JOE PATERNO WAS FAVOURED TO REPLACE AUSTIN
After leading the Steelers to a 2-11-1 season, Bill Austin was fired on December 16 1968. “We already have several applicants and expect many more when the story gets on the wire,” Dan Rooney said at a press conference to announce the vacancy..
Only two names were mentioned during the conference, Joe Paterno, the successful coach at Penn State and Bill Peterson of Florida State.
The Steelers first interviewed Joe Paterno a few days after Penn State won the Orange Bowl. Fortunately, he was thinking more about his pension with the University than professional football. He turned down a projected yearly salary of $70,000 which was over three times what he was receiving at Penn State. After deciding not to join the professional ranks, Paterno was named College Coach of the Year.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested there were still nine candidates on the Steelers’ list after Paterno declined. The newspaper also stated that after 36 years of failures, whoever the new coach, he will need plenty of help and a free hand to operate. His is not an easy job they remarked.
A few days prior to the new coach being declared, the PPG suggested Bill Petersen was one of the top candidates. Also linked by rumour were Ernie Stautner of the Dallas Cowboys, Nick Skorich of the Cleveland Browns, Walter Michaels of the New York Jets and one, Chuck Noll of the Baltimore Colts.
With just two names on the list remaining, Nick Skorich and Chuck Noll, Dan Rooney woke at 7 am January 27 after a restless night’s sleep and made his choice. A decision that would turn a forever bad team into winners. The Emperor would reign over his dynasty in Pittsburgh for over two decades ensuring that he will always be an important part of Steelers’ history.
When Noll was finally revealed as the new head coach, reference was made in the PPG to the recommendation of his former head coach at the Baltimore Colts, Don Shula. “Chuck is very thorough. He knows every phase of the game. What is important too, is he has a real good manner with players. Firm, but gets along with them. He commands respect without being dominating. He is a fine young man. I hated to lose him.”
COACH NOLL RETIRED 1991
On December 26 1991, Chuck Noll announced that he was retiring. After a 7-9 season and approaching 60, he decided that 39 years in professional football was a goodly time.
After 23 years as the Steelers head coach, coach Noll decided the time was right. “Reminisce?” he suggested in reply to a question. “When we get in rocking chairs, we’ll probably do that.
There are things to be done, and I am sure I’ll be busy from that standpoint. And I’ll miss all the guys. I’ll miss the training camps. I’ll miss the season. That’s going to be tough, but I’m sure you’ll help me.”
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