Chargers, Coryell, and Cameron

Coryell unleashed his offense, a master of a new Air Attack, upon the NFL with the San Diego Chargers during the late 1970s and early 1980s, leading the league in passing yardage in seven of eight seasons. Quarterback Dan Fouts, wide receiver Charlie Joiner, and tight end Kellen Winslow have all found their way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame from this Coryell Air Attack that so dominated the NFL.

Coach Cam Cameron was named the Chargers offensive coordinator by head coach Marty Schottenheimer on February 20, 2002 to bring a seamless transition from Coach Norv Turner's offense to Coach Cameron's, both using the Coryell Air Attack. Cameron mastered the Coryell Air Attack from Norv Turner, while working as the quarterbacks' coach for the Washington Redskins from 1994-96. Norv Turner worked for the Chargers during the 2001 season as the Chargers offensive coordinator.

Coryell has described his offense by saying, "You cover the whole field, and you try to attack the whole field and you have to stretch it deep — you have to be able to throw it deep. That doesn't mean you do it all the time. But you have somebody deep that you can get to on just about any play.

"Then you have to stretch the field in width, too, [so] people have to go from sideline to sideline. Our theory was to give them so many problems in pass defense that it kind of opened up the run."

Cameron has brought to the Chargers, the Air Coryell Attack, which has been proven by other NFL teams. The Redskins, Rams, and Cowboys have all used it to master the NFL. The Coryell offensive system makes use of every inch of the field which will spread the defenses, by passing the ball from anywhere, no matter the situation. The Coryell offensive systems of today will employ a dazzling array of formations, motions and shifts. Three-, four-, even five-receiver sets. It's designed to outmaneuver and confuse the defense in the precious few seconds before the play begins.

The "X" factor is LT, LaDainian Tomlinson for the Chargers, who will be used similar to Marshall Faulk of the Rams, which uses the same Coryell system under Head Coach Mike Martz. Both LT and Marshall Faulk are two of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL. The Chargers also bring Lorenzo Neal to the team, the Pro Bowl full back, to power block for LT.

Chargers Quarterback Drew Brees has plenty of weapons this year to run the powerful Air Attack. LT, who led the Chargers with 79 receptions last year, David Boston, one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, the explosive Timmy Dwight, and the second year phenoms Reche Caldwell and Eric Parker, plus one or two more from the extremely talented class of rookie wide receivers in camp . The Chargers also bring four very talented Tight Ends to camp this year with Stephen Alexander, Justin Peelle, Josh Norman, and Antonio Gates. Very few NFL teams have as many talented receivers in camp this year. With the emerging Drew Brees as the QB to run the Chargers Air Attack, LT, Neal, Boston and the other talented receivers, plus an improved offensive line, the Chargers should begin to make Coryell proud.

Expect to see an explosive offensive attack, "The offense, I feel like it's going to be very explosive, "said running back LaDainian Tomlinson. "I'm excited. I'm really excited. It's the first time that I have been this excited about our offense, to tell you the truth. Just seeing what David Boston brings to this team, he can change the game in one play. And Lorenzo Neal, he's going to make plays. Even the offensive line, they're jelling together. They look so much better. They're driving people off the ball."

Why Mike Martz likes and uses the Coryell system, he explains when he says, "I like using the whole field. I detest making it easy for the defense, lining up in an ‘I' and just saying, ‘Okay, here we are.' There's a place and time to go toe to toe. But we're going to set the conditions, not the defense."

"Defenses have always taken control, and they've tried to set the tempo of the game, through all the zone dogs, the blitzes, and those things. When that happens, there's two ways of going on offense. You can become very conservative, which is what they want you to do. Or you can start going the other direction with it." Martz says, "Norv taught me how not to be afraid, I guess, as a play caller. Just attack. Norv was fearless about what he did. If he felt like this was the right play, he called it and didn't worry about it."

"You eliminate the ‘what ifs' by getting good players, coaching all the details, and then just letting them play. Don't play conservatively. Put the pedal to the metal and just let these guys go."

Martz explains, "The whole object is to win. In order to win, we're trying to put as many points on the board as we possibly can."

"How do you do that? Well, you don't do it by following all of the unspoken rules — you never run reverses inside your own 50 … you don't throw the ball on first down more than half the time … you don't do this or that in certain situations."

As the Rams' head coach Martz continues to explain why he uses the Coryell system, "We've tried to be predictably unpredictable. We've established the fact that defenses are set-recognition and play-recognition oriented. That's what they base their game plan on. And if you don't provide those things when you play them, then it really puts them in a dilemma."

The Chargers have brought back the Coryell Air Attack system, brought in the players to play it and the offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron to make it all work. Cameron has worked with the Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer, to blend a powerful running attack with the Coryell Air Attack, and proved the two can work together in 2002. The Chargers will be expecting to begin dominating the NFL offensively in 2003, as in the past, during all those glory years.

T. S. Heers

Tim Heers can be reached at or via the following link: T.S. Heers

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