HOUSTON, April 2 (UPI) -- Former Chicago Bears coach Jack Pardee has died of gallbladder cancer at the age of 76, his family said.
Pardee coached the Bears from 1975 until 1977 and was Walter Payton's first head coach in the NFL, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.
The Texas football legend guided the Chicago Bears to a playoff appearance in 1977 and is credited with helping to turn the franchise around from the doldrums of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Bears Chairman George McCaskey issued a statement saying the Bears were saddened to hear of his passing.
"Coach Pardee's time with us was only three seasons, but he made an impact by ending a 14-year playoff drought in 1977," McCaskey said. "It was a spark that led toward a great decade of Bears football."
Pardee attended Christoval High School in Texas where he scored 57 touchdowns for his six-man football team in 1952.
He played three seasons for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M, becoming one of the "Junction Boys."
Pardee played for the Rams and Redskins from 1957 to 1972, missing two seasons after melanoma was discovered in his left arm.
He capped his playing career by winning the NFC defensive player of the year award in 1972.