Meet Joe Pendry, Alabama Offensive Line Coach

Jonathan Fravel@jfravel135Senior Analyst IApril 4, 2010

In 2007, at the young age of 60 years, Joe Pendry was out of work and laid to pasture in Floyd Knobs, Indiana.

Pendry had last worked for the Houston Texans in 2005. While at Houston, he served as offensive line coach and was then promoted to offensive coordinator. The third season for the Texans was abysmal, in fact, the worst in the franchise's short history.

The Texans finished the 2005 season with a record of 2-14. It was their fourth full season of NFL play. Head Coach Dom Capers was soon fired as was most of his staff.

Pendry had previously work in the NFL as offensive coordinator and QB coach for the Buffalo Bills ('98-2000), and the Carolina Panthers ('95-'97).

The Early Years

Joe Pendry was born on August 5, 1947 in Matheny, WV. He attended Oceana High School located in Wyoming County, WV. The school closed in 2002, consolidating with Baileysville High to form Westside High School. Joe Pendry is the only athlete of note to have attended Oceana High.

Pendry played the tight end position at West Virginia University in 1965-1966, suffering a career ending injury during the '66 season. The injury may have ended his playing career but kicked off his coaching career the following year.

Young Joe Pendry was hired by then-head coach James Carlen and worked on staff as a graduate assistant alongside offensive coordinator, Bobby Bowden. Bowden became head coach of the Mountaineer program in 1970.

From 1971-1972, Pendry was utilized as a wide receivers coach for the Mountaineers and from '73-'74 became the offensive line coach for Bowden's Mountaineer team.

In 1975, Pendry ventured out of his home state to become offensive coordinator for the Kansas State Wildcats. The Wildcats were on probation, Ellis Rainsberger was in his first year as head coach, and the team finished the season 3-8. 

1975 marked the first year in school history that the Wildcats were shut out in three separate contests in one season. The team was 0-7 in Big Eight play. It was not a good experience for the young Joe Pendry.

He returned to his Alma Mater in 1976 to serve as offensive coordinator under new head coach Frank Cignetti (Kurt Cignetti's father). He stayed through the '77 season and then accepted a job at the University of Pittsburgh as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the 1978 and 1979 seasons. He served under head coach Jackie Sherrill.

In 1978, the Pitt Panthers finished 8-4 with a loss in the Tangerine Bowl to the NC State Wolfpack. In 1979, the Panthers improved their record to 10-1 and finished with a victory in the 1980 Fiesta Bowl.

The two years at Pittsburgh proved to be the most successful teams that the young Joe Pendry would help coach. Russ Grimm was a lineman for the upstart offensive coordinator and went on to have a stellar professional career with the Washington Redskins.

But the young offensive coach had happy feet. In 1980, Frank D. (Muddy) Waters III hired the 33-year-old Pendry as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Michigan State Spartans. His team went 3-8 during his one year stint as a Spartan offensive coordinator.

Pendry fled from East Lansing to the upstart USFL, taking a job as offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Stars. Waters was fired in 1982 for his efforts as head coach of the Spartans.

The Middle Years

Life was fast-paced for the young Joe Pendry. In 1984, he was named head coach of the USFL Pittsburgh Maulers. The Maulers were a single-season flame out. They finished 3-15.

Unfortunately, the head coaching stint didn't even last a season. Pendry was fired 10 games into the season and replaced by his offensive line coach.

It was not just a failure as head coach that stalled Pendry's career; the entire league failed and many fine coaches were looking for jobs. There was a surplus of coaching talent and the economy was in a tailspin.

Reagan had just gotten to work on repairing a nationwide economic recession in which the unemployment rate reached as high as 9.7 percent. Inflation had risen out of control, reaching a rate of 12.5 percent.

From 1985-1988 following the failed attempt as head coach in the USFL for the Pittsburgh Maulers, Pendry was hired by Marty Schottenhiemer to coach for the Cleveland Browns.

He was initially hired on as the offensive coordinator but in 1986 was re-assigned to running backs while Lindy Infantie took over as OC and quarterbacks coach.

As offensive coordinator in 1985, Pendry coached a line that allow for two running backs to gain over 1000 yards each (Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner). The Browns won the AFC central division. Cleveland lost the divisional playoff to the Miami Dolphins.

For the following three seasons, Pendry coached running back for the Browns. The Browns were consistently in the playoffs but for four straight seasons, lost very close games in the division and league championship games.

From 1989-1992, he served as offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. As noted above, he also worked for the Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins (2001) and Houston Texans organizations in the NFL.

The Alabama Years

In 2007, while seated in his rocking chair, feet soaking in a bucket of water and Epsom's Salts, Joe Pendry received a phone call from Nick Saban. The phone call would forever change the aging coach's life.

You see, at age 60, Pendry hadn't given up on coaching, but coaches had seemed to have given up on Joe. I won't pretend to know how Saban thought to call on Pendry, I have no idea how that happened.

Saban had just been given word that Jimbo Fisher would accept the OC job at Florida State rather than take his chances with his old friend at the University of Alabama.

No sooner than hanging up the phone with Fisher was Saban on the phone with Pendry and the university's jet was flying into Louisville, Ky to pick up coach Pendry for a visit to the Capstone.

The Louisville airport was the closest landing strip to the Floyd's Knob community. Pendry, on the ride back to Tuscaloosa, was strapping in for the most successful ride of his life.

Pendry took control over the offensive line in 2007. The players and production have improved each year, despite the personnel turnover. In 2008, Alabama lost two All-American offensive linemen and one additional lineman with All-SEC accolades.

All Pendry did last year was reload. Pendry thrives on teaching young men how to play the game, on being a mentor. He recently stated: "After having been in the professional ranks for so long, it has been so refreshing to be able to return to molding and encouraging young men to be their best."

In the last eight games of the 2009 season, the offensive line was not called for a single holding penalty. In fact, since Pendry took over, the penalty yards against the offensive unit are not the problem they once were for Alabama.

Sportswriter Chris Low recently stated: "One of the best things the Tide have going for them (again) is veteran offensive line coach Joe Pendry, who truly is one of the best in the business." 

Also cited in the Chris Low article are quotes from Tide player Barrett Jones: "Coach Pendry is great. It's amazing the knowledge he has regarding blocking techniques."

"He always says to cover them up and force the defender to make arm tackles. It really works well when you have the two amazing backs we had last season (Ingram and Richardson). They run right through arm tackles."

Pendry has hit his stride at Alabama. He is no longer in pursuit of the personal achievement of a young prideful upstart coach. He is a mature authentic leader of men, content in is role as an assistant to the head coach. A true servant leader.

He is longing to dispense as much knowledge and love for the game as he can in his remaining years. Pendry will go out on top. Ironically, he once thought the light had gone out on his career. But I am sure he will admit, he felt the flicker, he was just hoping someone would reignite the flame at the right time and right place.

Personally, I think he has found the right place at The University of Alabama.


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