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life, achievements and legacy finally land former Cardinals coach don coryell In hall of fame

Howard Balzer Avatar
August 4, 2023

CANTON — Emotions always run high when a new class has their bronze busts unveiled each summer at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

More than 100 Hall of Famers are in attendance along with numerous widows of the deceased enshrinees, plus large numbers of friends and families of the current special group.

Many who are there or watching from the comfort of home might not remember much about Don Coryell. Some only know what they have read or heard about a coach that was hired by the Cardinals 50 years ago, but whose legacy is seen every week in the way the game is played today.

I relocated to St. Louis in January, 1978, a few weeks before the Cardiac Cardinals were jettisoned to the history books when Coryell and the Cardinals unfortunately parted ways after five seasons.

Yet, this 35th trip to the Hall of Fame celebration is a special one because of how I came to appreciate the excellence and impact of Coryell after numerous conversations over the years with Dan Dierdorf, Jim Hart, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow, Jim Hanifan, Dan Fouts and many more.

As a Hall of Fame selector for 20 years, I grew frustrated when he wasn’t elected in six times as a finalist, especially the first time in 2010, when the election was about five months before his death on July 1 at the age of 85.

It was inexplicable that Coryell hadn’t been a finalist before that considering he coached his final NFL game with the then-San Diego Chargers in 1986.

When coaches were considered with modern-day players, he was a semifinalist 11 times (the reduction to 25 didn’t begin until 2004) in 2005 and 2010 through 2019. In 2020, coaches were separated for the Centennial Class and he was a finalist, while after that they were evaluated by themselves before being in the same group as contributors this year. Coryell was in the final 15 in 2010, 2015-17 and 2019, but still was on the outside looking in.

Something about never having been to or won a Super Bowl or being more a contributor than a coach. Please.

Fouts once said, “I think it’s an excuse. What is more important: a single game or the influence and contribution to the entire game of pro football? That’s what I would like to stress. You can’t watch an NFL game today and not think, ‘How have we gotten to this point?’ And the contributions that Don made cannot be ignored just because he didn’t win a championship.”

Now, the frustrations are washed away. Family, friends and former players and coaches will be celebrating this week and, for those that are spiritual, Coryell will be looking down on the proceedings with wife Aliisa, John Madden, Hanifan and many others by his side.

After all, Madden was an assistant coach on Coryell’s staff at San Diego State and when he was enshrined in 2006, he famously said he believes the busts talk to each other when the lights go out in the Hall every night.

Take a trip through the gallery of busts, look deeply into the eyes engraved in the busts, and it’s possible to imagine Madden’s words being true.

After the enshrinement that begins at 9 am Arizona time Saturday, Coryell’s bust will have its deserved spot in the hallowed Hall.

So, let’s now take a journey through the mostly ups and sometimes downs of this remarkable man.

The beginning

The Seattle native served in the Army during World War II and trained paratroopers at Camp Hale in Colorado.

He played football at the University of Washington and then embarked on a coaching career that included stops at high schools in Hawaii, in Canada at the University of British Columbia where he was head coach and the military (Fort Ord).

After being the head coach at Whittier College, Coryell spent one season on John McKay’s staff at USC before being hired as head coach at San Diego State in 1961 where he hired Hall of Famers Madden and Joe Gibbs as assistants along with longtime NFL offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.

The I-formation and the running game were part of his roots, but gradually the passing game became his calling card.

Gibbs, who played at San Diego State for Coryell and also coached under him with the Cardinals, said, “When I was playing for him at San Diego State, we ran the ball every down. He was run, run, run. And so then we got (quarterback) Don Horn, (wide receiver) Haven Moses and some people in the passing game, and he started throwing it. He promoted that creative atmosphere for his coaches. And it was just a great environment to coach in.

“It shows you how he progressed in football. He started off running the football: very conservative. I-formation. That was his world. Then, when he started throwing it, that became his world, and it was Air Coryell.”

In 12 seasons at San Diego State, Coryell’s teams were 104-19-2, won three small-school national championships, three bowl games, seven conference titles and had winning streaks of 25 and 31 games. From 1966-70, they were 50-3-1.

Hello NFL

After a two-year record of 8-18-2 (4-9-1 each year), then-owner Bill Bidwill fired coach Bob Hollway after the 1972 season.

Coaching in the relative obscurity at San Diego State where hardly anyone nationally saw them play, Coryell wrote a letter to Bidwill asking to be considered for the job.

The owner, who was interested in finding an offense-oriented leader, said at the time, “People told me that, if I wanted a college coach, there was this guy at San Diego State.”

The reaction in St. Louis and other places to “this guy,” were “Don who?” Everyone found out soon enough, including Cardinals players.

Hall of Famer Dierdorf recalls the first meeting the team had with Coryell.

He said, “Bob Hollway wanted everybody to go to every meal. And even if you didn’t want to eat, you had to walk through the line and somebody would check off your name that you were there. So, Don Coryell — one of the head coach’s responsibilities is he has to read the fine list. So he starts reading the fine list that somebody handed to him, and there was $25 if you miss breakfast, $50 if you miss lunch, $100 if you miss dinner. So I put up my hand and he looks at me. He didn’t appreciate being distracted in the middle of his talk and I’m now immediately thinking, well, maybe I’ve screwed up. He looked at me like I had just parachuted in from Mars. And I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve done it now. I’m in trouble.’

“And he goes, ‘What do you want?’ And I said, ‘Well, Coach, let me tell you something. We go out to practice at eight o’clock in the morning on a hot summer day and a lot of us; we don’t want to eat a big breakfast before that. But we gotta go through the line anyway, even if we’re not gonna eat.’ And he looked at me, and I thought I was gonna get sent out to run laps right there. Then he thought for a second, and he goes, ‘Well, let’s get something straight. I don’t care if any of you come to any of the meals. That’s up to you. The only thing I care about is whether you can play ball.’ He basically tore up the fine list. And from that moment on, everybody in that room would have run through a brick wall for Don Coryell.

“He didn’t care if you had feathers in your hair. He didn’t care about anything other than if you could play ball. That’s all he cared about.”

Although his first year produced another 4-9-1 season in 1973, that was followed by a 31-11 record in the next three regular seasons that included two division titles and a 10-4 record in 1976 in which the Cardinals lost out on the NFC’s one wild-card spot because of a tiebreaker. Only five coaches in club history have won as many as 31 games.

However, after a 7-7 season in 1977, Bidwill changed the locks on the coaching offices at Busch Stadium even before Coryell was officially fired in early February. Coryell was interested in the coaching vacancy with the Los Angeles Rams, but Bidwill insisted on a first-round pick for allowing Coryell out of his contract.

The Rams refused and hired Ray Malavasi as the replacement for Chuck Knox.

Then-Dallas Cowboys executive Tex Schramm said of Bidwill’s propensity for lock-changing, “Well, I don’t necessarily think that’s how you go about doing things in the NFL.”

Eight years later, the locks on the coach’s offices were changed at halftime of a season-finale home loss to Washington on Dec. 21 that dropped the team’s record to 5-11. Bidwill fired Hanifan in the dressing room after the game, but there was a twist.

Assistant coach Chuck Banker had changed clothes and left quickly after the game because he was speaking at a postgame get-together for the team’s fan club at a hotel across the street from the stadium. Not knowing the fate of the coaching staff, he returned later to retrieve Christmas presents from his office, but was locked out. A security guard contacted Bidwill, who allowed Banker to enter the office but who also directed the guard to make sure Banker left with only the gifts.

The Coryell family moved back to San Diego where the Chargers were also 7-7 in 1977 and then started the 1978 season 1-3. Coach Tommy Prothro resigned and Coryell was hired. The Cardinals accepted a third-round pick in the 1980 draft as compensation.

Like Dierdorf, Fouts remembers Coryell’s first day as coach.

“He made us all laugh from the very first moment he came,” Fouts said. “And this is one of the worst days in the history of the city of San Diego, because that’s the day the PSA jet (Pacific Southwest Airlines, Flight 182) went down. It went down about eight in the morning, and we had a team meeting at nine. There’s black smoke rising from North Park, and we’re sitting in our team meeting. There’s no coach in there. Prothro comes in, says he’s resigning, walks out, and next thing you know, this little tiny guy comes in and says, ‘Hi guys. People think I’m crazy to take this job. I’m still getting paid by the St. Louis Cardinals. But I think we all gotta be a little crazy to play this game. I’m crazy enough to turn this thing around.’ And we’re all just looking at each other, and I’m thinking, ‘Holy shit, what a refreshing attitude.’ And from that point on, we were just ready to take off. It was like a breath of fresh air.”

The Chargers won eight of their last 12 games and were on their way. They were 47-22 over the next four seasons. However, the Chargers were 21-27 from 1983-85 and after a 1-7 start to the 1986 season, Coryell resigned and never coached another game.

In his pro career including playoff games, Coryell was 42-29-1 in St. Louis and 72-60 in San Diego for a total of 114-89-1. Clearly, his career and impact wen t well beyond the raw numbers.

Tunnel vision

Coryell, like many NFL head coaches, had in it in spades.

“He was just totally immersed in the game,” Hall of Famer Jackie Smith said.

At the celebration of life after Coryell died and where around 3,000 people attended, Madden called him “a genius” and added, “Every genius has amazing concentration powers and Don had some amazing concentration powers.”

Gibbs said, “He was also the most intense. I mean, there were times that I opened the door there at San Diego State and he’d be sitting in the dark, all scrunched up, thinking about how we call plays. And I would look at him and go, ‘Coach?’ And he’d look at me like he got ready for games in football; as if he was gonna be playing them.”

Most famously, there were times at San Diego State that he would drive to work with his daughter Mindy and garbage cans still in his car. Yes, garbage cans.

At the Coryell’s Mount Helix-area home, there was a long steep driveway down to the curb, so on pickup day, he’d put the filled can(s) in the station wagon planning to take it out at the bottom. You know what they say about best-laid plans.

Mindy, who represented the family at NFL Honors when this year’s class was announced and who will speak at the enshrinement ceremony, laughs now recalling also not being dropped off at the school bus stop with the trash behind her.

“I just kept my mouth shut and didn’t say a word,” she said. “I was so excited that pop was in his mode and just taking me to school along with the trash can. I loved going to San Diego State because those were all my big brothers and the coaches were like my big uncles. I was so happy.

“And then my mom would get the phone call and have to come pick me up or he’d have one of the players take me home. It happened on more than one occasion and I was just a little imp and I wouldn’t say a word. I just sat in the back quiet as a church mouse because I knew I was going to San Diego State and I was so excited.”

She also said when the family returned to San Diego after the Cardinals years “there were times if I went to go visit him at the stadium and he knew I was coming to see him, he’d walk straight by me and not even recognize me because he was in his game, his football, frame of mind. That was part of his genius. He was always thinking of football.”

The motivator

While the accolades for Coryell center around his offense, those that were around him also highlight his acumen for motivation.

Chargers Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner said, “He knew how to energize people. He’d have that scowl and you knew he was on the warpath. But he had a way of motivating to get the best out of people.”

Dierdorf told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Coryell’s Saturday night speeches.

“Don had a couple martinis before he’d address the team … and he was the original: It was us against the world. He’d pull out newspaper clippings that didn’t show us any respect. That we were gonna get hammered by so-and-so, or whatever.

“And he’s up there, and he’s crying and he’s spitting. I’m telling you, you could’ve sold tickets to a Don Coryell Saturday night performance. It was unbelievable.”

Noting how intense Coryell weas, Smith said, “I caught a pass one time that helped out a little bit, and hell, he met me on the field! He’s running towards me all excited, and, you know, he was just an excited guy; and that’s what the players liked about him is he was totally involved.”

Gibbs recalled a game at San Diego State where Coryell was struggling finding a way to hate a big underdog they were playing. So it was, that when the team went on the field for pregame warmups, the opposing team’s ball boy had mistakenly put their balls on the Aztecs’ end of the field.

“Don went off,” Gibbs said, “and came back in the locker room before the game just screaming (that) the opponent has no respect for us.”

Impact and innovation

Whether it was the numbering system to call plays or actually passing on first down, Coryell’s impact lives to this day in the NFL.

Fouts called the system “simple in its complexity. It was easy to learn for our receivers and it was a progression that was easy to understand for the quarterback.

“He changed my life. I was not exactly a Hall of Fame quarterback until he got there. His system — with a combination of what I learned from Bill Walsh — was a perfect storm.”

Dierdorf said, “Don Coryell was a believer that throwing the football was a good thing; that there was a way to do it that made it higher percentage. He was a guy who honestly believed that you could throw the ball to set up the run, which was revolutionary back then. I’d have to see the statistics of what they were, but I’ll bet you that in the National Football League, people ran the ball 75 percent of the time on first down. Maybe more. It’s like there was a gentlemen’s agreement that you ran the ball on first down.”

Gibbs said, “People say there’s no geniuses in football, and they’re right. But if there was one in naming plays and the way you named the offense and structured it … it gave the quarterback an actual picture of the play. He spent all kinds of time and hours with that.”

Hall of Fame tight end Winslow said, “You can’t say I changed the tight-end position without mentioning Don Coryell’s name. I did not. I didn’t call the plays. I didn’t set up the offense. That’s Don Coryell’s offense. That’s where the credit belongs. His contribution to the game is hard to match.”

Joiner added, “His explosive passing game changed the face of defenses. Opposing teams had to bring in extra defensive backs to try and slow down his pass offense resulting in the nickel defense and the dime defense.”

San Diego native Mike Martz watched Coryell’s Aztecs play growing up and his first date with his wife Julie was at a San Diego State game.

He was hoping to play there after being a tight end in junior college.

“There were six of us that were highly recruited on the (Mesa) junior-college team,” Martz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We were all all-conference and all-American and all that good stuff. He recruited five guys of the six; he didn’t recruit me.

“I was the one that wanted to go there so bad because I wanted to play for him. But I was too slow and I couldn’t run fast enough for him.”

He played at Fresno State and eventually got into coaching. When he became the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 1999, Martz implemented the pass to set up the run offense that led to a Super Bowl win that year.

He said, “His whole approach to the game was so different than everybody else in the league. He was one to come out and throw it down the field on first down; many times on first down. And just the multiplicity of his formations, movement, moving guys around.

“The balance of what he did, I see all the time in the league today. And the guys that are doing it, they don’t know where it came from. They copied it from somebody, who copied it from somebody, who copied it, who copied it, who copied it.”

Disappointing endings

That was the case in St. Louis and San Diego.

As the Cardinals free-falled from a 7-3 record in 1977 and lost their final four games, Coryell openly chafed about coaches not having a say in personnel decisions and noting players that had contract problems.

Earlier that year, hoping for defense, specifically New Mexico linebacker Robin Cole, the Cardinals selected University of Missouri quarterback Steve Pisarkiewicz with the 19th pick in the first round. Cole went two slots later to the Pittsburgh Steelers and played 12 seasons in the NFL (11 with the Steelers) and started 131 games.

Pisarkiewicz was out of the league in 1981 and it was learned he was blind in one eye, a fact unknown to the Cardinals. His presence also resulted in the firing of coach Bud Wilkinson, who replaced Coryell, with three games remaining in the 1979 season.

Bidwill ordered that Hart be benched with three games remaining in the season and the team having a 3-10 record. Wilkinson refused and Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson, who was then the team’s personnel director, became the interim coach.

In the final three games, his only NFL starts, Pisarkiewicz completed 47.7 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 59.5. He played in one game with five pass attempts for the Packers in 1980 and never played another game.

The ultimate irony was that with the choice the Cardinals received from the Chargers for Coryell, they selected New Mexico linebacker Charlie Baker in 1980. He played eight seasons and played 109 games with 63 starts.

Dierdorf said, “He started having problems with the front office. What I’m about to tell you makes it sound like we played in the Jurassic period, but Don Coryell and his coaching staff; they weren’t even allowed in the room during the draft. They had no say so. No nothing. They didn’t want any input from the coaches. They thought that was a distraction. It was really backwards thinking.

“It just all completely unraveled when they drafted Steve Pisarkiewicz. Don could not understand how, after four years on the job, he’s still locked out of the draft. And I don’t blame him for that.”

In a Sports Illustrated story published after the teams parted ways, Coryell said, “Coaches should have a say in who they will coach because if a team doesn’t win, it’s the coach who gets fired.”

Prior to a season-ending loss in Tampa Bay that was the Buccaneers’ first home win in franchise history after losing their first 26 games before winning at New Orleans the week before, Coryell told San Diego Union columnist Jack Murphy, “A lot of our guys are playing out their options and they’d scatter if they could … We have such a limited budget the trend is obvious … Next year we’ll win four games, the year after we’ll win two … Not more than two of our defensive players could start for the New York Giants.”

After the 1977 season, guard Conrad Dobler was traded to the New Orleans Saints and electrifying running back Terry Metcalf bolted for the Canadian Football League.

Dobler said at the time, “I’m not the only guy leaving the Cardinals. I think they’re having a going-out-of-business sale in St. Louis.”

One player told Sports Illustrated, “On a football team you have to believe that everyone in the organization is devoted to winning. A lot of people on our team don’t believe that’s the way Bill Bidwill thinks. They think that he feels that as long as the stadium is full, everything is OK. From a business standpoint his approach to the free market is fine, but it’s not a good psychological approach. It’s not conducive to winning.”

An NFL executive said, “I think the great number (12) of option playouts on the Cardinals had something to do with their collapse at the end of last season. Sometimes you have to temper good business sense with good judgment.”

Mindy Coryell fondly recalls the San Diego State days.

“I grew up with San Diego State,” she told PHNX. “Those players were my big brothers. I would invite them to birthday parties. They would help guys move and do yard work. I was always around the college boys. At San Diego State, he was always so supported and had such a huge family there.”

While mostly enjoying the time spent in St. Louis, she acknowledged, “It first introduced me to negativity sitting in the stands. I had never experienced that at San Diego State. We were very sheltered and very loved. In St. Louis, people thought they could do better than him in the stands behind me. It was a whole different ball game for me.

“I didn’t know a lot of the stuff that was going on. My parents kept it all very private from me. I still don’t know a lot of it. I didn’t know that my dad was locked out until maybe a couple of years ago when a friend told me. I was completely oblivious.”

As for the atmosphere in the stands, a section of the Sports Illustrated story mentioned a Dec. 10 game against Washington when the Cardinals were 7-5: “At halftime of that game, with St. Louis losing 13-10, Coryell’s wife Aliisa, who had never been happy with the family’s move from hot-weather San Diego to the unpredictable climes of St. Louis, left the stadium, claiming she could no longer tolerate the fans’ abusive comments about her husband. Coryell’s 16-year-old daughter Mindy tried to punch one fan who made a derogatory comment about her father.”

Asked if that was true, she wrote in an email, “Well … mostly. Marianna Hanifan (Jim Hanifan’s wife) held me back. He (the fan) didn’t understand why this crazed teenage girl was jumping over several rows of seats yelling something about her dad at him! By the time we were finished ‘conversing,’ he did apologize.”

The Cardinals lost that game and were eliminated from the playoffs. When Coryell was later told about what happened during the game involving his wife and daughter, he phoned Rich Koster, a columnist for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, to express his displeasure with Bidwill.

Meanwhile, Fouts said some of the same issues Coryell had with the Cardinals were duplicated with the Chargers.

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “He didn’t have control over personnel. When he was at San Diego State, he won every year, because he was recruiting and players wanted to play for him. There was a change in ownership in San Diego and they didn’t know what they were doing. No general managers that had an idea. It was just a mess. It was a shame.”

The present day

Past Hall of Famers knock on the door of living enshrinees. It’s different for those being honored posthumously. It was Fouts, who is Coryell’s official presenter, that was tasked with phoning the family in January when he was elected. Mindy’s brother Mike was reached, but at first, Mindy didn’t recognize the number of Hall president Jim Porter. Fouts said, “I called her daughter and told her I was trying to get in touch with her Mom. She texted her and said, ‘Mom, answer your phone. Dan is calling.’ What I said was, ‘I’ve waited a long time to tell you this: your dad is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.’

“I wanted to do that because there have been so many years where I had to sit there with them and tell them he didn’t make it. They’re so gracious, sweet and understanding, yet they were frustrated and a little angry. All those emotions are now wiped away.”

Asked if she thought this would ever happen, Mindy said, “I had faith. This year it was meant to be, even though I was so disappointed and our family was so disappointed other years. To me it makes sense that it was this room with this induction class. I just feel the time is right now. This is when it should have happened.”

She said the process the last six months has been at times overwhelming, but mostly “so incredibly exciting. I can’t tell you how incredibly kind and supportive the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been, all the people that are involved. I’m just Don Coryell’s daughter. I had nothing to do with his success and his being elected. I just don’t have words to express how comfortable I feel with all of them and how supported I feel.”

When Coryell’s election was announced, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in a press release, “Don Coryell was a leader, an innovator and truly deserving of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His impact on the sport was profound, particularly in revolutionizing the passing game that is so prolific today. As head coach, he led one of the most successful and exciting periods of Cardinals football.

“Coach Coryell will always have a special place in our organization’s history and now he will forever have a place in Canton among the game’s all-time greats as well.”

But will he? After all, there is a gaping hole in the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

Jackie Smith is the only Hall of Famer mostly recognized for his play with the Cardinals that isn’t in the Ring. Hall of Famers Dierdorf and Roger Wehrli, who played only in St. Louis, have been recognized, as has Hart and Roy Green, who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Dierdorf played only in St. Louis, while Green was in St. Louis from 1979-1987 and then played three seasons in Arizona.

Smith retired after the 1977 season, but was contacted by the team in training camp about making a comeback after tight end J.V. Cain suffered a torn Achilles. Smith said he didn’t hear anything for at least a week, and when he phoned the team he was told he had failed his physical.

Later that season, when the Cowboys had injuries at tight end, Smith signed and when asked by reporters confirmed what had happened a few months earlier with the Cardinals. However, Bidwill denied it had ever happened.

Several years ago, the Cardinals had a Hall of Fame event at State Farm Stadium at which Wehrli and Aeneas Williams were present. The busts of the team’s Hall of Famers were on display for fans to see, but Smith’s was inexplicably missing.

Now, the question is whether Coryell will have his day in the Ring of Honor. A nice touch would be for Coryell and Smith to be honored at the same time with Smith reprising the national anthem that he will sing prior to Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony.

Mindy Coryell also wonders, noting that no one from the Cardinals organization has communicated at all with the family. The irony is that both the Cardinals and Chargers have current owners (Dean Spanos with San Diego) that are the sons of the owner in control when Coryell departed the organizations. The chargers are hosting a party to honor Coryell in Canton.

Mindy said, “The Chargers are all about this and have been incredible and are 100 percent behind this and very in touch with me with conversations and things they want to do. But not a word from the Cardinals. That’s when I started thinking, ‘Oh, there must have really been bad blood’ and I never heard it from my dad. He would never talk about it and be negative about Mr. Bidwill and the Cardinals or anything. I didn’t realize all this was going on. But it’s been reinforced in my eyes that it must have been really bad.

“It’s a long, long time ago and you’d think it would be water under the bridge with the next generation down. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Still, there’s time to let bygones be bygones.

In this the 104th season of NFL football for the Cardinals, Jonathan Gannon is the franchise’s 46th coach including interim coaches and the 12th since the team moved here in 1988. With 42 victories, Coryell had the most in club history at the time of his departure and has since been passed by Bruce Arians (50) and Ken Whisenhunt (49). Coryell is one of only six coaches in club history to coach in five or more seasons. Whisenhunt and Hanifan are the only ones that coached six seasons, while Charley Winner, Coryell, Vince Tobin and Arians had five. Tobin didn’t complete his fifth seasion and was fired after seven games in 2000.

Heck, in their early history, the Cardinals actually had co-coaches four times and one time had three co-coaches!

While Coryell’s tenure ended in controversy, it could be argued that if Bill Bidwill didn’t go outside the box with that hiring, Coryell likely wouldn’t have become a NFL head coach and obviously not be a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

When that premise was mentioned to Fouts, he chuckled and noted that he also wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer without Bidwill because he cleared the path for his standout Chargers days.

“First and foremost,” he said, “I would not be in the Hall of Fame myself had it not been for my nine years as Don’s quarterback with the San Diego Chargers. It was Coryell — with his revolutionary vision, his unique style of leadership and his successful implementation of the most innovative offense the NFL had ever witnessed — that led me and my teammates, Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner, to the steps of the Hall of Fame.”

He concluded, “If (Bidwill) hadn’t fired Don Coryell in St. Louis, you’d be talking to Jim Hart now!”

As of Saturday, Air Coryell will be officially flying high with a forever home in Canton.

Let’s hope State Farm Stadium is next.

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: Also, become a DIEHARD and use the promo code HOWARD

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