Steve Sidwell, former Patriots defensive coach, dies at 78


Steve Sidwell served as defensive coordinator for the Patriots from 1997-99. FRANK O’BRIEN, GLOBE STAFF

Steve Sidwell, who served as linebackers coach for the Patriots from 1982-84 and was New England’s defensive coordinator from 1997-99, died Wednesday evening. He was 78.

“I am sad to learn of the passing of Steve Sidwell,” Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. “I really enjoyed the time I spent with him while he was here. He was always very honest and candid in his evaluation of our players and our performances. My thoughts are with his wife, Kathleen, his family and all who are mourning his loss. He will be missed.”

Sidwell, who coached 21 seasons in the NFL, was best known for his success as the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints from 1986-94. During his tenure, New Orleans led the league in fewest points allowed (1991-92), run defense (1989), and pass defense (1992-93).

During his time with New Orleans, seven defensive Saints players were selected to a total of 18 Pro Bowls, including all four starting linebackers in 1992. Out of those four linebackers, both Rickey Jackson and Sam Mills were voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Pat Swilling led the NFL with 17 sacks in 1991 en route to being named AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“For nine years, Steve Sidwell played an integral role in the success of the New Orleans Saints and helped develop several of the franchise’s greatest defensive players,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “The success of these teams and players continue to resonate with our organization and fan base to this day.”

Sidwell was an all-conference linebacker at the University of Colorado, and began his coaching career as a linebackers coach at his alma mater from 1966-73. While there, he worked with Jim Mora, whom he later worked with in both New England and New Orleans.

After stints with UNLV and SMU, Sidwell moved to the NFL when he became the Patriots linebackers coach in 1982.

Sidwell was the father of Scott and Brad Sidwell, the latter of whom is a Brown graduate and the current football coach at Taunton High School. Brad previously served as football coach and athletic director at Franklin High School.

Scott, an athletic administrator at Penn State, shared a tribute to his father on social media Thursday.

“A hero, dad, husband, HOF friend,” Scott wrote in a post. “A huge personality that was genuine and authentic. There will never be another one like my Dad.”

Sidwell was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2004.