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Thursday, May 19, 2011
Coryell, the Cardinals and Jim Harbaugh

By Mike Sando

Don Coryell's tenure with the old St. Louis Cardinals and influence on the San Francisco 49ers through Bill Walsh led one Arizona Cardinals fan to hit the NFC West mailbag Thursday.

Randy from Peoria, Ariz., thought Coryell's absence from our Cardinals "Flash Points" ballot was striking.

"Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, you wouldn't mind publishing a piece detailing Coryell's background and influence," Randy wrote. "I'm aware Coryell didn't invent the whole cloth of the West Coast offense, but it didn't come to fruition without his very keen offensive mindset."

These are great points, Randy, but Coryell's hiring by the Cardinals falls short as a franchise flash point because his run with the team lacked pivotal moments on par with the ones we listed. The team reached the playoffs twice under Coryell and never won a postseason game, falling 35-23 to the Los Angeles Rams and 30-14 to the Minnesota Vikings.

Coryell's broader impact on the game falls into another category. His offense did influence coaches throughout the league.

Specifically in relation to the current NFC West, the option routes Coryell built into his offense caught the attention of Lindy Infante, who incorporated similar concepts into the offense he taught to current 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when both were with Indianapolis.

Harbaugh lists Infante as one of the greatest influences on his offensive philosophy. I've spoken with Infante about various concepts in some detail and can break out his thoughts in a forthcoming blog entry. Sounds like a project for Friday, perhaps (update: Saturday).