By Zane Miller
After being selected with the 37th overall pick of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Ron Jaworski served as a backup through the first three years of his NFL career. While he went undefeated in his three starts with the Rams organization, Jaworski still had plenty of room for improvement as he only had one touchdown pass to show for three seasons in the City of Angels with eight interceptions, thus being unable to unseat James Harris and Pat Haden for the starting job. However, prior to the 1977 season, Jaworski would finally get his chance to develop as a starter, being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles as the team looked to move on from an ineffective Mike Boryla at quarterback.
After a subpar opening year in the City of Brotherly Love, in 1978 Jaworski would help lead the Eagles to the postseason for the first time in 18 years. He would do even better in 1979, as the team captured a double-digit win season for the first time since 1961, winning their first round playoff matchup against the Chicago Bears as well. However, while it was an impressive feat to transform a largely mediocre team for the past two decades into a legitimate playoff threat, both these seasons would come up short of the Super Bowl. In 1980, with Jaworski once again at the helm, it would be Philadelphia’s turn at the top of the league.
Jaworski’s best game of the regular season came on November 9th versus the winless New Orleans Saints, torching their abysmal defense for three touchdowns and 323 yards through the air, with all three going to veteran wide receiver and eventual Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael. While the Eagles somewhat struggled following this win, as they only went .500 the rest of the way, they would still finish with a 12-4 record to make the playoffs easily and win the NFC East in a tiebreaker over the Dallas Cowboys, with Jaworski starting every game. Jaworski’s 27 touchdown passes put him in sixth the league, just one behind a top-five spot occupied by Cowboys’ quarterback Danny White, while also finishing sixth in passing yards with 3,529, tying with Green Bay Packers signal caller Lynn Dickey. As a result, Jaworski scored a third-place finish in the MVP voting.
On January 3rd, 1981, with the Eagles having the first-round bye, the team would remain at Veterans Stadium to take on their first-round opponent in the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the Vikings taking a 14-7 advantage at halftime, the Philadelphia defense would not allow another offensive score for the remainder of the game. After a touchdown run by Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery, Minnesota would briefly retake a 16-14 lead with a safety. However, Philadelphia grabbed the advantage back prior to the end of the third quarter as Montgomery scored his second touchdown rush after a fumble set up the Eagles with a short field to make it 21-16 heading into the fourth.
While the Eagles’ offense held up their end of the bargain in the final frame, the real story would be the spectacular play of their secondary as they piled up four interceptions in the final 15 minutes, with cornerback and Miracle at the Meadowlands hero Herm Edwards getting two picks. This allowed Philadelphia to pull away late, getting a field goal and a short touchdown run by rookie running back Perry Harrington to advance to the NFC Championship Game with a 31-16 win. Jaworski had a mixed performance, throwing for one touchdown and 190 yards, though he also gave up a pair of interceptions and the go-ahead safety, while Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer felt the brunt of the fourth quarter collapse with five interceptions against one touchdown and 209 passing yards on the afternoon.
The NFC Championship Game on January 11th saw the Eagles remain at home to take on a familiar foe, as the Cowboys had also found themselves at the doorstep of a Super Bowl appearance. The game began with a defense-dominated first half, as a 42-yard touchdown run by Montgomery gave the Eagles a first-quarter lead, before Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett provided the only score of the second quarter to put the teams in a 7-7 stalemate at halftime. However, that would be the only points allowed by the vaunted Philadelphia defense. After the Eagles tacked on a short field goal early in the third to reclaim the lead, the ensuing Dallas drive seemed to be going their way as they had possession nearly within field goal range. However, a fumble forced by rookie cornerback Roynell Young would bring an abrupt halt to that opportunity, as the turnover also enabled the Eagles to claim a two-possession lead with fullback Leroy Harris scoring a rushing touchdown to make it a 17-7 contest.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys would be unable to cross midfield, prompting Philadelphia to run out more of the clock by handing the ball off to Montgomery. As the Eagles added another short field goal, Young would officially punch the team’s Super Bowl ticket, intercepting White on what would be the Cowboys’ final drive of the game for a 20-7 triumph. Despite the victory, Jaworski struggled statistically with just 91 passing yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, though White fared little better with 127 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Regardless, the Eagles were set for their chance to earn the first title in franchise history in exactly 20 years.
January 25th saw Super Bowl XV commence in New Orleans with the Eagles taking on the AFC-winning Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, who had built a reputation as one of the most feared teams in the league at the time and for good reason as they had never finished with a losing record in any of their 11 seasons in the NFL. The Raiders would live up to their reputation in the first quarter, as quarterback Jim Plunkett hit three-time All-Pro wide receiver Cliff Branch for an early touchdown, before also finding running back Kenny King for an 80-yard touchdown reception to put Oakland ahead 14-0 before the Eagles could blink. While they would find their footing in the second quarter with a Tony Franklin field goal getting the Eagles on the board, it would still be a tall order at a haltime deficit of 14-3.
The Raiders would come right back after the break with Branch catching a 29-yard touchdown pass from Plunkett, as the Eagles continued to stall on offense after a promising drive ended with an interception. This would set up another Oakland scoring drive, as a 46-yard field goal by Chris Bahr put the Raiders out in front 24-3 with 15 minutes left in regulation. Although Philadelphia showed signs of life in the fourth, as they captured their first touchdown of the evening with Jaworski finding tight end Keith Krepfle for an eight-yard score, a time-consuming field goal drive by Oakland would essentially put the game away as they would go on to capture the 27-10 win for their second Super Bowl title in five seasons. While Jaworski had arguably his best performance of the 1980 postseason, this isn’t to say it was outstanding he threw three interceptions, though he did also rack up 291 passing yards and a touchdown on the night. Meanwhile, Plunkett threw for three touchdowns in the victory, getting 261 yards through the air and no interceptions.
Jaworski remained with the Eagles organization through the end of the 1986 season, starting the vast majority of the team’s games during that span. Though he would never again reach the heights of the 1980 season, with the team falling into mediocrity after a first-round playoff exit in 1981, Jaworski continued to put up solid totals in spite of the decline. After an injury-plagued 1986 campaign opened the door for future 12+-game winner Randall Cunningham to take over as starting quarterback for 1987, Jaworski left in free agency to join the Miami Dolphins as a backup to Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Jaworski would never get a single start during his two-year stint in Miami, only passing for one touchdown in 1988 after not taking the field at all in 1987. However, Jaworski would get one last gasp in 1989 after signing on with the Kansas City Chiefs as a backup to veteran signal caller Steve DeBerg. After DeBerg was briefly benched for their October 8th matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, Jaworski scored his first win in nearly three years and the final of his 73 career wins with a 20-16 triumph.
After officially announcing his retirement at season’s end, Jaworski quickly found his way into a broadcasting role, as he served as a pre-game show analyst for ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown from 1990 to 2005. However, with ESPN taking over the rights for Monday Night Football in 2006, Jaworski would move over to the new booth in select games before going full-time in 2007. He would remain in the role through the end of the 2011 season, before the network downsized to a two-person booth for the next handful of seasons. Still, Jaworski remained as an analyst for a variety of ESPN programming until 2017. After taking a couple seasons off, Jaworski returned to broadcasting for the 2020 season, covering national radio broadcasts of Monday night games.
In addition, Jaworski has also found success on the business side of football, as he became part-owner of the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League beginning with the franchise’s inaugural season in 2004. Jaworski and the Soul would capture their first ArenaBowl ring in 2008, though the team temporarily left the AFL after the league filed for bankruptcy, thus cancelling the 2009 campaign. The Soul reemerged in 2011 with Jaworski now as the majority owner, with Philadelphia regaining their stride with back-to-back ArenaBowl victories in 2016 and 2017. However, the team would fold along with the AFL following the 2019 season. While the team is rumored to be revived once again with Jaworski in an ownership role, as the AFL has announced plans to come back in 2024, this has not been confirmed as of this writing.
In 1992, Jaworski was inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame, while also being awarded in 1997 with the Bert Bell Man of the Year Award due to his work with the Eagles’ Fly For Leukemia foundation.