Coy Bacon dies at 66; defensive lineman was named to three Pro Bowls

“He was the best pass rusher I ever saw. He had a very nimble body for a guy his size,” Cincinnati Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham said of the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Coy Bacon.
“He was the best pass rusher I ever saw. He had a very nimble body for a guy his size,” Cincinnati Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham said of the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Coy Bacon.
(Los Angeles Times)
From Times Staff Reports

Coy Bacon, a standout defensive lineman for the then-Los Angeles Rams as well as for the Chargers, Bengals and Redskins, and who was named to three Pro Bowls during his 14-year career, died Monday at his home in Ironton, Ohio, according to the Cincinnati Bengals. He was 66.

The cause of death was not reported.

“He was the best pass rusher I ever saw,” Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham said of the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Bacon. “He always gained ground . . . never wasted any steps. He could make you miss,” Lapham, a former offensive lineman, told the Cincinnati Enquirer some years ago. “He had a very nimble body for a guy his size.”

Bacon was born Lander McCoy Bacon on Aug. 30, 1942, in Cadiz, Ky. He played high school football in Ironton and college ball at Jackson State University but left college before graduation. He was never drafted by the NFL, starting his professional career with Charleston of the minor league Continental Football League.

The Dallas Cowboys eventually signed him to a free-agent contract. But Rams coach George Allen liked what he saw of Bacon in a rookie scrimmage and traded a fifth round draft choice for him in 1968.

At that time the Rams’ defensive line was populated by Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Roger Brown and Lamar Lundy.

Bacon spent much of 1968 on the reserve squad but was activated after an injury to Lundy. In 1969, he was elevated to starting right tackle after Brown broke his hand during the exhibition season. He moved to defensive end when Lundy retired after the 1969 season. He made the first of his three Pro Bowls as a member of the Rams.

Two years later, the Rams traded Bacon along with running back Bob Thomas to San Diego for quarterback John Hadl. In his first season with the Chargers, Bacon had an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown.

In 1976, he was traded to the Bengals for wide receiver Charlie Joiner.

In Cincinnati, the defensive lineman blossomed into the league’s top pass rusher, leading the NFL in quarterback sacks in 1976 with 26, according to the Bengals. (The NFL did not start officially tallying sacks until 1982.) He was selected to the Pro Bowl in both of his two years with Cincinnati.

“Coy was a tremendous player for the Bengals, the greatest pass rusher our team has ever had,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said in a statement. “After he left the team, he worked hard to make life better for youths in the Ironton area. What he did was admirable, something all of us respect. We are saddened by his passing.”

In 1978, Bacon was traded to the Redskins along with cornerback Lemar Parrish for a first-round draft pick. He recorded 15 sacks in 1979 and 11 the next year but was clearly on the downhill slide of his career. Despite being the Redskins’ top rusher, he was having problems with Joe Gibbs, then in his first season as head coach of the team, and was waived at the start of the 1981 season. He finished his career with the Washington Federals of the USFL in 1983.

After his playing days, Bacon worked briefly as a professional wrestler and had some trouble with the law. He was charged with possession of cocaine, a misdemeanor in Washington, and was later shot in the abdomen in an attack at his apartment.

Bacon later termed the shooting “a wake-up call.” He became a “born-again Christian” and left Washington for Ironton, where he found a job as a juvenile corrections officer.

He also spent some of his time coaching youth basketball. A comment on the website of the Ironton Tribune newspaper Monday reflected Bacon’s reputation in the small southern Ohio town: “Ironton has lost a true hero. Mr. Bacon has done so much for children of Ironton and he’ll be greatly missed. He coached my daughter in basketball several years ago and was such a positive influence. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

Information on survivors and funeral services was not immediately available.