Arizona Cardinals franchise was first NFL stop on Don Coryell's Hall of Fame journey

The "Air Coryell" attack got it's start in the NFL during the mid-1970's when the Arizona Cardinals organization was based in St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinals
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The mid-1970's was an exciting time for the Arizona Cardinals organization. Based in St. Louis at the time, the Bidwill family handed their team to a man who firmly believed that offensive football should revolve around the pass. On Saturday, the one-time head coach of the Redbirds received the NFL's most prestigious honor.

Don Coryell, the Cardinals on-field leader from 1973-77, has been inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame. The recognition for what the offensive guru accomplished in the league, and in the college ranks as well, was a long time coming. Anyone who was a fan of the Cards roughly 50 years ago will surely remember the excitement that the now-deceased Coryell brought to the franchise.

While many other teams were adopting a "run-first" offensive philosophy, it quickly became obvious that the innovative coach didn't agree with that viewpoint. "The quickest way to move the football is with the pass," Coryell once told a reporter. "That's the shortest route to the end zone."

When he landed the job with St. Louis five decades ago, Coryell inherited one of the most prolific quarterbacks in "Big Red" history. Jim Hart, an 18-year employee of the team, had the luxury of operating in the coach's passer-friendly system for five consecutive seasons. The 6 foot 1, 215 pound Hart was named to an impressive four Pro Bowls during his time as the leader of the vaunted "Air Coryell" attack.

Another member of the Arizona Cardinals family has made it all the way to the Hall of Fame

Under Coryell's guidance, the Cardinals won two NFC Eastern Division titles following the 1974 and 1975 campaigns. Unfortunately, both postseason appearances ended in disappointment for St. Louis. A 30-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in December of '74 was followed by a 35-23 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams just one year later.

In 1976, the Cards posted double-digit victories (10-4) for the third-consecutive year under Coryell. Surprisingly, the winning performance by the squad failed to result in a trip to the playoffs.

The following fall, Coryell coached in his final season with St. Louis. After a 7-3 start, the Cardinals ended the year with four crushing losses. One of the defeats was an embarrassing 55-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day.

Coryell went on to have a successful nine-year stint as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. The California native's time with the club featured three AFC Western Division titles, and two AFC Championship Game appearances as well. Chargers starting signal-caller Dan Fouts went to the Pro Bowl six times with Coryell designing the offense, throwing for 4,715 yards in 1980 and an eye-popping 4,802 yards in 1981.

This past Saturday, Mindy Coryell Lewis helped induct her father into the Hall of Fame with a heartwarming speech. Unfortunately, the elder Coryell's death back in 2010 at the age of 85 prevented him from being there. Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals franchise for adding another family member to it's ever-growing group of Hall of Famers.


(Information provided by Pro Football Reference)