ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp, who was a member of the team's Super Bowl 50 championship team, has died after sustaining injuries in a bicycling accident on Saturday.
Knapp, who was working as a pass-game specialist with the Jets since January of 2021, was 58.
"The Denver Broncos are heartbroken by the sudden, tragic passing of Greg Knapp, who was an outstanding coach and an even better person," the Broncos said in a statement. "In his four years as our quarterbacks coach, Greg was an instrumental part of two Super Bowl appearances and our championship run in 2015. The job he did coaching quarterbacks during our Super Bowl 50 season was masterful. He navigated a unique situation with poise and instincts, keeping us on track with his even-keeled demeanor, exceptional teaching ability and caring nature. From all-time greats like Peyton Manning to young players just starting their careers, Greg was a trusted confidant and the very definition of a 'quarterback whisperer.' More importantly, the connections and friendships he forged with players, coaches and staff — as well as their families — were genuine and special. We will all remember Knapper for his kindness, humor and fun-loving approach to life. Our organization extends its deepest condolences to Greg's wife, Charlotte; his daughters Jordan, Natalie, and Camille; and the entire Knapp family."
A California native and former Sacramento State quarterback, Knapp worked in the NFL for 26 seasons as an offensive coach for seven different teams, including four seasons with the Broncos as a quarterbacks coach.
The son of two teachers, coaching was simply a natural fit for Knapp to follow in their footsteps, but on the football field.
"Both my parents were teachers, so you got raised that you have to constantly learn, otherwise you fall behind," Knapp said in 2016. "… My parents taught me to always learn from others — whether teaching them or coaching them — and then apply those lessons you learned to the next guy you're working with. That's helped me in my guidance as a coach."
In turn, Knapp helped guide a number of quarterbacks in the NFL, beginning with Steve Young.
"I started my career coaching Steve, who was one of the most cerebral quarterbacks that played the game at the time at that point, and the schemes weren't quite as complex on defense then as they are now," Knapp said in 2014. "But it helped give me a foundation to know, OK, I have to bring my A-game, so to speak, to the office every day. The quarterback position is unique of any other one because they know there's a lot of pressure on them to succeed so they will prepare more than most to have success."
In his first year as Young's QB coach after three seasons as the 49ers' offensive quality control coach, the future Hall of Famer earned a Pro Bowl selection at 37 years old. Young threw for 36 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and 4,170 yards as the 49ers went 12-4.
"My first job in the NFL was to become Steve Young's coach, and that was very fortunate for me, because he gave me a lot of input on how important it is to coach an experienced quarterback," Knapp said in 2015. "He does not want another guy to pat him on the back and say, 'Hey, that's a great job,' or if you had a mistake, 'Hey, that's going to be OK.' The great ones want to be coached. They want to be coached hard and they want to be given a lot of information and instructed the right way to do things."
Though Young would retire after the next year, Knapp's career was just ascending. He soon was promoted to offensive coordinator and then bounced around to other teams as a coordinator in the decade that followed.
Over all that time with the 49ers, Falcons, Raiders, Seahawks and Texans, Knapp maintained an intellectual curiosity and flexibility that allowed him to grow as teacher and find success in different ways.
"I constantly learned from different players on how to maybe teach them a certain way or how to help educate a guy, or play the game or read a defense or work footwork and mechanics," Knapp said in 2016. "I've had quite a diverse combination. I've had the athletes in Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick — the mobile quarterbacks. I've had big guys like JaMarcus Russell, Matt Schaub. And then I've had the thinking quarterbacks in Peyton [Manning] and Steve Young. I know there's a different way to teach guys and a different way that guys learn."
Look back through former quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp's time with the Broncos in photos.
Eventually, Knapp found his way to Denver, where he became the team's quarterbacks coach in 2013, a year after Manning arrived as a free agent.
Knapp's first year with Manning helped create the most productive season by a passer in league history, as Manning won league MVP honors and set single-season records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes.
Beginning that year, Knapp and Manning shaped a bond that would help bring Denver a third Lombardi Trophy.
"[It's] very exciting, but also challenging," Knapp said in 2014 of coaching Manning. "It's a double-edged sword because you certainly enjoy that opportunity to work with a very, very great player, but you also have to rise to the challenge to know that he's going to demand a lot because he's on top of his game and it makes a for a very exciting job for me. I love that."
Knapp was able to do just that, and in the process, he helped Manning raise his game to astounding levels.
"The challenge, obviously, is to stay up with an 18-year vet and it's really been a neat relationship for Peyton and I, because I think I've been able to help him," Knapp said in 2015. "The great ones always try to improve and being able to help him try to improve his game from a mechanical standpoint, footwork or what have you. At the same time, he's taught me a lot of stuff, mentally, on how he sees a defense and how he tries to pick apart a defense."
In successive seasons, the Broncos' offense changed as Manning entered the final years of his career. Even though Denver's passing attack wasn't as potent in 2015, Manning's last season, it packed enough punch to help get the Broncos to a championship.
With that Super Bowl 50 victory, Knapp finally reached the career pinnacle that he'd been chasing for more than two decades.
"It meant the world," Knapp said in 2016. "I'm glad it happened to me later in my career and not early in my coaching career, because there's such a deeper appreciation. You think about all the sacrifices not only you make to try to get that ultimate goal, but the people around you, whether it's your wife, daughter, family members. A lot of sacrifices are made for the time that you dedicate as a coach. So to get that Super Bowl victory after my 21st season, it had a lot of deeper meaning and it really is the pinnacle of the business. It's so hard to get, and there's so many great players and coaches that never get it. It makes you that much more appreciative, so when you do, you cherish it."
After the 2015 season, Knapp coached the Broncos' quarterbacks for one more year — helping former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian throw for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns — before working with the Falcons again from 2018-20 and the Jets in 2021.
Knapp is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and three daughters, Jordan, Natalie and Camille.