We have had over a week to digest the life and career of Charles Henry Noll and only one thing is certain, he was the greatest football coach who ever lived. I may be biased being born and raised in this great city and a Pittsburgh Steeler fan since birth but nothing can change my position. The question of who the greatest coach of all time is has been one debated over the years. If you ask the question to any football fan around the country, you will hear names such as Landry, Lombardi, Walsh, Shula, Halas, Belichick and Brown. All of those are names of all-time great coaches from NFL’s past. If you were starting a franchise and had your pick of coaches from past and present, you couldn’t go wrong picking any those men. Those names represent some of the greatest minds the football world has ever seen. You can have any of those coaches, I’ll take Chuck Noll.
Chuck Noll’s coaching credentials speak for themselves. As head coach of the Steelers, his coaching record was 209-156-1 (including postseason). He drafted eleven hall of fame players, including the greatest draft class in the history of the league in 1974. Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster are all hall of famers and all were drafted within the first five rounds. Those names don’t include rookie free agent Donnie Shell, who finished his career with 51 interceptions and should be in the hall of fame. It’s hard to imagine another draft class even coming close to the success of the one Noll orchestrated in 1974.
Noll also is the only head coach in NFL history to ever win four Super Bowls, and he did so in a span of six seasons. In today’s sports world that sounds more like something you would see in a fairytale than in real life. He was a defensive mastermind who coached one of the greatest defenses of all time. Led by the likes of Lambert, Greene, Blount and Ham the Steel Curtain was known for their toughness and intelligence. Much of that should be attributed to the great coaching from Chuck Noll.
Many people know what Noll did on the field, but not many know what he accomplished off of it. He helped save a city when it needed it the most. Pittsburgh was going through very tough times during the early 1970’s. The steel industry, which had fueled the city’s economy and provided much needed jobs to thousands of residents, was falling apart. People were losing their jobs and struggling to survive. Pittsburgh needed a boost. Pittsburghers needed something to feel good about. Chuck Noll brought a franchise known for nothing more than losing to prominence and at the same time picked up a struggling city from its knees. No matter how bad Pittsburghers were reeling from the dying steel industry, every Sunday Noll and the Steelers offered an escape from reality. They gave the city hope in a time when it was so hard to come by. People began to believe “If the Same Old Steelers can drag themselves from the bottom and be successful, so can we.” It’s hard to believe it all was so close to never happening.
Chuck Noll wasn’t the first choice for the Steelers job in 1969. The Steelers pursued a man from Penn State University by the name of Joe Paterno. In fact, Paterno was offered the job which included a $50,000 a year pay raise from the $20,000 Penn State was paying him. He turned down the offer stating “I haven’t done the job I set out to do at Penn State.” It is anyone’s guess what type of job Paterno would have done if he would have accepted the position the Steelers offered him. It’s hard to imagine he or anyone would have been able to accomplish what Noll did. Later, Dan Rooney called the hiring of Noll “the greatest decision we ever made.” It would be hard for anyone to argue.
At his funeral Tuesday morning, Joe Greene was asked what he learned more from Chuck Noll, how to be a football player or how to be a man? Joe couldn’t answer the question. In not so many words he said he wouldn’t have been the player he was or the man he is today without Noll’s instruction. That’s what not only great coaches but great people do, they teach. During his lifetime, Charles Henry Noll went by many names. Charles, Chuck, Chaz, Emperor, Emperor Chaz and coach but we should all do him a great service and remember him the way he wanted to be remembered. He didn’t want to be remembered as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers or even as the great champion he was. He wanted to be remembered as what he was most proud of. He was a leader of men and a coach of champions, but most importantly he was a teacher. Not only of the game he loved, but also of the life he lived. He realized his job was just that, his job. It didn’t define who he was as a person. I think we all can still learn something from him even after his passing. I guess two things are certain after reflecting on the great life of Charles Henry Noll. He was the greatest football coach of all time, but more importantly the world would be a better place if more of us would have teachers like him.

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