Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 May 2018

Chuck Knox Passes Away at 86

Longtime NFL head coach Chuck Knox, aka "Ground Chuck" for his love of the running game, passed away today at the age of 86. Knox coached the Rams from 1973-1977 as well as 1992-1994, the Bills from 1978-1982, and the Seahawks from 1983-1991. He was NFL Coach of the Year in 1973, 1980, and 1984, once with each franchise.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 13 May 2018

44 comments, Last at 22 May 2018, 12:39am by Independent George


by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 5:06am

Still #10 on career wins - not to be sniffed at. Must have finished 6th as subsequently passed by Belichick, Reeves, Schottenheimer and Reid. Remember him best for those Seahawks teams battling it out in the 80s AFC West.

Gets a mention in this nonsense pop record from the 80s for his blue socks which is full of mentions for British TV personalities. Not sure how an American football coach got to be in it ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD3eo63spaA

by Richie :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 5:58pm

Reid hasn't passed him yet, unless you're counting playoffs. But if you're counting playoffs, then Knox is 11th, which is still awesome.

Also, funny about the socks. I looked at the Youtube link you posted, and the lyrics are listed. They say "Chuck Noakes" not Knox. But Chuck Noakes doesn't seem to come up on Google, so not sure if he exists, or just a misspelling of "Knox".

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 4:20am

I have to admit that I haven't memorised the list of NFL coaches wins and it was a quick look at a wikipedia list so quite possibly it includes playoffs. Interesting to note from reading his bio that his five consecutive NFC West titles with the Rams were won with five different starting QBs!

For what it's worth (which isn't much) definitely that lyric is Chuck Knox. There was a English TV presenter called John Noakes but that's pronounced N-oak-s. Anyway Chuck Knox has got blue socks - Dr Seuess missed that one!

My strange synchronicity was on the evening of this post I was going through a box of old cassette tapes. All the music and compilation tapes I'd made as a teenager in the 80s. I put in one that was untitled from a broken box and it turned out to be a recording off the AFRTS of the Seahawks-Raiders game from late '88 which clinched the Seahawks first divisional title under Knox.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 10:47am

He was terrific, and probably a couple of playoff losses to the Vikings away from being in the HOF.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 11:51am

Not many people can say that.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 2:08pm

It's kind of weird. If Bud Grant's Vikings lose those playoff games to Knox's Rams, Grant isn't in, and Knox is. They were all very close contests.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 9:31pm

I hate that you're probably right. Why shouldn't they both be HoFers? I actually assumed Knox was in the HoF, I was surprised to learn otherwise in these comments!

Jerry-freaking-Jones is in, Knox and Coryell are not. How did we all go so wrong?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 10:52pm

They both should be in. I gave up on the HOF when they inducted an owner who cheated on the salary cap, Eddie Debartolo. Meanwhile, Chuck Howley, 80 years old, 5 time All Pro, Super Bowl MVP, as a linebacker on the losing team, would have been a reasonable choice for a 2nd Super Bowl MVP, can't get in.

The institution is a complete, total, farce.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 7:08pm

I was hesitant to condemn the whole institution that harshly because I don't have a ton of confidence in my knowledge about anything that happened before the early- or mid-1990s. But I was certainly thinking something like what you just said!

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 05/18/2018 - 9:43am

That comment about Debartolo -- I don't know what salary cap shenanigans it refers to, but he owned the Niners 1977-2000, and the cap was only adopted in '94. Debartolo hired Bill Walsh, and was beloved by many of the big-name 49er players. You don't see "beloved" that often, applied to franchise owners.

Point being, I'm not mad that Debartolo is in.

I'm fully with you that Howley should be in.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:09pm


Policy and Clark paid fines, but I cannot believe Debartolo was unaware, nor do I believe it was the only time the Niners did it. In response, the league increased the potential penalties for such cheating.

I'm very reluctant to induct any owners, but I suppose I'd make an exception for a George Halas or Al Davis who were coaches/gms who won multiple championships, or a Wellington Mara or Lamar Hunt who were critical to building the business. Debartolo? He hired Bill Walsh and signed checks. He should be inducted for not being a cheapskate, and as a result his players thought he was terrific? Despite the fact that he cheated the rest of the league and fans?

Debartolo being in the Hall of Fame is a complete joke.

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 05/18/2018 - 9:42am

I honestly thought Coryell was in.

Two guys I beat the Hall drum for, and I think I'm alone on this, are Schottenheimer and Sterling Sharpe.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:06pm

There are several regular posters here to take up the cause of Schottenheimer.

by Independent George :: Sun, 05/20/2018 - 1:55am

Yup yup yup. Marty is easily the single most underrated coach in NFL history, easily in the top 20, arguably in the top 10.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sun, 05/20/2018 - 4:22am

Marty is Belichick but without the mystique (or Brady). Every two-bit fan thought he was smarter at football than "old," "conservative" Schottenheimer. In truth, Marty has probably always been the "QB Guru" teams were always searching for; when is the last time we had a pro bowl without Rivers or Brees?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 05/20/2018 - 5:16am

I'm appreciative of Marty and it's a sad mystery as to why his teams were never quite able to make it in the playoffs. Distant of memories of The Drive and The Fumble. Quite possibly his career would be seen very differently if Ernest Byner had held onto that ball.

But I'm not so sure about the "QB guru" tag, he had Rich Gannon for four years in KC and kept electing to use 49er rejects like Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac.

by Independent George :: Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:39am

The main thing is the one-and-done nature of the playoffs. Let's say you get a first-round bye eight years in a row, and win 50% of those games, but lose in the next round each time you advance. Congratulations! You've got a 4-8 playoff record despite making four conference championship games.

Combine that with some really tough losses, and now you're the butt of jokes despite being one of the most consistently successful coaches in NFL history. Beyond The Drive and The Fumble, you also had the 1997 Chiefs holding the (eventual Champion) Broncos to 14 points and losing, and Marlon McCree fumbling the game away in 2006. Also 2004, where Kaeding missed a 40-yard FG in overtime.

by Steve B :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 1:21am

It wasn't just "a couple close losses to the Vikings", though. The years they didn't lose to the Vikings they lost to the Cowboys instead, including getting blown out at home in the '75 NFCCG.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 7:39am

Those two close losses to the Vikings were in Conference Championship games. One was in the division round. If Knox had two Super Bowl appearances, his resume would be seen quite differently.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 8:06am

What's your view on Dan Reeves? He's just ahead of Knox on the wins list. Three SB appearances with Denver and then a 4th with the Falcons. Tied with Levy and Grant for four losses.

(Not a trap question - just interested to hear your view Will)

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:47am

I'm a little more ambivalent on Reeves. He had the benefit of having a great qb for the first part of his career, playing in a significantly weaker conference, and yet his winning percentage is worse than that of Knox. Knox never had more than an average qb. Reeves did some really good work in Atlanta, however.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 4:26am

He was in Dallas for a long time under Landry so I guess he really got to understand Tom's system which was apparently complex. But probably more importantly he understood how to run an organisation. Not sure though there are too many other coaches to come from the Landry tree? Maybe Ditka.

As you say, difficult to know what to make of Reeves with Elway at QB. He had that little spell at the Giants too which started out well but then went downhill. Not a tenure I know much about but would guess the Parcells-Giants were leaving and free agency was starting.

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 10:40am

There are rather few coaches who come directly from Landry on the Landry tree. Once you let in even a single extra degree of separation, there are tons, but surprisingly few who actually worked for Landry, and most of them were really failures.

Dick Nolan played for Landry for six years and coached under him (as the offensive coordinator) for another six.
Ron Meyer was a scout for the Cowboys in the early '70s before becoming the Patriots head coach in 1982.
The immortal John Mackovic was a QB coach under Landry for two years before his stint in Kansas City was defined by the failure of Todd Blackledge . . .
Gene Stallings spent 14 years (!) as Landry's DB coach before taking over the then-St. Louis Cardinals.
Raymond Berry spent two years as Landry's WR coach long before taking over the Patriots from Meyer.

Surprisingly for a guy who had such a long and successful tenure, I think that's the list for Landry's direct disciples to get NFL head coaching positions.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 4:33pm

Great summary - thanks for the work on that.

Did many coaches come out of Miami/Baltimore from Don Shula? I believe his DC (Bill Arnspanger?) had an unsuccessful stint with the Giants in the mid-70s. Don't really know who his co-ordinators were and can't really think of any of his players who became HCs.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 5:53pm

Bill Curry, a center for Shula, had some success as a head coach in college. Shula's assistant, Howard Schnellenberger had a lot of success in college. Don McCafferty won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Colts in 1970. He was fired after a couple more years, then died early in his stint with the Lions.

You may have heard of a guy named Chuck Noll, who had a bit of success.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:37am

Monte Clark wotjh dolphina from 1970=-75. first was offensive lien coach,t hen offensive coordinator. coordinated offebnse during Sea of Hands game. tjhen was head coach S.F. 49ers 1976. good season, 8-6 but relieved of duties after 1 year as 49ers were clown show in late 70s. Then head coach of Loins for sevben or eight year. had a few good seasons there.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 05/17/2018 - 11:04am

Arnsparger did indeed have an unsuccessful stint with the Giants in the mid-'70s. He spent six years as DL coach in Baltimore, then followed Shula to Miami as DC for four years, then spent 2.5 years coaching the Giants before returning to Miami for another 8.5 years.
Monte Clark (who did also play for Landry for one year) was under Shula for six years before becoming the 49ers head coach for one year and the Lions head coach for seven years. He did make the playoffs twice with the Lions, which is pretty good by their standards.
Bill McPeak gets listed as part of his coaching tree, though he was actually a head coach in Washington before Shula employed him. He was the offensive coordinator in 1973 and then in 1974 I can find places listing both him and Clark as offensive coordinator but I don't see anything explaining what happened, so he spent 1-2 years under Shula.
As Will Allen mentioned, Chuck Noll was a DB coach for Shula for three years before becoming the Steelers HC.
Howard Schnellenberger had a 1.2-year stint as the Colts HC bookended by runs as Shula's OC.
Chuck Studley was an interim HC for ten games and later on became Shula's DC.
David Shula held various offensive coaching positions over the course of seven years for his father before becoming the Cincinnati HC for 4.5 years.
Dan Henning was a QB and WR coach under Shula for two years and eventually became HC of the Falcons for four years and then Chargers for another three.

I think that is the list for him as well. Also seems shorter than one would expect, though he has some more successful coaches.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 12:56pm

Those Rams teams in the 70's were truly unlucky to be stuck in a conference with the Vikings and Cowboys.

His 1980's Seahawks teams were also pretty good, but "pretty good" instead of excellent is quick path to being forgotten and underappreciated by history. Reminiscent of his Rams teams, they were stuck in the same division as the great early 80's Raiders teams, and then later the mid/late 80's Elway Broncos.

by andrew :: Fri, 05/18/2018 - 8:40am

As opposed to being in a conference with the 70s Steelers, Raiders and Dolphins?

The general perception in the 1970s was the AFC was the stronger conference.

by MC2 :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 1:54pm

I vividly remember watching his old Seahawks teams with Dave Krieg, Curt Warner, and of course, the great Steve Largent. He's one of the first guys who comes to mind when I think of the old school, "three yards and a cloud of dust" coaches.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 4:12pm

When I think of Krieg and Largent, I don't think "three yards and a cloud of dust."

by MC2 :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 5:12pm

Largent apparently did.

“If Chuck had his wish, it’d be three yards and a cloud of dust and he’d win, 7-6,” Steve Largent, his star receiver with the Seahawks, once said.


by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 05/14/2018 - 9:38pm

Curt Warner seems to be coming up pretty often around here recently. Is that all you, bringing him up in different threads?

(I don't want to imply that it's a bad thing if it is you, I would applaud you for doing something creative and interesting. I bet we all have favorite moderately obscure players from decades past.)

by MC2 :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:41am

Actually, someone else (I think it was ABGT) brought him up first, in a discussion with me. I've then mentioned him at least a couple more times. And of course, I can't think of "Ground Chuck" without thinking of the RB I most associate with him.

The funny thing is, prior to the last couple weeks, I hadn't thought of him in years. He was one of those guys who was pretty well known in his day, but wasn't good enough to warrant serious HOF consideration, and so ends up a mere footnote.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 4:51am

As I recall he had about a five year peak and then got superseceded by John L Williams pretty quickly.

It was a bit like William Andrews/Gerald Riggs in Atlanta and George Rogers/Reuben Mayes in New Orleans. Noting that Rogers and Riggs both ended up in Washington following on from Riggins.

Looking back you really begin to see how fungible running backs could be.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 8:27am

Wasn't me.

My strongest memories of Curt Warner are from Tecmo Bowl.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:54am

form nfl gilms footage, remember c,. knox as coach who got carried off field by players couple times. one was when bilsl finally beat Miami in 1980 adfter losing to them entire decade of 1970s. otgher team was when coach of sehakws 1983. carried off field in orange bowl following playoff win.

by Sixknots :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:51pm

*Carried off the field* has so much more class than Gatorade Bath. I'd like to see that one ended.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 10:45am

Man, think of the poor players who have played for Reid and McCarthy!

by andrew :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 3:00pm

Smallest combined margin of defeats, regular season, modern (1960+) NFL:

0: New England Patriots, 2007
2: Washington Redskins, 1983
3: Los Angeles Rams, 1973

That year the Rams started 6-0, then lost two in a road on the road, 10-9 at Minnesota and 15-13 at San Fransisco. They then won out. Then because the NFL had stupid playoff scheduling then, they got to go on the road to the 10-4 Cowboys and lost.

Everyone remembers their losses to the Vikings (74, 76, 77), the last one the worst, the only won in LA in the Mud Bowl vs a clearly fading Vikings team they had beaten earlier in the year 35-3.

But it was the losses to Dallas that were probably the worst, both of Knox' 12-2 teams lost to Dallas, the above mentioned one in 73 and worst, at home in 1975, coming in a season where they gave up less than 10 pts a game (3rd fewest in modern NFL) they lost, at home, giving up 37 pts.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 3:59pm

Grant, to his credit, hugely outcoached Knox in that 77 playoff game . He knew that after about 10 minutes passing the ball would become near impossible, in the deluge, so he came out in a two minute offense, throwing on nearly every down, got a td on the 1st possession, then settled dow to happily play slop ball, got another td in the 4th quarter on very short field after a turnover, then happily allowed the Rams to use the rest of the clock to get within 7.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 05/15/2018 - 4:15pm

Did something happen to the 1972 Dolphins?

by andrew :: Wed, 05/16/2018 - 10:54am

Oh, fie, alright, amend that to be since 1973, will ya.

Yes, they are tied with the Patriots at the top.

by Chuckc :: Fri, 05/18/2018 - 5:50pm

The 1984 49ers are tied with the Rams at 3.