One of the best coaches to ever work the Chiefs sideline was buried on Tuesday in Katy, Texas.
Former assistant coach, defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tom Bettis died on Saturday in that Texas town near Houston. He was 81 years old.
Ironically, he passed away on the same day that cornerback Gary Green went into the Chiefs Hall of Fame. It was in 1977 that Green joined the Chiefs as a first-round selection in the ’77 NFL Draft. His first position coach and defensive coordinator was Bettis, who halfway through that season was named interim head coach after Paul Wiggin was fired.
“The best coach I ever had,” Green said of Bettis on Saturday without knowing the coach had passed away. “I played for four different head coaches, four different coordinators and four different defensive back coaches (with the Chiefs) and Tom Bettis was the smartest guy I was around. I always wished that I would have had the chance to spend more than one season with him.”
Green was not the only Chiefs defensive player that held Bettis in high esteem. Over the years Hall of Famers like Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas and Bobby Bell have all spoken about the coaching smarts that Bettis displayed throughout his early Chiefs career when they played for him.
William Thomas Bettis was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in the Windy City and went off to play college football at Purdue University. He was the first-round selection of the Green Bay Packers in the 1955 NFL Draft as a linebacker. Bettis played seven seasons in Green Bay, including an NFL Championship in 1961. He then played one season with Pittsburgh and one season with the Chicago Bears team that won the 1963 NFL Championship.
Bettis began his NFL coaching career in 1966 on Hank Stram’s staff with the Chiefs. He stayed for 12 years before he was fired at the end of the 1977 season along with the rest of Wiggin’s coaching staff. He then spent seven years coaching with the St. Louis Cardinals (1978-84), and then one-year stints with Cleveland (1985) and Houston (1986-87), before he returned to coach on Frank Gansz’s staff with the Chiefs for the 1988 season. He finished up his coaching career with two seasons in Houston (1993-94).
He’s survived by three daughters and nine grandchildren.