Jack Concannon, an Eagles quarterback who became the darling of Philadelphia's frustrated football fans even though he rarely played and could never pass as well as he ran, died this week in Massachusetts.
His son, John Concannon III, said the 62-year-old Newton resident died Monday of a heart attack. He was pronounced dead at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
Mr. Concannon, a fleet-footed star at Boston College, played three seasons in Philadelphia (1964-66) after the Eagles outbid the American Football League's Boston Patriots for his services.
But although Philadelphia fans, unhappy with quarterback Norm Snead, frequently filled Franklin Field with chants of "We Want Jack!" Mr. Concannon started just three games for Joe Kuharich's Eagles, winning all three. He also returned punts and occasionally lined up as a wide receiver in his disappointing Philadelphia tenure.
He was traded to Chicago for tight end Mike Ditka before the 1967 season. He played there five seasons, mostly as a starter, and in 1970 had his best year, passing for 16 touchdowns and 2,130 yards.
Mr. Concannon, who never shed a reputation as a weak-armed passer who looked to run first, later was a backup in both Detroit and Green Bay before retiring in 1975.
He was heralded as the quarterback of the future when the Eagles, doggedly pursuing the 6-3, 201-pounder in an era of heated NFL-AFL contract battles, signed him for a $25,000 bonus, a new Thunderbird and a $50,000 salary.
"At the 1964 draft, we took Bob Brown in the first round," recalled Jim Gallagher, then the Eagles' public-relations director. "But [owner] Vince McNally wanted a quarterback in the second, and the guy he wanted was George Mira [of Miami]. When the 49ers took him, Vince told me to get Concannon on the phone and to make sure he hadn't signed with the AFL."
A week earlier, his hometown Patriots had made Mr. Concannon the No. 1 overall pick in the AFL draft. With Cardinal Cushing and other powerful Bostonians urging him to stay at home, it was widely assumed the popular BC grad would sign there.
After two BC football officials assured Gallagher that Concannon had not yet signed, the Eagles executive discovered the quarterback was attending a Boston-area football banquet the night of the draft.
"I called the hall, but the only person I could get was the maintenance man," Gallagher said. "I told him I was looking for Jack Concannon, and asked him if he saw him there. He said: 'Yeah, he's right up there at the head table.' He went up and got him for me."
A week or so later, after Mr. Concannon and his father met with McNally in a suite at the Warwick Hotel, the quarterback agreed to become an Eagle.
Snead, who had come to the Eagles before the '64 season in a widely unpopular trade for Sonny Jurgensen, quickly became a target of fan criticism. But despite the vociferous pleas of the Franklin Field crowds, Kuharich kept Mr. Concannon on the sideline.
Finally, in the next-to-last game of that 6-8 season, Mr. Concannon got a start against Dallas. He ran for 99 yards and threw for two TDs in Philadelphia's 24-14 victory. He would not start again until the final two games of 1966.
Then, against the Steelers, Mr. Concannon ran for a franchise-record 129 yards in a 27-23 win. The following week, the occasionally indecisive Kuharich wasn't sure which of his three quarterbacks - Snead, King Hill or Mr. Concannon - should start.
According to Ernie Accorsi, the New York Giants GM who once covered the Eagles for The Inquirer, the coach determined that Hill would start if the opening kickoff were returned short of the 20, Snead if it were between the 20 and 30, and Mr. Concannon if it were brought out beyond that.
"So the kickoff comes, and Tim Brown runs it back," Accorsi told Will McDonough, the late Boston sportswriter, several years ago. "When he passes the 20, King Hill yells out on the bench, 'I'm out of it.' Brown gets hit at the 28, does a flip in the air, and lands right about on the 30.
"They had to wait until the officials spotted the ball to see who was going to play. It was Concannon."
Those Eagles finished 9-5, earning a berth in the defunct Playoff Bowl, which pitted the second-place team from each NFL conference. This time, Mr. Concannon relieved Hill and threw the interception that gave the Baltimore Colts a 20-14 win. Shortly afterward, he and a draft choice were sent to Chicago for Ditka.
Mr. Concannon is survived by his wife, Ginny (Maguire), and four children: his son, John III of Hingham, Mass.; and daughters, Christa MacLean of Medfield, Mass.; Kelly Cicchino of Unionville, Pa.; and Kara Grasso of Gorham, Maine.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Friday in St. Brendan Church in Dorchester, Mass.
Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.