Dennis Thurman

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Dennis Thurman
Position: Defensive coordinator
Personal information
Date of birth: (1956-04-13) April 13, 1956 (age 61)
Place of birth: Los Angeles, California
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 176 lb (80 kg)
Career information
High school: Santa Monica (CA)
College: USC
NFL Draft: 1978 / Round: 11 / Pick: 306
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career NFL statistics
Interceptions: 36
INT return yards: 562
Touchdowns: 4
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Dennis Lee Thurman (born April 13, 1956) is an American football coach and former player who was the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL). Before becoming a coach, he played cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Cardinals for nine seasons.

Early years[edit]

Thurman played high school football at Santa Monica High School where he was a quarterback and defensive back and was a part of three CIF Division I championship teams that combined to go 39-1-1. He is the older brother of Ulysses "Junior" Thurman who also attended Santa Monica High (1981) and went on to play college football at the University of Southern California and play in the National Football League (NFL).

College career[edit]

Thurman played college football at University of Southern California where he graduated in 1977 as a two-time All-America safety and flanker and was part of the 1974 National Champion team. Thurman played for John McKay and later for John Robinson and was teammates with Ronnie Lott while at USC while Lott was an underclassmen. Lott credits Thurman for his development as a player in his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech stating Thurman was someone who "helped me become a better football player."[1]

He was a member of the 1974 USC National Championship team and played on Trojan teams that won four bowl games (two Roses, a Liberty and a Bluebonnet).

In his Trojan career, he had 13 interceptions, of which two were returned for touchdowns, and led the Pac-10 Conference in interceptions with eight in 1976. Thurman also had 169 career tackles, 11 pass deflections and four fumble recoveries. He was USC's MVP in 1977 and won USC's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1977. He played in the 1978 Senior Bowl and was a 1977 Playboy Pre-Season All-American. He led USC in interceptions in 1976 (eight, tops in the Pac-8) and led USC in punt returns in 1976 (68 yards). Thurman is tied for sixth on USC's career interception list (13, including two intercepted fumbles).

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Thurman a fifth-year player from USC, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1978 NFL Draft, and although his experience was at safety, he originally made the team as a cornerback. He played in Super Bowl XIII in 1979 and recovered an onside kick.

In 1980, he won the starting free safety position but his play was inconsistent.[2] The next year Charlie Waters retired and cornerback Benny Barnes, was moved to strong safety, so Thurman was pressed into starting at cornerback, registering 9 interceptions.

Thurman had three interceptions, including a 39-yard return for touchdown to clinch a victory at Texas Stadium in the 1981–82 NFL playoffs second round against the Green Bay Packers.[3]

During the 1985 season quarterback Danny White nicknamed Thurman along with fellow safety Michael Downs and cornerbacks Everson Walls, Ron Fellows, "Thurman's Thieves", for their opportunistic play in the secondary. He was waived on August 26, 1986.[4]

St. Louis Cardinals[edit]

On August 28, 1986, he was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals, reuniting with head coach Gene Stallings who was his defensive secondary coach with the Cowboys.[5] He played safety and started three games. He was released on December 22.

Thurman never missed a game during his 137-game career and finished with 36 interceptions, which he returned for 562 yards and four touchdowns. He also recovered seven fumbles.

Coaching career (1988–89; 2002–present)[edit]

He made his NFL coaching debut with the Phoenix Cardinals, coaching defensive backs for two seasons (1988–89). He coached from 1993 to 2000 for his alma mater, the USC Trojans where he mentored future NFLers Chris Cash, Kris Richard, Daylon McCutcheon, Brian Kelly and Troy Polamalu.

Baltimore Ravens (2002–2007)[edit]

Thurman was part of the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff from 2002 to 2007.

Assistant Defensive Backs Coach (2002–2003)[edit]

New York Jets (2008–2014)[edit]

Defensive Backs Coach (2008–2012)[edit]

Thurman was named defensive backs coach upon the hiring of Rex Ryan as head coach of the Jets. During his tenure, he coached Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.[6] Revis and Cromartie were vital parts of the Jets defense, especially during the Jets' playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010. Under Thurman's coaching, Revis was described as "one of the best" corners in the league.[7] After five seasons, Thurman was promoted to defensive coordinator after the 2012 season.

Defensive Coordinator (2013–2014)[edit]

Thurman was named Defensive Coordinator prior to the 2013 season. In his first season, the Jets defense allowed 24.2 points per game against.[8] Thurman's defense was sixth in the league in his final season in New York, allowing 327.2 yards per game. They also finished in the top five among defenses against the running game.[9] Following the 2014 season, he joined Rex Ryan's coaching staff for the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo Bills (2015–2016)[edit]

On January 15, 2015, Thurman was hired by new head coach Rex Ryan to serve as the defensive coordinator.[10] Thurman was credited for helping cornerback Stephon Gilmore emerge.[11] The Bills ranked 19th in the league in defense in his first season[12] and 14th in 2016.[13] He was fired on January 14, 2017.


  1. ^ Lott, Ronnie; Roy Lott (July 29, 2000). "Ronnie Lott's Enshrinement Speech". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2011. 
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External links[edit]