An offensive scheme in professional football developed by San Diego Chargers coach “Don Coryell.” The “Air Coryell,” or vertical offense, concentrated on mid-to-deep range passing and a power running game, with special attention given to pass protection.
The Coryell offense evolved from the more traditional “pro set” formation after rules regarding how defenders could contact receivers at the line of scrimmage changed. In the Coryell offense there is no typical set formation, as receivers could line up depending on the play called. The offense relies on sending wide receivers, tight ends and backs into motion, forcing the defense to react possibly tip its defensive strategy to the offense. Receivers are sent to the line with multiple route options that they can adjust depending on defensive coverage on any given play.
The Coryell offense is mainly predicated on passing, but also employs a strong running game. With so many receivers running so many possible patterns, the idea is to stretch the field, which also stretches the defense. Coryell also helped foster tight ends as receivers more than blockers, with more and more tight ends running wide receiver routes. Passes in this offense rely on timing, with the quarterback throwing passes to their intended location ahead of the receiver, allowing them to catch the ball and turn up field for larger gains. The principal option of every pass play was typically the deep pass with other mid-range options.
The Air Coryell is the original “West Coast Offense,” only losing the label after articles were written in the 1980s about Bill Walsh’s system. Many notable coaches, including Cam Cameron, Norv Turner and Mike Martz are students of the Air Coryell offense and many of the key attributes of this scheme exist throughout professional football.