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Former Jets coach Walt Michaels dies at age 89

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Former New York Jets coach Walt Michaels died Wednesday at the age of 89, the team announced Thursday.

Michaels spent 34 years in professional football as a player and coach across three leagues (NFL, AFL, USFL).

Drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the 1951 draft, Michaels was soon traded to the Green Bay Packers. Michaels returned to the Browns in 1952 and played there through 1961. The linebacker made five Pro Bowls and five NFL Championship games in his time in Cleveland, helping the Browns win two titles in 1954 and 1955. Michaels finished his career with 11 interceptions and two touchdowns.

As a coach, Michaels is best remembered for his roles as defensive coordinator during the Jets' Super Bowl run in 1968 and as their head coach from 1977 to 1982. Michaels joined Weeb Ewbank's staff in New York in 1963, creating game plans for the Jets' defense through 1972.

Under head coach Michaels, Gang Green went 39-47-1, making the postseason twice in 1981 and 1982. Michaels led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game during the strike-shortened 1982 season before they fell to A.J. Duhe and the Miami Dolphins at the Orange Bowl.

"We are very sad to hear about the passing of Walt Michaels. Walt was a great leader who inspired players to take their games to another level," Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. "A defensive mastermind, he had one of his finest moments when he coordinated our unit in the Super Bowl III victory over the Colts. Later as a head coach, Walt led us to back-to-back playoff berths in 1981-82.

"Walt had a tireless work ethic and took an honest approach with his players. He will have a lasting impact on our organization and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends."

Michaels resigned following the 1982 season, returning to football in 1984 to coach the USFL's New Jersey Generals for two seasons.

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