Ex-Bears coach Jack Pardee passes away at 76

Ex-Bears coach Jack Pardee passes away at 76
April 1, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Jack Pardee, Walter Payton’s first coach in the NFL and one of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary “Junction Boys” at Texas A&M, has died of gallbladder cancer, his family announced Monday. Pardee was 76.

Pardee succeeded Abe Gibron as Bears head coach in 1975, the year the Bears drafted Payton and defensive end Mike Hartenstine. He had the Bears in the 1977 playoffs, a lofty height they had not reached since the 1963 championship season.

““The Bears family was saddened to hear of Jack Pardee’s passing,” Bears Chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “Coach Pardee’s time with us was only three seasons, but he made an impact by ending a 14-year playoff drought in 1977. It was a spark that led toward a great decade of Bears football. Our prayers go out to his family.”

Pardee is the only man to coach teams in the NCAA (Houston), NFL (Bears, Washington, Houston), USFL (Houston Gamblers), World Football League (Florida Blazers) and Canadian Football League (Birmingham Barracudas).

Pardee coached the Bears to a 20-22 record from 1975-77, capped off by winning the final six games of the ’77 season to go from 3-5 to the postseason. “Pardee came in and we were in the playoffs in his third year,” linebacker Doug Buffone told George Halas biographer Jeff Davis in “Papa Bear.”

Pardee then abruptly resigned after the Bears’ 37-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. He had his sights set on the job with the Washington Redskins, where he had played and coached, and turned down overtures to re-sign with the Bears.

The departure left players and Halas upset.

“[He] kind of jumped ship on us bad and I never appreciated that, ever,” Hartenstine later said. “It came down to the understanding that he was going to get the Washington job if he got us into the playoffs in ’77.”

Pardee’s toughness was beyond dispute. Bryant took his 1955 Texas A&M team to rural Junction, Tex., for a brutal 10-day during a time of severe heat and drought in the state.

Pardee came through the ordeal with teammates that included future NFL player and coach Gene Stallings but did not include water breaks in temperatures that Pardee later said would have him losing as much as 10 percent of his body weight from the sometimes three-a-day practices.

He got his start in the game playing six-man football in Christoval, Tex. He went on to become an All-American linebacker under Bryant at Texas A&M and a two-time All-Pro, with the Los Angeles Rams (1963) and Redskins (1971). The Rams made Pardee their second-round pick in the 1957 draft and he played for them through 1970 before going to Washington.

Pardee was voted into the college football Hall of Fame as a player in 1986.