Saturday, June 14, 2014

Chuck Noll's Choice

The late Chuck Noll who passed away yesterday was almost a perfect Pittsburgh icon with a low key, fundamentals-driven, hard working, and of course successful style that was all his own.  But what really generated that success?  You really have to go back to the choice to make Joe Greene (, from the virtually unheard of school of North Texas State, the Steelers very first draft choice that year. More solid draft choices would define the success the Steelers had under Noll, but to make such an objective choice out of the box on day 1 (draft day was his first day on the job working for the Steelers), and have that choice be so successful, marks a leadership style rare to this day, in or of football.  For one thing, he clearly was not looking toward fan reaction when that Greene was picked.  The man on the street reaction was a disdainful "They had a chance at Hanratty? They didn't take him?"  or better yet at the end of the same article the sheer disdain of this quote "I hope it turns out better than the usual Steeler first round pick."

It did of course. And Terry Hanratty would in fact be drafted by the Steelers in the 2nd round of the draft that very year. Would Joe Greene have still been in the mix?

I wonder what modern sports radio would have said the day after the draft about how the Steelers used their first round draft choice.. one of the highest first round choices they have ever had because of their 1-13 season the year before. The one victory in 1968 came in the very last game when the Steelers won (or lost I suppose) the now infamously nicknamed "OJ Simpson Bowl".

Just think, without that choice, the greatest sports commercial of all time would never have been made? 

Still, and this is only a side note to the news of the man's passing, but I already feel the vibe of folks linking Noll to miasmic steel collapse and what the Steelers meant to all the unemployed Steelworkers as they won their 4 Superbowls.  It is a mythic belief that belies all facts about when Pittsburgh's collapsed actually happened. For more on that see this old post: The Economics of Cliff Stoudt


Anonymous The Wiz said...

When Noll was coach, he took a lot of criticism for telling older payers it was time for them to 'get on with their life's work.' Some thought it was cold and unappreciative. Yet when his time came, he left and never looked back. He avoided the lime light, when he could have been the expo facto Mayor of Pittsburgh. Coulda wallowed in the fame and glory for the rest of his days. Instead he lived in quiet, working behind the scenes for what he wanted and enjoying life. Perhaps that is his greatest accomplishment and his best lesson to us all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014 6:18:00 PM  

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