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Friday, January 8, 2010

Coryell Finalist For Hall Of Fame

Source: San Diego Tribune

Don Coryell just took a giant step closer to a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, advancing to the final round of 15 nominees for the first time, it was announced Friday.

The former Chargers and St. Louis Cardinals head coach, who already earned a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame for his success at San Diego State, made it with a groundswell of support for his candidacy that included the strong endorsements of a pair of Pro Football Hall of Famers with San Diego ties, ex-Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts and Joe Gibbs, an assistant under Coryell with the Chargers and SDSU.

Coryell, 85 years old and struggling with serious health issues in a San Diego hospital, is almost as identified with the Chargers’ vaunted passing attack as originator Sid Gillman. Obviously, his candidacy for Canton had been hurt by the fact that he never coached in a Super Bowl, but it’s just as obvious that the dominance of pass-oriented teams in today’s NFL in large part stems from the way Air Coryell winged the ball around in the late 1970s and 1980s.

“He means so much to so many people that have been in this game,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said Thursday. “This (offensive) system started with him. And it’s gone off with players and coaches — (so many) you can’t start to name them all.”

Coryell had a regular-season NFL coaching record of 111-83-1 (.572 winning percentage) in 14 seasons — nine with the Chargers (69-56) and five with the Cardinals (42-27-1). He was just 3-6 in nine playoff games.

Coryell was one of 15 finalists chosen to go with two previously announced senior nominees, Floyd Little and Dick LeBeau. The 15 men came from a group of 25 semifinalists picked from a list of 131 preliminary nominees.

At the selection meeting Feb. 6 (the day before the Super Bowl) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a committee will vote on the two senior nominees, with 80 percent approval required for election. Then a vote will reduce the list of 15 modern-era candidates to 10, and another vote will winnow that list to 5. Those five remaining candidates will be voted on individually; those receiving at least 80 percent approval will be elected.

Two of the first-time nominees, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, must be considered locks. That leaves Coryell in a group of 13 battling for the other three spots in the final five.

Those 13: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Roger Craig, Dermonti Dawson, Richard Dent, Russ Grimm, Charles Haley, Rickey Jackson, Cortez Kennedy, John Randle, Andre Reed and Shannon Sharpe.

Carter, Dawson, Dent, Grimm, Kennedy, Randle, Reed and Sharpe have all been finalists previously. Along with Coryell, who has been eligible for induction for 23 years, the other first-time finalists who had been eligible in the past are Craig, Haley and Jackson.

The election results will be announced at 2 p.m. PST on Feb. 6.

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