JJ.4 THI$UN Sww. Jon. 11. The men who get Air Coryell off the ground mm , mm i nmi g" minm "! ' H Chargers have trio of Super receivers By DAVID LEON MOORE Sun Sports Writer SAN DIEGO If fate has anything to do with the National Football League, if anything was ever meant to happen in the NFL, it was the marriage born in the heavens and thriving in San Diego for the pro football Chargers. First Don Coryell, the pilot, took over the Chargers in 197a Then Dan Fouts, the co-pilot, developed into perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL at reading defenses. The flight attendants? There are three of them, and they comprise the best trio of pass receivers (dare we say it?) in the history of pro football. The San Diego Chargers, they and many others contend, are showing us the football of the '80s, when the pass no longer needs to be set up by the run, when (egad!) the pass will be used more than the run. You can't downplay the ingenious coaching of Coryell or the heady, spur-of-the-moment decisions by Fouts, but the gentlemen who have proven to be the safest landing strips in all of football are carrying these San Diego Chargers, 60 minutes with the Oakland Raiders away from the Super Bowl, to glory. Despite their impressive physical tools, the astounding success of this trio is somewhat unlikely. One is too old to still be playing, the other two are too young to be certified stars. Forget their ages, though. These three earned their wings long ago. It didn't take them long to catch on. They're the NFL's most secure receivership. All puns aside, they are three very good professional football players, and key reasons why the Chargers have won back-to-back AFC West titles, broke most of the NFL's single-season offense records and are on the verge of playing in Super Bowl XV. By name, they are 33-year-old Charlie Joiner, 24-year-old John Jefferson and 23-year-old Kellen Winslow. By deed, they wreck secondaries, break records, win games and, along the way, make some of the most remarkable catches you've ever seen. " By gosh, they've made Air Coryell the safest route this side of Air Force One. In 1980, this trio became the first in NFL history to catch passes for more than 1,000 yards apiece. They finished 12-3 (Winslow-Jefferson-Joiner) in the AFC in receptions. The result was a mountain of NFL records for the Chargers and Fouts. For the Chargers, most total yards (6,410) and most first downs (372). For Fouts, most attempts (589), completions (348), yards (4,715) and 300-yard games (eight). Including San Diego's 20-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the AFC playoffs, the Chargers have thrown for more than 5,000 yards. No telling how many of those yards are because of the extraordinary abilities of Joiner, Jefferson and Winslow. But you can be sure that, along with just about everything else, the Chargers lead the league in circus catches. A look at the men who make them: Charlie Joiner, S-ll, 183, 12th year, Grambling. How Charlie Joiner, at the age of 33, could have his best year ever (71 catches, 1.132 yards) indeed, the best year in league history for any wide receiver that old is a tribute to the San Diego offense and to Fouts, but mostly to the man himself. And he's quite a man, as indicated by the fact he's one of five finalists for the NFL Man of the Year Award. Off the field. Joiner is engulfed in charities, including The United Way and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. In uniform, he figures it's better to receive than to give. And he's done it well enough to end up in his third Pro Bowl. ' Joiner was never considered a truly great receiver until he got to San Diego in 1976 and caught 50 passes for 1,026 yards, his best year up to that point. After two average years in 1977 and 1978, Joiner showed the youngsters how to do it in 1979 with 72 catches for 1,008 yards. 1980 was a repeat, only better. This, at an age when most receivers are trying to catch on with a second career. "I have to admit this is the most fun I've ever had playing football," he said. "This offense is wide open. It's just a lot of fun going out there every week and throwing and catching. We've really got a good thing going on this team." When Joiner does decide to quit, he shouldn't have any adjustment problems. He's an accountant with Gulf Oil in Houston in the offseason. The better to count his reception totals. Joiner is the middle-range threat in the Chargers' arsenal, a shrewd hand at handling the over-the-middle routes. "Charlie has to be one of the smartest receivers in football," said receivers coach Ernie Zampese. "He has an unbelievable knack of finding open areas. He's at his best underneath. He's great at adjusting his routes after he reads the coverage." "He's something," said Fouts. "He has that something extra of always knowing where to go." $ 1 Kellen Winslow . . . navigator ''l Charlie Joiner, co-captain Kellea Winslow, 1-54, 252, second year, Missouri. Chargers owner Gene Klein negotiated a last-minute trade with the Geveland Browns for the 13th pick in the 1979 draft, closing a deal that sent the Chargers' first- and second round picks to the Browns just one minute before the deadline. With that pick, the Chargers took Winslow. And because they had that one last minute, they should get years and years of satisfaction from watching Winslow hand defensive backs their lunch. Big and fast and rangy with great hands. Winslow has been everything the Chargers hoped he would be. He's so good, in fact, the Chargers went with a two-tight-end, two-flanker, i-.V one-back offense much of the year, with Winslow set wide as a third wide receiver. Cor-. yell had a pretty grand idea, there. Winslow responded by leading the NFL in receptions with 89 for 1,290 yards, which broke the NFL tight end receptions record of 75 previously held by Mike Ditka. His yardage total was the most for a tight end since 1965. Of course, Winslow had 16 games to Ditka's 14, and Winslow was basically a wide receiver much of the season, but he says "this is 1980, and it's a whole new ballgame" and, watching the Chargers play, it's hard to argue with that. "Kellen is an excellent athlete," said Zampese. "He's big and physical with damn fine speed for a guy his size. He can muscle guys. He'll catch a short pass, then bull his way for extra yards. "He's extremely versatile, can play tight end but has many of the attributes of a wide receiver. Put him out there and he's completely at ease and definitely a threat." Winslow's rookie season was cut in half due to a broken leg, but this season he's managed what he would have last year without the injury: the Pro Bowl. John Jefferson, 6-1, 198, third year, Arizona State. Last, but definitely not least. In fact, most. Quite simply, Jefferson is the best wide receiver in the league. Some of his remarkable catches defy description. They rank them down here in San Diego. There was the one-handed catch in the back of the end zone in Cincinnati when it appeared Fouts was just trying to heave the ball into the stands. There was the leaping one-hander over Oakland's Lester Hayes for a touchdown. There was the one he caught on his back for a touchdown. The Willie Mays-like, over-the-head catch, also against Hayes, for a touchdown. There was . . . There are so many. If observers can't exactly describe what they just saw, they settle for nicknames, of which there are many. The Touchdown Man. The One-Armed Bandit. Lord Jeff. Jefferson Airplane. What has been settled on is J.J. simple and sweet. , W ... 4. ., f ' ''''' If V 1 w 1 4 !i AP wtraphvtot John Jefferson, flight captain Jefferson was the 14th pick in the 1978 draft. In that, the year of the wide receiver, he was amazingly just the third receiver picked, behind James Lofton and Wes Chandler. ' But after three straight 1,000-yard seasons (no receiver in the history of the NFL has started off so fast), Jefferson is the consensus pick as the best. That's what Jefferson, the rookie, said was his goal. In fact, he said he wanted to be the best receiver in the history of the league. That's what he said, right smack dab in the middle of Lance Alworth country. , He doesn't say that anymore. But others do. ; "I used to feel when I went after a ball it was mine,"; Alworth said recently. "I see the same thing in him! . . . he's fantastic. I love watching him." "His main asset is his ability at the ball," said Zampese. "When he's moving up the field or across the field, he has unbelievable concentration at the . ball. There's no doubt in his mind it's his. His hands have to be as good as anybody who ever played. I never saw anyone with hands like his." J.J., of course, is a huge crowd favorite, both for his breathtaking catches and his college-like enthusiasm before the games. He jumps up and down, raises a fist, waves a Super Chargers banner, anything to get these maniacal fans going. "Everybody tells me they can't believe that's me, " J.J. said. "But that's the way I get before games. I really get fired up." And it is J. J., as much as anyone, who really has the; Chargers fired up. With this kind of arsenal, it's no wonder next year's j San Diego media guide could double as an NFL record book. Says Fouts: "I don't know how I would defense us with those three in there." Chargers, Raiders renew feud . The afc results AFC records 1080 game-by-game records of the Ameri- can Football Conference semifinal playoff teams: SAN DIEGO (12-5) OAKLAND (13-5J 34 Seattle '3 2? Kansas Citv 14 30 OaKland 24 24 San Diego 30 30 Denver 13 24 Washington 21 24 Kansas Citv 1 7 Buffalo 24 24 Butldio 26 17 Kansas Citv . 31 24 Oakland 38 30 San Diego 24 44 Nc York Gants 1 45 Pittsburgh 34 31 Dallas 42 33 Seattle 14 31 Cincinnati 14 16 Miami 10 13 Denver 20 28 Cincinnati 17 20kansasCitv 7 19 Seattle 17 21 Miami 24 7 Philadeiohia 10 2? Philadelphia 21 9 Denver 3 17 Washington 40 13 Dallas 19 21 Seattle 14 24 Denver 21 26 Pittsourgh 17 33 New York Giants 17 AFC ptavofb AFC playoffs 20 Buffalo 14 27 Houston 7 14 Cleveland 12 afc rosters SAN DIEGO (AP) Numerical rosters with player, position and college for Sunday's American Conference championship game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers: OAKLAND RAIDERS 6 Varc A'lsun, Q0 8 Rav Guv p 10 Chris Batr, k 16 Jim Piunkn cib 21 Clifl Branch, vr 72 Arthur Whittmoton, 23 Odis MtKmnev, cD 26 Keith Moodv, cO 30 Mark van Eeghen. rb 31 Derrick Jensen, rb 33 Kennv King, rb 35 Dwavne 0 Steen, cb 36 Mike Davis, s 37 Lester Haves, cb 42 Monte Jackson, cb 43 Ira Matthews, wr 44 Burgess Owens, i 46 Todd Chrisiensn, rb 50 Dave Dalbv, c 51 Bob Nelson, lb 52. Mario Cetotto It S3 Rod Martin, 55. Matt Miiien. n 56 Jeft Barnes. 57 Rndv McCmnn, lb 62. Reggie K miaw, dt 63 Gene Upshaw, g 65 Mickey Marvin, g 66 Steve Sylvester, t It Henry Lawrence I ' 71 Lmtfsey Mason, t 7? John Matusak, de 73. Dave Browning, de 74 Dave Pear, dt , 77 Joe CamooeH, de 71 Art SheH, t 79 Bruce Davis, f - l Morris Bradshaw. wr 13 Ted Hendricks, It Brghrn Yng MiSSiSSiDOi Penn State Stanford Colorado SMU Colorado Svacuse Colgate Te Arlington Oklahoma San Jose St. Colorado Teas A&M San Diego St. Wisconsin Miami Brghm Yng UCLA Nebraska Southern Cat Southern Cal Penn St California SW Louisiana Oklahoma Teias A&l Tennessee Notre Dame Florida A&M Kansas Tamoa Washington Washington Maryland Md E Shore UCLA tK)St Miami 84 Derrick Ramsey, tt Kentucky 85 Bob Chandler, wr Southern Cal 86 Cdrck Hrdman. de N Teias St 88 Raymond Chester, t Morgan St 89 Rich Martim, wr Ca-Davi 90 WiHie KKm Florida St SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 6. Rot! Benirschke, k, Cal-Davis II Ed Luther, at San Jose St 12. James Hams, ob Granting 14 Dan Fouts, ob Oregon 17. Rick Partridge, p Utah 18. Charlie Joiner, wr Grambling 22. Mke Thomas, rb Nev-LVegas. 26 Bernard Jackson, s Wash. St 27 Glen Edwards. S Florida A&M 28 Willie Buchanon, cb San Diego St. 29 Mike Williams, cb Louisiana SI. 32, Scott Perry, cb Williams 37, Hank Bauer, rb Cal-Lulheran 40. Clarence Williams, rb S. Carolina 41 Booker Russell, rb SW Texas 42. Mike Fuller, t Auburn 46 Chuck Muncit, rb California 47 Frank Duncan, i San Francisc St. 48 Jerome Dove, cb Colorado St. 51. Woodrow Lowe, lb Alabama 52 Ray Preston, lb Syracuse 53. RaWi Perretta, I 'Purdue 54 Jim Laslavic, lb Perm SI. 54. Bob Horn, It Oregon SI. 56 Bob Rush, c Memphis St. 58 Carl McGee, lb Duke 59 Cliff Thrift, lb E. Central, Okie. 60 Dan Audick, I Hawaii 62 Don Macek, g Boston Col. fc63 Doug Wilkerson, g NC -Central ; 64 Chuck Loewen, t S Dakota St. 66 Billy Shids, I Georgia Tech 67 Ed White, g California 68 Lerov Jones, de Norfolk St 69 John Lee, de Nebraska 71 Fred Dean, de Louisiana Tech 73 Chrts DeJurnett dt Sn Jose St. 74 Louie Kefcher. dt SMU 79 Gary Johnson, dt Grambling 80 Kellen Winslow, le Missouri 83 John Jefferson, wr Ariiona St. 84 Ron Smith, wr San Diego St. 86 John Fiovd wr NE Louisiana 88 Greg McCrary tt Oark 99 W'lbur Young, de William Penn (Continued from D-l) nerback Lester Hayes, both all-Pro. The Chargers' defensive strength is its pass rush, the best in the league. The front foursome of ends Fred Dean and Leroy Jones and tackles Gary "Big Hands" Johnson and Louie Kelcher led the Chargers to a league-leading total of 60 quarterback sacks. Johnson was the NFL's individual leader with 17Vz sacks. Getting to Plunkett is a high priority with the Chargers, yet they admit it will be difficult. "They leave backs in to help on their protection," said Johnson. "It won't be easy to get him." The Raiders will no doubt try to move the ball on the ground with fullback Mark van Eeghen and speedsters Kenny King and Arthur Whittington running mostly to the left side behind veteran pillars of strength Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. Oakland can pass, too. Plunkett, traded by New England and released outright by San Francisco, has been a startling success since taking over for the injured Dan Pastorini in October. His receivers Cliff Branch, Bobby Chandler and Raymond Chester have had a lot to do with it. The Chargers, of course, will pass, pass and pass. Fouts has rewritten the NFL record book the last two years, while his receivers finished one-two-three (Winslow, Jefferson, Joiner) among AFC receivers in 1980. But the Chargers can run some, too. Chuck Muncie, acquired from New Orleans early in the year, is often the lone back behind Fouts, and he's cashed in for 659 yards. The Chargers, nicknamed Air Coryell after flight-happy head coach Don Coryell, won the AFC West in 1980 for the second straight year. They finished 11-5, the same as Oakland, but won the division on more net points in the division. San Diego finished 124 last year, but lost its opening-round playoff to Houston, 17-14. Last week, the Chargers got into the AFC title game by beating Buffalo, 20-14, their first playoff victory since winning the American Football League championship In 1963. "Last year, we were happy Just to win the division," said Fouts. "Our attitude was better In last week's game. We've got some playoff experience now." Oakland, of course, has much more. The Raiders have played for the AFC (or AFL) championship 10 times in the last 14 years, making it to two Super Bowls and winning one. This year, the Raiders won their wild card game with Houston, 27-7, before defeating Cleveland, 14-12, last week. After missing the playoffs in 1978 and 1979, the Raiders are back with a partially rebuilt team that includes 24 players who are in their first four years in the NFL. "I felt even during the preseason we . were good enough to make a run for the playoffs," said Raiders coach Tom Flores. "How good, I didn't know. "Once you get to the playoffs, a lot can happen. Emotion takes over, and momentum." Coryell, as always a study of single-minded concentration this week, says his attack, as always, will depend on his opponent's defense. "I don't know what we will do because I don't know what defense they will be in," said Coryell. One thing Coryell can't do is use two tight ends, which is what he did much of the year, using Gregg McCrary as a conventional tight end and Winslow as another wide threat. McCrary broke three small bones in his lower back in the Buffalo game and is very doubtful for today. The Chargers don't have another tight end. That forces Coryell to bring Winslow in tight. Probably, he will bring in a third wide receiver often. "It's not that big an adjustment," said Winslow, although San Diego offensive coordinator Joe Gibbs said when McCrary went down on the first series against Buffalo the Chargers had to abandon 90 percent of their gameplan. But this is a new game and a new gameplan, the Chargers say. If the essence of this game can be captured in one matchup, it might be the one between Jefferson and Hayes. Jefferson, The Touchdown Man, is widely acknowledged as the best wide receiver in the league, while Hayes led the league in Interceptions with 13, and has added four more in the playoffs. Hayes will play bump-and run much of the time against Jefferson, and will gamble more than perhaps any other cornerback In the league. If he is beaten, Jefferson might go for a touchdown. If he Is not, Hayes might go for one. But that's just one game within a game featuring 13 Pro Bowlers, two dynamic teams and a raging hostility between owners. The only thing at stake is everything. ft ' T!RES with road hazard coverage as a bonus. 4-PLY POLYESTER CORD IMPERIAL FALCON TIRES 25.75 A78 13 Reg 32 25 1.62F.E.T. Whitewjllsacld 3. 00 SIZE REG. B8 13 ' 37 40 C8 14 38 10 D78 14 39 70 E78 14 40 10 i 78 14 42 90 (i8 14 44 80 H8 14 r 20 (i8 1"i 4h HO H8 15 4 2(1 1.78 IV SI 30 SALE PRICE 29 90 30 50 31 80 32.10 34.30 35 85 36 95 36 65 37 75 41 05 '178-15 Whitewalls only Prices plus F.E.T FALCON METRIC STEEL BELTED RADIAL TIRES 34.30 (Blackwalls) 155R12 Reg. 42.90 1.55F.E.T. SI2E REG. 14SR13 4b 0 15bH 13 44 90 16?R13 48 40 175H13 49 30 166R14 54 50 W5R14 58 40 185R14 61 10 165R14 63 80 Prices plus F.E.T SALE PRICES F.E.T. 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