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John Leo "Paddy" Driscoll (January 11, 1895-June 29, 1968) was an American football and baseball player as well as a football coach.
He was regarded as the best drop kicker and one of the best overall players in the National Football League's early years (NFL).
In 1965, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1915 and 1916, Driscoll played for the Northwestern football team as a quarterback and halfback.
He appeared in 1919 for the Chicago Cubs as an infielder.
He served in the United States Navy during World War II and spent time with the 1918 Great Lakes Navy football team, which captured the 1919 Rose Bowl. Driscoll played for football for the Hammond All-Stars (1917), Hammond Pros (191919), Racine/Chicago Cardinals (1920–1925), and the Chicago Bears (1926–1929).
In 1923 and 1926, he was the NFL's first All-Pro quarterback and its top scorer.
He led the 1925 Chicago Cardinals to an NFL championship and was voted in 1969 for the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team. Driscoll served as a football coach for many years.
He was the head coach of Chicago Cardinals from 1920 to 1922 and 1940-to-Marquette.
He spent the last 28 years with the Chicago Bears as an assistant coach (1941–1955), head coach (1956–1957), and later as the Bears' research and planning unit.
Early years and Northwestern
Driscoll was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1895. Timothy Driscoll, the father of an Irish immigrant who worked as a stone cutter, was a stone cutter. Elizabeth, his mother, was born in Wisconsin to Irish parents. He attended Evanston Township High School.
In 1914, Driscoll graduated from Northwestern University. In 1915 and 1916, he competed for the Northwestern football team and became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Driscoll led the team to a 6–1 record and a second-place finish in the Western Conference in 1916. Driscoll, who at the time weighed only 143 pounds, scored nine points on a touchdown and a field goal in a 10–0 victory over Chicago, Northwestern's first victory over the Maroons in 15 years. He was selected as a first-team halfback on the 1916 All-Western Conference football team in 1916. Walter Camp and the United Press selected him as a second-team All-American and a third-team All-American.
Driscoll has also competed for Northwestern's basketball and baseball teams. He was reportedly ineligible by Northwestern faculty probing his claims in December 1916.
Driscoll played in Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs during 1917-1919. He made his Cubs debut on June 12 and played in 13 games, eight of which as a third baseman. He batted in double, three runs batted in, two bases on balls, and two stolen bases in 32 plate appearances.
Driscoll made his professional football debut with the Hammond Clabbys in 1917. He led the team to the Indiana professional championship and quickly became a celebrity. Driscoll's 1917 season highlights include the following:
Driscoll was selected by Indiana sports writer Heze Clark as the quarterback on the 1917 All-Pro Team at the end of the 1917 season.
Driscoll joined the United States Navy in March 1918 and was given the rank of petty officer. In the fall of 1918, he was sent to Naval Station Great Lakes and competed with the Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets football team. George Halas, with whom Driscoll shared a lifelong friendship, and Jimmy Conzelman, all three of whom were later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were among Driscoll's teammates on the 1918 Great Lakes team. He was not allowed to participate in a number of early games due to outrage from some opponents over Driscoll's career status. In the Naval Station's 54–14 victory over a Rutgers team starring Paul Robeson, Driscoll scored six touchdowns, including an 80-yard dash, and kicked five extra points on November 16, 1918.
In the 1919 Rose Bowl, the 1918 Great Lakes football team set a 6–0-2 record and defeated the Mare Island Marines by a 17–0 score. He dropped a field goal and to George Halas, who threw a touchdown pass. "Driscoll needs no praise" after the game, the Los Angeles Times wrote. He was the best back-field player we've ever seen in Southern California and had as good a team of football players as any player.
In 1919, Driscoll returned to professional baseball. In February 1919, weeks after his starring role in the Rose Bowl, the Cubs traded him to the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels planned to play Driscoll at shortstop, and the Los Angeles Times opined: "If he can dash around the diamond like he does across the tanbark, there won't be a whole lot for the remainder of the Angel infield to do." With three doubles, four triples, and a home run, he played in 39 games for the Angels and had a.264 batting average and.380 slugging percentage.
Driscoll and George Halas, as well as Paul Des Jardien and Bert Baston, were members of the Hammond All-Stars, one of the first teams to play in the National Football League in 1919. Driscoll led Hammond to a 33–0 victory over Toledo at Wrigley Field on November 23, 1919. He dropped a field goal from the 35-yard line, returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown, and kicked three more points. Hammond's loss to the Canton Bulldogs, who have since won the professional championship, was followed by Jim Thorpe's fumble of the first kickoff, who gave the game's only scoring.
Driscoll, a 1920 college student, signed to play with and captain the Racine Cardinals (so named because the team's home field, Normal Park, was located on Racine Avenue in Chicago) in the newly formed American Professional Football Association; later renamed the National Football Association. The 1920 season has been regarded as the NFL's inaugural season. Driscoll's 1920 season featured these highlights:
The Cardinals ended the 1920 season with a 7-2–2, good for fourth place out of 14 teams in the NFL's inaugural season. Driscoll was selected as the first-team quarterback on the 1920 All-Pro Team, making him the first All-Pro quarterback in NFL history.
In 1921, Driscoll returned to the Cardinals as the team's quarterback and captain, as well as "the majority of the coaching." Driscoll's 1921 season featured the following excerpts:
The Cardinals posted a 6–3–2 record (3–3–2) against APFA opponents, bringing their 1921 season to a conclusion. Driscoll was not chosen as an All-Pro.
Driscoll, as quarterback and coach, led the 1922 Chicago Cardinals to an 8–3 record, good for third place in the NFL. Driscoll's 1922 season featured the following excerpts:
Driscoll was selected as a first-team All-Pro at the halfback position at the 1922 season.
Driscoll played in eight of the Cardinals' games and led the team to an 8–4 record and six extra points. Despite appearing in only two-thirds of the Cardinals' games, Driscoll was the NFL's top scorer in 1923. He was selected as a consensus first-team halfback on the 1923 All-Pro Team at the end of the season. The following were highlights from Driscoll's 1923 season:
Driscoll dropped a 55-yard field goal in the first game of the 1924 season, beating a record in NFL field goal goals until 1953. He also scored a touchdown and kicked an extra point in the game. In a 3–0 victory over Green Bay, he kicked a 40-yard field goal for the only points of the game. He has earned his reputation as "the best drop kicker in the National Football League." In a syndicated newspaper article, he gave advice on the correct drop-kicking technique in October 1924.
Driscoll led the 1925 Cardinals to a 12–2-1 record and the NFL championship. Driscoll was the team's top scorer with 67 points on 11 field goals, four touchdowns, and ten extra points. In 1925, he was the NFL's second highest scorer, trailing only Charlie Berry. He was selected as a consensus first-team member of the 1925 All-Pro Team after the season. The following were highlights from Driscoll's 1925-19 season:
Driscoll was sold by the Cardinals to the Chicago Bears in September 1926. The Cardinals' decision was prompted by a much higher salary to play in C. C. Pyle's American Football League; the Cardinals were unable to pay him, and Driscoll was sold to the Bears in the hopes that Driscoll will stay in the NFL. Driscoll has joined the Bears for a reported salary of $10,000. Driscoll played all 16 games for the 1926 Bears, led the team to a 12–1–3 record, and scored 86 points on six touchdowns, 12 field goals, and 14 extra points. Driscoll was the NFL's top scorer for the second time in four years. He also set new NFL records by scoring 12 field goals in a single season. He was selected as a consensus first-team halfback on the 1926 All-Pro Team at the end of the season.
Coaching and administrative career
Driscoll, the athletic director and basketball and football coach at St. Mel High School in Chicago from 1924 to 1936. The school won 24 championships in football, basketball, and swimming during Driscoll's tenure with St. Mel. In 1924, the school won the national Catholic basketball championship and was national runner-up in 1931. He also served as a scout for the Chicago Bears during the first half of the 1930s.
Driscoll was hired as an assistant coach for the Chicago Cardinals on November 3, 1936. The 1936 Cardinals had lost seven games in a row before Driscoll joined the coaching staff. Driscoll's tenure with the Cardinals was the first to ever record.
Driscoll was hired as the head football coach at Marquette University in Milwaukee in March 1937. In four years under Driscoll, the Marquette football team farewelled, with statistics including 3–6 in 1937, 4–4 in 1939, and 2–6–1 in 1940. His overall coaching record at Marquette was 10–23–1. Driscoll resigned on October 19, 1940, following a 7-7 draw with Creighton, Driscoll resigned, effective at the end of the 1940 season.
Driscoll was hired as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bears in July 1941. He served as an assistant coach under George Halas for the next 15 years until the 1955 season. During Dr. John Coveney's time as an assistant coach with the Bears, the team won four NFL championships in 1941, 1942, 1943, and 1946.
Driscoll was hired by George Halas as his replacement as head coach of the Chicago Bears in February 1956. With a 9–2–1 record, Driscoll led the 1956 Bears to the NFL Western Division championship. In the 1956 NFL Championship Game, the Bears lost to the New York Giants. He served as the Bears' head coach in 1957, compiling a 5–7 record. Halas was the Bears' head coach in 1958, with Driscoll taking over administrative vice president responsibility for "methods and coordination in the club's competitive phases."
Driscoll served as team vice president while still serving in an administrative role with the Bears. He was hired as the head of the Bears' research and planning unit in June 1963, with responsibility for game films and scouting charts.