Former Broncos, Falcons, Giants coach Dan Reeves dies at 77
ATLANTA » Dan Reeves’ talents off the field were recognized early on by Tom Landry.
Reeves was still suiting up for the Dallas Cowboys when Landry made him a player-coach.
At 37, Reeves landed his first head coaching job, pulled off a trade to acquire John Elway, and built the Denver Broncos into a powerhouse that reached the Super Bowl three times in a four-year span.
At the final stop of nearly four uninterrupted decades in the NFL, Reeves guided the Atlanta Falcons to their first Super Bowl.
The only blemish on his record: four blowout losses in the big game.
Reeves, who did win a ring as a player with the Cowboys but will be remembered mostly for a long, largely successful coaching career marred by those four defeats, died Saturday of complications from dementia. He was 77.
A statement released by his family through former Falcons media relations director Aaron Salkin said Reeves died “peacefully and surrounded by his loving family at his home in Atlanta.”
Reeves was a versatile running back who played a key role in the Cowboys becoming an NFL powerhouse in the 1960s under Landry. But his own coaching career — stretching over three teams and 23 seasons — is where he truly left his mark on the league.
Including a stint with the New York Giants, Reeves totaled 190 regular-season coaching victories — ninth most in NFL history. But he joined Marv Levy and Bud Grant as the only coaches to go 0-4 in the Super Bowl, with all of Reeves’ losses by at least 15 points.
Even so, Elway called him “a winner” — words even more striking coming from a Hall of Famer whose bitter falling out with Reeves over offensive philosophy led to the coach being fired by the Broncos.
“The football world lost a heckuva coach and man,” said Elway, who now runs the football operations in Denver. “I owe a lot to him — he was instrumental in my career and growth as a quarterback. We were able to win a lot of football games together.”
After taking over as Broncos coach in 1981, Reeves worked out a blockbuster trade to acquire Elway. The quarterback would become the centerpiece of a team that won three AFC titles, five AFC West crowns and earned six trips to the playoffs over the coach’s 12-year tenure.
But Denver never won it all under Reeves, losing 3920 to the Giants in the 1987 Super Bowl, 42-10 to Washington in 1988, and 55-10 to the San Francisco 49ers in 1990 — still the most lopsided loss in the game’s history.
Despite those defeats and a bitter parting after the 1992 season, Reeves is remembered fondly in Denver, where the Broncos inducted him into their Ring of Honor in 2014.
“Coach Reeves set the foundation for the Broncos’ decade of dominance in the 1980s and championship tradition for years to come,” the team said in a statement.