Innovator Don Coryell misses out on Hall of Fame again

The one knock on Don Coryell: He never won that elusive Super Bowl. Darryl Norenberg/USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- Don Coryell's time may yet be coming.

Longtime NFL coach Mike Martz, the creator of "The Greatest Show on Turf," based his prolific offense on Coryell's pass-first offense. And Martz believed it was time for his mentor to make his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"This is by far his best chance to get in, and there's no reason for him not to," Martz said before the vote. "He's impacted this game so much. Everything we do is a takeoff of what he did."

Coryell was first a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, and now for a fourth time this year. Once again, he was named among 15 finalists, but fell below the 80 percent requirement and was not voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Coryell's offense was dubbed "Air Coryell" because of its ability to create explosive plays through the air. He was one of the developers of the pass-catching tight end, spawned the three-digit, play-calling system that some NFL teams still use and originated the one-back offense.

Coryell also designed the "passing tree" of receiving routes that is now used at all levels of football.

Coryell's offense led the league in passing yardage six straight seasons, from 1978 to '83, while he was with the Chargers and again in 1985.

And that offense produced three Hall of Famers in receiver Charlie Joiner, tight end Kellen Winslow and quarterback Dan Fouts.

"Don Coryell has earned his place in Canton," Fouts told the team's website. "First and foremost, I would not be in the Hall of Fame had it not been for my nine years as Don's quarterback with the 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."

Coryell finished 72-60 as coach of the Chargers. He led San Diego to the team's first two AFC title games in 1980 and '81 but failed to advance to the Super Bowl.

Coryell was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 2010 was named one of the 50 greatest Chargers of all time.

Before his time in San Diego, Coryell led the St. Louis Cardinals to division championships in 1974 and '75. Coryell's Cardinals finished 42-27-1 over five seasons.

He died in 2010 at age 85.

The sticking point for Coryell not getting in is he did not win a Super Bowl while with the Chargers or the Cardinals. And he went 3-6 in the playoffs.

However, Coryell's significant contributions to the game should outweigh that missing piece on his résumé.

Super Bowl-winning coaches who studied under Coryell include John Madden and Joe Gibbs. Other coaches who went on to successful careers as offensive coordinators include Martz, Jim Hanifan, Ernie Zampese, Rod Dowhower, Al Saunders and Tom Bass.

"As long as he gets in while I'm alive," said Martz, when asked about the long wait for Coryell to get into the Hall of Fame. "I just want to see him get in. I just would be so happy and thrilled to see him get in.

"There's hundreds, if not thousands, of guys that played for him over the years or have coached either with him or against him that want him to get in, too. I think if you're in the profession as a player or coach, you know the impact that he had. It's harder for the general fan to appreciate that. But from the football aspect, it's a no-brainer."