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12:03AM

The grandfather of the West Coast offense

WSJ obit on Don Coryell of “Air Coryell” fame.  The San Diego Chargers of the late 1970s and early 1980s revolutionized the game and blazed the path for the 49ers fabled “West Coast offense” in the later 1980s.  We’re talking Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow and company, who lead the league in offense for six of 7 years starting in 1978.  Coryell learned at the knee of the great Sid Gillman, a previous coach of the Charges, while he coached at San Diego State U in the late 1960s.

Coryell’s stint with the Chargers coincided with rule-set tweaks by the NFL in 1977 to juice up what was becoming a too boring game. 

Coryell’s innovations included passing on first down consistently, a far bigger receiving role for tight ends, and letting the quarterback choose between a variety of receivers on any one play (the “checking down” you hear so much about today as the QB looks through his sequence of possible targets before choosing the one that looks best).   Thus began the rise of the 4,000-yard passer, which happened only once before Fouts started doing it regularly.  Now, a good share of NFL passers do it each year.

Coryell was a huge reason why the NFL became so popular over the past 30 years.  He never got enough credit because he did not win a championship like Bill Walsh did four times.

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Reader Comments (4)

He was so popular here in San Diego that, believe it or not, when the news of his death was announced people went out and lowered their American flags to half mast. The America as football metaphor to the extreme.

I loved the Chargers and the Raiders in their day. Can anyone save the Raiders from Al Davis?

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTed O'Connor

Those were the days when I was a true Charger fan. The excitement of those days is sorely missed.

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan Hare

Lombardi and Allen are gone, but Don just passed away...

Look, it was there, I had to use it....

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMKL

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