Former Packers QB John Hadl Passes Away at 82

Former Packers quarterback John Hadl passed away on Wednesday at the age of 82. Although he was with the Packers for less than two full seasons, Hadl had a huge impact on the Packers of the 1970s mostly because of what then head coach Dan Devine gave up in the trade that brought him to Green Bay.

The year was 1974 and the Packers were struggling. Devine’s team had won the NFC Central Division title in 1972 with a 10-4 record mostly on the strength of a strong defense and a running game led by John Brockington and MacArthur Lane.

In 1973, the Packers fell back to 5-7-2 and the big issue was poor quarterback play. The Packers started incumbent Scott Hunter, former first round pick and Green Bay native Jerry Tagge and former Dolphins backup Jim Del Gaizo. None of them were able to spark the offense.

In 1974, neither Tagge nor former Bears starter Jack Concannon were playing particularly well and despite having a strong defense, the Packers were struggling at 3-4. Devine was desperate to try to save his job and was looking to trade for a proven quarterback.

The Packers had a deal worked out for Saints quarterback Archie Manning but an injury to his backup, Bobby Scott, prevented that deal from going through. So, Devine acquired Hadl from the Los Angeles Rams. The cost was insanely high. The Packers gave up two first round picks (1975 and 1976), two second round picks (1975 and 1976) and a third round selection in 1975.

At the time, Hadl was 34. He was a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback with the Chargers and Rams and was named All Pro for the first time in his career the previous year with the Rams who he led to a 12-2 record. He was also named the UPI’s NFC Player of the Year and The Sporting News Player of the Year for his performance that season.

But in 1974, the magic wasn’t there anymore. Hadl was struggling before the Packers traded for him in part due to an injury he suffered to his throwing arm late in the 1973 season.

In 1974, he faced the Packers early in the year and completed just 6-of-16 passes for 59 yards and two interceptions. The Packers won the game 17-6 despite totaling minus-one net passing yard.

Hadl did give the Packers a short-term boost. He won his first three starts which improved the Packers to 6-5 on the season before losing the next three. The Pack finished 6-8 and missed the playoffs. Devine resigned before he could be fired and took the coaching job at Notre Dame.

“Devine gave up so much to get me,” Hadl admitted. “He was in trouble and trying to save his job. When I initially came to Green Bay, people didn't like me simply because of all what Devine had given up,” Hadl said. “They weren't happy about it, but it got better. I didn't ask for the trade and I didn't give away the draft choices.”

Hadl started six games for the Packers in 1974, completing 48.4 percent of his passes and throwing three touchdown and eight interceptions. His quarterback rating was 54.0.

In 1975, Bart Starr took over as the team’s head coach. Hadl started 13 games for the Pack and completed 54.1 percent of his passes, a respectable number for the mid-1970s. But he threw only six touchdowns and 21 interceptions as the Packers stumbled to 4-10.

“I loved Bart,” Hadl said after he retired. “He was truly one of those guys, what you see is what you get. I really have a lot of respect for him and his love for the Packers and just as a human being. He was a great guy.”

Hadl did have his moments with the Packers including a 19-7 upset win over the Vikings in Minnesota in 1974 and a 40-14 win over the New York Giants in Milwaukee in 1975, but the good moments were hard to come by.

A year later, the Packers traded Hadl and cornerback Ken Ellis to the Houston Oilers for quarterback Lynn Dickey.

That was the second major trade Hadl was a part of with the Packers. The first one made Bart Starr’s attempt to rebuild the team when he became coach and GM more difficult and helped the Rams dominate the NFC West for the rest of the 1970s.

The second gave the Packers their starting quarterback for the better part of next decade as Dickey started when he was healthy in 1976 and 1977 and from late in the 1979 season until 1985.

After retiring, Hadl was an assistant coach at the University of Kansas, his alma mater. He later was an assistant with the Rams and Broncos and became the head coach of the Los Angeles Express of the USFL before becoming the athletic director at Kansas.

Hadl’s legacy in Green Bay was not a positive one. Any fan old enough to remember the trade realizes it was a terrible move for the Packers and it cost them a lot in future draft capital. But none of that could be blamed on Hadl, who handled a difficult situation with class and gave his all on a team that had an inexperienced rookie coach and a lack of talent on the roster in 1975.

 

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (14)

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egbertsouse's picture

December 01, 2022 at 11:57 am

I remember the Hadl trade. We used to call it the Lawrence Welk Trade: A one an’ a two an’ a one, two, three.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 01, 2022 at 12:06 pm

A really bad trade that hamstrung the next coach, Bart, for many years. Remember, in the 70s, you could improve your team via the draft or via trades. Free agency didn't exist. So when you've lost top draft picks for a couple of years, rebuilding a roster was a pretty difficult deal.

RIP John Hadl.

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Coldworld's picture

December 01, 2022 at 05:43 pm

Cant blame the player but yes, that was bad. The non trade of Rodgers last year might just rival it for lasting damage though.

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jlc1's picture

December 03, 2022 at 12:28 pm

I don't know about any non-trade. We can hypothesize anything. AR for 2 5th rounders bad trade. For a pile of first rounders good trade, but only if you have a competent FO (think Mandarich). So a non-trade is mostly click bait I think.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 02, 2022 at 05:58 am

Agreed...RIP John!

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Bitternotsour's picture

December 01, 2022 at 12:47 pm

but there were like 15 rounds of the draft back then...

It's not as though Bart was a great GM or talent evaluator.

Hadl with the Chargers was an electrifying player. Devine was so desperate for a competent quarterback. he rolled the dice for a guy who was spent. (kinda like the Denver Broncos - to use a recent example).

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BirdDogUni's picture

December 01, 2022 at 01:11 pm

What really pisses me off even more than the Hadl trade, is we could've fleeced Denver if we'd have traded them AR and now that ship has sailed. If Jordan Love were to play well the last 4 games of the season, no GM will give anything meaningful for Rodgers. Every GM in the league will love to watch Gutey squirm trying to get out of the mess he's made.

*I also agree with Leatherhead.

RIP Mr. Hadl

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LeotisHarris's picture

December 01, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Looking at that great photo, I have to believe Barty Smith made his block and Willard Harrell took it to the house. Also, pretty sure Merlin Olson came back from that cut block to reach an understanding with Dick Himes.

I'll never understand why the Rams messed with their iconic helmet design. A crime against the Football Gods, for sure.

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beautiful_mystery's picture

December 02, 2022 at 04:04 pm

Right you are Leotis. I also remember how smooth and graceful Eric Dickerson ran...it was a thing of beauty.

He looked the part and delivered...those uni's were the best. Now, the early Tampa Bay Bucs uni's...ouch!

And, remember when Tampa was in the same division as the Pack?

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BAMABADGER's picture

December 01, 2022 at 07:50 pm

RIP John Hadl. It had to be difficult being remembered as the player that made up the worse Packer trade in history. That single trade set back the Packers personnel development by 5+ years.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 01, 2022 at 11:58 pm

Try about 10 years. RIP Hadl

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SinceLombardi's picture

December 01, 2022 at 08:04 pm

I remember well. I was a sophomore in high school. I was in disbelief at how we couldn’t follow up on the success of two years earlier. I knew the Hadl trade was terrible.
Back then the best way for a Packer fan in NY to get team news was Pro Football Weekly. It was a newspaper with a page dedicated to each team.
Eventually I started subscribing to Ray Nitschke’s Packer Report.
Bad records , but good memories.
RIP JOHN HADL

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Since'61's picture

December 01, 2022 at 10:29 pm

Unfortunately I remember the Hadl trade well. It was a terrible trade for the Packers. It is among the many reasons that Devine was the worst Packers coach in my time as a Packers fan. He wrecked the team's future and failed miserably anyway.

As for Hadl he was an excellent QB during his prime but by the time he came to the Packers his prime was over. The Packers ended up trading him for Lynn Dickey. Dickey was the best Packers QB between the Lombardi and Holmgren eras. Dickey to Lofton was a great combination but it wasn't enough to get the Packers into the playoffs except for one season.

68-92 was a long tough stretch, hopefully we're not headed back to those times again. Thanks, Since '61

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Packerlifer's picture

December 04, 2022 at 10:20 am

Hadl's shining moment in Green Bay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQNiZVhHpSg

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