After battling life-threatening injuries suffered when a car collided with his push bicycle on Saturday, it is with a heavy heart that we learn that former Denver Broncos quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp has passed away.
The accident occurred near his family home in Danville, California. Knapp was just 58 years old. He is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and his three daughters.
Knapp was serving as the New York Jets' pass game co-coordinator little more than a week away from training camp kicking off when he was fatally injured. Despite being away from the Broncos for a handful of years, the team's QBs coach in the Super Bowl 50's triumph was honored by his former employer.
Knapp served as Peyton Manning's QBs coach from 2013-15 after Adam Gase was promoted to offensive coordinator, and presided over the MVP's record-setting 2013 performance. Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in Knapp's first year coaching him, which are still NFL records.
Broncos Country echoes the team, which released a "heartbroken" statement when the news of Knapp's death hit the wire.
"In his four years as our quarterbacks coach, Greg was an instrumental part of two Super Bowl appearances and our championship run in 2015. The job he did coaching quarterbacks during our Super Bowl 50 season was masterful. He navigated a unique situation with poise and instincts, keeping us on track with his even-keeled demeanor, exceptional teaching ability and caring nature.
"From all-time greats like Peyton Manning to young players just starting their careers, Greg was a trusted confidant and the very definition of a 'quarterback whisperer.' More importantly, the connections and friendships he forged with players, coaches and staff — as well as their families — were genuine and special. We will all remember Knapper for his kindness, humor and fun-loving approach to life. Our organization extends its deepest condolences to Greg's wife, Charlotte; his daughters Jordan, Natalie, and Camille; and the entire Knapp family."
Under Knapp's coaching, Manning had arguably the best three-year stretch of his career, but even that does a disservice to the coach's impact in Denver. Knapp gleaned useful contributions out of Brock Osweiler in 2015 when he went 5-2 as a starter in place of the injured Manning, including a big win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots in overtime at Mile High.
Osweiler’s efforts in Manning’s absence allowed the Broncos to progress to the playoffs as the AFC's No. 1 seed and ultimately ensured that the road to the Super Bowl ran through Denver. It is a testament to Knapp’s coaching that in 2016 Trevor Siemian looked competent as a starter, passing for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns in 14 starts, en route to being named as an alternate for the Pro Bowl.
Siemian had excellent performances against Kansas City and Cincinnati that year, and from Weeks 8-14, he averaged over 300 yards per game.
Knapp was a two-year starter at quarterback for Sacramento State University, in 1984 and 1985. He still ranks eighth all-time in school career passing yards (3,806 yards) and touchdowns (32), but he went undrafted in the 1986 NFL draft.
Knapp immediately turned to coaching, spending nine years as a coach at his alma mater, but still attended try-outs for the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers during that time. He went on to coach running backs, then wide receivers at his alma mater before becoming assistant head coach and offensive coordinator in 1991.
Knapp's NFL coaching career began as a quality control assistant with San Francisco in 1997 where Steve Young earned a Pro Bowl selection at age-37, before being quickly promoted to offensive coordinator. Knapp had stops in Atlanta, Oakland, and Seattle in the same role, before being made the quarterbacks coach in Houston.
In 2012, Knapp went back to Oakland to be its offensive coordinator in 2012, before being hired by the Broncos in 2013 under John Fox. Knapp was retained by Gary Kubiak, who had worked with him briefly in Houston but was not kept by Vance Joseph, who chose Bill Musgrave as QBs coach instead.
After his time with the Broncos, Knapp was the QBs coach in Atlanta. He was recently appointed as the passing game co-coordinator for the Jets under first-year head coach Robert Saleh where he was expected to play a considerable part in rookie first-rounder Zach Wilson’s development.
Knapp was renowned as a teacher and for being a ‘quarterback whisperer’ around the league and for his adaptability. Indeed, he worked with a variety of different quarterbacks with aplomb, coaching the likes of Hall-of-Famers such as Young and Manning at the tail end of their careers, while still challenging them to elevate their performance.
Knapp made stars out of Michael Vick, Jeff Garcia, and Matt Schaub, and coached the likes of Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer. During his NFL career, Knapp's quarterbacks reached a combined 11 Pro Bowls and had five different 4,000-yard passers: Young, Garcia, Palmer, Manning, and Ryan.
The NFL world is rocked by this devastating news, but our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time.
Follow James on Twitter @JamesC_MHH.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!