Jeff Hostetler recalled sitting in a dark room with fellow Giants quarterbacks Phil Simms and Jeff Rutledge while offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt worked the projector.
“Whether it was a good play or not, we knew it was going to be reversed and replayed four times,” Hostetler said. “But there were times it got to be so monotonous that every once in a while you’d get in there and there wouldn’t be a reverse. It wouldn’t go back. And the next play would run through and the next play would run through – meaning he fell asleep. So of course we didn’t want to wake him up because it was quicker film study. We would just let him go for a while. Next thing you know he would catch himself and it was like he missed nothing. Reverse, back again, reverse. He would wake back up and keep on going in the pattern like nothing happened.
“I have a lot of good memories of working with Ron.”
Many Giants do. And they have the rings to go with the memories. Erhardt was the offensive coordinator for the Giants’ first two Super Bowl champions, the offensive yin to Bill Parcells’ defensive yang. He passed away this morning in Florida at the age of 80.
“Ron was a wonderful man and a great coach,” Giants President and CEO John Mara said. “He was a big part of our success in the 1980's and was an important contributor to our first two Super Bowl championships.”
Besides coaching on the opposite side of the ball from Parcells, he was on the opposite side of the coaching spectrum as well.
“Ron had a lot of fun, let’s put it that way,” said Tom Coughlin, who was a Giants receivers coach under Erhardt. “He was a (kidder). He enjoyed it and everyone enjoyed it with him. He had one of those cantankerous laughs. I remember in the offseason the coaches would be running and lifting before the start of the offseason program. Ron would be hitting golf balls into a net down in the stadium. He wasn’t about to do any of that running and lifting stuff.”
Coughlin also recalled the way the assistant coaches were situated at Giants Stadium in those days.
“In those days in the old stadium, the offensive staff was in one office and the defensive and special teams were in one office,” Coughlin said. “You were with each other all day long. There were many good things about that. When you first came in in the morning and everybody sat at their desk a few minutes before we started meeting, you’d kibbitz about what happened the night before and what was going to take place that day, whether you were in-season or out of season. There was always good fellowship and real good opportunities to plan what you were going to be doing going forward. We had a lot of fun doing that.”
It wasn’t all joking and snoozing, though.
Hostetler said when he stepped in for Simms in the 1990 season he had “already seen Ron’s wrath. It wasn’t verbal lashings and things like that; they were pointed comments and under control, but he took the shots. So I knew that, hey, when the opportunity came, I better be ready. And I think that’s the thing he stressed so much is, ‘Listen, you don’t know when you’re going to get a shot. But when you get a shot, you better be ready and you can’t make this mistake, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You better be ready.’ That was real good advice.”
Erhardt began his NFL coaching career with the Patriots in 1973 and rose to become their head coach from 1979-81. He joined the Giants in 1982, hired by Ray Perkins. Perkins was replaced by Parcells, who had been the linebackers coach in New England in 1980, when Erhardt was head coach of the Patriots. Parcells kept Erhardt in the same position.
When Ray Handley replaced Parcells after the 1990 season, he took away Erhardt’s play-calling duties. Erhardt went on to be an offensive coordinator for the Steelers (1992-95) and the Jets (1996).
“I was privileged to be coached by him,” Hostetler said. “I learned an awful lot from him. He went on and did some amazing things offensively. What amazes me is that system is still out there, still being used, and works as successfully as ever. It is, without a doubt, out of all the systems I’ve been involved with and that’s probably five, six, or seven different systems, it was the most simple as far as verbiage and most consistent.”