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Former Jets coach Walt Michaels dead at 89

Jets Wire logo Jets Wire 7/12/2019 Tyler Greenawalt
a close up of a football field: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

The Jets lost one of their most respected coaches Wednesday when Walt Michaels died at the age of 89. Michaels helped coach two of the best Jets' teams of all-time - he was a defensive assistant in Super Bowl III and led the Jets to the 1982 AFC Championship during the strike-shortened season.

"We are very sad to hear about the passing of Walt Michaels," Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said . Walt was a great leader who inspired players to take their games to another level. Walt had a tireless work ethic and took an honest approach with his players. He will have a lasting impact on our organization and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends."

Michaels went 39-47-1 in six seasons as the Jets' head coach, including back-to-back playoff berths from 1981-82 and an AFC Championship appearance in 1982. He also won the Pro Football Weekly Coach of the Year award in 1978.

Michaels began his NFL career as most coaches do - as a player. He played 12 years in the league after being selected in the seventh round of the 1951 draft, including 10 with the Cleveland Browns. Michaels' first stint with the Jets came in 1963 as a defensive assistant and he served as the Jets' secondary and linebackers coach in the team's Super Bowl III upset win over the Baltimore Colts in 1969.

Michaels left the Jets in 1973 after being passed up for the head coaching position but returned in 1976 as a defensive coordinator under Lou Holtz. Luckily for Michaels, Holtz resigned after one disastrous season, leading to Michaels' promotion in 1977. He remained the head coach of the Jets until 1982.

Greg Buttle, whom Michaels coached for seven of his nine years, credited Michaels for his development as a linebacker in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

"Walt was an inordinate genius when it came down to the analysis of his players and how to play the game," Buttle said. "I wouldn't have been the football player I was if not for the tutelage of Walt Michaels. Walt never wanted to change you - wanted to make you better. He taught you the game and how to play it the way you could."

Marty Lyons, one-fourth of the famous "New York Sack Exchange" which Michaels helped develop in the early 1980s, said Michaels was more than just a coach to the Jets.

"We didn't just lose a member of the family, we lost a friend - a hard-nosed throwback type of coach who took his experience as a player and taught us how to play the game," Lyons said. "I've tried to implement what he taught me in my life. Walt was a great coach and a good friend."

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