DON CORYELL

DON CORYELL

Class of 2010 - Finalist
Coach
(Washington)
1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986

Overall record 114-89-1 … Took over Cardinals team that hadn’t won title of any kind since 1948 … Cardinals won NFC Eastern Divisional titles 1974-75 … … Record of 31-11 from 1974-76 marked most successful three-year stretch in franchise’s history … Inherited a Chargers team that hadn’t won title in many years … “Air Coryell” offense led NFL in passing six straight seasons, 1978 to 1983 … NFL Coach of the Year, 1974 … AFC Coach of the Year, 1979 … Born October 17, 1924 in Seattle, Washington.

Don Coryell debuted on the National Football League scene in 1973 when he was named the head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. His road to the NFL included a lengthy coaching career at the high school and college levels. Just prior to taking the Cardinals position he had served as the head coach at San Diego State from 1961 to 1972.

When he took over the coaching reins in St. Louis, the Cardinals were a team that had not won a title of any kind since the 1948 season. That all changed quickly with Coryell at the helm. In his first season as the team’s new coach, St. Louis finished with a 4-9-1 record that was identical to the club’s records in the two seasons prior to Coryell’s arrival. But, that season laid the groundwork for what was to follow. In 1974, with a vastly improved offense, the Cardinals took the NFL by surprise. The “Big Red” won the NFC Eastern Division with a 10-4 record that included a 7-1 mark against their division opponents. The Cardinals followed that with an 11-3 mark the next season to claim its second consecutive division crown. St. Louis narrowly missed the playoffs in 1976 despite finishing 10-4. Coryell’s impressive record of 31-11 from 1974-76 marked the most successful three-year stretch in the franchise’s long history.

Coryell took over as coach of the San Diego Chargers four games into the 1978 season when he again inherited a team that had not won a title in many years. The Chargers last division title came in 1965. He instantly installed a new explosive offense that soon was labeled “Air Coryell.”

The record-setting offense was powered by Hall of Famers Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow. The Chargers led the NFL in passing six straight seasons and amassed more than 24,000 yards from 1978 to 1983. Fouts blossomed in Coryell’s offense to become the first player in NFL history to record three straight 4,000-yard seasons. Coryell had succeeded in turning the Chargers into one of the NFL’s elite teams as evidenced by San Diego’s three straight AFC Western Division titles (1979-1981).

Coryell, who was named the NFL and NFC Coach of the Year in 1974 and the AFC Coach of the Year in 1979, posted an overall record of 114-89-1.

Team Year W L T PCT. W L PCT. W L T PCT.
St. Louis 1973 4 9 1 0.321              
St. Louis 1974 10 4 0 0.714 0 1          
St. Louis 1975 11 3 0 0.786 0 1          
St. Louis 1976 10 4 0 0.714              
St. Louis 1977 7 7 0 0.500              
San Diego 1978 8 4 0 0.667              
San Diego 1979 12 4 0 0.750 0 1          
San Diego 1980 11 5 0 0.688 1 1          
San Diego 1981 10 6 0 0.625 1 1          
San Diego 1982 6 3 0 0.667 1 1          
San Diego 1983 6 10 0 0.375              
San Diego 1984 7 9 0 0.438              
San Diego 1985 8 8 0 0.500              
San Diego 1986 1 7 0 0.125              
TOTAL 111 83 1 0.572 3 6 0.333 114 89 1 0.561
Cardinals (1973-1977) 42 27 1 0.607 0 2 0.000 42 29 1 0.590
Chargers (1978-1986) 69 56 0 0.552 3 4 0.429 72 60 0 0.545

Championship Teams

1974 St. Louis Cardinals (NFC Eastern Division champions)
1975 St. Louis Cardinals (NFC Eastern Division champions)
1979 San Diego Chargers (AFC Western Division champions)
1980 San Diego Chargers (AFC Western Division champions)
1981 San Diego Chargers (AFC Western Division champions)

Championship Games

1980 AFC – Oakland Raiders 34, San Diego Chargers 27
1981 AFC – Cincinnati Bengals 27, San Diego Chargers 7


NFL Coach of the Year
1974 (AP, SN, PW)

NFC Coach of the Year
1974 (UPI, PFWA)

AFC Coach of the Year
1979 (PFWA)

Championship Teams

1974 St. Louis Cardinals (NFC Eastern Division champions)
1975 St. Louis Cardinals (NFC Eastern Division champions)
1979 San Diego Chargers (AFC Western Division champions)
1980 San Diego Chargers (AFC Western Division champions)
1981 San Diego Chargers (AFC Western Division champions)

Championship Games

1980 AFC – Oakland Raiders 34, San Diego Chargers 27
1981 AFC – Cincinnati Bengals 27, San Diego Chargers 7

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