Saints Hall of Fame inductee Steve Sidwell dies at age 78
An outstanding coach and gentleman has passed away.
Steve Sidwell, who coordinated the best defense in the NFL from 1986-1994 for the New Orleans Saints, has died at the age of 78.
A native of Winfield, Kansas, Sidwell’s coaching career spanned from 1966-2002. He began as linebackers coach at Colorado, where he worked with Jim E. Mora, among others and was on the staff that lost to Tulane in the 1970 Liberty Bowl. Sidwell went on to coach at UNLV and SMU.
The first NFL job for Sidwell was as linebackers coach for New England from 1982-84, where he was again on a staff with Mora, before he served as defensive line coach for Indianapolis in 1985.
When Mora got the job as head coach of the Saints, he hired Sidwell as his defensive coordinator.
During his nine years with the Saints, Sidwell presided over a defense that featured the best linebacker corps in league history, based on NFL Network rankings, with the famed Dome Patrol of Rickey Jackson, Vaughan Johnson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling, all of whom are in the Saints Hall of Fame. Jackson and Mills are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Saints Ring of Honor.
That New Orleans defense also featured future Saints Hall of Fame inductees Wayne Martin, Frank Warren, Dave Waymer and Jim Wilks. Sidwell also had future Saints Hall of Fame inductee Joe Johnson for one year.
“Steve was a very good coach, someone you could communicate with,” Jackson said. “You could go to him and he would work with you. He was a very good schemer. He was a good man. You had the 3-4 look with two very good outside linebackers and two very good inside linebackers and we had good players up front with beef that could keep blockers off us. We earned the respect of all opponents and he was part of it. He had good coaches with him. He is a good family man.”
Swilling led the NFL in sacks in 1991 with 17 and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“He made my career,” Swilling said. “The style of defense he brought to the Saints fit my skills perfectly. I was disappointed I lasted until the third round. I wanted to prove I could play. The difference with me and others was I landed with Steve Sidwell and with Vic Fangio. My career may have been different if I had landed someone else. We got along so well.”
Swilling deeply appreciated the humanity of Sidwell.
“He always encouraged me to take care of my money and my family financially,” Swilling said. “He stressed it to his players. He cared. I can still hear him saying that to me. He was a very caring person. He truly cared about his players. He hollered and screamed at me but it was about making me the best player I could be. He also complimented me. He was a blessing in my life and to the NFL. He made many careers.”
Among the defensive coaches who worked under Sidwell, three became NFL head coaches, including Dom Capers, Vic Fangio and Jim L. Mora.
During his nine years with the Saints, New Orleans led the NFL twice in passing defense (1992, 1993), led the league in fewest points allowed twice (1991, 1992) and topped the NFL in rushing defense (1989) as the Saints regularly ranked among the very best in virtually all defensive categories.
During his tenure, the Saints posted their first-ever winning season (1987) and their first four playoff appearances ever (1987, 1990, 1991, 1992).
Upon departing New Orleans, Sidwell spent two seasons as defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers, three years coordinating the defense of the Patriots and three years as defensive coordinator in Seattle.
Sidwell was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2004.
He holds the distinction as being the only assistant coach in franchise history to earn that honor.
Sidwell was also inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
On a personal level, Sidwell had a gruff demeanor and the deepest voice you will ever have but he was one of the nicest people I have ever met.
Steve’s son, Scott, has worked in professional and intercollegiate athletics for many years.
He started with the New Orleans Zephyrs, when I was blessed to be the play-by-play voice of the team. Scott followed in his father’s footsteps, going on to work for the Saints and Tulane, where he earned his degree from.
The deep family ties extended to the Saintsations as well as Scott’s wife, Samantha, danced for the Saints dance team.
Crescent City Sports Enterprises and the Saints Hall of Fame extend our deepest condolences to Katy and the entire Sidwell family.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…