RIP: Gunther Cunningham (1946-2019)

Brian in Mesa

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May 13, 2002
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Ex-NFL head coach, longtime defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham dead at 72

Former NFL coach and longtime defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has died, the Detroit Lions confirmed in a statement Monday.

Cunningham died over the weekend at the age of 72 after a bout with cancer.

Born in Munich, Germany, after World War II, Cunningham was a beloved figure in the NFL, a fiery yet fatherly presence who worked with the likes of Al Davis, Marty Schottenheimer and Frank Broyles.

He entered the NFL as defensive line/linebackers coach for the Baltimore Colts in 1982 and made stops over the next three decades with the Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Raiders and Tennessee Titans. Along the way, he tutored some of the league's best pass rushers including Howie Long, Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, Leslie O'Neal and Jared Allen.

Allen (11th), O'Neal (tied-13th) and Thomas (17th) all rank in the top 20 in NFL history in sacks, and Long and Thomas were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.