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Joe Kuharich
Biographical details
Born(1917-04-14)April 14, 1917
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJanuary 25, 1981(1981-01-25) (aged 63)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Playing career
1935–1937Notre Dame
1940–1941, 1945Chicago Cardinals
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1946Pittsburgh Steelers (line)
1947San Francisco (line)
1948–1951San Francisco
1952Chicago Cardinals
1954–1958Washington Redskins
1959–1962Notre Dame
1964–1968Philadelphia Eagles
Head coaching record
Overall42–37 (college)
58–81–3 (NFL)

Joseph Lawrence Kuharich (April 14, 1917 – January 25, 1981) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of San Francisco from 1948 to 1951, and at Notre Dame from 1959 to 1962, compiling a career college football record of 42–37. Kuharich was also the head coach of the Chicago Cardinals in 1952, the Washington Redskins from 1954 to 1958, and the Philadelphia Eagles from 1964 to 1968, achieving a career coaching record of 58–81–3 in the National Football League (NFL).

Kuharich played football as a guard at Notre Dame from 1935 to 1937 and with the Chicago Cardinals in 1940, 1941, and 1945. Kuharich died on the day the Eagles lost their first Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XV to the Oakland Raiders.

Early life and education

Kuharich was born April 14, 1917, in South Bend, Indiana. He played college football at the Notre Dame under coach Elmer Layden, who praised Kuharich as one of the best and smartest players he ever had. In his college career. Kuharich is noted for his participation in Notre Dame's comeback over Ohio State in 1935.[1]


National Football League

Kuharich was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates (NFL) in the 12th round of the 1938 NFL Draft.[2][3]

Kuharich began his coaching career as an assistant freshman coach at Notre Dame in 1938. In 1939, he coached at the Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York. He then moved to the professional ranks as a player, playing guard for the Chicago Cardinals in 1940 and 1941. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he returned to the Cardinals in 1945, his last season as a player.

Coaching career

Pittsburgh Steelers, University of San Francisco, and Washington Redskins

In 1946, Kuharich served as line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers and moved on to the University of San Francisco as head coach in 1948. His overall record for the University of San Francisco was 25–14, including an undefeated 9–0 season in 1951. Among his most notable pupils was Ollie Matson, who became a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back with the Chicago Cardinals. Other USF teammates under Kuharich included future Pro Football Hall of Famers Gino Marchetti, and Bob St. Clair, and Burl Toler, a defensive standout who later became the NFL's first African-American official. The team's student publicity director, Pete Rozelle, served as National Football League Commissioner.

The team is among the most decorated in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Financial concerns led the school to disband football the following year. Following that season, he moved to the National Football League, serving as head coach of the Chicago Cardinals in 1952, succeeding Curly Lambeau. In 1953, he served as a scout for several pro teams, then in 1954 became coach of the Washington Redskins, then owned by the controversial George Preston Marshall, once again, following Lambeau. The Redskins claim to fame was Eddie LeBaron, the smallest quarterback in the league, A successful campaign in 1955 landed Kuharich "Coach of the Year" honors, followed by a losing streak. After five seasons in Washington, Kuharich resigned when he received an offer from Notre Dame.

Notre Dame

Kuharich became head coach of Notre Dame in 1959. He had earlier been contacted with offers by Notre Dame after the 1956 season after the Irish finished 2–8, but before he had a chance to accept an offer, Terry Brennan was retained in his position. Kuharich compiled a 17–23 record over four non-winning seasons, becoming the only coach to have an overall losing record at Notre Dame. This was followed by a school-record eight-game losing streak in 1960, a year in which the Irish finished 2–8. It is remembered as one of the worst stretches in Notre Dame football history.

It was widely speculated that Kuharich never made the adjustment from pro football to college football, attempting to use complicated pro coaching techniques with collegiate players. He never seemed to adapt to the limited substitution rules in effect at the time either, preferring clumsy linemen playing in positions where smaller and quicker players were favored. Despite his controversial and confusing tactics, Kuharich seemed perfectly content finishing with a losing record every year. which did not sit well with Notre Dame fans. Kuharich resigned in the spring of 1963 and assumed the post of supervisor of NFL official. Following Kuharich's departure, Hugh Devore was named interim head coach while the search for a permanent replacement was sought. Despite his unsuccessful Notre Dame tenure, Kuharich remains the only Notre Dame head coach to post back-to-back shutouts over USC, Notre Dame's major rival, in both 1960 (17-0) and 1961 (30-0).

Kuharich is commonly associated with a rule change still in effect today, known by some as the Kuharich defensive foul rule. In 1961, Notre Dame trailed Syracuse at home 14–15, with three seconds left to play. A 56-yard field goal attempt by the Notre Dame fell short as time ran out, effectively ending the game. However, Syracuse was penalized 15 yards for roughing the place kick holder, and Notre Dame was given a second chance despite the clock running out. Kicker Joe Perkowski attempted a 41-yard field goal successfully, and Notre Dame won the game 17-15. Syracuse immediately cried foul, claiming that under the existing rules, the second kick should not have been allowed because time had expired. It was never clear whether the Irish victory was permitted to stand, but a rule was clarified to state that half cannot end on an accepted defensive foul, a decision consistent with the officials' ruling.

Philadelphia Eagles

Kuharich returned to the NFL coaching ranks with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1964. The team had gone through an unsteady 1963, ending the season at 2-10-2, due in large part to injuries plaguing starting quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Eagles' owner Jerry Wolman made Kuharich head coach and general manager. In return for quarterback Norm Snead and defensive back Jimmy Carr, Kuharich traded away Hall of Fame and perennial Pro-Bowlers Sonny Jurgensen and Tommy McDonald. Philadelphia also acquired Ollie Matson from the Detroit Lions. Despite the acquisitions, the Eagles continued posting losing records in 1964 of 6–8, and in 1965 of 5–9.

Kuharich's only winning season with the Eagles came in 1966, when the team went 9–5. Immediately following this season, Eagles' then-owner Jerry Wolman gave Kuharich an unprecedented contract extension of 15 years. The winning 1966 season, in which the Eagles finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference, gave the team a date with the Baltimore Colts in the Playoff Bowl, a postseason exhibition intended to draw fans and help coaches plan for the following season, in which Kuharich became the first coach to wear a wireless microphone for NFL Films. Portions of his wiring and the Playoff Bowl itself, were used at the end of NFL Films' 1967 special They Call It Pro Football.

Following the 1966 season, the Eagles once again returned to mediocrity, ending with a losing record of 6-7-1 in 1967. The 1968 season was Kuharich's last. The Eagles vied most of the season for pro football's worst record, which would have earned them the chance to draft Heisman Trophy winner O. J. Simpson No. 1 overall. But the Eagles won the twelfth and thirteenth games of the season, then a 14-game season, for a final record of 2-12-0, and the Buffalo Bills, with a record of 1-12-1, won the rights to Simpson.

Kuharich was so despised by Eagles' fans by this time that a plane towing a banner reading "Joe Must Go" circled Franklin Field, the Eagles home field at that time, during every home game of the 1968 season. For three of the home games in Philadelphia, a large banner was draped over the upper deck of Franklin Field, which read, "Joe Please Do Us a Favor and Die". This was the season of the game of legend in which Santa Claus was pelted with snowballs as he circled the track at Franklin Field at halftime of the final game of the season, precipitated as a result of the fans realizing that they would not be getting the No. 1 overall draft pick.[4]

Three months following the 1969 NFL draft, on May 1, 1969, financially distressed owner Jerry Wolman sold the Eagles to trucking millionaire Leonard Tose. Tose and Kuharich agreed to a settlement on the remaining years of the ex-coach's $60,000 annual contract. In Kuharich's final draft, the Eagles selected Leroy Keyes, who ended up being a mediocre running back. Keyes was cut in 1972 after only four seasons. Following the following 1973 season, he was out of football entirely.

Kuharich's final record with the Eagles was 28-41-1, giving him a .407 winning percentage.

Personal life

Kuharich married Madelyn Eleanor Imholz on October 6, 1943. They had two sons, Lary a former CFL and AFL head coach, and Bill, who followed in his father's footsteps as general manager of the New Orleans Saints from 1996 to 2000, director of pro personnel from 2000 to 2005, and vice president of player personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006 to 2009.

Kuharich died on January 25, 1981, the same day that the Philadelphia Eagles played in their first Super Bowl.

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
San Francisco Dons (Independent) (1948–1951)
1948 San Francisco 2–7
1949 San Francisco 7–3
1950 San Francisco 7–4
1951 San Francisco 9–0 14 14
San Francisco: 25–14
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA University Division independent) (1959–1962)
1959 Notre Dame 5–5 18 17
1960 Notre Dame 2–8
1961 Notre Dame 5–5
1962 Notre Dame 5–5
Notre Dame: 17–23
Total: 42–37


Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CHI 1952 4 8 0 .333 6th in American Division
CHI Total 4 8 0 .333
WAS 1954 3 9 0 .250 5th in East Division
WAS 1955 8 4 0 .667 2nd in East Division
WAS 1956 6 6 0 .500 3rd in East Division
WAS 1957 5 6 1 .458 4th in East Division
WAS 1958 4 7 1 .375 4th in East Division
WAS Total 26 32 2 .450
PHI 1964 6 8 0 .429 3rd in East Division
PHI 1965 5 9 0 .357 5th in East Division
PHI 1966 9 5 0 .643 2nd in East Division
PHI 1967 6 7 1 .464 2nd in Capitol Division
PHI 1968 2 12 0 .143 4th in Capitol Division
PHI Total 28 41 1 .407
Total[5] 58 81 3 .419


  1. ^ Kelly, Lisa (September 1, 2022). "Looking back at Notre Dame VS Ohio State, 1935". One Foot Down. Retrieved April 23, 2023.
  2. ^ "1939 NFL Player Draft". Archived from the original on October 7, 2006. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  3. ^ "1938 NFL Draft Listing". Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  4. ^ Frank, Matthew. "Only in Philadelphia: A look back on the day Eagles fans booed Santa at Franklin Field". Retrieved April 23, 2023.
  5. ^ "Joe Kuharich Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks". Retrieved January 7, 2020.