Air Coryell Flies Again

Linus and I are giving our PS2 an all-time blowout before we (eventually) get a Wii. To do this, we are playing a Madden (06 version) tournament featuring 140 or so of the historic teams featured on the game. So, for example, tonight the 1968 Jets (of the famous Joe Namath guarantee) just beat the formidable 1974 Steelers. That this happened due to a complete choke job on my part on a last-second field goal is of no consequence to our conscience–we simply apply the “Any Given Sunday” rule in those circumstances. And, since it’s a single-elimination tournament, that means perhaps the best edition of the famed Steel Curtain is one and done.

It’s been great fun so far, and we’ve both enjoyed looking at the rosters of these old teams and figuring out their relative strengths and weaknesses. A particular highlight for me was playing with the 1981 San Diego Chargers, the heyday of Don Coryell’s famed “Air Coryell” offense, which featured a Grizzly Adams-esque Dan Fouts at QB and one of the nastiest combinations of offensive skill players ever assembled. (Wes Chandler and Charlie Joyner at WR, Kellen Winslow at TE, and fumblin’ Chuck Muncie and a young James Brooks at RB.) I grew up rooting for the Chiefs, and there was no more boring offensive team to watch in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s than the Chiefs. Watching them play the Chargers was always the highlight of my year. That’s how you know your team sucks.

Linus, for his part, has been a solid game-playing partner, willing to be any team, willing to play with or against me, and always offering constructive guidance. But, as any game player knows, when things don’t go your way it can be upsetting. As an adult, I can deal with this in various ways. I can turn the game off and walk out. I can swear. I can throw the controller at the game console, accidentally hit the reset button, and inadvertently erase hours of compiled history. Or I could roll like Friend of Pipeline CliffP, who once missed a putt in a multi-player golf game, then booted the game out his front door all the way out to the street. It happens.

Well, Linus thankfully isn’t that invested in any of this. And it’s not that he has a problem with losing; he has a problem with being routed. And that’s OK, unless you have to face the full arsenal of Air Coryell. True, the fact that he was playing with the 1990 49ers, a higher-rated team, should have given him a chance. But there’s no stopping history, and the 1981 Chargers were a team cheated by history. Or, more accurately, the weather. A week after playing one of the most famous games in history (the near double-OT thriller against the Dolphins that saw multiple players cramp or collapse due to the steamy Miami conditions), the Chargers then had to go to Cincinnati and play a very solid Bengals team in a near 40 below wind chill. I vividly remember players on the sidelines having to change their pads and uniforms because their sweat was freezing to their bodies and their pads were sticking to their skin. The Chargers just didn’t have enough left in them after the epic in Miami, and that was essentially the end of the great Air Coryell dynasty.

That is, until I resurrected them like a Bill Walsh/Dr. Frankenstein hybrid. (And the Walsh comparison is intentional; Coryell’s offense was a modified version of the offense Walsh created under Paul Brown in Cincinnati in the early 1970s. All of which means the West Coast Offense actually started as the South Ohio offense…)

Air Coryell returned from the digital dustbin of history with a vengeance, and soon I was up 28-0 in the first quarter. This resulted in the first objectionable language I’ve ever heard Linus use, when he half screamed, half sobbed, “Jesus! What’s happening?!?” We decided to let the computer play that one out. Then I counseled him about the value of detachment, and also gave him suggestions for other exclamatory remarks.

But in my head I was thinking, “What happened? Air Coryell happened. Over and over again.” Someday, when he’s old enough, I’ll share those thoughts with him. Then, when he’s even older, he’ll be the one sharing those thoughts with me as he’s beating the bejesus out of me. Full circle.

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9 Responses to Air Coryell Flies Again

  1. Nathan D says:

    Since when is “Jesus!” objectionable to an agnostic?

  2. David R says:

    Its sweet you’re excited about the prospects of talking shit to your son one day, but luckily you also recognize that it will be a two-way street.

    However, if you slowly start introducing him to the art of shit talking now, he’ll have time to work on his routine before he hits junior high, which could only help.

  3. kelly says:

    Although considering he is already beating his old man occasionally; not sure the shit talking works in Doug’s favor. Although I suppose it is a ‘life skill’ that no one should be without. You don’t want your man on the field/court to be saying “darn you, golly gee willakers you are just not any good”

  4. David says:

    The 1980 Chargers were MY team. Winslow, Jefferson, and Joyner, each with over 1100 yards receiving… that was special. I had a huge Air Coryell poster on my wall. It just wasn’t the same after Jefferson went to the Packers.

  5. pipelineblog says:

    Yeah, that 1980 Chargers team was pretty badass as well. Even at that age, I didn’t understand why the Chargers would deal Jefferson, though of course I have no idea what they got in return. And I suppose they did just fine replacing him with Wes Chandler. But did Wes Chandler have those crazy Rec Specs? No, he did not. What’s more, Wes Chandler was the guy who convinced the Vikings to draft Troy Williamson. So fuck him.

    But the real secret weapon for that 1981 team was drafting James Brooks, a tremendous quick RB who was terrific at catching passes out of the backfield. Everybody would try to play back to protect against the deep ball, and then they’d hit Winslow or Brooks over the middle or in the flat. They could just kill you so many ways on offense. And really, I think Dan Fouts was probably just a pretty decent QB who happened to play in a turbo-charged offense that defenses hadn’t caught up with yet. Man, they were fun to watch.

  6. Steve C says:

    I remember watching Jefferson when he was at Arizona State in a game at Air Force. Bad ass mother. I wonder what ever happened to him?

  7. pipelineblog says:

    He had some decent seasons in Green Bay, even made a Pro Bowl, but he was pretty much out of football by age 28 or 29. His numbers declined, but that was to be expected going from Dan Fouts to Lynn Dickey as QB, not to mention the different offensive schemes, weather, etc. I was thinking there were cocaine issues as well, but I may be thinking of Thomas Jefferson.

  8. Steve C says:

    Argh. Always have to go back to blaming things on Lynn Dickey, who despite being a K-Stater, and one of the worst running quarterbacks in history, really do that bad on a hell of a lot of really, really bad Green Bay teams. I seem to remember the coke thing, now. He may have been one of the casulties of the 80s. And certainly, playing for Green Bay didn’t help, even though he was there with James Loften, and between them, I remember now, invented the now ubiquitous-in-many-derivations of the flying high-five.

    I just looked him up on the Wiki. Turns out, the Jefferson, Lofton, and Dickey combo had one of the best offenses in the NFL at the time. But they had no defense and couldn’t ever break .500. Jefferson ended his career in Cleveland in ’85, which I don’t remember. That was before the Drive. No mention of drug issues, so I’m probably wrong.

  9. Cliff says:

    It wasn’t a putt – it was BYU, ludicrously and successfully throwing at will downfield against my beloved 95 Huskers. Not realistic. But i do miss that game though

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