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Mike Freeman Chooses Don Shula Over Chuck Noll As Best Head Coach Of The 70\’s


June 11th will mark what would have been the 100th birthday of legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi and in honor of that, CBSSports.com is ranking the best coach from each decade of NFL existence.

In his piece, Mike Freeman ranked former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula ahead of former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll as the best head coach of the 1970\’s Below is what Freeman wrote about the decade and what former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi added as far as his thoughts on that decade.

In the training camp following a brutal loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI, Shula stood before his team, and said the Dolphins were going to win every game. He didn\’t mean it rhetorically. He was specific. It was a goal of Shula\’s and a way for the team to redeem itself after the Super Bowl loss. They would go on to become the sole undefeated team — regular season and playoffs — in the modern history of the sport. What the Dolphins did has lasted for 40 years and could possibly last another 40. Or longer.

The criticism of the Dolphins\’ undefeated year is that their schedule was softand it was. Shula still won those games and he won a chunk of them with 38-year-old Earl Morrall at quarterback. Shula was an excellent tactician, and unlike Chuck Noll, didn\’t have a bevy of stars.

Says Accorsi, who disagrees: “I would pick Noll for the 1970s. He had nine Hall of Famers, but part of the reason they were Hall of Famers was him — 4-0 in Super Bowls is tough to top. It\’s a close call.”

The Rest: Noll — Steelers fans will rain hellfire down upon this list, and some of that is fair, but my overriding factor in Shula over Noll is the undefeated season. Plus, Shula beat Noll in the 1972 title game in Pittsburgh.

Basically, Freeman came to his decision based on the Dolphins perfect season in 1972 and the fact that along the way to that perfect record and Super Bowl title. they beat the Steelers 21-17 in the AFC Conference Championship game.

Freeman, however, does state that the Dolphins did have a soft schedule that year, and he\’s right, as their opponents winning percentage that year was 0.428, which according to my research, was the third lowest in the league that season. I\’m not trying to take anything away from Dolphins perfect season, as it is a feat that has stood the test of time, I\’m just trying to make everyone aware of the facts.

As far as the regular season coaching records of both Shula and Noll go in the 70\’s, Shula went 104-39-1 while Noll went 99-44-1 during the decade. However, during the 70\’s, Shula compiled a playoff record of 8-5 while Noll registered a 14-4 postseason win-loss mark on his way to winning four Super Bowls during the decade. Four!

Yes, Shula did have more regular season wins than Noll during that decade, but he only faced an opponents winning percentage number of 4.91 or greater two seasons during that span while Noll faced a faced a number of 4.91 or greater six times during those ten years.

If that\’s not enough, Shula faced an opponents winning percentage number of 0.472 or less six times during that decade in contrast to Noll facing a number 0.472 or less just two seasons. In other words, Noll faced tougher schedules during the 70\’s than Shula did, so he probably should have won even more games than he did.

Moving forward with my argument, Shula led the Dolphins to the playoffs seven times during the 70\’s, while Noll led the Steelers to the playoffs eight consecutive years during the decade.

As far as Freeman saying that 1972 Dolphins beat the Steelers in the playoffs during their perfect season, Noll returned the favor to Shula in 1979 when the Steelers trounced the Dolphins 34-14 in the 1979 Divisional Round game. That season of course culminated with Noll winning the Lombardi Trophy a fourth and final time.

Accorsi has it right here, and Freeman has it wrong. In fact, if Lombardi were still alive today, I am sure his response to Freeman ranking Shula over Noll would be, “What the hell is going on here?”

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • TJimmy

    Shula was a great coach during the regular season but his teams reliably choked in the postseason, aside from 72 when they narrowly beat Pittsburgh. Even with Dan Marino he struggled in clutch games. Other than that he was a great coach.

    Noll on the other hand was the best postseason coach ever, bar none. And in my mind that’s what counts.

  • Intropy

    Meh. It’s not an unreasonable position either way. Where he went completely off the rails was “Spygate did not help the New England Patriots win Super Bowls. It just didn’t.”

  • Shea Fahr

    Shula won 5 more regular season games and Noll won 3 more SB Championship Trophys. End of story….

  • RW

    Absolutely.

  • Steve

    It was Bob Griese that QBed the Dolphins in the 70’s with Earl Morrall, Don Strock and David Woodley in the pinch. Marino didn’t come about until 1983.

  • dgh57

    I would say the Dolphins were at their peak in ’72 whereas the Steelers didn’t hit their peak until ’74 after the Draft of the Century brought them 4 HOFers, probably had something to do with the Dolphins winning in ’72!! But how can you go against a coach who wins 4 SBs in 6 years?!! It might of been 5 out of 6 years had injuries not hit the team! If I remember right in the ’76 or ’77 AFC Championship game the Steelers were without Franco Harris and Rocky Blier who both rushed for over 1000 yards that year! If they gage how good a QB is by how many SBs he wins why can’t they do it in this instance with a coach? So hands down Chuck Noll wins this debate!!!!!!

  • TJimmy

    Of course. I’m talking about his postseason record even into the 80’s

  • JC

    I often hear the criticism of Chuck Noll was that his team was littered with hall of fame players and his coaching abilities are discredited for that reason. However, talent evaluation and player development is essential to being a good coach and Chuck Noll was arguably the best. Noll drafted and coached 9 players who were eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame, 4 of whom were drafted in 1 class which will likely never be duplicated again. In my opinion, Noll does not receive enough credit in that aspect.

  • 2443scott

    cant believe some people noll came to a team that didnt do anything he turned team around and had great draft picks just look in hall of fame for one then gone on to win 4 superbowls in 6 years what more do you have to do to be noticed in this league ..shula won 2 superbowls had one best qbs in nfl and couldnt win with him one superbowl ..shulas claim to fame is a undefeated team …that dont make him best ….its a shame and a sham how some of the media use their spot to use who they like as a stepping stone to throw some under bus and some to greatness its same for putting people into hall of fames the media keeps people out for some reason cause they feel they have higher morals then people who are wanting to be inducted …the steelers have won more then any other team superbowls but year after year the steelers get treated like dirt and spit on by media when comes to players and team …take qb for one terry won 4 superbowls but who do the media love to support as best ever peyton who only won 1 and brady who won 3 by cheating his way to them but thats all lost to media and what terry did even montana gets no respect from media as one best he also won 4 …..i give shula credit he was a good coach but he wasnt better then noll and all noll did proves it ….so for every media out there go a head and kick dirt on the steelers we like dirt we love playing in dirt mean and nasty and we will win our 7th and there isnt any thing you can do about it but go and write your dirty little know it all by lines and hope some one cares ..i for one could care less about your career cause you could careless about one of the greatest coaches ever to teach the game ….

  • WilliamSekinger

    Shula didn’t have a bevy of stars like Noll did??? Who’s fault is that? Noll was the reasons those guys were drafted in the first place, and he helped to develop them into stars. They didn’t just become stars out of college.

  • Petesburgh

    Everybody is missing the big picture. Chuck Noll took the worst franchise in nfl history and made it the most dominant team in nfl history.

  • Steve

    Spygate cost the team and coach dearly! I always wondered if NE hadn’t used spygate, would the Steelers have won another SB that year. Bilichick knew what was coming before they broke the huddle and still could’nt stop us half the time. Go Figure!

  • Steve

    If you look at the Steelers D that year, only one team scored a TD in the last 9 games against the Steelers and that was Houston with Earl Campbell.

  • Steve

    We need to remember that Noll coached under Shula when they were at the Baltimore Colts. Shula highly recommended Noll to Art Rooney after Joe Paterno turned the job down.

  • Steve

    Mercury Morris, Jim Kick, Bob Greise, Larry Zonka, Deacon Jones, Paul Warfield – Do I need to name anymore??? Larry Little was probably the best pulling guard EVER! They had the 4 best backs in the League at that time!!!!

  • Steve

    Right on. He went from worst to 1st. In 1969 they were 1-13.

  • Chris92021

    Face it, the Steelers will never fully get the credit they deserve. They won four Super Bowls but it doesn’t matter. If one says that Coach Noll was great, then naysayers point to the talent the team had, as if anyone else could have led the team to four Super Bowls. If one says the LB corps was great, then the naysayers point to the defensive line led by Joe Greene and LC Greenwood. If one says that Bradshaw is great, then the naysayers point to Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and host of other greats. The only place the Steelers win is on the field, where opinions don’t matter.

  • Steve

    Why is LC NOT in the HOF? With his numbers,,, surely he should.

  • Ahmad

    I would lobe to know what this guy was smoking. For the 70’s Noll wins hands down. 4 Super Bowl wins and he coached the greatest defense of all time. Enough said.

  • GoSteelerz

    How about Donnie Shell? He should be in the Hall, too!!!

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