Friday, June 13, 2014

Chuck Noll - The Immaculate Coach

updated 6/14/14
Never has Friday the 13th had such significance or weighed so heavily, for a member of the family has died. 

"I could not have had a better coach as a young beat guy covering the #Steelers than Chuck Noll. I learned football & much more from him." - @EdBouchette via Twitter

"If you're picking the greatest coach/manager in Pittsburgh sports history, Chuck Noll should be at the top of the list." - Alan Robinson (@arobinson_Trib) via Twitter

It was announced Friday night that the architect of the 1970's dynasty, Charles Henry Noll has passed away. He was 82.

Chuck Noll won more Super Bowls than any other head coach in NFL history, winning four titles in six years (1974-1980). He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. 

Noll is not as highly recognized a sports figure as many because of his humility. He deflected attention and praise, giving his players platforms instead. In actuality, he made good players great and great players iconic. 

He is on the Mt. Rushmore of coaches and should be readily mentioned with George Halas, Don Shula, and Vince Lombardi. - http://t.co/9eCWM9HXQB/s/fB2r

Chuck Noll took over a team that had played in one playoff game by their 40th year and turned them into a juggernaut that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, barely missing out on a fifth. He is, in fact, the first and only coach to win four Super Bowls. 

From 0 and 40 (years) to 4 and 0 in championships. 

The story I remember most about Coach Noll was when he was hired to turn the team around. He assembled all of the players from the team (1968 roster) on Friday and told them he was going to go over all of their game film and get back to them on Monday as to what was wrong. 

When they re-assembled after the weekend, he revealed the problem: "Half of you just can't play football."

Noll began to remedy that immediately. He was hired on January 27th, 1969 and drafted "Mean" Joe Greene on January 28th.

The cornerstone had been laid. The next year, 1970, brought Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount. Then 1971 brought Gerry Mullins, Larry Brown, Mike Wagner, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White and Jack Ham - maybe the second greatest draft in NFL history. Franco Harris then arrived in 1972, but it was 1974 that solidified the dynasty. 

And solidified his legacy. 

Not only did he draft well, but he taught the game. He was a great coach, yes, but he was a great teacher as well. One that many feel was incredibly under-recognized.

In fact, as the Tribune Review's Alan Robinson again states, "There was not one subject you could ask Chuck Noll about and he wouldn't have some knowledge. Brilliantly smart."

Even coaches from other sports greatly respect the man. 

"Although I never met Chuck Noll," Indian Hoosiers head coach Tom Crea (@TomCrean) tweeted, "he set a standard for all coaches at teaching technique and the details of fundamentals. The total teacher."

Noll had great players and made them even better. He helped transform the Steelers from dead to deadly, from a travesty to a dreadnought. 

Maybe the late broadcasting icon Myron Cope was right when dubbing him "The Emperor." But, for a certainty, Hamlet's words ring appropriate and true regarding Coach Noll. 

"He was a man. Take him for all and all. I shall not look upon his like again." - Hamlet, Act 1, scene 2