Coryell was the innovator of offense whose imprint is still felt in the NFL today. Yet, he is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Coryell is often referred to as the greatest coach to never win a Super Bowl. A notion of respect that often feels like a backhanded compliment.
More on Coryell
Don Coryell was a true football pioneer and it shouldn't go unnoticed he started a coaching tree as deep and varied as any ever founded, writes Brian Baldinger. **More ...**
» Chargers mourn loss of a legend
» Carucci: Coryell made his mark
» Davis: Coryell's impact lives on
Coryell's teams came close. The Chargers played host to the Raiders in the 1980 AFC Championship Game. Many consider this the Chargers' best team under Coryell. San Diego, however, fell into a big hole early, but came storming back. The Chargers scored late in the game to make it 34-27. The Chargers kicked off but before the Raiders took the field, linebacker Ted Hendricks approached offensive tackle Art Shell on the sidelines and said, "You guys better run out the clock, because we can't stop them."
Were Coryell's Chargers the greatest team to never win a Super Bowl? Here is my list of the top five teams to never win the Super Bowl (in order of year).
1968 Baltimore Colts
The Colts were the dominant team in the NFL, ranking second in points scored, and first in points allowed. The NFL was seen as far superior to the fledgling AFL, as evidenced by the Packers two romps in Super Bowls I and II. A Colts victory was a foregone conclusion after steamrolling the Browns 34-0 to win the NFL title game (that's right, the Colts were actually the NFL champions that year). But we all know how this story goes, Joe Namath guaranteed a win and went out and delivered.
1969 Minnesota Vikings
Young Vikings fans will always look at the 1998 team as the closest their squad ever came to winning a Super Bowl. But that is not entirely accurate. The 1969 version was led by five future Hall of Famers while boasting the league's best offense and defense. Many football enthusiasts expected the Vikings to "right the ship" by taking care of the Chiefs and the upstart AFL after the Colts' debacle from the previous year. That did not happen as the Chiefs ended up crushing the Vikings 23-7, and Minnesota went on to lose four Super Bowls.
1973 Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were actually the team of record in the 1960s and 1970s in Los Angeles. The Rams had some great teams that came up short in 1969 and 1975, but the 1973 version might have been the best. The Rams lost two games by a combined three points, nearly duplicating the Dolphins perfect season of the year before. The Rams had eight Pro Bowlers, and a dominating defensive line of Merlin Olsen, Jack Youngblood, Larry Brooks and rookie Fred Dryer. The John Hadl-led offense ranked first in points scored and total yards, while the defense was first in yards allowed. This might have been the best Rams team of the 1970s, and lost at Dallas 27-16.
1998 Minnesota Vikings
Randall Cunningham directed the Vikings' offense, which set an NFL record for most points (556). Minnesota became only the third team in NFL history to win 15 games in a season, and came within only three points of going undefeated. The Vikings also had at least two future Hall of Famers, Randall McDaniel and John Randle, along with Cris Carter and Randy Moss who could eventually join them in Canton. The Vikings figured to breeze past the Falcons -- who were good at 14-2 -- in the NFC Championship Game. But Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the season, allowing the Falcons to win in overtime.
2007 New England Patriots
It will be interesting to see how history remembers the 2007 Patriots -- the first NFL team to go 16-0 in the regular season. They set an NFL record with 589 points behind future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Randy Moss. But the team also was penalized for video taping opposing teams' defensive signals. The Patriots were tested in the playoffs by the Jaguars and Chargers, but most experts figured they would roll past the Giants, who they beat 38-35 in the final week of the regular season. The Giants, however, prevailed 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.
Others receiving votes:
1967 Oakland Raiders: Maybe the best team in AFL history.
1983 Washington Redskins: Dominant, but humiliated in the Super Bowl.
1986 Chicago Bears: This defense actually set the record for fewest points allowed, but QB play did them in.
1986 Cleveland Browns: Poor Marty Schottenheimer.
1990 Buffalo Bills: A little too gimmicky.
1991 Philadelphia Eagles: Good defense, but Redskins were a better team that year.