Don Coryell

Class of 2023

NFL Coach of the Year




Career record


Division titles


The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 Enshrinement is Aug. 5.

Enshrinement Speech

Don Coryell was the first coach to win more than 100 games at both the collegiate (127-24-3) and professional (114-89-1) levels.

Career Highlights

A coaching “lifer” with nearly a dozen stops on his career path at all levels of the game, Don Coryell consistently turned around losing programs through offensive innovation and maximizing the talent on his rosters.

After a lengthy college career, Coryell was named head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 and one year later led the team to its first 10-win season since the 1948 Chicago Cardinals reached the NFL title game. The results earned him NFL Coach of the Year honors. His 1975 team went 11-3, giving the franchise double-digit wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since it joined the NFL in 1920. The 1976 team also posted 10 wins. All three teams finished in the top 10 in offense leaguewide, a Coryell standard that would reach new heights at his next job — with the San Diego Chargers.

Those teams, which would feature future Hall of Famers DAN FOUTS, KELLEN WINSLOW and CHARLIE JOINER running the “Air Coryell” offense, led the NFL in passing seven out of eight seasons (second the other year) and never finished outside the top five in total offense. The Chargers won AFC West Division titles in 1979, 1980 and 1981 and reached the AFC Championship Game twice.

Coryell’s frenetic early coaching career included two years at high schools in Hawaii and stints at the University of British Columbia, at a junior college in Washington state and at Fort Ord in California.

He replaced George Allen at Whittier College in California and won championships in all three of his seasons before heading to USC as an assistant. In 1961, he became head coach of San Diego State and immediately reversed a longtime losing team’s fortunes, winning four conference titles and posting a 104-19-2 record in 12 seasons. Hall of Fame coaches JOE GIBBS and JOHN MADDEN served as assistants.

Coryell was the first coach to win more than 100 games at both the collegiate (127-24-3) and professional (114-89-1) levels. He was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

He also served the country during World War II, first enlisting, then later attending officer’s school and training as a paratrooper. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Washington, where he played defensive back and won two light-heavyweight boxing titles.

    Regular Season Postseason Overall
Team Year W L T PCT. W L PCT. W L T PCT.
St. Louis 1973 4 9 1 .321              
St. Louis 1974 10 4 0 .714 0 1 .000        
St. Louis 1975 11 3 0 .786 0 1 .000        
St. Louis 1976 10 4 0 .714              
St. Louis 1977 7 7 0 .500              
San Diego 1978 8 4 0 .667              
San Diego 1979 12 4 0 .750 0 1 .000        
San Diego 1980 11 5 0 .688 1 1 .500        
San Diego 1981 10 6 0 .625 1 1 .500        
San Diego 1982 6 3 0 .667 1 1 .500        
San Diego 1983 6 10 0 .375              
San Diego 1984 7 9 0 .438              
San Diego 1985 8 8 0 .500              
San Diego 1986 1 7 0 .125              
  TOT 111 83 1 .572 3 6 .333 114 89 1 .561
Cardinals (1973-1977)   42 27 1 .607 0 2 .000 42 29 1 .590
Chargers (1978-1986)   69 56 0 .552 3 4 .429 72 60 0 .545

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)

Full name: Donald David Coryell

Birthdate: Oct. 17, 1924

Died: July 1, 2010

Birthplace: Seattle, Washington

High school: Lincoln (Seattle, WA)

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jan. 17, 2023.

Other members of the Class of 2023: Rondé Barber, Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko, Darrelle Revis, Ken Riley, Joe Thomas, Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware.

Coaching background: Head coach at Farrington High School (Honolulu, HI), 1952; head coach at University of British Columbia, 1953-54; head coach at Wenatchee Valley College, 1959; head coach at Fort Ord, 1956; head coach at Whittier College, 1957-59; assistant coach at University of Southern California, 1960; head coach at San Diego State, 1961-1972; head coach of St. Louis Cardinals, 1973-77; head coach of San Diego Chargers, 1978-1986.

MINDY CORYELL LEWIS:  Wow. Thank you, Dan, for that amazing introduction and all you have done that has led to this moment.  

Okay, I promised myself I will not cry. 


There are so many people who had an impact on my dad personally and professionally that it would be impossible to thank everybody, so I'll just say “thank you” now before I forget.  

The number one person I know he would thank is his wife, Aliisa, our mom who was his most valued assistant coach and his Air Coryell co-pilot.  

This is the lady who would pin notes to my football-focused, absentminded dad's underwear so he wouldn't forget his appointments on his recruiting trips. Can you imagine? He couldn't possibly miss his appointments if he had to get his underwear out of his suitcase and see the notes pinned to them.  

The hardest thing for me, my brother and the rest of our family is to challenge what my dad would've said if he were here, so I'll do my best. Here is hoping I don't channel his lisp.  

What I'm sure of is that he would be humbled, grateful and maybe just a bit surprised that his legacy has lived on for all these years and is now forever recognized as being worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Growing up my dad was just my dad or pop. The stories that you might have heard about him being so focused on football that he would forget that I was in the car, driving me and the trash to San Diego State – Go Aztecs – rather than dropping me off at the school bus stop and the trash at the bottom of our very, very long, steep driveway, are all absolutely true.  

So certainly, I was aware of his focus on football, watching make constantly scribbling on his ever-present yellow legal pad, but never really knowing or even considering as a young person how his doodling would forever change the game of football. 

Lots of people tell me, especially his old ball players. There's Dan. How my dad either invented or improved so many offensive concepts. More importantly, that he was a player's coach and that the relationships he fostered were really the key to his success.

I believe that he felt that not only the Xs and Os were his work and passion, but also the lasting relationships that he built. 

I never get tired of those stories and everyone's impressions of him. Timmy, where are you?  And Hank? One of my earliest memories is of little Mindy playing on the living room floor, and a very young, very big John Madden coming over for dinner. 

As he walks through the front door, he envelopes the entire door frame. My memory, I think he actually had to stoop to walk in through the front door. Big John said in his enshrinement speech that he believes that after the last fans leave for the day and the lights have been turned off and all the doors locked that the busts talk to each other. Can you imagine that?  

Don't you wish you could be in that room listening to Big John, Pop and the other guys telling their stories? Oh, my gosh. And the laughter.  

I want to personally congratulate and thank the Gold Jacket Class of 2023 and their families for their support and friendship over the last six months. 

Lastly, our family would like to thank the Chargers and the Selectors, and of course the Pro Football Hall of Fame for this exceptional honor.  

Ladies and gentlemen, Air Coryell has landed in Canton. 


I broke my promise. Thank you.