Jack Pardee knew it was time.
When George Allen was fired as the Los Angeles Rams' coach after the 1970 season, Pardee told himself he was done in L.A., where he'd starred for 13 seasons as a Rams linebacker. He was either going to retire or play for Allen again at his next coaching stop.
That would be the Nation's Capital. Soon after becoming the Redskins' coach in January 1971, Allen traded for Pardee, who played two seasons in D.C., before retiring. In his 15-year career, he was consistently one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL. He later coached the Redskins for three seasons (1978-80), posting a 24-24 mark.
In April, Pardee passed away from gall bladder cancer at age 76. In an interview a few months before his death, he talked about how he was about to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Texas A&M, after Allen left L.A.
"I wanted to be a coach, so Texas A&M offered me kind of a graduate assistant job to help get me started," Pardee said. "George brought me back when he heard about that. He wanted me to play. So he made me a player-coach, and the only person I coached I guess was myself. Really the linebackers; it was a group that didn't need my coaching."
Pardee helped lead the Redskins to the playoffs twice, including an appearance in Super Bowl VII in the 1972 season. He was one of the "Ramskins," the six players Allen traded for from the Rams in a one-day deal in the 1971 offseason, and a member of the "Over The Hill Gang," Allen's collection of wily veteran players. Pardee, age 35 when the 1971 season began, was one of the oldest of the coach's "old geezers."
In one game, a 20-0 win over the Houston Oilers that improved the Redskins to 4-0 in 1971, Pardee dominated the highlights. He intercepted three passes and forced a fumble as the RFK Stadium crowd chanted, "Par-DEE, Par-DEE, Par-DEE" for the man who was later named AP Defensive Player of the Week. That season, he was one of several Redskins who earned All-NFC honors.
To Pardee, Redskins fans were special.
"I played in Los Angeles for more than a decade and loved it out there, but the fans could care less about the Rams," he said. "There'd be 100,000 people in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and you couldn't hear a sound.
"But at RFK Stadium, the fans were going crazy. People loved the Redskins. It's fun to play where the people enjoy what you're doing and want to be involved and have you come to their restaurant at night."
Pardee revered Allen, an innovator on defense and special teams and today a member of the Hall of Fame. In L.A., Pardee played five seasons on Allen-coached teams that went 49-17-4 and posted two playoff appearances. He sat out the 1965 season after undergoing surgery for a melanoma on his left arm, then made an inspiring comeback.
"George was a good teacher," Pardee said. "We'd go over scouting reports and did film work that I'd never been involved with before. We spent extra time in the classroom to cut down the time on the field.
"When you're a player, the contact and the time on the field is what wears you out more than the classroom meeting. I wanted to learn more about what he was doing, and I knew I'd want to be a coach someday and really wanted try to get the experience from who I considered the best."
At Texas A&M, Pardee learned from another legendary coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant, whom the Redskins considered hiring in the late-1940s. In addition to 323 wins in a nearly four-decade college coaching career, Bryant is remembered for taking more than 100 Texas A&M players in 1954 to a makeshift training camp near the tiny town of Junction in west Texas.
Bryant called for grueling drills in temperatures above 100 degrees. The 30 players who survived the boot camp, one of whom was Pardee, became famously known as "The Junction Boys."
"I was proud to be a part of that," said Pardee, who grew up in Christoval, Texas. "A&M was no Berkeley, California. Coach Bryant wanted to get the players off campus, away from their girlfriends. We were working out about three times a day in scorching heat."
Following retirement as a player, Pardee coached the World Football League's Florida Blazers (1974) and the Chicago Bears (1975-77) before coming to D.C. to replace his mentor, George Allen. His greatest season in Washington was in 1979, when the Redskins finished 10-6 but barely missed making the playoffs. He was named AP Coach of the Year.
He also coached the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League (1984-85), the University of Houston (1987-89) and the Houston Oilers (1990-94) – now the Tennessee Titans. His NFL coaching record is 87-77 with five playoff appearances.
Pardee is a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the National Football Foundation College Sports Hall of Fame. If there was a Pro Football Hall of the Very Good, he'd be part of that, too.