Jack Pardee had a heck of a football career. If you've read any bios of him after his recent passing, you learned he was one of the famed Junction Boys, a College Football Hall of Famer, and a pretty decent coach, among other things. Pardee was also unafraid of taking coaching chances, implementing the slightly infamous run and shoot offense into his Houston Gamblers, University of Houston Cougars, and eventually, your Houston Oilers.
Now, I fully admit I didn't pay any attention to the USFL, aside from occasional glances at the Gamblers. Personally, I considered the league a bit of a joke, though in retrospect, this criticism was probably unwarranted. As is now well known, Mouse Davis installed the run and shoot for the Gamblers in 1984, and led by Jim Kelly, the team ran roughshod over the rest of the league. Then, in both 1984 and 1985, the Gamblers lost narrowly in the playoffs (harbinger alert!).
It was in 1987, after he was hired by the University of Houston, when I first truly paid attention to Pardee and the run and shoot. As the kind of guy who occasionally prescribes to a "sometimes the best defense is a good offense" theory, I was enamored with all those tiny WRs running around the field like a bunch of water bugs. Ya see, the run and shoot offense was driving defensive players insane, and it was a blast to watch. When Andre Ware started running the offense, the scheisse got real. In 1989, when The University of Texas at Austin upset the Cougars, Ware set 26 NCAA records. David Klingler would continue UH's reign of offensive terror the next year, but in 1990, Pardee took over a Houston Oilers squad that couldn't get past the first round of the playoffs in 1989 (irony alert!).
By this time, I'm in college. I'd watched a pretty crappy UT defense stop the run and shoot the year before, and I first started having doubts about the efficacy of the run and shoot. It was fun as hell to watch, but how would they ever be successful with a stone-handed #1 WR like Haywood Jeffires? Would Ernest Givins finally become the player I thought he could be? Would we finally do something about Jerry Glanville's pathetic defenses? His antics especially had long worn a hole in my weary soul.
In 1990, the defense improved greatly under Jim Eddy's steady hand, and the Oilers scored the second most points in the league. Huzzah! And Steve Jackson was not yet on the team! But the 5th best points differential in the NFL was only good for a 9-7 record. Next, a butt-whippin' in the Wild Card game at the hands of the Bengals. Whomp whomp.
1991 might've been the best Houston Oilers team in its history, as it was 4th in points scored, 6th in points allowed, and 4th in differential. Two Oilers (Jeffires and Drew Hill) had over 1,000 receiving yards, and Givins needed just four more to join that group. Sean Jones, William Fuller, Ray Childress, and Al Smith terrorized opposing QBs, And there aren't enough superlatives to describe the special teams play of Eugene (Hugene) Seale. The 11-5 record still relegated the team to a Wild Card game, which they actually won! Sadly, it would be Pardee's only playoff win in his entire career. He went 1-5 in the playoffs. Yeah.
And then 1992 happened (playoffs in 1993). Steve Jackson was there. So was Gregg Williams. Chris Palmer was the WRs coach. Richard Smith was the assistant offensive line coach, and Frank Bush coached linebackers. Yes, that Richard Smith. Yes, that Frank Bush. You can drink now.
Pardee would lead the Oilers to the playoffs again in 1993, skipping the Wild Card game completely for a change, when they would lose in a typically heart-breaking fashion to the Kansas City Chiefs, a clearly inferior team.
The 1994 squad started off 1-9, Pardee was fired, and by this point, Beelzebud already had one foot out the door with his overt blackmail of the city. Eff that guy.
Jack Pardee was a damn fine coach in the regular season. In the playoffs, however, the run and shoot offense repeatedly failed due to its, and his, inability to make even the tiniest adjustments. You really couldn't carry a FB or TE? Or at least teach a defensive lineman to block? Or use a sixth offensive lineman in goal line situations? No, he couldn't. In 1992, it was the defense that folded. In 1993, the offensive line didn't show. Neither time did we adjust in game. Jack Pardee was a damn fine coach in the regular season. This seems to be a theme in the history of Houston football. Harbinger alert?
Sadly, 1992 is, and will be, Pardee's football legacy. 1993 was painful, yes, but I cannot fathom anything worse than January 3, 1993. It's an unfortunate legacy, one rooted in one of the greatest disappointments in the history of professional sports. But it was well earned, and it embodies all of Pardee's failings as a coach in a single game.