Mike Heimerdinger, who served as the New York Jets' offensive coordinator in 2005, died Friday night after a year-long battle with a rare form of cancer. He was 58.
"Mike brought tremendous spirit and energy to the building each and every day," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement. "As I'm sure was the case with every organization he worked for, we were very thankful and better off for the time he spent with us."
Heimerdinger's lone season with the Jets began abruptly, went south quickly and ended with an ugly divorce.
He was hired by then-coach Herm Edwards immediately after the team's crushing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 AFC divisional playoffs. The changed happened so quickly that Heimerdinger bumped into Paul Hackett, the outgoing coordinator, in the Jets' facility on the day he was hired.
Heimerdinger was a well-respected offensive mind -- he came from a successful stint at the Titans' coordinator -- but he was undermined by injuries. The Jets lost quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler to season-ending injuries in Week 3, and they wound up finishing 4-12. They ended up using five different quarterbacks that season.
"As I've heard, he fought this cancer with all he had and, when I hear that, I think about my short time with him for the '05 season," said guard Brandon Moore, the only holdover on offense from the '05 season. "There were a lot of obstacles that year, but through it it all, he was just as tough and demanding as ever, even down to the last meaningless game."
Despite the adversity, Heimerdinger never lost his sense of humor, which made him popular among players.
Edwards was replaced by Eric Mangini, who wanted to hire his own coordinator. But instead of allowing Heimerdinger to leave, Mangini kept him against his will, leading to a six-day standoff that made big headlines in the New York newspapers.
Eventually, Heimerdinger gained his freedom by waiving the final two years of his contract, and $2.2 million in salary, to join the Denver Broncos, where he was reunited with longtime friend Mike Shanahan.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.