Don Coryell picked as contributor finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

Aug 24, 2022, 8:26 AM
Head coach Don Coryell of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on prior to the start of an NFL football ga...
Head coach Don Coryell of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on prior to the start of an NFL football game circa 1973. Coryell coached the Cardinals from 1973-77. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Former St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers coach Don Coryell was selected as a finalist to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2023 class as a coach/contributor.

Coryell was picked after a four-hour meeting Tuesday that considered 11 other candidates to move into finalist consideration for next year’s class.

A 49-person selection committee will decide in January on whether Coryell, 15 modern-era players and three seniors will be part of the class. Coryell will get into the Hall if he is supported by at least 80% of the full Hall of Fame panel of voters next January.

This is the seventh time Coryell, who coached the Cardinals from 1973-77, has been in the finalist stage of the process for the Hall of Fame. He made it this far in 2010, 2015-17, 2019 and 2020.

Coryell was The Associated Press Coach of the Year for St. Louis in 1974 as the Cardinals went 10-4, making its first postseason berth since 1948. The team won 11 games the next season, matching a franchise record at the time.

In five years with the Cardinals franchise, Coryell went 42-27-1.

But his greatest success came when he took over the Chargers early in the 1978 season and teamed with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts to form one of the NFL’s most dynamic passing games.

With an offense that featured pre-snap motion, only one running back and thrived on throwing the ball downfield, the Chargers changed how offenses played the game.

The success was immediate with the Chargers making the playoffs in Coryell’s first four full seasons with back-to-back trips to the AFC title game in 1980 and ’81.

A poor defense prevented San Diego from reaching the Super Bowl and the team then failed to post a winning record in his final four seasons.

But during his tenure, the Chargers led the NFL by scoring 26.2 points per game, averaging 390.8 yards per game with 279.5 yards passing per game.

The gap in yards passing between the Chargers and second-place San Francisco (223 per game) was bigger than the gap between the 49ers and the third-worst passing team of that era, the Rams (170.5 yards per game).

Coryell, who was the first coach to win at least 100 games in college and the pros, died in 2010.

Coryell was selected this week as the coach/contributor finalist over 11 candidates: Roone Arledge, Mike Holmgren, Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, Robert Kraft, Art Modell, Buddy Parker, Dan Reeves, Art Rooney Jr., Mike Shanahan, Clark Shaughnessy and John Wooten.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Don Coryell picked as contributor finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame