Former NFL player and head coach Dan Reeves has died at age 77, his family said in a statement released to the NFL on Saturday morning.
"Legendary NFL player and coach Dan Reeves passed away early this morning, peacefully and surrounded by his loving family at his home in Atlanta, GA. He passed away at age 77 due to complications from a long illness. His legacy will continue through his many friends, players and fans as well as the rest of the NFL community. Arrangements are still to be determined."
Reeves, born in Georgia, began his 38-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys when they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1965. He blossomed once team injuries gave him a chance to play as a running back, and over his eight-year career totaled 1,990 rushing yards, 1,693 receiving yards, and 42 touchdowns.
Reeves went to two Super Bowls and won one, Super Bowl VI, in his second-to-last season as player. He joined the Cowboys coaching staff as an assistant after he retired, coaching in three more Super Bowls and coming away with one win.
There were more Super Bowls in Reeves' future. The Denver Broncos hired him to be their head coach in 1981, and then quarterback John Elway entered the picture in 1983. The pair would help the Broncos make three Super Bowl appearances in the late 1980s, though they lost all three.
After being fired by the Broncos following the 1991 season, he became the head coach of the New York Giants from 1993 to 1996. His tenure started well — he was named the NFL's Coach of the Year in 1993 after taking the Giants to the playoffs for the first time since their 1990 Super Bowl win — but that's as good as things would get. He was fired after the Giants finished fifth in the NFC East in 1996.
That paved the way for Reeves to return home to Georgia. The Atlanta Falcons hired him in 1997, and just a year later he led them to a 14-2 season that took them all the way to the Super Bowl. It would be Reeves' ninth and final Super Bowl appearance, which was a record at the time. Coincidentally, Reeves and the Falcons lost to John Elway and the Broncos.
Reeves, who has 201 wins as a head coach, is one of seven coaches in NFL history with 200 wins or more. He's one of just of two eligible coaches with at least 200 wins who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The other is Marty Schottenheimer, who died in Febrruary 2021 at age 77.
NFL community mourns Reeves' death
After Reeves' death was announced on Saturday, memories and tributes began pouring in from across social media.
RIP Dan Reeves, the native son who came home and made the Falcons relevant for the first time
— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) January 1, 2022
This tells you the type of person Dan Reeves was: He quietly paid for the funeral of the daughter of a @Giants custodial staff member as he was leaving to become @AtlantaFalcons head coach. You will be hearing more of these stories in days to come as we celebrate his life. RIP
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) January 1, 2022
RIP Dan Reeves. This team made me a Falcons fan as a 5 year old kid, and him doing the Dirty Bird dance after winning the NFC Championship is something I’ll never forget. pic.twitter.com/jeu16zHsSV
— Brooks Carter (@BrooksACarter) January 1, 2022
Saddened to hear the news that Dan Reeves has passed. He was my first coach in the NFL. A man of faith. A fierce competitor. A man of class. He will be missed. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/VHVh8woD5U
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) January 1, 2022
Sadly, #BroncosCountry suffered another loss, as we mourn the passing of Dan Reeves. Reeves served as Denver Broncos' head coach from 1981–1992, winning 3 AFC Championships, 5 division titles, and only had one non-strike losing season. Condolences to his loved ones. RIP, Coach. pic.twitter.com/dSdcCRv71f
— Mile High Moments (@MileHighMoments) January 1, 2022
Falcons owner Arthur Blank released a statement about Reeves.
From the Falcons and owner Arthur Blank on the passing of Dan Reeves: pic.twitter.com/ObR4LQKCHc
— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) January 1, 2022
While fans of the Cowboys, Falcons, and Broncos will obviously feel the most strongly about Reeves' passing, fans of rival teams paid him the kind of respect that can only be earned by beating your favorite team numerous times.
RIP Coach Dan Reeves. Being a Browns fan, I have so much respect for him (same as Elway) even though he tore our hearts out year after year. 🙏🙏
— Ellis B. Redding (@fighterguy2424) January 1, 2022