Charlie Joiner (18), the NFL's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards at the time of his retirement, and Kellen Winslow (80), a member of the NFL 100 All-Time team, will officially have their numbers retired in a halftime ceremony when the Chargers take on the Miami Dolphins at SoFi Stadium on September 10.
The ceremony, which will also honor Joiner and Winslow's head coach Don Coryell and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will be led by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts who – along with Joiner and Winslow – helped bring the Bolts' vaunted "Air Coryell" offense to life.
"With Coach Coryell finally in Canton where he belongs, new generations of NFL fans are just now learning about the man who forever changed our game," said Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. "I know he felt, however, that none of what he accomplished would have been possible without the trio of Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow – and I know they feel the same way about him to this very day. Charlie and Kellen are two of the greatest offensive weapons to ever set foot on the gridiron, and it's time for new generations of NFL fans to be made aware of their role in making the modern NFL what it is today. Retiring their numbers is yet another way to ensure they will forever be recognized for their accomplishments to this great game while also uniting them with their quarterback, number 14, in football immortality."
Joiner, who played his final 11 seasons with the Chargers, had four 1,000-yard campaigns with the Bolts from 1976-81, the most in the NFL over that span. Among players that played at least one season in the AFL, he is the only one that finished his career with 700 receptions, 10,000 yards and 60 touchdowns. Once described by San Francisco 49ers coaching great Bill Walsh as "the most intelligent, the smartest, the most calculating receiver the game has ever known," Joiner made three Pro Bowls with the Chargers and was named AP first-team All-Pro in 1980.
"I'm elated to witness the retirement of my number," said Joiner. "And to have Kellen's number retired at the same time in the backdrop of Don Coryell's legacy? It's undoubtedly one of the most gratifying experiences I can possibly imagine."
Winslow, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time AP first-team All Pro during his nine year career, was the only tight end in history at the time of his retirement to have a career with at least 500 receptions, 6,000 receiving yards and 45 touchdown catches. The only tight end to put up those numbers within the first nine seasons of a career for another 25 years, he ranked No. 2 all-time among tight ends with 541 receptions, No. 3 with 6,741 yards and No.4 with 45 touchdowns at the time of his retirement. The first tight end ever to have three seasons of at least 85 receptions, to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and to have multiple seasons with 1,000-plus yards, Winslow was the most dominant NFL player at his position during his career, not only leading tight ends in receptions but ranking No. 2 among all NFL players.
"It's an honor to have the number I am associated with retired," said Winslow. "This occasion carries even greater significance due to the fact that it coincides with the retirement of my fellow teammate Charlie Joiner's number. Our individual achievements and collective journeys would not have reached the heights they did without the influence of our head coach, Don Coryell. It's great that these things are synonymous because when you think of Air Coryell, you think of all of us."
The "Air Coryell" offense was adopted once Coryell became head coach of the Chargers in 1978. Headed by Fouts, Joiner and Winslow, the Chargers offense led the NFL in total offense five times, passing yards six times (ranked second once during that period) and scoring three times. Fouts led the NFL in passing yards for four straight seasons (1979-1982) and became the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons (1979-1981). "Air Coryell" focused on a pass-first offense predicated on moving the ball downfield allowing the Chargers to separate themselves from their competition and confuse opposing defenses. This type of offense focused on three things: a strong inside running game, the ability to hit deep passes with two or more receivers and adding the mid-range game with a tight end or wide receiver.
Along with the offense taking deep shots, Coryell's scheme also made the other side of the ball defend every blade of grass by moving all offensive weapons in motion. Opposing teams had to bring in extra defensive backs to try and slow down his pass offense resulting in the 'nickel defense' and the 'dime' defense. It was then that tight ends like Winslow evolved into pass-catchers; another piece of the game that was revolutionary at the time but commonplace for NFL offenses today, thus cementing Coryell as a true visionary. Ultimately Winslow, Fouts, and Joiner were all enshrined in Canton after remarkable careers shepherded along by Coryell, who joined them in Pro Football Hall of Fame this month.
"Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow hold immense significance for me, our team and an entire generation of football fans," said Fouts. "You could always count on them. Both were extremely intelligent, tough players. Difference makers. True gamechangers. Quite frankly, two of the very best to ever play the game at their respective positions. For them to have their numbers retired, it's an incredibly special moment. And to be able to celebrate Coach Coryell and his Hall of Fame induction at the same time, I'm not sure it gets any better than that. Coach's daughter, Mindy, coined the phrase, 'Air Coryell has landed in Canton,' at his induction ceremony, and it still gives me butterflies in my stomach. I'm looking forward to that same feeling when Charlie and Kellen take the field at halftime on September 10."
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