Jerry Smith, 80, line coach with 10 pro football teams

Jerry Smith was a standout at the University of Wisconsin. Jerry Smith was a standout at the University of Wisconsin. (University of Wisconsin)
By Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press / August 12, 2011

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Jerry Smith, whose 26-year NFL coaching career included a stint as the Denver Broncos interim head coach in 1971, died Saturday, said his son, Jeffrey of Dallas.

He was 80 and had been in declining health since suffering a heart attack four years ago.

Mr. Smith coached the offensive and defensive lines for 10 teams in the American and National Football Leagues from 1960 to 1985 before serving six seasons as a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs.

He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1952 out of the University of Wisconsin and played three seasons for the Niners and one for the Green Bay Packers.

Mr. Smith took over the Broncos after Lou Saban resigned in 1971 and went 2-3 before being replaced the following season by John Ralston.

“I think he really wanted the opportunity to take over the team the following year,’’ said his son. “He went 2-3 and was pulling guys off the street and really did a great job.

“But what was always important to him was coaching and teaching. He affected so many people. So, he was fulfilled. He valued assistant coaching as much as he did head coaching.’’

Mr. Smith coached with the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Cardinals in addition to his one year in Denver during his 26-year pro coaching career.

He was best known for coaching the Sack Pack in Baltimore in the mid-1970s and for the Chargers’ dominating defensive line for several seasons after that.

Besides his son Jeffrey, Mr. Smith leaves his wife, Shirley, another son, and three daughters. Services are Monday in his hometown of San Diego.