Ron Erhardt – R.I.P.

The NFL coaching profession lost one of their great ones on Wednesday when Ron Erhardt passed away in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 81 years old.

Erhardt began coaching in 1956 when he got out of military service after graduating from North Dakota State. He would coach football through the 1996 season, but his ideas and schemes were still part of the league last year.

In fact, Erhardt was the father of the Chiefs offense scheme for the last three years under former head coach Todd Haley. That was his offensive scheme that produced so poorly last season, and it was his scheme that produced so well the season before (2010) when the Chiefs won the AFC West.

At the end of his coaching career, Erhardt was with the Jets and his path crossed that of a young man in the New York personnel department. “He was the guy who talked (Bill) Parcells into giving me the quality control job with the Jets,” Haley said by text from Pittsburgh. “He was a good man, and a good coach.”

In 1979, Erhardt was named head coach of the New England Patriots, and he was in charge for three seasons, positing a 21-27 record before he was fired. Pats owner Billy Sullivan said upon firing Erhardt that he “was just too nice a guy.” His linebacker coach during those years in New England was a fellow named Bill Parcells.

Erhardt would work as an offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. He picked up Super Bowl rings twice with the Giants, and later was coordinator of the Steelers when they went to the Super Bowl after the 1995 season. He was the man who created “Slash” in making rookie backup QB Kordell Stewart a wide receiver as well.

The ultimate proof of Erhardt’s ability was the fact he developed productive offenses even without so called “franchise” quarterbacks. He did have Phil Simms for one of those Super Bowl victories in New York. But in the second Super Bowl he had Jeff Hostetler and when he went Super with Pittsburgh the QB was Neil O’Donnell.

”I learned an awful lot from him,” Hostetler said. “What amazes me, is that (his) system is still out there, still being used, and works as successfully as ever. It is — without a doubt, out of all the systems I’ve been involved with and that’s probably five, six, or seven different systems — the most simple as far as verbiage, and most consistent.”

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