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Reports: Don Coryell dies at 85

Multiple reports are emerging from San Diego that former Chargers coach Don Coryell has died at the age of 85.

Coryell coached the Chargers from 1978 through half of the 1986 season, compiling a record if 72-60.  He resigned after eight games in his final year on the job.

A finalist for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year, the coach took full advantage of rules changes aimed at opening up the passing game to create Air Coryell, an attack that turned quarterback Dan Fouts, receiver Charlie Joiner, and tight end Kellen Winslow into Hall of Famers — and the Chargers into perennial contenders.

Coryell had been ill for months.  Eventually, he passed due to complications from pneumonia.

He also served as head coach of the Cardinals from 1973 through 1977.  Before that, Coryell coached at San Diego State for more than a decade.

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40 Responses to “Reports: Don Coryell dies at 85”
  1. robert ethen says: Jul 1, 2010 8:57 PM

    No word yet on the toxicology tests.

  2. Jon Evans says: Jul 1, 2010 8:59 PM

    RIP… great Coach and innovator.

  3. Hound32 says: Jul 1, 2010 9:05 PM

    A True legend and Innovator of the game . those Air Coryell high powered offense he had were fun to watch as long as the Browns weren’t playing one of his coached teams . even then i admired and cussed about every completion from either Jim Hart or Dan Fouts .
    RIP Don Coryell

  4. raiderrob21 says: Jul 1, 2010 9:06 PM

    RIP Prayers to thr Coryell and Charger Family
    The Raider Nation

  5. tbx59 says: Jul 1, 2010 9:07 PM

    Changed the game and the way it is played – his coaching tree going back to SDSU and through the pros is one of the most impressive in league history: Madden, Gibbs, etc. He is known for Air Coryell, but he also introduced the I formation as a dominant running attack while he was an assistant at USC.
    A shame that people that had such an impact on the game and completely revolutionized don’t go to canton in their lifetime.

  6. comment_submission_error says: Jul 1, 2010 9:07 PM

    Air Coryell…rest in peace.

  7. Steve says: Jul 1, 2010 9:14 PM

    So long to a terrific offensive genious. There were many offensive players that benefitted from Coryell’s fireworks whether you were a QB, WR, RB or OL. He was quite a coach.

  8. ThePitts says: Jul 1, 2010 9:20 PM


  9. LewD says: Jul 1, 2010 9:31 PM

    RIP Coach …….

  10. spliffbunker says: Jul 1, 2010 9:34 PM

    much respect to him..along with Bill Walsh he probably had the most impact on modern NFL offense & its a shame he is not in the Hall of Fame

  11. tbx59 says: Jul 1, 2010 9:36 PM

    And Houda 32, he brought you league MVP Brian Sipe as he coached him at SDSU

  12. bigmike79 says: Jul 1, 2010 9:38 PM

    R.I.P. Coach Coryell the offensive philosophies we watch today is because of you.

  13. mnmaverick says: Jul 1, 2010 9:40 PM

    Man, they’re dropping like flies.
    Bill Walsh, John Wooden, Don Coryell, etc. Legends.

  14. turgid says: Jul 1, 2010 9:43 PM

    robert ethen says:
    July 1, 2010 8:57 PM
    No word yet on the toxicology tests
    You’re a prick . Show some maturity.
    He was an innovator and a legend . May he Rest in Peace

  15. Kevin from Philly says: Jul 1, 2010 9:44 PM

    Hopefully, this is another Bradshaw by Florio. Otherwise, condolences to the family.

  16. pdxbolt4life says: Jul 1, 2010 9:55 PM

    Thank you for all your contributions to the game Coach. You’ll be sorely missed. RIP.

  17. Sunday Soldiers says: Jul 1, 2010 10:07 PM

    Great Coach…R.I.P. Mr. Coryell

  18. Bob Nelson says: Jul 1, 2010 10:12 PM

    Really? Not a Terry Bradshaw thing?
    The Coryell offense was entertaining and successful during much of the regular season.
    One flaw it had was the failure to run time off the clock late in games.
    A 3 incompletion 3 and out put the defense on the field far too soon.
    Don Coryell was a fine coach and good man. The NFL could use many more like him in the league today.

  19. Mrsteve says: Jul 1, 2010 10:23 PM

    Air Coryell,
    Great teams. Couldn’t get past the Raiders & just plain quit against the Bengals but you can’t coach heart.

  20. nflhof says: Jul 1, 2010 10:30 PM

    Sad day. RIP Coach Coryell.

  21. TheToolofTools says: Jul 1, 2010 10:37 PM

    He was the “AIR” to the thrown and now he’s in heaven.
    He was just great.

  22. Roger Goodell's a tool. says: Jul 1, 2010 10:49 PM

    He changed the game.

  23. Brewster says: Jul 1, 2010 10:53 PM

    # robert ethen says: July 1, 2010 8:57 PM
    No word yet on the toxicology tests.
    Another one of your lame attempts at humor. It wasn’t funny like most of your attempts.
    Coryell was a great innovator and an excellent mentor to several future NFL Head Coaches.

  24. Deb says: Jul 1, 2010 11:01 PM

    Today’s high-flying offenses sprouted from those Air Coryell seeds. He had an extraordinary impact on the modern professional game. Condolences to his family, friends, and former players in their loss. Rest in peace, Coach.

  25. Beauregard says: Jul 1, 2010 11:13 PM

    A great coach and a great man.
    Back in the days when I loved and respected the Chargers. His innovation and games plans made good players into great players.
    He will be missed, and he should of been inducted into the HOF when he was still alive.

  26. PackFaninPackLand says: Jul 1, 2010 11:20 PM

    He made watching football a little more fun !

  27. annetally says: Jul 1, 2010 11:35 PM

    Grew up in SD watching Air Coryell. Thanks for the memories, Coach. They got me through the Ryan Leaf days. You’ll be sorely missed in this great city.

  28. annetally says: Jul 1, 2010 11:40 PM

    btw, thanks raiderrob, not a lot of love between our cities, appreciate the kind words.

  29. nicewolf64 says: Jul 1, 2010 11:54 PM


  30. HandsofSweed says: Jul 2, 2010 12:01 AM

    Yeah. what a hell of an innovator. I recall watching the Steelers beat him and San Diego, 52-24 in 1984 and lose 54-44 the next year. He made Chuck Noll play his game. That is one of the most ultimate compliments a coach can get, from the standpoint of gameplanning. Hell, he whipped my Steelers 35-7 during their 4th World Championship season of 1979.
    He will go into the HOF soon, I hope. He certainly changed the face of football forever.

  31. annetally says: Jul 2, 2010 12:03 AM

    You’re stupid remark is not representative of all Raiders fans, thankfully. If you think Don Coryell didn’t coach heart, you obviously don’t know football. I could take plenty of shots but you’re too easy a target. A great man who changed the way football was played has passed. Be a man and show some respect.

  32. chargerDan says: Jul 2, 2010 1:04 AM

    HandsofSweed…I was at those games!! The 79 game should have been the preview of the Championship game but we lost to Houston 17-14. That day in Nov 79 was a special day – the colors in the stadium, the air, the mighty STeelers and then new darlings – charger power towels waving – it was college feel before all the espn 24 7 hype machine. There were 7 turnovers in the first quarter alone!! 4 by Sd and 3 by Pitt or vice versa. AND it was all because of Coryell. To have a great game you have to have great competition. The 3rd quarter was nerve wracking and then Wilbur young chased Bradshaw forcing a deep throw down the middle – Glen Edwards tipped it, woody Lowe caught itand ran 77 yards for the TD. BUt really Webster tackled woody and woody fumbled at the goal but it was still called a TD.
    Even though you have the rings – thank you for your recognition. My eyes a crying, wishing we had a ring too – and wishing coach had been inducted into the Hall this year – what a crime he was not. Thanks again – and to Raider fan as well – we have lost a great one today!!
    Thank you DOn for all the joy – and tears – and the love you brought to SD and to the CHargers, and the game of football all around.

  33. buzzbissinger says: Jul 2, 2010 1:18 AM

    “Air Coryell”
    even Jordan wouldn’t have been the same without you….
    Another Raider fan that wishes to pay his respects.

  34. Boski93 says: Jul 2, 2010 1:34 AM

    A man who cast a huge shadow on the NFL and college landscape. A offensive mind who is on par with Bill Walsh. How he is not in the Hall of Fame is mind boggling. The man created a football power at San Diego State. Then he proceeded to go the NFL and win in two difficult situations. He resuscitated the Cardinals and got them to the playoffs in ’74 & ’75 (missed in ’76 even with a 10-4 record) after a 25 year drought. Then he turned the dormant Chargers into a force. Yes, the man did not win a Super Bowl, but neither did George Allen. The only team that was truly disappointing was the ’79 team sing to an Oiler team that had not Earl Campbell or Dan Pastorini. ’80 they ran into a team that was destined to win (Oakland) and in ’81 after winning that epic tilt in Miami they had to roll into Cinny and play in abysmal conditions. Also look at all the coaches who served under Coryell: Madden, Gibbs, Ernie Zampese and Al Saunders, as well as Jim Hanifan and Rod Dowhower. Zampese, Dan Henning to name a few.

  35. RealisticSteelerfan says: Jul 2, 2010 5:28 AM

    As a Steeler fan he ALWAYS put fear in me. Even during our heyday (at the end) Fouts, Jefferson, Winslow,Chandler, Joiner and Coryell gave me nightmares.

  36. joetoronto says: Jul 2, 2010 7:05 AM

    The fact this man hasn’t made the Hall of Fame is a damn shame.
    Now that he’s no longer alive, they’ll vote him in, shame on those who didn’t vote him in earlier.
    RIP, Coach.

  37. tatum32 says: Jul 2, 2010 9:02 AM

    Nuff respect to Don Coryell and the most explosive offense ever conceived…..many battles witnessed vs. the Raiders.
    Raider Nation

  38. AlanSaysYo says: Jul 2, 2010 9:19 AM

    Six letters:

  39. 6250claimer says: Jul 2, 2010 9:27 AM

    One of the most intense coaches on the sideline ever. Look at highlight films of his team, the expression on his face during games told you that Coryell was passionate for the game, and then some. It’s too bad those Air Coryell teams with Dan Fouts at the helm never had a defense that could stop anybodyl, or he’d have won a couple of rings.
    RIP Don, you were a true innovator and asset to the game. Voters didn’t vote you into the HOF on the first go-round, hopefully they wise up next time.

  40. Sourdough says: Jul 2, 2010 2:04 PM

    Thanks for all you did for the NFL and the Chargers Mr. Coryell.
    Rest in peace.

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