Don Coryell selected as Coach/Contributor Finalist for Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023

CANTON, OHIODon Coryell, the architect of some of the National Football League’s most potent offensive attacks, has moved to the final stage in the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023.

A four-hour meeting of the Hall of Fame’s Coach/Contributor Committee concluded Tuesday afternoon with Coryell emerging from the group of 12 Coach/Contributor candidates remaining under consideration as the Finalist for next year’s class of enshrinees. The Hall of Fame’s full 49-person Selection Committee will consider Coryell for election – along with 15 Modern-Era Players and three Seniors – when it meets to choose the entire Class of 2023 in January. 

Coryell would be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he receives at least 80% approval in the up-or-down balloting next year.

Last week, the Hall’s Seniors Committee chose Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley as Finalists for the Class of 2023. Each of them also would be elected if he receives 80% approval at the January selection meeting.

Coryell had reached the Finalist stage in the selection process six other times: 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020. In 14 seasons as a head coach in the NFL after a lengthy career in the college ranks, he posted an overall record (including playoffs) of 114-89-1.

In St. Louis, Coryell was named Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1974, his second season with the Cardinals. He led the team to a 10-4 record and their first playoff appearance since the 1948 NFL Championship Game. They followed that breakthrough year with an 11-win regular season in 1975 that equaled the then-franchise record for victories in a season (1948, 1925).

After five seasons in St. Louis, Coryell became head coach of the San Diego Chargers, and with future Hall of Famers DAN FOUTS, KELLEN WINSLOW and CHARLIE JOINER built the “Air Coryell” offense that ranked atop the NFL in numerous statistics. In his nine years with the Chargers (1978-1986), the team led the league in total offense five times, passing yards seven times (and was second another year) and scoring three times.

His 1980 and 1981 teams reached the AFC title games, falling one win short of the Super Bowl. Prior to Coryell’s arrival, the Chargers had not posted a winning record for eight seasons and had not qualified for the playoffs since appearing in the AFL title game in 1965.

Several Hall of Fame coaches voiced support for Coryell as a Hall of Fame-worthy candidate over the years, including JOE GIBBS, JOHN MADDEN, DICK VERMEIL and BILL WALSH.

The 11 other candidates considered Tuesday were 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.

Coryell prevailed through three reduction votes. In the first cutdown, Holmgren, Kilroy, Kraft, Parker, Reeves, Shaughnessy and Wooten also remained in consideration. A second reduction vote left the field with Coryell, Holmgren, Kraft and Wooten before the final outcome.

Earlier this year, the Hall’s Board of Trustees approved a change in its bylaws governing the selection process. The revision combined the candidates in the Coach and Contributor categories and allows for one to be elected in the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025. It also enlarged the number of Finalists in the Seniors category to three over each of the next three selection cycles.

With these changes, those classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025 could be as large as nine enshrinees each: up to five Modern-Era Players, up to three Seniors and one Coach/Contributor.