For the second time in 10 days, the Broncos have lost an offensive assistant coach from their 2013 team that set a still standing NFL scoring record on its way to winning the AFC Championship.
Greg Knapp, the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach from 2013-16, passed away Thursday from injuries suffered during a collision with a vehicle while he was riding his bicycle Saturday afternoon in San Ramon, Calif.
Knapp was 58.
"The NFL lost not only an excellent coach, but an even better person today,'' said Joe DeCamillis, the Los Angeles Rams and former Broncos' special teams coordinator. "In our business there are very few genuine, compassionate, kind people. Knapper was one of them. RIP my friend!"
On July 12, former Broncos’ long-time offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, who returned to serve as an offensive line consultant for Denver in 2013, died at 80 from complications of a stroke.
Knapp’s most recent stop in his nearly 25-year NFL coaching career was with the New York Jets as their passing-game specialist, a role in which he was mentoring No. 2 overall draft pick rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. Knapp was riding his bicycle mid-afternoon Saturday when he was involved in a collision with a vehicle, the San Ramon police department confirmed, while adding the collision remains under investigation.
Following a distinguished career as a quarterback at Sacramento State, Knapp bounced around training camps and practice squads for the Chiefs, Raiders and 49ers – while also serving as an assistant coach at his college alma mater between cuts. He served as offensive coordinator for the 49ers, Falcons, Raiders, Seahawks and Raiders.
From 2013-16, Knapp was the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach. In 2013, one quarterback he coached, Peyton Manning, set single-season passing records that still stand with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards. The Broncos scored 606 points that season, or 37.9 points per game.
To understand how prolific that 2013 offense was, the Broncos did not average as few as 21 points a game in any of the past five seasons.
In 2015, the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, a season in which backup quarterback Brock Osweiler replaced an injured Manning and led the Broncos to five wins in their final seven regular-season games.
Knapp was the perfect coach with the perfect, light-hearted demeanor to navigate a challenging quarterback situation. It was a high-pressured time with Osweiler making his first career starts after sitting for 3 ½ seasons and Manning wondering if he had played his last game. Knapp’s sense of humor helped keep everyone calm and on track.
And in 2016, Knapp helped bring a late, 7th-round draft pick out of Northwestern named Trevor Siemian and turned him into an 18 touchdown, 3,401-yard passer. Knapp has also served as QB coach with the Texans, 49ers and Falcons. He was hired in January by head coach Robert Saleh to become the Jets’ pass-game specialist.
Knapp was a friendly sort who was known to strike up cordial conversations with the equipment guys and cooks, as easily as he did the star quarterbacks he coached. An avid bicyclist, Knapp often rode with Bronco employees who shared his hobby.
He continued to stay in touch with members of the Broncos’ organization as recently as late-May when the team’s public relations boss Patrick Smyth arranged for Knapp and his wife Charlotte to attend a baseball game of Knapp's beloved A's.
"Great friend. College teammate. Best friend in the coaching profession," Bears and former Broncos’ tight end coach Clancy Barone posted on Facebook. "We always made sure our lockers were next to each other during our coaching journey … including two Super Bowls! Knapper … one of a kind in more ways than we can count. Rest in Peace."
To share a personal moment, after the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, Knapp was the only member of the organization who offered congratulations to me.
"Why me?" I said. "I didn’t do anything. I just reported on what you guys did."
"You followed us every day from beginning to end and it wasn’t always easy," Knapp told me. "And now you can say you covered a World Champion. That’s something you’ll always have."
I have thought of that exchange several times in the five times since. It meant a lot to me.
Knapp is survived by his wife Charlotte and three daughters.
Statement from Jeff Sperbeck, Knapp's agent, on behalf of Knapp family
Today at 11:32 am PST, Greg Knapp (aka Knapper) was called back home to Heaven, where he will be reunited with his Dad.
On Saturday, July 17th, 2021, Greg was struck by a car while riding his bicycle, and was rendered unconscious immediately. Greg never regained consciousness. He was surrounded by his mom, his wife, his 3 daughters, and his brother.
Greg spent 33 years coaching football, the first 9 at Sacramento State (where he also played QB) and the next 24 years in the NFL as an Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach. He coached hundreds of players, including: Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Rick Mirer, Matt Schaub, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and most recently Zach Wilson.
Those of us who were so blessed to have known him, know that he would have wanted even this moment to be a teachable one. So this is it..."Live every day as if it's your last, and love those around you like it won't last!"
Greg's infectious personality is most people's first and lasting memory of him. The phrase "He never met a stranger" encapsulates Knapper's zest for life. He had a unique gift to make everyone feel special, and to Knapper, they all were.
While his family, friends, and players still had so much to learn from him and desperately wished they had more time with him, God called an audible and wanted to go over the game plan directly with him. It will certainly be a masterpiece, just like Greg!
Please visit www.caringbridge.org to post photos, memories or notes to his family and information for Celebration of Life service.
Denver Broncos statement
The Denver Broncos are heartbroken by the sudden, tragic passing of Greg Knapp, who was an outstanding coach and an even better person. 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.
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