ATLANTA (AP) — Dan Reeves, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the Dallas Cowboys but was best known for a long coaching career highlighted by four more appearances in the title game with the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, died Saturday. He was 77.
A statement released by his family through former Falcons media relations director Aaron Salkin said Reeves died of complications from dementia. The statement said he died “peacefully and surrounded by his loving family at his home in Atlanta.”
“His legacy will continue through his many friends, players and fans as well as the rest of the NFL community,” the family said.
Reeves was a versatile player who played a key role in the Cowboys becoming an NFL powerhouse in the 1960s under Tom Landry, but his own coaching career — stretching over three teams and 23 seasons — is where he truly left his mark on the league.
Just 37 when he took over as coach of the Broncos in 1981, he built a team around quarterback John Elway that made three Super Bowl appearances over his 12-year tenure.
But Denver never won a title under Reeves, getting blown out in all three of its trips to the title game.
After a bitter parting from the Broncos, Reeves moved to New York to coach the Giants in 1993.
He was fired after four seasons but quickly caught on in 1997 with the Falcons, a homecoming for the Georgia native who grew up in Americus.
In just his second season with a franchise that had experienced little success, Reeves guided a team known as the “Dirty Birds” to a 14-2 record in the regular season and their first trip to the Super Bowl.
Reeves again came up short of a championship, losing to Elway and the Broncos to leave him with a 0-4 mark as a Super Bowl coach.
Reeves engineered a trade that brought Michael Vick to the Falcons and remained as coach until the 2003 season, when he was fired after the team won just three of its first 13 games.
He ended his coaching career with a record of 190-165-2.
Reeves remained in Atlanta after his retirement, most notably serving as an adviser to Georgia State when it launched a football program that now plays in the Sun Belt Conference.