Former NFL All-Pro, longtime coach Howard Mudd dies after motorcycle accident

Jason Owens
·3 min read
Howard much instructs Peyton Manning.
Howard Mudd was perhaps best-known for keeping Peyton Manning upright. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Longtime NFL assistant coach and former All-Pro offensive lineman Howard Mudd died Wednesday. He was 78.

Mudd had been in a Seattle intensive care unit following a motorcycle accident two weeks ago. His family announced his death Wednesday in a statement:

“We want to share that yesterday we [as a family] made the decision to focus care on providing Howard the most comfort. Right after the accident he fought so hard against all odds to communicate to us that he loves us and that he knows we love him. Yesterday, it became clear that he was ready and that we needed to surround him with love and fight for his right to comfort and peace.

“This morning he was surrounded in the room by his sons [Darren and Adam] who held his arms and prayed over him as he passed away.”

From All-Pro to legendary line coach

Mudd played offensive line for the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears from 1964-1970. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times and once named All-Pro. He is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1960s.

After retiring as a player, Mudd returned to the NFL as an offensive line coach with the San Diego Chargers in 1974. He coached for seven different teams before retiring in 2012, most notably a stint with the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2009 that encompassed the Peyton Manning era and a Super Bowl victory after the 2006 season

“In my opinion, Howard Mudd was the best offensive line coach in NFL history,” Manning said in a statement released by the Colts. “I would put him on that pedestal any day of the week.

“He will be missed by many. I know so many like me are grateful to have played for him.”

Mudd rejoined the Colts last offseason before retiring again in September after training camp. Head coach Frank Reich brought him in to help train a young, talented offensive line anchored by All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson.

“For me that was unbelievable, because much of what I've learned in the run game and in the protection world is from my first time here with Howard,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said when Mudd stepped down.

Mudd’s legacy as a line coach

According to the Indianapolis Star, Mudd’s offensive lines with the Colts gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL in six different seasons and allowed the fewest total sacks in the league of any team during his 192-game tenure. He taught a “jump set” approach to pass protection that instructed lineman to attack pass rushers rather than dropping back and reacting to defenders as they make their move.

Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted his respect for Mudd upon the news of his death.

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