Former Lions coach Rick Forzano dies at 90

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The Lions announced Thursday night that their former head coach Rick Forzano has died at the age of 90.

Forzano became the Lions coach in 1974 and was relieved of his duties four games into the 1976 season with a 15-17 record to show for his time. Forzano’s tenure included the team’s final season at Tiger Stadium and their first year at the Silverdome.

“Rick was a wonderful man and we are truly saddened by the news of his passing,” Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford said in a statement. “On behalf of me, my family and the Lions organization, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the entire Forzano family. Our thoughts are with his wife Betty, daughters Stacey and Kristie and his son, Rick Jr.”

In addition to bridging two stadiums, Forzano’s tenure is also notable for featuring four future NFL head coaches in assistant positions. He hired Joe Bugel, Raymond Berry and Jerry Glanville in addition to giving Bill Belichick his first full-time NFL coaching job. Forzano worked with Belichick’s father at Navy and hired the Patriots head coach to work with tight ends and on special teams.

“When I came here, Rick gave me the opportunity with the tight ends,” Belichick said on a 2017 visit with Forzano taped by NFL Films. “The opportunity to coach a position, that’s a big step for any coach, and that was an opportunity that Rick gave me that I probably wasn’t ready for, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity for it.”

Our condolences go out to Forzano’s family and loved ones on their loss.

7 responses to “Former Lions coach Rick Forzano dies at 90

  1. I remember seeing a TV show where they met up again a few years ago. BB seem to be pretty emotional just spending time with him. He will be missed.

  2. Remember him when I was a kid and he was coaching at Navy when nobody wanted to go into the services. Didn’t have much to work with. He also recruited Staubach to Navy when he was an assistant coach.

  3. thecape15 says:
    January 11, 2019 at 9:37 am
    I remember seeing a TV show where they met up again a few years ago. BB seem to be pretty emotional just spending time with him. He will be missed.

    2 0 Rate This


    It was before the preseason game last year in Detroit.

  4. digilat7 says:
    January 11, 2019 at 9:51 am

    How come no one ever talks about the Forzano coaching tree??? RIP


    If you go watch that Forzano feature (just Google “Rick Forzano” “Bill Belichick” “NFL Films”), you find out that the Forzano tree is really the Paul Brown tree. But you make a good point about coaching trees. Rather than Andy Reid’s tree or Bill Belichick’s trees, it would be more interesting to go back to the early days of the League and see which coaches of today can trace back to the greats from the beginning of the NFL.

    All the best to Coach Forzano’s family. He seemed like a great man.

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