Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell, who oversaw some of the most dominant defenses in the franchise's history from 1986-94, passed away on Wednesday evening at the age of 78.
"For nine years, Steve Sidwell played an integral role in the success of the New Orleans Saints and helped develop several of the franchise's greatest defensive players," said Saints Owner Gayle Benson. "The success of these teams and players continue to resonate with our organization and fan base to this day. My late husband Tom owned the team during Steve's entire tenure and had a great affinity for him both as a coach and as a person. In addition to being an outstanding coach, Steve was also a dedicated husband, father and grandfather. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Sidwell family, including his wife Kathleen and two sons, Brad and Scott."
A 21-year NFL coaching veteran, who overall worked 35 years in the college and professional ranks, Sidwell arrived in New Orleans in 1986 as defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach. The former University of Colorado standout linebacker coached in the college ranks for 16 seasons, starting as linebackers coach at his alma mater from 1966-73. He received his first defensive coordinator job at UNLV (1974-75) and first entered the NFL with the New England Patriots as linebackers coach (1982-84) after a six-year stint as defensive coordinator at SMU. Following one season as defensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 1985, newly hired Saints Head Coach Jim Mora brought Sidwell to New Orleans in 1986. During Sidwell's tenure, New Orleans finished ranked in the top five in opponent net yards per game three times, four times in the top five in run defense and three times in the top three in pass defense. The Saints led the league in opponent points per game twice (1991-92), run defense in 1989, opponent passing yards per game twice (1992-93) and sacks in 1992. During his nine-season tenure, the Saints' 408 quarterback takedowns ranked third in the NFL. Behind the strength of the defense, New Orleans reached the playoffs for the first four times in franchise history (1987, 1990-92) during Sidwell's coaching career with the club.
Individually during Sidwell's tenure in New Orleans, seven defensive Saints players were selected to a total of 18 Pro Bowls, including all four starting linebackers being selected in 1992, with five of his defenders earning 12 Associated Press All-Pro honors. Out of those four linebackers, both Rickey Jackson and Sam Mills were voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also served as Mills' position coach from 1986-93. A third linebacker, Pat Swilling, was selected the 1991 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, when he registered an NFL-high 17 sacks, breaking his own club record of 16.5 he set in 1989
Following his tenure with the Saints, Sidwell served as defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers (1995-96), Patriots (1997-99) and Seattle Seahawks (2000-2002).