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Air Coryell should land in Hall of Fame

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  • Air Coryell should land in Hall of Fame

    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Aug. 26 2004

    Don Coryell returns to St. Louis Friday night to be honored by the Rams
    organization and the fans who remember his wonderful run as the head coach of
    the old St. Louis Cardinals.

    It's a classy touch by Rams head coach Mike Martz, who idolizes Coryell. And to
    make it even better, the visiting Washington Redskins are here for Friday's
    nationally televised exhibition game at the Edward Jones Dome.

    The Redskins are coached by the legendary Joe Gibbs, who got his coaching start
    as an assistant under Coryell at San Diego State. Gibbs also worked for Coryell
    in the NFL in St. Louis and San Diego before making his name in D.C. as a Pro
    Football Hall of Fame coach.

    Coryell's influence on modern football offense is profound. Gibbs and Martz
    symbolize that impact. Gibbs took Coryell's system to Washington and won three
    Super Bowls. Martz has been running a strong derivative of the Coryell offense
    since coming to St. Louis in 1999, and the Rams have averaged around 30 points
    a game and been to two Super Bowls.

    As a teenager in San Diego, Martz sneaked into San Diego State's practices to
    watch Coryell's offense. Martz marveled at what he saw, and Coryell's designs
    stayed in his mind.

    "Don is the father of the modern passing game," Martz said. "People talk about
    the 'West Coast' offense, but Don started the 'West Coast' decades ago and kept
    updating it. You look around the NFL now, and so many teams are running a
    version of the Coryell offense. Coaches have added their own touches, but it's
    still Coryell's offense. He has disciples all over the league. He changed the

    That's why I believe Coryell should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As my
    friend and fellow Hall of Fame selector Ira Miller of the San Francisco
    Chronicle has often asked when pondering candidates in selection meetings: can
    the history of pro football be written without including the person's name?

    Coryell, 79, passes that test.

    It isn't just what he did as a head coach in 14 NFL seasons in St. Louis and
    San Diego - 111 wins, five first-place finishes, two appearances in the AFC
    Conference Championship game, and a passing attack ranked No. 1 seven times.
    It's not just the Hall of Famers he coached, a list that includes quarterback
    Dan Fouts, tight end Kellen Winslow, wide receiver Charlie Joiner and offensive
    tackle Dan Dierdorf.

    Coryell's primary qualification is his lasting imprint on the game. He
    originated the "digit" play-calling system still used by many NFL teams. And
    Coryell's family coaching tree still has deep roots in today's NFL. I can't
    even name all of the connections, there are so many.

    In addition to Gibbs and Martz, there's John Madden, who was on Coryell's staff
    at San Diego State. As head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Madden had one of the
    best winning percentages in NFL history. Coryell's top aide with the Chargers
    was Ernie Zampese, who taught the system to Norv Turner and Martz. Zampese and
    Turner played major roles in structuring the Dallas Cowboys offense that won
    three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

    Al Saunders assisted Coryell, worked with Martz in St. Louis and now
    orchestrates the No. 1 offense for Dick Vermeil in Kansas City. Jim Hanifan -
    perhaps the greatest offensive line coach in NFL history - coached for Coryell
    in St. Louis and San Diego. Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning
    - so successful with so many NFL offenses - is a Coryell guy.

    A final point on Coryell: how many NFL coaches created an offense so
    spectacular that it became part of the modern sports vocabulary? Long before
    "Air Jordan" took off in the NBA, the NFL was thrilled by the "Air Coryell"

    Coryell retired from coaching in 1986. But if you look into NFL stadiums this
    season, you'll see Air Coryell is still flying high. That's an impressive
    legacy. It's a Hall of Fame legacy.

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    He Changed the Game of Football
    by RamWraith
    Friday, August 27, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    His name is Don Coryell.

    He is the tie that binds a collection of coaches who have reinvented the NFL’s most dominant modern-day offenses. Names like Norv Turner, Ernie Zampese, Jim Hanifan, Joe Gibbs and Mike Martz draw from the knowledge of predecessors Sid Gillman, Francis Schmidt and, of course, Coryell.

    When Martz was a young man in the San Diego area, his love for football grew from watching San Diego State and the Chargers. Coryell was the coach, drawing off basic ideas of Gillman’s offense, adding his own wrinkles and dominating offensively. Martz didn’t miss many of Coryell’s games. He grew fond of Coryell and his style at a young age, hoping to play for Coryell at San Diego State, but winding up at Fresno State.

    Martz, by his own admission said he wasn’t quite enough of an athlete to play in Coryell’s system.

    “I’ve always kind of been in awe of Coach Coryell,” Martz said. “I’ve always been such a terrific fan of his system and what he’s brought to professional football. He has meant so much to the sport.”

    Coryell eventually took over the Chargers, flanked by two young minds ready to soak up as much information as possible. Those assistants? Gibbs and Zampese. After Coryell took over the Chargers, Gibbs and Zampese served as assistants, learning the ways of the “Air Coryell” offense. Another assistant in the area was Hanifan, who became, perhaps, the greatest offensive line coach in the history of the league. Although Hanifan was never a coordinator (he spent five years as head coach with the St. Louis Cardinals), his understanding of the way the offense worked help him teach his linemen techniques that would let the offense work.

    Coryell said he enjoys nothing more than watching his students run rampant on opposing defenses.

    “Watching the guys who got ideas from our offense and made their own adjustments is a real joy,” Coryell said. “To put it bluntly, I take real pride in turning on the television and watching their games.”

    It wasn’t long before Gibbs took over the Washington Redskins in 1981. Gibbs, who played two years and coached for 11 with Coryell, added some things of his own to the offense, but his version of it seemed to rely more on the running game than the passing side. He opened up the secondary by running and running until the opponent was worn out. The Hanifan-coached line sparked the powerful running game. The line earned a nickname of its own, “The Hogs”, and on the way to Super Bowl XXVI, the unit allowed only nine sacks.

    Gibbs led Washington to four Super Bowls, winning three. His offense was a part of the evolution of the Coryell offense. Receivers ran precise routes, quarterbacks threw well-timed, accurate passes and a power running game complemented the high-octane passing game.

    -08-27-2004, 02:08 PM
  • ramsbruce
    Revisiting The Greatest Show On Turf
    by ramsbruce
    -09-24-2014, 06:06 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams' Martz Teams With Rockefeller, Mattea For Benefit Event
    by RamDez
    BY ClanRam Staff

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. – St. Louis Rams Head Coach Mike Martz is scheduled to join two-time Grammy winner Kathy Mattea as a celebrity guest speaker for the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute Black-Tie Gala hosted by U.S. Senator John “Jay” D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), on Friday, June 4, 2004 at the Charleston Civic Center. Proceeds will benefit the research institute named in honor of Rockefeller’s mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

    “I am honored to be able to support Senator Rockefeller and the incredible work done at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute,” said Martz. “I personally witnessed the devastating affects Alzheimer’s disease had on my mother and will do anything possible to assist in finding a cure,” he added.

    The $1,000 per person event marks the first major gala in support of the Institute and begins with dinner at 7:30 p.m., followed by a program that includes remarks by Martz, Mattea and Rockefeller.

    Country singer Mattea, whose mother currently suffers from the disease, is also scheduled to address the attendees.

    “I am very proud of the work of the Institute and the fact that it’s well on its way to becoming one of the nation’s most prominent academic research institutions,” Senator Rockefeller said. “This event will take the Institute and the state of West Virginia one giant step closer to being the world leader in the research of neurological diseases.”

    More than 4.5 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a number that is expected to soar as the baby boom generation nears retirement according to the Alzheimer’s Association and National Institute on Aging.

    St. Louis Rams Coach Mike Martz
    Head Coach Mike Martz is set to begin his fifth season at the helm of the St. Louis Rams. Since returning to St. Louis as offensive coordinator in 1999 and as head coach since 2000, the Rams have earned four playoff appearances, captured three division titles, two NFC championships and a Super Bowl victory. Martz, whose late mother Betty suffered from Alzheimer’s, has long been an advocate for the Alzheimer’s cause and continues to host and participate in numerous fundraising and media events to find a cure. In April 2003, Martz testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Health & Human Services to lobby for additional research funds. He was named 2003 Pro Sports Most Active Coach by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame for his philanthropic efforts. Martz also serves as an ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Variety Club and other St. Louis area children’s charities. Martz is a summa cum laude graduate of Fresno State University.

    Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute
    The Institute, headquartered on the campus of West Virginia University, is a nonprofit,...
    -06-04-2004, 02:21 PM
  • txramsfan
    Chris Mortensen gets it....from
    by txramsfan
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004
    Criticizing is easy; winning isn't

    By Chris Mortensen
    ESPN Insider

    Before I wax a lot about Mike Martz and a little about Marty Schottenheimer, let me concede something.

    One of the flaws in my game, so to speak, is that I give head coaches a lot of rope in analyzing their performance on the sidelines. There are reasons for that. My career goal was to be a coach – my high school coaches were great influences on me. I ended up in journalism, and at one stretch I spent 10 years covering major league baseball only to switch to the NFL on a full-time basis 20 years ago. I immersed myself in the offices and film rooms of coaches who were willing to re-teach me the game of football. Even then, the constant evolution of the sport leaves me as a remedial observer.

    I have a great appreciation and respect for the amount of time coaches pour into their jobs. I understood perfectly what former Saints coach Jim Mora meant when he told the New Orleans media, "You think you know, but you don't know." It was blunt but true. The game is never as simple as we think. The quarterback isn't at fault for half his interceptions. The offensive line isn't guilty of about half the sacks you see. That cornerback you think blew coverage may have been doing exactly what he had been taught.

    So only reluctantly will you see me criticize coaches, and seldom will you see me attack a coach, although as Giants owner Wellington Mara reminds me, "The great thing about our profession is that every (coach) ultimately grades his own performance by his record." Yes, the bottom line is winning.

    That brings me to Martz and Schottenheimer, two coaches who have been slapped around in recent years. If I I trusted everything I heard on TV, heard on the radio and read in print, you would think Martz and Schottenheimer are two of the biggest buffoons in the history of football. This follows the same line more than a month ago when our media world was demonizing Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

    Martz and Schottenheimer are different in many respects. Schottenheimer is a great fundamentalist coach, and Martz is, well, he's just out there, on the edge – so much so that former ***** coach Bill Walsh has said, "You can't emulate what Martz does."

    I know they should never be characterized as buffoons. These guys have won a lot of football games.

    * * *

    Has anyone noticed what Martz has done for the St. Louis Rams? True, his team is only 3-2, which makes him 46-22 during the regular season since he became the Rams' head coach in 2000. And, I'm sorry, but I have a difficult time not crediting him with 13 more wins and a Super Bowl championship in 1999, when the Rams won it all with Kurt...
    -10-12-2004, 01:33 PM
  • MauiRam
    How Mike Martz and The Greatest Show on Turf kicked off an NFL revolution
    by MauiRam
    Ben Baskin
    Tuesday May 23rd, 2017

    Sometimes a catalyzing event occurs, one so extreme that it disrupts the natural order, compelling a species to change. Those are the anomalies, the aberrations, the hurricanes and tornados, extreme mutations, phenomena that upend the system. In those instances the evolution is rapid, sudden and without warning. In biology, they call it the punctuated equilibrium theory. In football, we called it the Greatest Show on Turf.

    Dick Vermeil got his first NFL coaching job in 1969, hired by Marv Levy to be a special teams coach with the Los Angeles Rams. Roman Gabriel, the Rams quarterback that season, threw for 2,549 yards and completed 54.4% of his passes—good enough to be named NFL MVP. Thirty seasons later Vermeil returned to the Rams, this time to be the head coach of a very different team, in a new city, with a very different MVP under center.

    “I saw the evolution,” Vermeil says. “It was slow. Every year teams threw a little more, scoring went up a little more. When you have 32 teams, they don’t all transcend to a new philosophy at the same time.”

    But the 1999 Rams transcended. For decades the NFL had been slowly inching towards putting a greater emphasis on the passing game, with incremental changes coming every year. But then along came the Rams. And they blew the whole damn thing up.

    In the three decades between 1969 and ’98 the average quarterback rating in the NFL rose 6.7 points, passing totals increased 27.5 yards per game and completion percentage grew 4.0%. In the seasons since 1999, when those Rams upended and redefined the NFL’s status quo, QB rating has risen 11.0 points, passing output 36.5 yards, and completion percentage 6.4%—nearly double the increase, in roughly half the time.

    The Rams were the tornado, the anomaly that compelled a sudden and rapid evolution of football. They were the catalyzing event that disrupted the equipoise of the NFL, a punctuated equilibrium of pigskin.

    “At the time, we knew we were doing something special,” Rams receiver Torry Holt says. “But we didn’t know we were revolutionizing the game.”

    Last season, the Atlanta Falcons scored 540 offensive points, which tied the Rams for seventh most in NFL history. The Falcons’ offense, led by Kyle Shanahan, was as close to a direct descendent of the 1999 St. Louis team as we’ve seen. Aaron Rodgers leading the NFL in fantasy points? Thank the Rams. Record books that have been razed and rewritten? Blame the Rams. Running backs who now need to run routes and catch passes as part of their job description; tight ends who now are no longer glorified blockers, but athletic freaks and dynamic pass catchers; receivers who now are no longer just big and tall and asked to run one route, but small and shifty and running every route in the book? Rams, Rams, Rams.

    “The more and more I sit back and think about it,” Holt...
    -05-24-2017, 10:17 AM