Don Coryell, the head coach who became an innovator of the passing game in the NFL died Thursday, he was 85. He was head coach in St. Louis where he led the Cardinals to two division titles in 1974 and 1975.
He left St. Louis for San Diego where he spent eight seasons with the Chargers and took them the AFC championship game in 1980 and 81. Many of you reading this will think back to Coryell with Jim Hart and the Cardinals, but my first memory of Coryell was with the Chargers and former Missouri tight end Kellen Winslow in a playoff game in Miami.
Before I did research on the particulars of that game, since I was 10 watching the end of that game on my parents bed on their small black and white TV, I remember seeing Winslow exhausted, dirty and being helped off the field by teammates.
I read back to learn Winslow battled dehydration and nagging injuries in a game in which he caught 13 passes for 166 yard and blocked a field goal that forced overtime which San Diego won 41-38.
I know it was fun watching the Chargers play football because they scored a lot or at least threw the ball a lot. I also remember in the AFC Championship game against Cincinnati where the temperature was -37 with the wind thinking about the Chargers and how they went from hot, humid Miami to frigid cold Cincinnati.
Anyway, that’s the effect that Coryell had on football. For the first time I found myself watching the game for more than just a few plays, as a ten year old. He revolutionized the game and I wonder if Coryell was to the NFL in the 1970’s and 80’s what Urban Meyer and Mike Leach were to college football with the spread offense of the 2000’s?