Jack Pardee was raised in Texas and played for 13 seasons in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams.
But when his head coach of five years, George Allen, headed to Washington in 1971, and even though he had no familiarity with the East Coast, the linebacker aspired to join him. Allen had similar feelings and traded for the veteran.
“I was a player/coach back then, a deal I’d worked out with George,” said Pardee. “And with him leaving, I wanted to go with him as a coach, or as a player, or whatever. I was going to be leaving the Rams. If they hadn’t worked out a trade, I was going to retire.
“I didn’t want to be playing for someone else. He meant everything to me.”
He continued his coach-on-the-field persona and helped the Redskins open the season with five straight wins and compile a 9-4-1 record, the team’s highest number of victories since they won 10 games in 1942.
“It was a real fun experience. And the fans in Washington, after being in Los Angeles with the blasé fans, as many of them rooted for the opposing team as the home team, were really a breath of fresh air. And to have the immediate success was a great experience,” said Pardee.
“The fun that we were having with the group that George had put together, getting Diron Talbert, Ron McDole, Verlon Biggs, defensively; they had done a big rebuilding job. Of course, there was a good group leftover, too, in Pat Fischer, Mike Bass, and Chris Hanburger.
“There was about half leftover and half a new group that blended together beautifully. We had fun working out, we had fun on the practice field, and we had fun playing.”
If the 1971 campaign was fun, the following season with an 11-3 record and the NFC championship title could have been considered a riot. Well, that was up until Super Bowl VII when the Redskins fell to destiny-bound undefeated Miami Dolphins.
“We were the last team to beat them, in a preseason game [27-24 on August 31] at RFK Stadium,” Pardee said. “By doing that, we really felt good going in that we could handle them.
“Unfortunately, the worst game we played that year was in the Super Bowl.”
A Linebacker’s Back and In Charge
With 15 years of experience (two in Washington) as a player and player/coach, and one season as an assistant coach, also with the Redskins, Jack Pardee followed his mentor George Allen’s footsteps in 1975 and became a head coach himself when he accepted the top job with the Chicago Bears.
“I’d end of changing some terminology, and we didn’t necessarily use the same offensive or defensive plays, but the way you go about preparing, I tried to do primarily the same thing he did,” said Pardee.
When Allen left Washington three years later and its head coaching job became available, Pardee could not blow out of the Windy City fast enough. He became the 16th head coach in Redskins history on January 24, 1978.
“In Chicago at that time, we were playing at Soldiers Field, and they were getting ready to condemn it because of infrastructure and everything else,” said Pardee, who was 20-22 with the Bears. “We didn’t have a workout facility after Thanksgiving [because of the weather]. We managed to make the playoffs [in 1977], but I saw us having a hard time trying to get any further with the situation there.
“In Washington with Edward Bennett Williams [as the owner], whatever you needed to win, the team was able to get. And even though we didn’t have many draft choices, I thought we could get by until we get in the draft again.
“With the conditions and situations, I thought we’d have a better chance to succeed than in Chicago.”
Not having many draft choices was not an exaggeration. Allen had dealt numerous picks away in previous trades. Washington’s first selection in the 1978 draft didn’t occur until the sixth round.
Nevertheless, under Pardee, the Redskins opened the 1975 season with six consecutive victories, their best start in 35 years.
They, however, only managed to win two more games over the course of the remaining schedule and finished at 8-8.
“It was a little bit scheduling, and we were winning close games,” Pardee said. “Mike Thomas was having a real good season [before he was injured] in the fifth or sixth game, so we lost a running back and all of a sudden, we started losing those one-point games.
“We had a running back that was having an All-Pro-type year at the time, and we just didn’t get him replaced.”
In 1979 Pardee led Washington to a 10-6 record and was named as the NFL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.
But there was no chance of winning the award back-to-back after the team went 6-10 in 1980. Needless to say, he and then-owner Jack Kent Cooke were disappointed.
Something that may have made Pardee’s job even more difficult was a strained relationship with general manager Bobby Beathard.
“I hired him. And then I guess he made a hit with the owner and things changed,” said Pardee. “Yeah, it disappointed me, but that’s life. It was just like any coach and whoever makes personnel decisions. My third year there, Beathard wouldn’t re-sign [tight end] Jean Fugett or [receiver] Danny Buggs and [running back John] Riggins wasn’t there [because of a contract dispute]. I mean, gol’ darn, who are we going to have on offense? All our production from the year before, it wasn’t there.”
Cooke relieved Pardee of his duties on January 5, 1981, and replaced him with Joe Gibbs.
The excerpts are from a book about the Redskins “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins…” by Jim Gehman. It is a series of first-person anecdotes and remembrances with dozens of Washington’s former players and coaches dating back to Sammy Baugh.