The St. Louis sports world has lost another legend.
Former football Cardinals head coach and longtime assistant coach Jim Hanifan died on Tuesday night. He was 87.
Hanifan’s death follows the deaths earlier this year of baseball Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Bob Gibson and former football Cardinals star and Hall of Famer Larry Wilson.
The head coach of the Cardinals for six seasons, from 1980 to 1985, the bulk of Hanifan’s 30 seasons coaching in the NFL came as an offensive line coach, where he earned praise as perhaps the greatest coach at that position in the league’s history.
“Would I have been a Hall of Famer without him as my coach? Probably not,” said Dan Dierdorf in his foreward to Hanifan’s autobiography, “Beyond X’s and O’s,” published several years ago. “When I thought who was the person who was the biggest influence on my professional career, it wasn’t even close. There was no one who could rival what Jim Hanifan did for me.”
Hanifan was hired as the Cardinals offensive line coach in 1973. His offensive line in 1975 allowed only eight quarterback sacks for the season, tying the NFL record at the time for a 14-game season. When he was the offensive line coach for the Washington Redskins in 1991, they allowed only nine sacks in 16 games.
Hanifan earned Super Bowl rings with the Redskins in 1991 and with the Rams in 1999. He worked for the Rams from 1997 through 2003. After his coaching career he spent several years working as an analyst on the Rams radio broadcasts.
“Profoundly sad about the passing of my friend Jim Hanifan,” said Steve Savard, his broadcst partner with the Rams. “So many stories, memories, smiles, and laughs come to mind. He was loved and respected like few people I’ve known. He truly was one of a kind.”
A star at the University of California, Hanifan led the nation in receptions in 1954 and played briefly in the Canadian Football League before beginning his coaching career.
The news of Hanifan’s death prompted tributes from his former players. On Twitter, former Ram Ray Agnew said, “Hanny was one of a kind . I’m thankful to God to have been able to spend time with a legend RIP Coach . I love you brother.”
Ottis Anderson, former Cardinals running back, said in a tweet, “Rest in peace to one of my most influential coaches. Jim Hanifan helped mold me into the professional football player I was. Thank you Coach, Rest in sweet peace with the lord. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.”
Former NFL star Howard Richards said on Twitter, “Coach was widely considered as one of the best NFL offensive line coaches, as evidenced by the numerous all-pro & pro-bowlers he coached. Better yet, he was one of the funniest, most colorful and among the finest men I’ve ever met. He will be missed.”
Hanifan was married for almost 58 years to Marianna, who died in 2015. He is survived by two children, Kathleen and James. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports