John Hadl, who became one of the former American Football League’s leading quarterbacks with the San Diego Chargers and then helped the Los Angeles Rams to an unexpected NFL playoff berth during a career spanning 16 professional seasons, died on Wednesday. He was 82 years old.
The University of Kansas, where Hadl played quarterback, announced the death. The statement did not say where he died or give the cause of his death.
When the AFL and NFL held separate drafts in 1962 long before the leagues merged, it was unclear whether Hadl was best suited to be a setter or a runner in professional play.
He had been an outstanding running back as a sophomore at Kansas, but played quarterback his final two seasons in a running-focused offense, earning All-America honors as a senior.
The Chargers (now the Los Angeles Chargers) selected Hadl in the third round of the AFL Draft, considering him their quarterback of the future. The Detroit Lions picked him in the first round of the National Football League draft (the No. 10 selection overall), planning to use him as a running back who could eliminate pass-run option plays.
“At halfback, I might have been successful for two, three years, maybe,” Hadl told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1994, when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. “At quarterback, you can play long if you’re successful, and that’s what happened.”
After signing with the Chargers, Hadl thrived under their head coach, Sid Gillman, who devised brilliant passing schemes.
“The league took on the philosophy that we were going to have an offensive show,” Hadl recalled in a 2006 interview with The Orlando Sentinel. “We were going to score as many points as possible and not focus on defense so that we could have as exciting a game as possible for the fans and for the televisions. It was our business card. »
Hadl’s favorite target was future Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth, known as Bambi for his graceful moves to evade defensive backs.
“I think John is in the top three or five that played the game,” Alworth told The Union-Tribune. “No. 1 he was a winner, and to me that’s what you judge people on when you look at their records.
The Chargers’ offense also included outstanding running backs Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln and a formidable offensive line led by tackle Ron Mix, another future Hall of Famer.
Hadl, who played for the Chargers from 1962 to 1972, had three AFL Championship games, a 51-10 crush of the Boston Patriots (now the New England Patriots) and two losses to the Buffalo Bills.
After the 1972 season, the Chargers traded Hadl to the Rams, who had sold quarterback Roman Gabriel to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams were 6-7-1 in 1972, but under new head coach Chuck Knox and buoyed by Hadl’s passing, they improved to 12-2.
Hadl, 33, threw four touchdown passes to Harold Jackson in the Rams’ 37-31 win over Dallas in the 1973 regular season and completed 135 of 258 passes for 2,008 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Rams lost to the Cowboys, 27-16, in the first round of the playoffs, but Hadl was the National Football Conference Player of the Year and started as a quarterback in the Pro Bowl game against England. American Football Conference. (After the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the NFL split into two conferences.)
Midway through the 1974 season, the Rams gave the No. 1 quarterback spot to James Harris, a fourth-year player who had been Hadl’s backup the previous year, and traded Hadl to the Green Bay Packers for five top draft picks. Hadl played for the Packers during the 1975 season, then concluded his career with the Houston Oilers in 1976 and 1977.
He was the AFL or NFL season leader in passing distance three times and the leader in completions and touchdown passes twice.
Hadl had 244 touchdowns and 33,503 yards in his 11 years with the Chargers and five years with the Rams, Packers and Oilers.
John Willard Hadl was born on February 15, 1940 in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the University of Kansas, the son of Jess and Judy Hadl. His father was a mechanic.
John was an all-state halfback at Lawrence High School. During his three seasons with Kansas, he rushed for 1,041 yards and passed for 1,345 yards. He led the nation in punting as a sophomore with an average of 45.6 yards.
After retiring as a player, Hadl served as an assistant coach for the Rams and first quarterback coach to John Elway, with the Denver Broncos in 1983. He was also head coach of the Los Angeles Express in the United States Football League of the 1980s.
Hadl also served as offensive coordinator for the Kansas football team and then spent 30 years with the university’s athletic department, mostly in fundraising, before retiring in 2018.
For all his success in the Chargers’ passing attack, Hadl was at times overshadowed by the hugely popular Alworth.
But Alworth felt the perception was unfair. “He had a lot of contact with his shots and he threw a really long ball, which was great for me,” he said. “I don’t really believe he got the credit he was due.”
#John #Hadl #AFLs #outstanding #quarterback #dies #aged