RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Jack Patera, the first head coach in the history of the Seattle Seahawks, has died at age 85.
Patera died on Wednesday, the team said. The cause of death was not clear, but Patera had been battling pancreatic cancer.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jack Patera and extend our utmost sympathies and condolences to the Patera family,” read a statement from the Seahawks.
“We will remember coach Patera most for his big heart, sense of humor and genuine spirit.”
Patera was Seattle’s head coach for parts of seven seasons, beginning with the team’s inaugural season in 1976. Patera’s best seasons came in 1978-79 when the Seahawks went 9-7 in consecutive years, but failed to make the playoffs. Patera was named the NFL coach of the year in 1978 when the Seahawks missed the playoffs by one game.
Seattle never reached the postseason until 1983. Patera was fired after starting the 1982 season 0-2 and finished his career as a head coach with a 35-59 record.
Before joining the Seahawks, Patera was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. Patera also had a seven-year playing career with the Baltimore Colts, Chicago Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys between 1955-61.
Former Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn tweeted that his favorite memories of Patera included the fact the head coach liked to be called Jack, and the Seahawks always had a fake field goal in the game plan.
“If you called him ‘coach,’ he would call you ‘player.'” Zorn wrote.
Current Seattle coach Pete Carroll said when former players from the early days of the Seahawks returned for alumni events Patera’s impact was obvious.
“He was a great coach, great human,” Carroll said. The guys who played for him really loved playing for him. … He was really important to all those guys and a lot of people. We’ll miss him.”