Dan Reeves died on January 1st at the age of 77, which means that his long overdue induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, whenever it finally comes, will be posthumous.
That Reeves was not honored in his lifetime is amazing. He ranks 10th on the NFL’s all-time coaching wins list with 190, and the only coaches with more wins not in Canton are Marty Schottenheimer and the still active Bill Belichick and Andy Reid.
Reaves, in his best-known Broncos coaching job, had legendary battles with Schottenheimer’s Cleveland Browns in the 1980s. Denver went to three Super Bowls in four years, losing each time to a team with a Hall of Fame coach in opposite side: Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh.
If the difference between Reeves and Marv Levy is that the Bills went to four Super Bowls, losing to Parcells, Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson, then Reeves also coached the Atlanta Falcons to a conference title before losing Super Bowl XXXIII of all the groups. , the Broncos and Reeves’ old quarterback John Elway.
In addition to his 12 seasons as coach of the Broncos and seven with the Falcons, Reeves spent 1993-96 coaching the New York Giants, reaching the playoffs with 38-year-old Phil Simms at quarterback in his first year.
But Reaves wasn’t just one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. He also played eight seasons as a running back for the Cowboys, with his best year coming in 1966. Reeves amassed 1,314 yards from scrimmage and scored 16 touchdowns that season—his prowess as a receiver suggests Reeves would be comfortable in today’s NFL.
Reaves, who played quarterback in college at South Carolina, also had one of the most memorable plays in NFL history, a halfback pass to Lance Rentzel for a 50 yard touchdown to give Dallas the lead in the fourth quarter of the Ice Bowl. If Bart Starr hadn’t made his legendary dive for the game-winning score, the Cowboys would have won the historic game and gone on to Super Bowl I.
Also a college baseball player, Reaves had an offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates which he turned down to pursue his professional football dreams. It was a good choice, one that should have, and maybe someday still will, end up in the Hall of Fame.