Former Detroit Lions Head Coach Rick Forzano Dies at 90

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 2:  Head coach Rick Forzano of the Detroit Lions looks on against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 2, 1975 in San Francisco, California. The Lions defeated the Niners 28-17.  (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

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."

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