Jack Patera, NFL player and first Seahawks coach, dies at 85

Getty Images

Jack Patera, an NFL offensive lineman and linebacker who later became the first head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, has died at the age of 85.

Patera played his college football at Oregon and was taken by the Baltimore Colts with the 44th overall pick in the 1955 NFL draft. He moved back and forth from guard on offense to middle linebacker on defense, but he eventually became frustrated that the team was moving him around so much, and he was cut from the Colts in 1958 after a dispute with coach Weeb Eubank.

After that Patera played two seasons for the Chicago Cardinals before he was chosen in the 1960 expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Injuries limited him to just four games in two seasons with the Cowboys before he retired.

His first job after retiring as a player was as the defensive line coach of the Los Angeles Rams in 1963. He would stay there for five seasons and coach the defensive line known as the Fearsome Foursome, and he later became a defensive assistant with the Minnesota Vikings and coached another great defense, the Purple People Eaters.

When Seattle was awarded an expansion team in 1976, Patera was named its head coach. After two tough seasons, Patera turned the Seahawks around in 1978, went 9-7 and won the Coach of the Year award. But the team never improved on that 9-7 record, started to regress, and he was eventually fired during the 1982 season.

“We didn’t have the great success,’’ Patera told the Seattle Times years later. “But we had an exciting team and good times. We had some fun times.’’

Still mentally sharp into his 80s, Patera remained a Seahawks fan and enjoyed their recent success, although he didn’t attend many games and said his favorite way to enjoy football was at home, by himself.

“I don’t want anybody coming around to distract me,’’ he said.

His survivors include two younger brothers who were also pro athletes, former professional wrestler and Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera and former 49ers kicker Dennis Patera.