The NFL Hall of Fame is where the league places those individuals who have achieved a superior level of greatness at their position or have revolutionized the game. It is a way to honor the achievements and success of these people while acknowledging what they have meant to the NFL. When looking at the members of the Hall of Fame, one can't help but feel amazed and in awe. Yet when examining the list of coaches in the Hall of Fame, one name seems to be missing. It makes no real sense as to why it wouldn't be there. Don Coryell is not in the Hall of Fame.
Coryell was an inovative genius. While not the creator of the I formation, Coryell was a pioneer of it, helping John McKay run the offense at USC in 1960. He is given credit for developing the vertical passing game into what it has become today, with the likes of Joe Gibbs, Mike Martz, and Ernie Zampese winning Super Bowls employing similar systems. He also tutored Al Saunders, Jim Hanifan, and Rod Dowhower. Even further down the line comes Norv Turner and Dan Henning, who tutored under Zampese and Gibbs respectively. John Madden was a student of Coryell while he coached at San Diego State and considered Don to be one of the biggest influences on him as a coach.
Coryell's Chargers were one of the most successful offensive teams that the NFL has ever seen. Quarterback Dan Fouts spearheaded Coryell's devastating passing attack with the likes of Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner. All three are in the Hall of Fame today in part because of the system that Coryell brought to the team. Winslow revolutionized the tight end position to what we are seeing today with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
The simple fact that Coryell is not in the Hall of Fame is unfathomable. We are talking about a man who revolutionized the game of football not once, but twice. As Dan Fouts stated, "He influenced offiensive and defensive football because if you were going to have three or four receivers out there, you better have an answer for it on the other side of the ball". The system that Coryell created forced teams to devlop new ways to handle the situations presented by the Chargers offense. Fouts brought up a great point by asking who had really heard of a nickel or dime defensive package before Air Coryell?
Some will argue that Coryell doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because of his 3-6 playoff record and the way his defenses performed, but those are things that can be overlooked. I know that there are players who deserve to get in that have been waiting for some time now, but Coryell deserves a spot for all of the ideas and concepts that he contributed to the NFL that make it so successful today. His influence as a coach cannot be ignored anymore. The man was far to successful to not be in the Hall of Fame. The best news was that he finally did make the final 15 cut in 2010, but he has yet to advance farther than that. Former coaches and players like Madden, Gibbs, and Fouts will continue to lobby for his placement in the Hall of Fame.