Gary Moeller, a football lifer who had a brief stint as head coach of the Detroit Lions, has died at the age of 81.
Moeller is best remembered for his five-year stint as head coach at Michigan in the 1990s, with his teams finishing in the Top 10 in each of his first three seasons. He also spent three years as head coach at Illinois in the 1970s.
A protege of the legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler, Moeller played his college football at Ohio State, where Schembechler was an assistant coach. When Schembechler became head coach at Miami of Ohio in 1967, Moeller became one of his assistants, and when Schembechler moved to Michigan in 1969, Moeller followed him again. Moeller’s three seasons at Illinois were not successful, but after he returned to Michigan in 1980 he was identified as Schembechler’s heir apparent, and when Schembechler retired, Moeller became Michigan’s head coach in 1990.
After he was fired by Michigan, Moeller moved to the NFL, first as tight ends coach of the Bengals in 1995, and then as linebackers coach of the Lions in 1997. During the 2000 season, Lions head coach Bobby Ross abruptly resigned, and Moeller was promoted to head coach. The Lions narrowly missed the playoffs that season, and the Lions initially said Moeller would remain head coach the following year, but when Matt Millen was hired as Lions team president, he fired Moeller.
In 2001, Tom Coughlin hired Moeller as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator, and a year later Moeller took a job on the Bears’ staff. He retired from coaching after the 2003 season.