Most St. Louis football fans probably remember Jim Hanifan from his assistant coaching days with Don Coryell and the Cardiac Cards or when he was the Big Red head coach from 1980-1985. Younger fans may remember his time with the St. Louis Rams or later as the straight-shooting beloved analyst in the Rams radio booth with Steve Savard.
But some forget that Jim Hanifan was one of the few assistant coaches who stuck around for a year after Don Coryell left the Cardinals in 1978. Owner Bill Bidwill shocked the football world when he hired college coaching legend Bud Wilkinson, who led Oklahoma to three national championships and 14 conference titles. At the time, Hanifan had a year left on his contract, but he also had several offers to leave St. Louis.
“I had options,” Hanny wrote in his book Beyond Xs & Os, My Thirty Years in the NFL. “At least six teams were vying for my services. I thought I was back in high school, being recruited all over again.”
Hanifan decided to stay in St. Louis and work under Wilkinson, a man who he once said “probably has more charisma than anybody I have ever met in my life.”
St. Louis has lost yet another institution with the passing of the beloved Jim Hanifan who coached with both the Big Red and St. Louis Rams.
Hanifan was the offensive line coach for the Football Cardinals from 1973-1978 and then head coach from 1980-1985. He later won Super Bowl rings while coaching with Washington and the St. Louis Rams. Many younger St. Louis NFL fans will remember Hanifan in the Rams radio booth from 2004-2008.
Hanifan was known as one of the top offensive line coach’s in the history of the NFL. His 1975 Big Red offensive line of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Tom Banks, Bob Young and Roger Finnie allowed only 8 sacks the entire season, an NFL record at the time. His first season in Washington, his offensive line gave up only 9 sacks as the Redskins went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. And Hanifan coached a St. Louis Rams offensive line that protected Kurt Warner during the Greatest Show on Turf years which included two Super Bowl appearances and a Championship.
Coach Hanifan loved St. Louis, his former players, and the thousands of friends that he made over his 60+ years in football. He will be greatly missed.
Tributes started pouring in on social media just a couple of hours after the learning of Coach Hanifan’s passing.
(Editor’s note: This story is a reprint from the January 1966 issue of Sport Magazine and was written by John Devaney.)
In sports, some success stories begin with a dream. Here is how one dream of playing professional football came true — at almost impossible odds.
By JOHN DEVANEY
The quarterback was sitting bare-chested, on the edge of the rubbing table. He was holding a white towel to his face, and a large crimson stain was slowly spreading over the towel because blood was pouring from a gash in his chin. The quarterback didn’t seem to notice the blood. He was staring at the floor with the rapt concentration of someone watching scenes from his life flash, one by one, on a movie screen.
This was Charley Johnson, St. Louis Cardinal quarterback, in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium one afternoon late this October. Minutes before he had run off the field, plunging almost blindly through the swirling crowd, after New York had beaten St. Louis 14-10. Twice in the game’s closing minutes Johnson had brought the Cardinals inside the Giant 25, and twice he had failed to get the touchdown that would have won.