Joe Collier

Last updated
Joe Collier
Personal information
Born: (1932-06-07) June 7, 1932 (age 88)
Rock Island, Illinois [1]
Career information
High school: Rock Island (IL)
College: Northwestern
Career history
As coach:
Head coaching record
Regular season:13–16–1 (.450)
Postseason:0–1 (.000)
Career:13–17–1 (.435)
Coaching stats at PFR

Joel Dale Collier (born June 7, 1932) [1] is an American former football coach who was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL) from 1966 through part of 1968, compiling a 13–16–1 record.


College career

Collier attended Northwestern University, where he played on the Northwestern Wildcats football team. In 1952, his junior season, he broke Big Ten Conference records by catching seven touchdown passes and accumulating 650 receiving yards. [2] He was named to the 1952 College Football All-America Team. [3] Following the 1953 college football season, in which he captained the Wildcats, Collier was selected by the New York Giants in the 22nd round of the 1954 NFL Draft. [4] [5] However, Collier decided not to play professional football, instead becoming an assistant coach at Western Illinois University after a three-year stint in the U.S. Army. [2] Collier spent three season as a Western Illinois assistant, from 1957 to 1959. [6]

Buffalo Bills (1962–1968)

After spending two seasons as an assistant coach with the Boston Patriots of the brand new AFL, [7] Collier joined the Buffalo Bills in 1962 as a defensive coach. The team won the 1965 AFL Championship Game over the San Diego Chargers with help from defensive alignments that Collier designed. One idea he came up with was similar to the modern zone blitz; Collier's defense featured defensive line players moving back to cover pass attempts. [3] Collier was promoted to head coach in 1966, [4] after previous coach Lou Saban resigned. [3] The Bills' best season under Collier came in his first year, when they won the Eastern Division with a 9–4–1 record, eventually losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL Championship Game. [8] After coming within one game of an AFL championship, the team slumped to 4–10 in 1967. [9] After a poor performance by the Bills in a 1968 pre-season game, Collier set up a scrimmage for his team. During the practice session, quarterback Jack Kemp broke his right leg, an injury that forced him to undergo season-ending surgery. [10] The Bills fired Collier after a 48–6 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the second week of the regular season. [11] Sports Illustrated opined that "Collier's fate undoubtedly was decided..." by Kemp's injury. [12]

Denver Broncos (1969–1988)

Following his time as head coach of the Bills, Collier became a Denver Broncos coach in 1969 and spent 20 years with the team, who reached three Super Bowls with him as defensive coordinator. Collier was the architect of the Broncos' 3–4 defense in the late 1970s, a scheme that was known as the Orange Crush Defense. [13] Although he preferred to set up the Broncos' defense with four linemen, Collier occasionally organized a 3–4 defense experimentally. After an injury to Lyle Alzado early in the 1976 season, Collier used the system more regularly and improved upon it: author Terry Frei called him "the scientist in the laboratory, coming up with ways to make the defense even better." [14] After being hired by Saban, he remained the defensive coordinator for four subsequent Broncos head coaches. [15] Dan Reeves fired Collier after the 1988 NFL season. [13]

New England Patriots (1991–1992)

From 1991 to 1992, he was defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. [7] Collier took over a Patriots defense that had given up the second-most points in the league during a 1–15 season in 1990. [16] [17] However, Collier's first year saw the Patriots defense improve from second-worst in the league (out of 28 teams) to the middle of the pack (15th). Helping the Patriots' improved rankings was the fact that their run defense, which was last in the league in 1990, improved to 9th in the league in 1991. [17] [18]

The Patriots failed to build on their 1991 defensive performance, [19] as the unit finished 23rd overall during the 1992 season. [20] New England ended up 2–14, winning four fewer games than they had in 1991. [21] After his stint with the Patriots ended, Collier retired from the NFL. [3]


Collier's son, Joel Collier, was hired in February 2009 by Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, a former executive for the Patriots, as a defensive backs coach for Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. [22] By 2010, he was the team's assistant general manager. [23] Prior to 2009, Collier was the secondary coach of the New England Patriots. Before his stint with the Patriots, he spent 11 years as an assistant for the Miami Dolphins. [7]

Head coaching record

TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
BUF 1966 941.6921st in AFL East01.000Lost to Kansas City Chiefs in AFL Championship.
BUF 1967 4100.2863rd in AFL East
BUF 1968 020.0005th in AFL East
BUF Total13161.44801.000
AFL Total [24] 13161.44801.000

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