Walt Michaels, Outspoken Coach of the Jets, Is Dead at 89

Walt Michaels, a strong-willed and occasionally undiplomatic coach who led the Jets to the 1982 American Football Conference championship game but was ousted after they lost, died on Wednesday at a nursing home in Plains, Pa. He was 89.

The death was confirmed by his son, Walt Jr.

Michaels, a former N.F.L. linebacker, had been the Jets’ defensive coordinator when the team won Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts in 1969, a rare moment of glory in the team’s tortured history.

He took over as head coach from Lou Holtz in 1977 and guided the Jets to a 3-11 record in his first of six seasons in command. The Jets were 10-5-1 in 1982 and 6-3 in the strike-shortened 1982 season fielding a talented group of players like quarterback Richard Todd, running back Freeman McNeil and defensive end Mark Gastineau.

Michaels took the Jets to the playoffs for the second year in a row that season. But he could not revel much in their success.

The Jets lost, 14-0.

The day after that game, Michaels did not show up for the Jets’ final team meeting. Seventeen days later he retired, saying he needed a break. His mother had been dying of cancer late in the season, and he said he was emotionally spent.

But The New York Times reported that during Michaels’s last meeting with Leon Hess, the Jets’ owner, and Jim Kensil, the team president, he was told to resign, given a $400,000 financial package and encouraged to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. He accepted the terms.

He began his coaching career in 1962 with the Oakland Raiders and joined the Jets the next year as a defensive coach under the head coach, Weeb Ewbank. (Because of a shortage of linebackers, he was also activated as a player for the first game.)


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