Former Detroit Lions coach Rick Forzano died at the age of 90 on Thursday.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford issued a statement on the death, via Nate Atkins of MLive.com: "Rick was a wonderful man and we are truly saddened by the news of his passing. On behalf of me, my family and the Lions organization, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the entire Forzano family."
Forzano coached Detroit from 1974-76, going 15-17 in two-plus seasons with the team.
He was also the head coach at both Connecticut (1964-65) and Navy (1969-72) while also serving as an assistant with the then-St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals, among other positions.
During his final season in Detroit, Forzano hired a young Bill Belichick as special teams assistant. Having only spent one previous year in the NFL as a special assistant with the Baltimore Colts, that proved to be an important stop in Belichick's career as it was his first full-time gig in the league.
NFL Films put together a feature on the Forzano-Belichick relationship, with the now-legendary New England Patriots coach crediting his former boss.
"Rick gave me a great opportunity here because when I was with the Colts, I didn't really have a position to coach," Belichick said (h/t the Detroit News' Justin Rogers). "I didn't have a group of players that I was responsible for. When I came here, Rick gave me the responsibility with the tight ends. Opportunity to coach a position, that's a big step for any coach. Rick gave me an opportunity that I probably wasn't ready for, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity."