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Longtime NFL and Falcons coach Greg Knapp has died

A staple and well-regarded coach in the NFL for over 20 years, Knapp had two separate stints with the Falcons in his career. He died Thursday at 58 years of age.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Greg Knapp was a Falcons coach not once but twice in his career, presiding over the hugely successful 2004 DVD offense, the injury-marred 2005 season and Michael Vick’s 2006 swan song in Atlanta. He returned in 2018 to coach Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub and was praised by both veterans for his work in the quarterback room, and when Dan Quinn and Dirk Koetter left, Knapp took on a job as the New York Jets quarterbacks coach and the man who was to be responsible for developing #2 overall pick Zach Wilson.

In between, Knapp built a long and successful career for himself, serving as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for teams that included the Super Bowl champion Broncos and Peyton Manning. He gained a reputation as one of the NFL’s good guys, and even if you didn’t love the way he ran your particular team’s offense, you could recognize that he was a quality, well-liked coach.

Tragically, we will not get to see what Knapp does with Wilson’s career, or where the years stretching out before him would take him in the NFL landscape he had been a part of for a quarter century. After being critically injured after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle in California on Saturday, Knapp died Thursday. He was 58 years old.

Knapp was a quarterback at Sacramento State and a damn fine one, and while he only got training camp invites in the NFL, he was able to return to Sacramento State to begin his coaching career. His NFL career began in 1995 with the 49ers, and he would spend nine years with that team cutting his teeth as an offensive quality control coach, quarterbacks coach and eventually offensive coordinator before the Falcons hired him away.

Knapp was the offensive coordinator when The Falcoholic opened its virtual doors back in 2006, and as such he was source of no small frustration for me, frustration that really was aimed at a stagnating football team that was about to get Jim Mora out of town. The work he did in 2004 with a capable offense and in 2005 with one of the worst groups of quarterbacks in franchise history is probably a much better indication of his ability than 2006, but it took me a very long time to understand that given the way I hold grudges against coordinators. The fact that Knapp immediately landed with the Raiders as their offensive coordinator tells you his work in Atlanta was appreciated by other NFL teams even if it wasn’t by fans, and over the next decade-plus he steadily held a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator position around the NFL every single year, including time with Peyton Manning in Denver when the team won a Super Bowl.

He would return to the Falcons in 2018 as a veteran quarterbacks coach for a pair of veteran players in Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub, and it represented his third stint with Schaub after coaching him in Atlanta and Houston previously. Ryan had a stellar year in 2018 with Knapp as his quarterbacks coach, and the dropoff statistically from there is something I’m only too comfortable blaming on Dirk Koetter and not the quarterbacks coach.

Along the way, as you’ll see above, Knapp came to be known for kindness in a business that doesn’t go out of its way to reward that quality. He had a career and a life to be proud of, and it’s beyond tragic that it ended today. Our thoughts are with Knapp’s family and friends and all the players and coaches whose lives he touched during his long NFL career.