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Monday, November 30, 2009
Delivered: Fouts' letter of support for his coach

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Former San Diego coach Don Coryell is one of 25 semifinalists for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The final voting will be in February.

Coryell, known as a passing-game  innovator, has a lot of support for induction. Leading the Air Coryell bandwagon (or perhaps it’s a jet plane) is his former Chargers’ quarterback Dan Fouts.

Fouts, a Hall of Famer himself, famously sent a letter to every member of the hall of fame voting committee last spring, urging Coryell’s election. So far, so good. Coryell is the only former coach on the semifinalist list.

Fouts, through the San Diego’s PR department, has given us permission to print his letter of support for his former coach. Thanks to both Fouts and the Chargers for allowing us to take a peek:

Dear Hall of Fame Voters:

I am writing you to ask for your consideration of Don Coryell for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the Class of 2010.

For many reasons, I firmly believe that Don Coryell has earned his place in Canton. First and foremost, I would not be in the Hall of Fame myself had it not been for my nine years as Don’s quarterback with the San Diego 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.

I feel strongly that induction into the Hall of Fame should be based primarily on one’s contribution to this great game and continuing influence that is felt as the game is played today. All you have to do is review the careers of Hall of Fame coaches such as John Madden, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs, and see who provided them with the inspiration and innovation that led to their own Hall of Fame careers. Super Bowl coaches such as Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz, the great offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese and Chargers coach Norv Turner would all concur that the “Air Coryell” offense contributed a great deal to their own success.

I have spoken personally with all of the aforementioned coaches, and they have all expressed their strong feeling that Don deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If my former coach and HOF classmate Bill Walsh were with us today, he would be among the most vocal proponents of the case to be made for Don’s inclusion.

But it is not only on the offensive side of the ball that his touch is felt. Whoever heard of the nickel or dime pass defense before “Air Coryell” forced opponents to come up with strategies to combat Coryell’s aerial assault?

There are countless statistics to back up the Coryell story. The one that makes me most proud is the domination of the Chargers passing statistics from 1978 to 1985. If you look up the leader for yearly passing yardage from ’78-’83, Coryell’s Chargers were number one. In 1984, the Dolphins, led by the great Dan Marino, were first and the Chargers second. But in 1985, San Diego regained the top spot. For six straight years and seven of eight years, Air Coryell dominated. Nowhere in the history of the NFL has there ever been one team rule a statistical category over such a span of time.

Don Coryell is 85 years old, and remains a huge fan of the game who delights in seeing his vision played out each Sunday across the NFL. I hope you will agree that it is time for him to be given the recognition that he so clearly deserves.

If any of the Hall of Fame Selectors would like to discuss this personally, please feel free to call me at my home or on my cell. Thank you all for your thoughtful consideration.

Sincerely,

Dan Fouts

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1993