Former Rams linebacker Jack Pardee (No. 32) closes in on a tackle. He played 13 seasons for the Rams. (Photo courtesy of AP Images)
For 13 years, Jack Pardee gave all he had to the Rams organization but that spirit and will carried him through each of his 76 years on the planet.
Pardee died Monday night after a battle with gall bladder cancer, an ailment his family announced in November of last year. At the time, he was told he’d have six to nine months to live. He died in a Denver hospice at 76.
The Rams released the following statement late Monday evening.
“The Rams organization is saddened by the death of Jack Pardee, a great player who was one of the most courageous men to ever don a Rams uniform. For 13 seasons, Jack gave everything he could to the organization, so much so that he eagerly returned to the field after winning a battle with cancer during the middle of his playing career. On the football field, he experienced success as a player and coach at every level of the game. Off the field, he was a family man and true gentleman. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Pardee family.”
In addition to his 13 years with the Rams, Pardee played two years in Washington where he also became coach for three more years in 1978. He then went on a coaching odyssey that included seven head coaching jobs at the pro and college ranks, most famously as the conductor of the “Run and Shoot” offense for the Houston Oilers. All of that followed a successful college career at Texas A&M, where he was one of Bear Bryant’s famous “Junction Boys” and a two-time All American linebacker.
The Rams used the 14th pick in the 1957 NFL Draft on Pardee and immediately became one of the defense’s core players. In 1963, Pardee earned his first All Pro honors and seemed to be right in the middle of his prime.
But on Pardee’s 28th birthday, on April 19, 1964, he was diagnosed with melanoma when a cancerous tumor was discovered on the back of his right arm. The surgery and ensuing recovery didn’t keep Pardee from continuing to play, though.
Only a few months after the operation, Pardee returned to the Rams and played all 14 games in 1964. He would step away from the team for the 1965 season to be an assistant coach at his alma mater but came back to the Rams the following season and finished his time with the Rams after five more seasons before ending his playing days as a Redskin.
Taking what he learned from legendary coaches such as Bryant, Sid Gillman and George Allen, Pardee didn’t take long to dive into the coaching ranks.
In 1974, Pardee began his coaching career as the head coach of the Florida Blazers of the World Football League. He took his first NFL job the following year with the Chicago Bears, where he coached from 1975 to 1977, leading them to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years in his final season there.
Pardee moved back to Washington to coach the Redskins in 1978 before being fired in 1980 after narrowly missing the playoffs. A short one-year stint as the defensive coordinator in San Diego paved the way to a return to Texas where he became the head coach of the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League.
It was there that Pardee worked with future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and began to formulate the offensive philosophy that would make the previously defensive-oriented coach known for his offensive acumen.
Using a fast-paced, high octane passing game that would become known as the “Run and Shoot,” Pardee and Kelly led an offensive revolution that would eventually translate to the NFL. Pardee coached the Gamblers through the 1985 season before the league disbanded in 1986.
It didn’t take long for Pardee to get back on the sidelines, moving to the college ranks to coach the University of Houston in 1987. Carrying the run and shoot offense with him to Houston, Pardee had quarterback Andre Ware lighting up the college game and becoming the first African-American signal caller to win the Heisman Trophy.
When sanctions left over from the previous coaching regime came down on the program in 1989, Pardee stayed in Houston but was able to return to the NFL as he took over as head coach of the Oilers in 1990.
From 1990-94, Pardee led the run and shoot with the Oilers and quarterback Warren Moon. Houston earned playoff berths in each of Pardee’s first four seasons. He would resign from the team during the 1994 season after a 1-9 start. Current Rams coach Jeff Fisher, whom Pardee hired as his defensive coordinator before that season, replaced Pardee.
Pardee finished his coaching career with one season in charge of the Birmingham Barracudas of the Canadian Football League.
All told, Pardee went 22-11-1 in the college ranks and 87-77 with five playoff appearances in 11 years at the NFL level.
Current Tennessee coach Mike Munchak, who played for Pardee in Houston, said in a statement released last night that Pardee was an inspiration to him in many ways.
“We lost a great coach and, more importantly, a great man today,” Munchak said in the statement. “I truly admired his passion for football and was especially inspired by his love of the history of the game. He often shared stories of his NFL playing days to motivate his players, which has greatly influenced the way that I now coach my players. Coach Pardee will surely be missed.”
Pardee was born on April 19, 1936 in Exira, Iowa. He moved with his family to Christoval, Texas as a teenager, where he played six-man football. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
Pardee is survived by wife Phyllis, with whom he was married for more than 50 years, five children and 12 grandchildren.