRY METCALF (Cardinals), 1973-1977, 1981: Pro Bowls with Coryell: (3) 1974, 1975, 1977; Pro Bowls after Coryell: none.
- JIM OTIS (Cardinals), 1970-1978: Pro Bowls before Coryell: none;
Pro Bowls with Coryell: (1) 1975; Pro Bowl after Coryell: none.
Don Coryell, plain and simple, belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.