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?”