Saturday, July 26, 2014

Noll's Success Started with a Different Approach

The greatest coaches of the NFL had different approaches and vastly different personalities.  The Green Bay Packers had dominated much of the 1960s and in some way Lombardi had redefined the public’s view of the great coach as motivator. The Packers’ great coach of the era, Vince Lombardi, recalled the brilliant oratory of coaches like Knute Rockne. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Coach, Chuck Noll,  did not motivate his team by speeches, but he did inspire. He was able to communicate by a few words and example. Like the best coaches, Noll taught young players what it meant to be a good football player as well as a man. He exuded a maturity and toughness that players could understand. 

Steelers’ running back Rocky Bleier would say that Noll would simply tell the team before a game that they had practiced what they need to do and they need to just do it, to execute. At halftime, Noll would talk about adjustments and basically say the same thing; they now know what they need to do, and they need to just execute.

Linebacker Jack Lambert liked Noll’s approach because it worked with many different types of players—he was able to keep everyone on the same page.   And Noll was able to win without leading cheers in the locker room at halftime. 

Noll was also looking for new talent for the team--he needed many more good players before he could contend.  If he had the players, he believed he could coach them in his own style. 

The Rooneys had made overtures to Bill Nunn, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Sports Courier, who covered black colleges and their talented players. Nunn did some work for the Steelers beginning in 1967 and expanded to fulltime when Noll arrived, looking for players from schools that had been overlooked. Initially, Noll would focus on defense. He would say: Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it.  Success would come from getting the best players and making sure they had the right preparation. 

With Nunn helping scout players, the Rooney's support, and Noll's coaching skills, the Steelers would soon be on their way to championships.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press.   This post is taken from a new book called Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey--available at  Burghardt's Sporting Goods in Wisconsin,  a growing number of select stores in Illinois such as Lake Forest Book Store, Millikin College Bookstore, C & A Inspirations in Champaign, Love Christian Center in Kankakee, the Little Way in Crystal Lake, St. Anne's Gift Shop in Orland Park,  the Christian Shop in Palatine, and more.   The book can be bought online as well on Amazon.