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A look back at Seattle coach Patera

7/23/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

There it is, smack in the middle of Sal Paolantonio's latest column: a reference to Jack Patera, the colorful first coach of the Seahawks. The column notes that Patera and quarterback Jim Zorn spent 85 games together without winning a Super Bowl, the fifth-longest streak of its kind. To leave it at that would be wasting an opportunity to share a colorful character with a new generation of fans.

You might remember Patera as the former Bud Grant assistant in Minnesota who played in the NFL after a Hall of Fame career at Oregon. He turns 75 on Aug. 1, having retreated to the Washington woods after leaving the NFL with a sense of bitterness that still lingered when I last saw him in 2004. Luckily, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's free archives allow for revisiting Jim Moore's terrific 1999 profile, You don't know Jack. An excerpt:

Realizing that opponents would be more gifted, Patera implemented strategies rarely seen in the NFL now. Trick plays were a Seahawks staple. ... Patera had Herman Weaver throwing out of punt formation or (Efren) Herrera on-side kicking at the unlikeliest of times. Patera's Seahawks preferred catching a rival off guard to running off guard. ... The Seahawks were the daring darlings of the 'Monday Night Football' highlights, becoming Howard Cosell's team of choice.

Former Seahawks receiver Steve Raible shared a funny Patera story when we collaborated on a book several years ago. Patera convinced an unwitting equipment staffer named Harry to track down a left-handed football for the southpaw Zorn.

"Harry, do you have the left-handed balls?" the imposing Patera barked as practice was starting.

Harry, apparently unsure if such footballs existed and not about to challenge Patera, said he thought he had brought them. Harry even ordered an underling to find them. Patera never told him there was no such thing.