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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday…Pat Haden

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Haden played one season in the World Football League for the Southern California Sun, which allowed him to attend school at Oxford University under his Rhodes Scholarship. His decision to go to the United Kingdom for schooling hurt his NFL possibilities as well as a lack of height (he stood 5-10) and lack of arm strength (he could barely throw passes beyond 50 yards) and he dropped to the 7th round of the NFL Draft

Haden made the Los Angeles Rams‘ roster in 1976 as the third quarterback behind James Harris and Ron Jaworski. When both Harris and Jaworski were injured, Haden was pressed into duty in the second game of the season. Running a low-risk offense to cover his limitations, he responded by playing mostly mistake-free football, letting running backs Lawrence McCutcheon and John Cappelletti shoulder the offensive load and passing only occasionally. Harris returned to the lineup as starting quarterback and Haden went back to a backup role. In a Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Harris played poorly in a 20-12 loss, and Rams head coach Chuck Knox was ordered by team owner Carroll Rosenbloom to bench Harris, who is black, in favor of Haden, who is white. This is documented in Knox’s autobiography Hard Knox: The Life of an NFL Coach and William Rhoden‘s Third and a Mile: The Trials and Triumph of the Black Quarterback. At the time of the quarterback change, Harris was the top-rated passer of the National Football Conference. The NFL records show that Harris finished as the NFC’s top-rated passer of 1976. Haden was clearly the beneficiary of the racism facing African American quarterbacks such as Harris during that time. Despite the change, the Rams went on to win the NFC Western Division title and a 14–12 upset of the defending NFC champion Dallas Cowboys in the opening round of the NFC playoffs, but the Rams fell to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game as the Vikings defense exposed Haden’s limitations (9-22 for 161 yards, 2 interceptions, 3 sacks).

The Rams wanted experience and a stronger arm at the quarterback position for the 1977 NFL season. Harris and Jaworski were traded, and the Rams acquired veteran QB Joe Namath from the New York Jets. Namath started the first four games, but it was evident his knees couldn’t take it anymore, so the Rams went back to Haden. The Rams took eight victories in the last 10 games, winning the NFC West and making the playoffs once again. Their first-round opponent was the Vikings at home, but the Rams lost 14–7 in the Mud Bowl. Haden’s small hands impaired his ability to grip the wet muddy ball, leading to a dismal passing performance (14-32 for 130 yards, 3 interceptions).

Haden was rewarded with the starting position from day one in 1978. The Rams started fast, going 8-0, but tailed off to 12-4, still winning their third straight NFC West Division title. Haden threw a pair of touchdown passes and led the Rams to a 34-10 victory against the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys, however, walloped the Rams 28-0 in the 1978 NFC Championship Game on their way to the Super Bowl. Haden was voted the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club NFC Player of the Year of the 1978 season.

Haden began the 1979 season as the starter, but a broken finger midway through the season sidelined him in favor of Vince Ferragamo. Ferragamo ended up leading the Rams to Super Bowl XIV.

Because of Rams’ coach Ray Malavasi‘s policy of giving an injured starter his job back, Haden began the 1980 season as the starter with Ferragamo as the backup. Haden was injured in the Rams season opener against the Detroit Lions. Ferragamo took over as the starter and didn’t relinquish the job (despite Haden returning mid-season), passing for a then Rams-record 30 touchdown passes.

Ferragamo, however, bolted the Rams for the Canadian Football League. Haden once again went into the 1981 season as starter, but was injured midway through the season. After the season, while recovering from knee surgery and contemplating retirement, he got a call from CBS about a broadcast job and decided to take the job.

Currently Haden is the Athletic Director at USC.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights…Pat Haden.

Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1981
Pass attempts: 1,363
Pass completions: 731
Percentage: 53.6
TDINT: 52-60
Passing Yards: 9,296
QB Rating: 69.6
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