Danny White, the only coach in the Utah Blaze franchise history, resigned Monday afternoon.
White, who joined the expansion Blaze three years ago as the team's coach and general manager after a successful Arena Football League career coaching the Arizona Rattlers, was at the end of his original three-year contract.
"After a lot of thought and soul-searching and conferring with my family, I have decided to resign from the Utah Blaze," said White in a prepared statement issued by the team. "It's time for me to take a break. It's been a long, hard season, but I have never been more proud of any team that I have coached because of the way they came back."
The Blaze started the season 0-9, and White himself admitted he and his team weren't getting the job done and said he would understand if the team's ownership, led by John Garff, and president Jason Jones would want to make a midseason change. Instead, Garff told the team White and the rest of the coaching staff would stay through the remainder of the season.
Subsequently, the Blaze turned the season around by winning six of their final seven games and earning a home playoff game. They lost 49-44 to the Colorado Crush at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, ending their season and dropping the team's all-time playoff record to 0-3.
"Danny has been the face of our organization since the inception of the franchise, and we appreciate his tireless effort and diligence over the last three seasons in putting us on the AFL map. His effort will not be forgotten," Garff said in a statement. "Danny has been a tremendous ambassador for the league and our franchise and has represented the organization in a manner consistent with the Garff family values and for that we are indebted to him."
In three seasons with the Blaze, White, reportedly the highest-paid coach in the AFL, compiled a 21-30 (.412) overall record. His first team in 2006 went 7-9 and lost a playoff game at Arizona, where he had coached for 13 years. The 2007 Blaze, a team that dealt with the midseason death of popular player Justin Skaggs to issues related to brain cancer, finished at .500 during the regular season at 8-8. They lost at Los Angeles in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
"I am grateful for everyone in the organization," White, 56, said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better."
White's overall AFL coaching record is 163-95 (.632), including a postseason record of 20-13 (.606). He led the Rattlers to five ArenaBowls and won the league title twice, in both 1994 and 1997. White, a 2002 inductee to the AFL Hall of Fame, is second in all-time AFL victories.
While White is well known in AFL circles as a longtime coach, he is better known nationally for being a punter and record-setting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in the late 1970s and '80s. He followed Cowboys legend Roger Staubach as the starting QB and led Dallas to three consecutive NFC championship games from 1980 to 1982. Prior to his professional playing days, White had been an All-American at Arizona StateThe Blaze will launch a comprehensive search for a new head coach. One in-house candidate would be Blaze defensive coordinator Ron James, who was previously a head coach in the AFL for the Las Vegas Gladiators.