After a brief moment, Sipe recounted how when the Cleveland Browns drafted him into the NFL in 1972, it felt like he had been placed in a remedial class for passing offenses. "I felt like I had taken a step back," he said. "The things we were doing at San Diego State were far more advanced."
The NFL learned as much a year later, when Coryell joined the St. Louis Cardinals. In a league that relied heavily on the run, Coryell challenged conventional philosophies by winging it. His approach was so bold, his game plans so innovative, that in five seasons with the Cardinals and nine with the Chargers, he not only changed how the game was played -- but molded it into what we see today.
His contributions deserve to be remembered, because Thursday, Coryell died in La Mesa, Calif., after a lengthy illness. He was 85.
"Don was a giant among men in this profession," said Bears offensive coordinator
As much as it's a cliché, the history of the NFL cannot be written without an extensive chapter on Coryell. He is credited with creating the I-formation (while an assistant under
Coryell was the brains behind "Air Coryell," the high-flying, high-scoring offense that helped put QB
"He was just so different from every other football coach," Fouts said. "He was not the stereotype, and the teams that he put together and coached -- whether at San Diego State or with the St. Louis Cardinals or the Chargers -- were not the stereotype. We were unique, and he was unique. For that uniqueness, we all owe a great debt of gratitude to him."
Coryell has yet to receive the ultimate tip of the hat -- a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- presumably because his teams failed to reach a Super Bowl. The Chargers earned four trips to the playoffs in his nine seasons and lost twice in the AFC Championship Game. Yet ...
Coryell's fingerprints are all over the Lombardi Trophy. Retired Redskins coach
The Super Bowl argument would carry more weight with me if either
Also, Coryell didn't inherit powerhouses when he arrived in the NFL. The Cardinals had gone 25 consecutive years without a playoff appearance, yet Coryell led them to back-to-back trips in his first full seasons. (The franchise made only one playoff appearance in the 20 years after Coryell departed.) In San Diego, the Chargers had gone 13 straight seasons without a playoff appearance before Coryell's first full year. However, they earned postseason berths in each of his first four full seasons, including two trips to the AFC Championship Game.
"Super Bowls count so much now; that's all anyone talks about," says Dungy, who won Super Bowl XLI with the Colts. "But if you talk about impact on the game, training other coaches --