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Collection Description

Don Coryell was the head football coach at San Diego State from 1961 to 1972. He inherited a team that had won only one game the year before and had not been to a bowl game in a decade and immediately turned them into a winning program. In his years as head coach, Coryell never lost more than two games in a season and never had fewer than seven wins, winning seven conference championships and three bowl games. Coryell still has the most wins ever for a San Diego State football coach with 104. Assistants to Coryell during that time would include two future NFL hall of fame coaches in John Madden and Joe Gibbs. Coryell would leave San Diego State to coach the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL followed by a tenure with the San Diego Chargers winning three straight division championships from 1979 -1981.

Coryell was known primarily for the "Air Coryell" offense. A pass heavy offense that required defenders to cover the entire field, the "Air Coryell" offense was born during the second half of a game against Weber State on September 24, 1966. Down 20-0 at the half, Coryell focused on an offense passing attack and won the game 38-34. In his time as head coach of the Chargers, Coryell relied on this offense, making heavy use of quarterback Dan Fouts and leading to NFL records for team and individual passing yards. Contained in this collection is the playbook Coryell used for the 1981 Chargers. The 1981 Chargers won the division and made it to the AFC Championship Game, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in what became known as the Freezer Bowl, a game when windchill dropped temperatures to -59 °F and left Fouts with frostbite in his hands.

Coryell retired from coaching in 1986 as the first coach to have won over 100 games as both a college and an NFL coach. He was elected to the Chargers Hall of Fame in 1986, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and has been a finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame on multiple occasions. His "Air Coryell" offense would become the prototype for a more pass-reliant offense in the NFL in the 21st Century. Coryell died in 2010.

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