Former Lions coach Rick Forzano dies at 90

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Rick Forzano coached the Lions from 1974-76.

Former Detroit Lions coach Rick Forzano died on Wednesday. He was 90. 

"Rick was a wonderful man and we are truly saddened by the news of his passing," Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford said in a statement. "On behalf of me, my family and the Lions organization, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the entire Forzano family. Our thoughts are with his wife Betty, daughters Stacey and Kristie and his son, Rick Jr.”

Forzano coached the Lions from 1974-76, amassing a 15-17 record, before resigning four games into the 1976 season. 

Forzano was the last to coach at Tiger Stadium and the first to coach at the Pontiac Silverdome (1975).

In his three seasons at the helm in Detroit, Forzano constructed coaching staffs that included four future NFL head coaches — Raymond Berry, Joe Bugel, Jerry Glanville and Bill Belichick.

Forzano had worked with Belichick's father Steve at Navy and even briefly lived with the family during Forzano's early years at the school.

Last year, NFL films produced a short feature on Forzano and Belichick's relationship. The two were reunited and interviewed at the Lions' practice facility in Allen Park. 

"Rick gave me a great opportunity here because when I was with the Colts, I didn't really have a position to coach," Belichick said. "I didn't have a group of players that I was responsible for. When I came here, Rick gave me the responsibility with the tight ends. Opportunity to coach a position, that's a big step for any coach. Rick gave me an opportunity that I probably wasn't ready for, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity. 

Prior to serving as head coach in Detroit, Forzano was an assistant for the team in 1973. He also had coaching stints at Navy (1969–72) and the University of Connecticut (1964-65). 

His stint with the Lions marked the end of Forzano's coaching career. He went on to serve as a football color analyst with ABC-TV and NBC radio.

He founded Rick Forzano Associates, a company that introduces domestic and international companies to the U.S. Government, military, heavy truck and automotive industry. The company, based in Sterling Heights, is now run by Rick Jr. @justin_rogers