No longer a child, not yet middle-aged, and still finding their place in the NFL world.

...the 30-year wall of silence is an impressive achievement for a League that leaks as a lifestyle.

He recommended Jack Patera enthusiastically for the Seahawks...

The letter C is coming soon!

The Seahawks used Williams’ local reputation as a promotional tool, as they would do (very briefly) with Ahmad Rashad.

The average Seahawk selected in the veteran allocation is 6-2, 222 pounds, just under 26 years old and is entering his fourth NFL season.

The Seahawks played the Rams...facing off against future Seahawk coaches Chuck Knox, Tom Catlin and Ken Meyer. decided early to pursue coaches with no NFL head coaching experience.

Patera had the boldness to recruit 3 coaches with no NFL service...

...why was there no place for one of the ultimate local heroes of the early 1970s – Sonny Sixkiller?

Thompson may have looked on paper like a conservative and safe manager for a new team with first-time owners, but...

...reports from the camp are unclear as to who did the special team evaluations.

As a defensive coach, Jack Patera valued his linebackers.

Maybe we'll come up with something soon!

...nobody else on the Seahawks squad took their dislike quite to the extent of Ahmad Rashad.

The Nordstroms were an obvious possibility because of their wealth and local presence.

Approximately 14 members of that squad would never play for the Seahawks again.

A simple lesson in draft history is to list the fate of quarterbacks for several years before 1976.

Jack Patera was unable to take a single Redskin veteran from the allocation list.

...the Seahawks’ offense would be directed by 3 men who had 2 years of NFL experience between them

Terry Brown’s Seahawk career lasted less than 24 hours.

...we think this story might just have been a good Patera Prank!

While Patera had an inside edge on stocking his team with Vikings, he only chose one Viking from the allocation...

Character would clearly play a part...

Patera lived up to his code of we will tolerate you until we can replace you...

Yes! We will have something for Y eventually!

What more need we say?

H is for the Head Coach

He’s had the experience and he’s the right age to make the jump. He has the temperament, and he’s attuned to the modern-day football player.

(Bud Grant, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks Media Guide 1976, page 16)

There are two Jack Pateras.

The Jack Patera that’s more familiar to people is the tired, unhappy and frustrated head coach fired in 1982 as his plans for the Seahawks fell apart with his strike-shattered team. But the Jack Patera of 1976, Coach of the Year for 1979, should not be forgotten along the way.

If the decision not to recruit a former head coach was a surprise, Patera himself was hardly a shock choice for the Seahawks. His credentials had clearly marked him as a future head coach, backed by the honest support of one of the top head coaches of the time in Bud Grant. His first 3 seasons as an assistant had been losing ones, but his next 10 would break even at worst:

1963 Rams 5-9
1964 Rams 5-7-2
1965 Rams 4-10
1966 Rams 8-6
1967 Giants 7-7
1968 Giants 7-7
1969 Vikings 12-2
1970 Vikings 12-2
1971 Vikings 11-3
1972 Vikings 7-7
1973 Vikings 12-2
1974 Vikings 10-4
1975 Vikings 12-2

The Vikings’ dominance was built on a scrambling offense, fierce defense and an inspired coach in Bud Grant, which would have given Patera a solid opportunity to understand how success can be built using a wide variety of materials.

On the subject, an aspect of his personality that appears to have been lost under the cliché of “defensive coach” was his understanding of offense. His defense had scrimmaged against Fran Tarkenton, as well as playing against the Cowboy and Steeler offenses that cost the Vikings more than one Super Bowl victory; but it didn’t automatically follow that he would learn so much from those encounters to partner Jerry Rhome in the development of the offense. But Patera was frequently called on in 1976 to apply and explain his offensive philosophy, and he did so with deep and practical knowledge.

Another asset Patera brought to the Seahawks turned out to be tremendous confidence in his staff. As noted (see Staff), Patera had the boldness to recruit 3 coaches with no NFL service, and turn his offense over to coaches and players with very little pro experience. Patera wasn’t in a position to mentor them full-time and fill in any gaps, but he gave the offensive coaches plenty of room to find their feet and develop their skills. As a first-time coach, this could have been a career-ending mistake: it took great confidence and nerve to make it work.

Another part of Patera’s approach was his knowledge that he would start the pre-season by having to build on what he had first recruited, and would have to keep doing that through the season.

He knew that many of his veteran recruits (especially on the defensive line) would not remain in Seattle for long, and he would have to have replacements prepared and ready to step in sooner rather than later. It was a plan that would ultimately fall apart at the end of his 6 years as head coach, when his replacements failed to produce significant improvements in the team; but developing a plan like this would again call on his confidence at every step.

However, there are questions surrounding Patera’s coaching.

Bart Wright and Sheldon Spencer’s Seahawks history includes a story that may shed some light on the consequences of Patera’s approach. Linebacker Michael Jackson had been with the team since 1979, and he tells of the impact that Reggie McKenzie made when Chuck Knox brought him to the team in 1983:

McKenzie’s role in the transition of the Seahawks from a perennial loser into a consistent playoff team was at least important off the field as on the field.

“Every team has team meetings with players-only and we had them before Reggie got here,” Jackson said, “but they were different (after McKenzie arrived). We’d always speak in generalities about ‘Let’s do it on the field,’ and ‘Let’s come to the defense of our teammates,’ and all of that sort of thing. I remember one meeting in particular with Reggie where he got up in front of us and started pointing out mistakes we’d made — finger pointing at teammates. That was something that never happened in a Seattle Seahawks locker room, I can assure you. He would praise you, too, but the point was, in the privacy of our locker room, it was OK to criticize each other face-to-face, but we were never going to do that stuff in the newspapers. It was face-to-face confrontation, sorting things out, and it was accepted. A man is supposed to be able to take some of that and for as much as we resented it at first, Reggie helped us all grow up a little.”

(Bart Wright and Sheldon Spencer, Seahawks: An In-Depth History of the Seattle Seahawks, 1991, pages 102–103)

McKenzie’s years with Chuck Knox in Buffalo had taught him what it really took to become a long-term contender, and allowed him to see the gap between that level of commitment and how the Seahawks saw and prepared themselves.

Wright and Spencer also identified other things that might reflect Patera’s style:

The change from Zorn to Krieg involved more than a lefthanded quarterback and one who threw from the right side of his body.

“Jim would never say anything negative,” [John] Sawyer said. “He would get killed by the pass rush, or you could drop a pass and he would never give up, never tell you that you did wrong. He wouldn’t tell nobody nothing. If the same thing happened to Dave, he’d tell you in no uncertain terms. He made sure you would understand what you did wrong.”

(Wright and Spencer, page 100)

“I respected Chuck [Knox] as a coach,” [Michael] Jackson said. “I had heard from other guys that he knew how to win, and he was impressive to meet and listen to, but there was also this feeling that the Seahawks were our team and he was threatening to take it away and make something different out of it. I think a lot of us felt protective about who we were and what we had done. We thought we were actually a pretty good football team, but it came across to me like we weren’t nearly good enough for them.” (Wright and Spencer, page 93)

If there’s a pattern here, it comes from the central figures of the coaching staff. Patera seems to have established a system in which he and his coaches took responsibility for appraisal, criticism and analysis: it was not the team’s job to analyze itself and definitely not the job of the nominal team leaders such as the quarterback to impose themselves. As a result, Chuck Knox inherited a locker room in which players were comfortable about themselves because they didn’t make each other accountable: that was someone else’s job.

A system in which there is no deep and specific self-criticism, even away from the coaches, will leave issues unresolved over time. If players are inhibited from working through their issues in the locker room, it must have a long-term effect on how they train, play and relate to each other.

Perhaps Patera’s wish for control of his built-from-scratch organization went too far in the direction of leaving his players unaccountable to each other. Accountable to the coach, yes, but that isn’t the same thing. |
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