Greg Knapp, the longtime NFL assistant coach who joined head coach Robert Saleh's Jets staff in January as passing game specialist, passed away Thursday after suffering severe injuries last Saturday in a bicycling accident in California. He was 58.
"Greg had such an inner peace about him that people always seemed to gravitate towards," Saleh said. "He lived life in a loving way that helped him connect with people from all walks of life in a unique way. In his short time here, I believe the people in this organization had a chance to experience that connection."
Knapp had been settling in with the Jets' young quarterbacks room, helping to coach up second pick of the draft Zach Wilson, second-year QB James Morgan and third-year man Mike White, none of whom has played in an NFL game yet. He noted that Wilson is "a fast study ... a big-time student of the game." And he said he enjoyed working with his young room.
"It is really cool," he told reporters at last month's full-squad minicamp. "Both my parents are teachers. It's like, here's the canvas, start teaching them what you know without overteaching them too quickly. So that's the challenge, but it's really exciting.
"I've had both extremes. I've had the veteran guys in Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning and Steve Young, and I've had some young guys. What's really cool for me is, as I've gotten older, I can say, here, from my experiences, I can tell you this because I've got enough trial and error on it. And they're getting it, they're learning. It's pretty exciting and it's invigorating for me, I'll be honest with you. I enjoy it a lot."
Prior to signing onto Saleh's Jets staff on Jan. 21, Knapp, on his second tour with Atlanta, spent three seasons as the Falcons' quarterbacks coach (2018-20). Over that span, Ryan passed for an NFL-high 13,971 yards with 87 touchdowns, 66.9% accuracy and a 97.7 passer rating.
Knapp also spent four seasons in Denver, as the Broncos' QBs coach in 2013 and adding passing game coordinator to his title for 2014-16. Before the Broncos, he was offensive coordinator with Oakland (2007-08, 2012) and Seattle (2009). He coached Houston's quarterbacks in 2010-11, and before Denver he had his first hitch with the Falcons, serving as offensive coordinator from 2004-06 and helping them lead the league in rushing all three seasons.
Before Atlanta, Knapp spent nine seasons with San Francisco, three as offensive quality control coach, three as QBs coach and three as O-coordinator.
Jets Chairman Woody Johnson said of Knapp: "In his short time with us, Greg had an immediate influence on those who had the pleasure of spending the smallest amount of time with him. His legacy is not only working with some of the brightest quarterbacks the league has ever seen, but the countless others across this world he has had an indelibly positive influence on."
Knapp also coached at his alma mater, Sacramento State for nine seasons, after playing four seasons for the Hornets at QB. He was in multiple NFL training camps as a player and a coaching intern, including Kansas City (1986), the L.A. Raiders (1987-90) and the 49ers (1992-94), all while coaching at Sac State.
Knapp was entering his 26th NFL season as a coach, but he spent a lifetime connecting to others. After being struck by a car, he was rendered unconscious immediately and never regained consciousness. He is survived by his wife, Charlotte, three daughters, Jordan, Natalie and Camille, and his brother.
"Greg's infectious personality is most people's first and lasting memory of him," said the Knapp Family in a statement. "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."