In the Packer Hall of Fame, they have the above scouting report on college quarterback Boyd Dowler posted in an exhibit. As you can read, it’s a rave review, “their best passer…best receiver…thin but athletic…a #1 draft choice for someone.” Although the Packers drafted Dowler in round three, this scout’s evaluation proved to be dead on.
What really caught my eye, though, was the name of the scout, Clive Rush, a man who had perhaps the saddest and most bizarre head coaching tenure in NFL history. Born in De Graff, Ohio, Rush played end for Woody Hayes in-state at Miami University through 1952 and then spent one season with Green Bay where he caught 14 passes and was the team’s regular punter .
In 1954, he began his coaching career at Dayton before moving on to Ohio State as Hayes’ top assistant for three years. Subsequently, Clive coached under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma in 1958 (when he wrote the assessment of Dowler) and then returned to OSU in 1959 until getting his shot as a head coach at Toledo in 1960. Posting a meager 8-20 record at Toledo through 1962, Rush left in 1963 to become Weeb Ewbank’s offensive coach with the Jets. Clive played a key role in developing Joe Namath as a professional quarterback, and Joe said in the aftermath of New York’s triumph in Super Bowl III, “I hope [Clive] doesn’t take the job with the Patriots. He’s too damn good a football coach for us to lose. I want him to stay with the Jets as long as I’m here.”
The Patriots did hire Clive, however, in 1969. The first omen that things were not going to work out well for the Pats came at Clive’s opening press conference in Boston when he was electrocuted by a loose microphone wire. His first comment after getting over the shock was, “I heard the Boston press are tough, but I didn’t think they were this tough.”
What was really tough, though, was winning just five of his 21 games as Boston’s head coach. Instead, his tenure was known for a series of odd incidents:
- He insisted the team’s bus driver drive the wrong way up a one-way road.
- He tried to call Commissioner Pete Rozelle from the field telephone during one game.
- Suspicious of the team’s locker room being bugged, he announced in a loud voice new position assignments to “confuse” the imagined eavesdroppers.
- He fired quarterback Tom Sherman for his negative comments to the press.
- He instituted the Black Power Defense in one game by putting 11 black players on defense at one time, but had to employ some offensive players to fill out the scheme since the Patriots didn’t have 11 black defensive players.
After the 1969 season, Rush checked into Massachusetts General Hospital suffering from nervous exhaustion. As the 1970 season was about to begin, he cut two defensive backs and had the PA announcer at Harvard Stadium intone, “Will Bob Gladieux please report to the locker room.” Gladieux, who had been cut from the team earlier, happened to be in the stands and was rehired on the spot to play that day. Center Jon Morris told Baker and Corbett for The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History, “Clive Rush had some serious problems. He suffered from depression. He was an alcoholic. He had this idea in mind that because he worked for Paul Brown in Ohio, he was the next great coach coming down the line. He didn’t have a clue. He couldn’t deal with his demons, and we as players and fans suffered for it.”
Clive resigned in November 1970, and George Allen hired Rush for his Redskins’ staff in March 1971, but Rush resigned six weeks later. He got out of football and sold insurance, but concluded, “I tried to fall in love with insurance, but I couldn’t.” He returned to coaching in 1976 with the Merchant Marine Academy. Although Rush led the school to an 8-1 record that year, he was fired at season’s end because of player unrest. Subsequently, Clive ran a car dealership and became the regional director for Groliers, the company that published the Encyclopedia Americana. He died from a sudden heart attack at age 49 in 1980.
(Rush material adapted from NFL Head Coaches: A Biographical Dictionary, 1920-2011.)
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