John Madden Recalls Chuck Noll Wanting Him To Be His Defensive Coordinator

In 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Chuck Noll to be their head coach. That same year, John Madden was named the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. During a Wednesday interview with Chris Russo on Mad Dog Unleashed, Madden talked about how Noll wanted to hire him to be his defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh prior to him landing the job with the Raiders.

“When [Noll] he got the job with the Steelers, that was before I got the job with the Raiders. It was the same year, but it was a month or so before. He offered me a job as a defensive coordinator,” said Madden. “You talk about a fork in the road, I could have just as well, if I didn’t choose to wait and see what was going to happen with Oakland, I could have just as well been with Chuck during those years, or some of those years.”

Madden said that while he and Noll used to be very close friends prior to them each landing head coaching jobs, that quickly changed once they started coaching against one another.

“Early, you know he didn’t win the first few years there, so we were still pretty friendly. And then we started having Immaculate Reception games and injury games and lawsuits, so our friendship really did kind of wane,” he said.

Madden said that his friendship with Noll started way back in mid 1960s when Noll was the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and Madden was the defensive coordinator at San Diego State University.

“He used to come play racquet ball and hand ball with us and at one time we were kind of best friends,” Madden recalled. “And then he went to Baltimore and I went with the Raiders and in the spring we used to scout, coaches used to scout in those days. So Chuck and I would always kind of arrange it where we could go together and scout together.”

Madden also talked about Noll’s coaching style in those early years.

“He was very basic, he was very fundamental,” said Madden. “Like I said, he was a teacher and he thought that if you taught the fundamentals well and the players had the fundamentals, then all of the other things like playing hard, aggressiveness, all of those things would come out.”

Including the playoffs, Noll went 5-6 against Madden and the Raiders from 1969-1979. Noll, however, won three more Super Bowls than Madden did. Both are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and several of the classic games that these two coaches had against one another will forever be remembered even if the friendship the two men once had will likely be forgotten.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • 2443scott

    this is how sports is you can be friends then when you play each other that i want to beat you takes over and friendships suffer from it ….so when madden says when steelers werent good and they were friends then when they started beating raiders it changed lol… so when franco ran in for that touchdown against madden which today is still jabbing madden in ribs….then the i am going to beat your A@@ mode kicked in for both them …it still seems steelers and raiders to some degree still has that effect ..i bet you go to say ohio teams and bal team right now you have friends being friendly till season starts lol …its just how it is …as you can see i didnt list cowboys in that only because they no longer are worth the effort lol

  • Steelerbob

    It’s funny,since the defense was the key to all those great teams and super bowl wins and Madden was recruited for the defensive coordinator, how would that have changed. Would the defenses have been as good? Would nothing have changed? I dont see how they could possibly have been better (except maybe by Madden not being in Oakland, maybe they win in ’76 as well)

  • steeltown

    That is an interesting thought… we’ll never know

  • Biggie

    Madden should have take the DC job, he’d have 4 SBs instead of 1 and on the better end of the Immaculate Reception and he wouldn’t still get stressed out as much when it’s mentioned.

  • wilsonmjw

    Best hypothetical question.

    If Madden would have came on and stayed long term (instead of burning out as a HC in Oakland), would he have taken over in the mid-80’s and sustained some level of success consistent with our success in the 70’s?

    Before you dismiss this…remember, they would have been BFFs then and Noll had already had his run and I believe would have been more likely to step aside for a loyal friend then some random dude.

    My version of this scenario: Noll would have retired before the shine came off the apple (1984ish) and would be the unquestioned greatest coach ever and then had an eager Madden coming off the bench. Probably would have won another SB in the late 80’s/early 90’s at least. We would all be playing “Noll 2014″ on Playstation tonight.

  • colingrant

    My distaste for the Ravens, Cowboys or Browns has never come close to how I felt about the Raiders. Not close. It’s the same for most who lived and experienced the 70’s. Not all, but most.

  • treeher

    If you didn’t live through it in the 70s, you can have no conception of the pure unadulterated loathing that Steelers and Raiders had for each other. I mean, it was visceral and you could even feel it through the TV set, let alone in the stadium.

  • Steve

    Thanks for The Great Article Dave, you taught me a few things. Steelers and Raiders were a Great Rivalry back in the 70’s and it may be because Noll and Madden were such Good friends, which I didn’t know. The two teams had a lot of similarity’s and many differences. The Raiders were a left had team, which was unusual. Kenny Stabler was a left handed QB and their bread and butter was running Pete Banazack and Marv Hubbard behind Art Shell and Gene Upshaw who played guard and tackle on the left side. They also had a center Jim Otto who’s number was “00”.

  • Axe Skot

    I never liked Madden as a coach and especially didn’t like him as a broadcaster.