|Date of birth||January 24, 1937|
|Place of birth||Kingsburg, California|
|Date of death||September 16, 2009(aged 72)|
|Place of death||Detroit, Michigan|
|Height||6 ft 6 in (198 cm)|
|Weight||260 lb (120 kg)|
|NFL Draft||1958 / Round: 4 / Pick: 41|
|San Francisco 49ers
Monte Dale Clark (January 24, 1937 - September 16, 2009) was an American football player who served as head coach for two National Football League teams: the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions.
Clark played collegiately for three years at the University of Southern California. In 1958, he was named a captain of the squad, playing on both sides of the line with future Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Mix.
Clark was selected in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL Draft by the 49ers. After three years of playing both offense and defense, primarily at defensive tackle, Clark was traded to the Dallas Cowboys on September 10, 1962. For the rest of his career, he would only see action as an offensive tackle.
Following one year in the Lone Star state, Clark was traded to the Cleveland Browns on April 30, 1963 in exchange for fellow offensive lineman Jim Ray Smith. However, in the first exhibition game with his new team on August 10, Clark suffered a knee injury which never fully recovered during the course of the campaign.
Clark would become a staple at right tackle for six seasons. In the 1964 NFL Championship Game against the Baltimore Colts, Clark put his talents on display as he neutralized Colts' defensive end and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Gino Marchetti. The end result was a stunning 27-0 Browns victory.
Another solid season by Clark the following year saw the Browns once again reach the NFL title game. However, his 1966 season was disrupted when he suffered a torn biceps late in the year, an injury that forced off-season surgery.
After Clark announced his retirement, he was hired as the Miami Dolphins' offensive line coach on April 8, 1970, working under their new mentor, Don Shula. Shula hired Clark over the phone without an interview following glowing endorsements from Blanton Collier (Browns Head Coach) and 49ers head coach Dick Nolan. Clark's timing proved excellent when Shula helped transform the moribund franchise into a dynasty. During the final two years of his tenure, Clark served as the team's offensive coordinator.
In Miami, Clark built what many consider one of the best offensive lines in NFL history, as Larry Little and Jim Langer are both in the Hall of Fame, while Bob Kuechenberg continues to be nominated every year. This line not only helped set a new all-time rushing record, but also became the first team ever to have two backs rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season, including Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka. Clark was asked about Csonka's bruising running style, and responded with this great quote. "When Csonka goes on safari, the lions roll up their windows."
During those six years of success in Miami, Clark was under consideration by teams to become their head coach, including his old team, the Browns in 1975. However, his first head coaching opportunity would come one year later, when his original team, the 49ers, hired him on January 13, 1976, making him the league's youngest head coach at the time.
As essentially the team's general manager, one of Clark's early moves was to acquire quarterback Jim Plunkett from the New England Patriots. He also put together a tough defensive line that had 30 sacks in the first six games of the 1976 NFL season. After winning six of the first seven games, the 49ers dropped a 23–20 overtime decision to the St. Louis Cardinals, a defeat that began a tailspin in which the team ended the year with an 8–6 record.
In March 1977, the 49ers' franchise was sold to Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. DeBartolo's ownership came with baggage: General Manager Joe Thomas. Clark was familiar with Thomas from his days with the Dolphins and knew of the chaos and disruption he would bring to the 49ers. DeBartolo offered Clark more money and an extended contract to give up his player personnel duties to Thomas. Standing by his principles and with integrity Clark refused to give up his personnel duties, and was fired on April 6. Clark's actions would ring true as Thomas would go on to oversee the worst stretch of football in the team's history burning through four coaches in three years.
After sitting out the 1977 NFL season, Clark found a new challenge when he was hired as head coach of the Detroit Lions on January 11, 1978. Clark again had complete personnel control of a team, and finished with a 7–9 record in his first season. However, in 1979, a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Gary Danielson during the preseason left the Lions without an experienced signal caller and resulted in a disastrous 2–14 campaign. The one bright spot in that season was that Detroit selected first in the 1980 NFL draft, with the team picking Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims. The resurgent Lions improved by seven games that year, winning five of their first six games and capturing a share of the NFC Central Division title, but a late-season slide caused them to lose a tie-breaker with the Vikings and keep them out of the playoffs.
An 8-8 season in 1981 was followed by a 4-5 record in the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season. However, because of the expanded playoff system resulting from the strike, the Lions reached the postseason. Their appearance would be brief as they dropped a 31-7 opening round decision to the Washington Redskins, who went on to win Super Bowl XVII.
A slow start that saw the Lions win just one of their first five games in 1983 quickly changed when the Lions bounced back to capture the division title with a 9-7 record. As a huge underdog against the 49ers, the Lions nearly pulled off a major upset before losing 24-23. Detroit had led 23-17 with five minutes remaining, but San Francisco quickly took back the lead. In the closing seconds, Lions' kicker Eddie Murray, who had made a 54-yard field goal in the first half, narrowly missed a 43-yard attempt with 11 seconds to go, putting an end to Detroit's season. As Murray lined up to attempt the potential game-winning field goal, on the sidelines Clark put his hands together in an apparent prayer (the "prayer" was replayed often and was recently sited by ESPN as one of the Lions' most memorable moments.) Whenever asked about that unanswered prayer, Monte would respond, "It was answered, but the answer was No".
Clark's final year saw the Lions collapse after a career-ending knee injury to Sims, finishing with a 4-11-1 mark. On December 19, 1984, the inevitable resulted when Clark was dismissed, a move that kept him out of football for the next five years until his return as Director of Player Personnel for the Dolphins in February 1990. Five years later, Clark was again hired as offensive line coach of the Dolphins, but the tenure lasted only one year after Shula was replaced by Jimmy Johnson. Out of football for two years, Clark resurfaced as an assistant at the University of California, Berkeley in 1998, but resigned at the conclusion of that season.
Clark returned to the Detroit Lions organization in 1999 as a special advisor. He died on September 16, 2009 from bone cancer that spread into his liver and lungs.
His son, Monte "Bryan" Clark, played football at Michigan State
- Lubinger, Bill & Peticca, Mike. "Monte Clark, Browns tackle in 1960s, dies at 72," The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), Thursday, September 17, 2009.
- Darlington, Jeff. "Former Miami Dolphins assistant coach Monte Clark dies at 72," The Miami Herald, Thursday, September 17, 2009.
- Monarrez, Carlos. "Former Lions coach Monte Clark dies at 72," Detroit Free Press, Thursday, September 17, 2009.
- Monarrez, Carlos. "Monte Clark, 1937–2009: Lions coach beloved for humor, savvy," Detroit Free Press, Friday, September 18, 2009.
- O'Hara, Mike. "Late Monte Clark respected in all quarters," The Detroit News, Friday, September 18, 2009.