Posted on: January 23, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 4:01 pm
By Josh Katzowitz
As we try to wrap our heads around the flip-flop University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly has pulled in the past 24 hours and the death of Joe Paterno, all of that reminded Sports Illustrated’s Peter King about a flip-flop perpetrated by the longtime Penn State coach almost 30 years ago.
After turning down a chance to coach the Steelers in 1969*, which led Pittsburgh to hire legend Chuck Noll, Paterno -- who also was a target for the Packers after he turned down the Steelers -- was offered the Patriots job in 1973. And he accepted it before eventually changing his mind and returning to Happy Valley, because, as King writes, “he reportedly was skittish over the shaky ownership and management of the team.”
As I looked at some old newspapers from January 1973, it’s interesting to read what happened between Paterno and the Patriots.
After leading the Nittany Lions to a 10-1 season in 1972, the Patriots offered Paterno a package worth $1.25 million over five years if he would take over the coaching and general manager duties in New England. He also would have been awarded stock in the team. After Penn State lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, he and Patriots president Billy Sullivan met for two days in New Orleans.
The one who didn’t want Paterno to take the job? His wife, Sue, who said she liked living in State College too much to leave.
At the time, Paterno -- who made about $30,000 a year -- said the offer “was as good as anyone was able to get out of professional football. Mr. Sullivan was disappointed but he agreed that what was best for me was best for the Patriots if pro football was not what I wanted.” Somehow, Chuck Fairbanks was not as sexy a hire.
As King writes, that didn’t discourage the Patriots from trying to hire Paterno again in 1982. But he turned down the job again, and that was it for NFL teams trying to convince Paterno to leave Penn State.
"The fact that I'm just not a football coach and a businessman is because of Penn State's approach to athletics, within the entire framework of the university," Paterno said in 1973. "I have had an opportunity to work with young people and have an influence on their lives. I think that was an overriding factor in my decision -- the fact that it is such a healthy atmosphere."
It’s unfortunate that when Paterno was ultimately fired from his job -- whether you believe Paterno shared blame in the Jerry Sandusky controversy -- the atmosphere in Happy Valley has been anything but healthy.
*If you want more info on the Steelers offering Paterno their job in 1969, click on this post provided by CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson.
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Posted on: November 10, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 10:05 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
The abrupt end to Joe Paterno's 61-year coaching career at Penn State was national news Wednesday night. But 42 years ago, the winningest coach in Division I history almost left State College for Pittsburgh.
In 1969, a year after going 2-11-1 (and six years removed from their last winning season), the Rooney family offered Paterno $70,000 to coach the Steelers. It was $50,000 more than what the college paid Paterno at the time.
According to "Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete Illustrated History," Paterno struggled with the decision before eventually declining the Rooney's offer to stay at Penn State.
"It was an awful lot of money, a fantastic offer," Paterno said at the time. "I'd never dreamed of making that much money. Then I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I had put some things out of whack. I haven't done the job I set out to do at Penn State."
The Steelers had to settle for one of Don Shula's assistants down in Miami. Some guy named Chuck Noll, who went on to coach in Pittsburgh for 23 years and led the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles. He retired in 1991 with a 209-156-1 record, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
"Hiring Chuck Noll was the best decision we ever made," Dan Rooney said in the book.
Bill Cowher succeeded Noll and coached in Pittsburgh from 1992 to 2006, winning one Super Bowl in 2005. Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007, after Cowher retired, and the Steelers made two Super Bowl appearances in his first four years (winning once in 2008).
hat tip: Shutdown Corner
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Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:17 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
With the death last Saturday of Raiders owner Al Davis, we got to see a side of him that most people under 35 never got to experience. When Davis was an innovator, a kick-ass coach and owner, a fighter against The Man and one of the most important figures in NFL history. It was nice to be reminded of that with tributes all over the Internet, newspapers and in NFL stadiums on Sunday.
Maybe we didn’t think about it in terms like this, but Davis, though largely reclusive to the public, was a living legend, and in the final years of his life, we probably didn’t appreciate him as much as we should have.
That said, here are 10 other living legends who hold (or who should hold) a special place in the league’s heart. No matter what they’ve become today -- those who are outspoken for and against their old teams, those who spend their time behind the scenes, and those who have disappeared for now -- it’s not too late to show them our appreciation for all the good they’ve done and the lives they’ve led.
10. Ron Wolf: Another of Davis’ protégés, Davis gave Wolf a job as a scout for the Raiders in the early 1960s, and after helping the Raiders to a plethora of wins, he helped set up a 1979 division title in Tampa Bay before moving on to Green Bay as the general manager. He hired Mike Holmgren as the head coach, traded for a backup quarterback named Brett Favre, revitalized that franchise that led to Super Bowl riches and restored the name of a storied organization that had fallen into disrepair.
9. Mike Westhoff: The only man on this list who’s still active in the game, you might remember Westhoff from his turn on Hard Knocks where he played the Jets awesome special teams coach. It wasn’t much of a stretch, because Westhoff has been an awesome special teams coach. Aside from that, he’s a bone cancer survivor (he had to have nearly a dozen surgeries to get rid of it), and he’s one of the most respected working coaches today. But he won’t be around much longer. After 30 years of coaching, he’s said this season will be his last.
8. Ray Guy: Last year, I made him my No. 1 former player who deserves be in the Hall of Fame, but since he probably won’t ever get to Canton, that list and this one will have to suffice. Once Shane Lechler’s career is over, he’ll be considered the No. 1 punter of all time (maybe he’ll have a chance at the HOF!), but Guy was the one who showed the NFL how important a punter could be to his team.
7. Jerry Kramer (seen at right): He was a better football player than Jim Bouton was a pitcher, but both opened up the world of sports that fans had never seen before. Bouton’s tome, “Ball Four,” is a masterpiece that shocked those who had watched baseball and thought of players like Mickey Mantle as pure of heart. Kramer’s 1968 book, "Instant Replay," was a diary he kept of the 1967 season in which he gave glimpses of what life was like inside the Packers locker room under coach Vince Lombardi while chronicling some of the most famous moments in Green Bay history.
6. James “Shack” Harris: He was the first black player in the NFL to start at quarterback for the entire season in 1969, and in 1975, he led the Los Angeles Rams to an 11-2 record and an NFC West division title. He wasn’t a dominant quarterback in his day, but he was a trailblazer. And after retirement from playing, he was the head of pro player personnel when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. He’s currently a personnel executive with the Lions.
5. Chuck Noll: We don’t see much of Noll -- who’s rumored to be in declining health -- these days, but his impact is unmistakable. He won four Super Bowls as head coach of the Steelers in the 1970s, and Al Davis thought so much of him that he once tried to sue him (the two were on the same staff in San Diego in the early 1960s). And he was the first coach to allow his team to take baseline concussion tests -- which, as we know today, was a pretty important development.
4. Joe Namath: The legendary Jets quarterback has become a thorn in coach Rex Ryan’s side. Namath is constantly on Twitter, exhorting or back-handing his former team, and because he’s Joe Freakin’ Namath, the media has to pay attention. With that -- and his on-air exchange a few years back with Suzy Kolber -- it’s not difficult to forget just how good Namath was as a signal-caller. He was the first to throw for 4,000 yards (in a 14-game season no less), and he boldly guaranteed victory for the underdog Jets in Super Bowl III and then went out and delivered.
3. Joe Gibbs: One of my colleagues recently called him the greatest coach of the last 40 years, and considering Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien), he’s one of the legends. His return to the Redskins from 2004-07 didn’t go so well (a combined 30-34 record), but before that, his complete career winning percentage was better than all coaches not named John Madden or Vince Lombardi.
2. John Madden: We don’t get to hear much from John Madden these days, and that’s too bad. I liked him on Monday Night Football -- his football knowledge and his enthusiasm -- and though he was before my time, you have to admire his coaching record. He took over the Raiders job in 1969 at the tender age of 33, and when he retired after the 1978 season, he had a coaching record of 103-32-7. That is a winning percentage of .763, and to go with it, he won a Super Bowl and seven division titles in 10 years.
1. Bum Phillips: The old Oilers coach -- and 3-4 defense innovator -- is still kicking around in Texas, attending Texans games, wearing his big cowboy hat and writing books about his life (OK, it’s one book, but you should check it out). He’s a fun guy to speak with, and he’s fully into philanthropy. But aside from his defensive prowess, the dude is a great storyteller. Quickly, one of my favorites: when he was an assistant coach to Sid Gillman, one of the earliest believers in breaking down film, Phillips barely could keep his eyes open one night as Gillman continued studying game tape. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Gillman excitedly claimed that watching film made him feel so awesome that it was better than having sex. Responded Phillips: "Either I don't know how to watch film, Sid, or you don't know how to make love."
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