Chicago Bears Traditions

Bears in The Hall

Paddy Driscoll

In 1920, the Chicago Cardinals had just become charter members of the American Professional Football Association (forerunner of the National Football League) but in theWindy City itself, they had no box office competition from a non-league team, the Tigers. Chris O'Brien, the Cardinals owner, and the Tigers management mutually agreed that such a rivalry would be financially devastating so they came up with a unique solution.

They would square off on the football field. The winner would retain Chicago territorial rights and the loser would disband. The Cardinals won 6-3 and the Tigers were never heard from again.

The only touchdown that day was scored by John (Paddy) Driscoll, the Cardinals' triple-threat quarterback whom O'Brien had hired as a gate attraction for the then-princely sum of $300 a game.

To be sure, Driscoll earned a full season's pay that day against the Tigers but he was destined to give the Cardinals, and later the Chicago Bears, more than their "money's worth" many times over in the first decade of the National Football League.

Even by 1920 standards, Driscoll was not a big football player-just 5-11 and 160 pounds. But he was a brilliant field general who could do almost anything with a football-run, pass, catch passes, play defense, and particularly kick. He was superior both as a punter and a dropkicker. In as much as statistics were not kept in the NFL until 1932, there is no way of knowing just how many yards Driscoll piled up during the years. But scoring records are available so Driscoll's drop-kicking feats are well documented.

Driscoll seemed to be at his best in his early NFL years when he faced the Bears. A spirited cross-town rivalry had built up between the Cardinals and the Bears after George Halas had moved the team from Decatur in 1921. In 1922, Paddy twice flattened the Bears single-handedly. In the first meeting, he dropkicked two field goals and in the second, he dropkicked three as the Cardinals recorded 6-0 and 9-0 victories.

One of his truly memorable days came on October 11, 1925, when he dropkicked field goals of 23, 18, 50, and 35 yards as the Cardinals buried the Columbus Tigers. Two years earlier against Rochester, he set a new league mark with 27 points on four touchdowns and three extra points. His two 50-yard field goals-he had one in 1924 and another in 1925-tied him for many years with fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Pete Henry as the field goal distance record holder.

When the fabled Red Grange made his NFL debut for the Bears against the Chicago Cardinals on Thanksgiving Day, 1925, Driscoll angered the large crowd by punting continually away from the whirling dervish runner. Grange could only return three of Paddy's 23 punts and the game ended in a scoreless tie.

The fans booed Driscoll after the game but he Cardinals' field general had a ready explanation for his tactics: "It was a question of which one of us was going to look bad-Grange or Driscoll. I decided it wasn't going to be me-punting to Grange is like grooving a pitch to Babe Ruth."

The game, however, proved to be Driscoll's last important contest with the Cardinals. Before another season rolled around, Paddy was in Bears uniform. There were several reasons why the two Chicago teams made the deal that obviously strengthened the Bears and weakened the Cardinals.

Grange had no sooner excited the Bears fans with his NFL debut and the post-season barnstorming tour that attracted huge pro football crowds for the first time than he and his agent, C.C.Pyle, departed to form the rival American Football League.

Grange and Pyle put a team in Chicago called the "Bulls" and they hoped to sign Driscoll away from the Cardinals. O'Brien, the Cardinals owner, knew that he could not match the Bull's offer because of the limited size of the Cardinal's home stadium. Even with a championship team in 1925, the Cardinals had not fared well financially.

Neither O'Brien nor Halas wanted Driscoll to go to the rival league, however, so when Halas offered O'Brien $3,500 in cash for Paddy's services. O'Brien took it.

Obviously, Halas needed a popular star to replace Grange and he had long coveted Driscoll. He really wanted Paddy to join the Decatur Staleys in 1920 and, even though Driscoll wound up with the Cardinals, Halas enticed him to play one game with the Staleys late in the season when the team was fighting Akron for the first league championship. Then, too, the Bear mentor remembered the many times the Cardinal triple-threat had caused the Bears misery since that time.

Driscoll was the immediate hit with the Bears Halas had envisioned. In his first game he booted a field goal an threw a touchdown pass as Chicago tripped the Detroit Panthers, 10-7. In the next game, he scored all the points in the bears 7-0 win over the New York Giants. And in his debut against his old teammates, Paddy kicked three field goals and an extra point in the Bears' 16-0 victory.

Born in Evanston, IL., on January 11, 1896, Driscoll's gridiron reputation began building during his high school days. In 1914 he entered his hometown university, Northwestern, and was named captain of the team in 1916.

He scored nine of Northwestern's 10 points in the Wildcats' conquest of the University of Chicago, the team's first win over Chicago in 15 years. The field goal he kicked was for 43 yards. Northwestern lost only one game that year.

During World War I, Paddy was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and was a standout on Great Lakes' fabled football team. He paced the Bluejackets to a win over the Mare Island Marines in the 1919 Rose Bowl, kicking a 30-yard field goal and passing to Halas for a touchdown. The final score was 17-9.

After his discharge from the service, Paddy returned to Northwestern as an assistant coach. He had been a top-notch baseball player, too, and had played briefly with the Chicago Cubs before World War I. A Hammond, Indiana, sports promoter approached Leo Fischer, a Chicago American sportswriter, to ask if Driscoll would be interested in playing semi-pro baseball in Hammond. Fischer insisted that Driscoll's best sport was football and that is what he should play in Hammond, if he played there at all.

So the promoter went to Driscoll and offered him $50 a game to play football for the Hammond Pros in 1919. Paddy really wanted $75 a game and only reluctantly agreed to play for the lesser sum.

But in his debut, Driscoll ran 63 yards for one touchdown and kicked a field goal. Before he even took his shower after the game, Driscoll went to the Hammond promoter and demanded $75 a game or he would play no more. The promoter quickly agreed to the higher sum.

Driscoll retired as an active player after the 1929 season but remained in football for the remainder of his life. He turned to coaching, first at St. Mel's High School in Chicago and then at Marquette University before returning to the Bears as a backfield coach in 1941. He remained as an assistant coach until 1956, when he was named head coach. He held the position for two seasons, compiling a 14-9-1 record. His Bears won the NFL's Western division championship in 1956.

Halas decided to return for his fourth stint as head coach in 1958 and Driscoll returned to his assistant coaching position. In 1963, he became the Bears' director of research and planning, a position he held until his death in the summer of 1968.