Jack Patera is one of the most colorful characters in Seattle Seahawks history, and the team’s original coach also is one of the more misunderstood personalities from the franchise’s first 35 seasons.
Sherman Smith discussed Patera in this recap of the 1977 season.
Smith was the leading rusher on that team – as well as the 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1982 teams. He now coaches the Seahawks’ running backs, and does it by using some lessons and techniques he picked up from Patera, who coached the team from 1976 through the first two games of the strike-shortened ’82 season.
“As player, what he did to me was, he showed a deal of respect to the players,” Smith said. “He was honest, and I loved his honesty.
“He was awesome, and I thought he did a nice job taking control of our situation. He had a plan. I enjoyed playing for him, and I think guys respected him because of his honesty. I’ve taken that with me as a coach: Just be honest with guys.”
Patera also had a coach-through-his-assistant-coaches approach that still makes Smith laugh.
“It would be funny,” Smith said, shaking his head. “I’d be standing next to (running backs coach) Andy MacDonald and Jack would come over and say, ‘Andy, would you tell Sherman to do this.’ And I’m standing right there. He could tell me himself.
“But Andy would do it. Jack would have the coaches coach the players, and he’d coach the coaches. It was funny when he would do that.”
That doesn’t mean Patera was lacking when it came to having a rapport with his players. To the contrary.
“Right before the final cut, guys would come to Jack and say, ‘Hey Jack, I’d like to bring my family to town. Can I go ahead and do it?’ ” Smith recalled. “Sometimes, Jack would say, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ But there were times Jack would say, ‘Nah, I think you’d better wait. We’re not sure yet.’
“Guys really appreciated that.”
Including the late Louis Bullard, who started at left tackle on the 1980 team before damaging a knee.
“I remember Louis telling me that he went in to see Jack,” Smith said. “He said to Jack, ‘I want a chance to win my job back.’ Jack said, ‘Louis, you’ve got to be concerned about having a job.’
“I’m sure that was tough to hear. But Louis told me, ‘I appreciated Jack’s honesty. He told me the truth.’ ”