Chuck Noll’s Imprint On Bucs

June 17th, 2014


Today, arguably the greatest leader of the Super Bowl era, former Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, was laid to rest in Pittsburgh. The man won four Super Bowls. More than Bill Walsh, Bill Belicheat, Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.

While Noll never worked a day for the Buccaneers, his fingerprints are all over Tampa Bay.

And that is because of Father Dungy, who both played for and coached under Noll.

When Father Dungy was hired by Tampa Bay in 1996 and turned the Bucs from laughingstock to annual contender, he tried to build the Bucs with the same Noll model for the Steelers dynasty.

Yesterday, while appearing on “The Opening Drive” with co-hosts Bob Papa and Booger McFarland, heard exclusively on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Dungy explained how the Bucs were an extension of Noll’s Steelers.

“‘Champions don’t do extraordinary things, they don’t make the highlight reel plays,'” Father Dungy recounted Noll’s words when Dungy played for him. “’They do the ordinary things better than everybody else, day in and day out. We are going to be fundamentally sound and outhit the other team. We are going to be fast and physical and that is how we are going to win.’ He kept things simple and basic.

“What I brought to the Buccaneers 20 years later was the same philosophy. We are not going to be smarter than anybody else. We are not going to fool people. We are just going to play football fundamentally sound and win. That was a lesson I learned from [Noll].

“He was very accessible. Focus on fundamentals. Don’t pay attention to what everybody else thinks about players.”

Father Dungy also said he consulted with Noll often when he coached the Bucs, but the message from Noll was always consistent and unsympathetic to Father Dungy’s problems. “Fundamentals” was always the solution. When in doubt, scale back the playbook and focus on fundamentals.

As a result, Father Dungy said Noll was like a second father figure to him.

The only thing Joe has to quibble with Father Dungy about building the Bucs in Noll’s image was how Father Dungy never adapted in Tampa yet Noll did with the Steelers.

Noll was very old school: Pound the defense with the run and only throw the ball if you had to. But that was until the league changed pass defense rules, largely because of how Noll’s future Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount shut down opponents’ passing attacks. The new rule allowed receivers to run free. Defenders could only only touch a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

After the rules change, Noll decided to embrace the passing game. Blount, in the 1978 Steelers “America’s Game” episode, spoke about how Noll told his team they were going to air it out under the new rules.

That very same team had a reserve cornerback on the roster by the name of Tony Dungy, who Blount said in the same video was the smartest football man he ever met. That 1978 season, Terry Bradshaw led the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and was the first quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in a Super Bowl as the Steelers won their third title.

When Father Dungy was with the Bucs, he was often asked why he would not open up the offense. Dungy’s constant reply was, in so many words, this is how we did it in Pittsburgh. There was a lot of grey area in that answer — not wholly accurate but not inaccurate. But Joe’s issue with Father Dungy was direct. He didn’t adapt like his mentor did.

And now with the Bucs being led by perhaps Father Dungy’s strongest disciple, Lovie Smith, it is obvious listening to Lovie and watching practices that Noll’s influence is all over One Buc Palace once again.

24 Responses to “Chuck Noll’s Imprint On Bucs”

  1. Luther Says:

    Great read Joe and your comments are spot on. I love what Dungy did for us but offensively, I wanted to puke every Sunday.

  2. Joe Says:

    Forgot one story: When Father Dungy came to Bucs, he pulled aside Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in a meeting. Dungy looked at Sapp and said, you need to be Joe Greene. He looked at Brooks and said, you need to be Jack Ham. Now, that same defensive philosophy is taking shape with Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.

  3. Mumbles Says:

    “Don’t pay attention to what everybody else thinks about players”. Well that explains Oniel Cousins!

  4. INDYbucsfan Says:

    I think lovie will adapt I think his year off is going to pay huge dividends this year and for years to come.

  5. BigMacAttack Says:

    Great reporting Joe, when there is absolutely nothing going on. Well the Rays did win last night, barely.

  6. Harry Says:

    McCoy and David. Sapp and Brooks, Greene and Ham. Will Evans be Lynn Swann? Can VJax be Stallworth? I think so on both counts. But can McCown emulate Bradshaw?

    I hated the Steelers back then bc I LOVED the Oilers (I’ve never seen anyone who ran like Earl Campbell). I still can’t allow myself to like them now. But I always respected Noll and how can anyone hate Bradshaw? (however, Roethlisburger is easy to hate).

    RIP Chuck, you will forever be one of the best.

  7. Eric Says:

    Doesn’t appear that Raheem has yet become “the next Chuck Noll”.

    As so many here thought he would.

  8. Buccfan37 Says:

    Lovie has a good chance to turn around the Bucs just as Noll turned around the Steelers. No rebuild, win now is the attitude and Lovie is going to put it together and pull it off.

  9. Louis Friend Says:

    I think it’s obvious Lovie has learned lessons beyond Dungy, while still focusing on the fundamentals. Nobody spend a whole draft on a passing attack to spend their Sundays in a run dominated offense. Going to be interesting around in the next few seasons. Go Bucs!

  10. Bobby Says:

    @ Eric said. “Doesn’t appear that Raheem has yet become “the next Chuck Noll”.
    As so many here thought he would.”

    I don’t think anyone predicted he would be the next Chuck Noll. I think myself and others said you can’t write someone off after one year and that even great coaches normally start off slow. Morris was obviously not a great coach and he proved that after his regression from a 10-6 season. It’s the same premise as some people calling McCoy a bust after his first two seasons….you couldn’t compare McCoy to Sapp but you could say that Sapp didn’t set the world on fire his rookie year either.
    That’s a little different than saying McCoy is the next Warren Sapp because they both had less than stellar rookie years.

  11. Touch_Down_Tampa_Bay Says:

    @Bucfan37 & Louis Friend – I’m right with you!

    I think the only thing I enjoyed other than Freeman looking like the real deal (Oct. 2012)the past 2 years has been the punt block team. Joe what can you dig about the Special Teams coach?

  12. Touch_Down_Tampa_Bay Says:

    And Martin’s rookie season of course…

  13. Hawaiian Buc Says:


    I was hoping maybe Raheem would be the next Jim Mora. You gotta admit though, Raheem made press conferences pretty fun. “Take off your underwear and put your face on people” – that’s pretty much the greatest statement I’ve ever heard.

  14. Louis Friend Says:

    @TD Tampa Bay

    Yep, October 2012 was for a short time one of the most amazing displays of offense ever seen in Bucland. If Tedford could consistently do that with this team there’d be a 40 year waiting list for season tickets. I’d be on it, too. And I live in Chicago.

    Freeman did have his moment in the sun, albeit briefly.

  15. WalkdaPlank Says:

    Huh, pill popping Eric Wright retired today at 28. Guess he is taking the money he stole from the Bucs and 9ers and running.

  16. The don Says:

    Freeman. I remember his first win against Green Bay. Throwback unis. Ah, he was rising. My , what a fall

  17. Dooley Says:

    How many HOF’s did Noll draft? And shouldn’t we credit him for Hardy Nickerson too?

  18. BigMacAttack Says:

    I liked Rah in 2010′ even though he was dumber than dirt. I like an underdog and Raheem was that. He wasn’t a great coach by far but he was only one bad call away from the playoffs and no one knows what could have been. I will support any Buc player or coach until they give me too many reasons not to. Whatever the case, it all lead us to where we are today. High Hopes again.

  19. BigMacAttack Says:

    Raheem also did more fro Freeman than any other coach before it after. Josh should be looking to Raheem for help, not Chucky.

  20. Louis Friend Says:

    BigMac – exactly how did he help Freeman? I’d say he set him up for failure by expecting less than what he should have. 2011 proved it.

  21. Hawaiian Buc Says:

    @Louis Friend,

    I’ll answer for BigMac. Freeman looked like a legitimate NFL QB under Raheem. He hasn’t even looked like a legitimate college QB ever since. Even as a rookie, he showed a ton of promise. His second year was one of the best seasons ever for any Buc QB (not saying too much with our history, but still yet a very good season). 2011 was a disaster, but it was a disaster for literally everyone on the entire roster. Freeman had moments under Raheem where he looked like a very good franchise QB. From about week 9 under Schiano (and ever since), he has looked like complete garbage. I have no idea how much credit Raheem should get for that (probably not much), but the fact is he performed better under Raheem.

  22. SAMCRO Says:

    If there is one thing about Father Dungy I’ve always admired the most, it is his demeanor. His philosophy on football may have been inspired by Noll, but his steady arrhythmia is something to behold. The man is so mild tempered, smart, articulate, and so full of wisdom that he could be called Tampa Bay’s own christian version of the Dalai Lama. A trait that Father Dungy’s protege Lovie Smith also possesses. Smooth operators …Toes on the line ..please

  23. Joe Says:


    Will Evans be Lynn Swann?

    Highly doubt it. Swann was as acrobatic as there ever was. Swann was a smallish receiver with crazy skills and hops. Godzilla is a totally different kind of receiver. More physical and brute strength that Swann never had.

    Can VJax be Stallworth?

    Stallworth would have retired if he was caught from behind as often as VJax has been. You could make an argument Stallworth was better than Swann.

    But can McCown emulate Bradshaw?

    That’s an awfully tall order. Kind of doubt it.

  24. SAMCRO Says:

    Oh yeah ..Let’s start with a Terry Bradshaw debate. If there ever was a system that benefitted an average QB, it was Chuck Nolls Steelers. McCown statistically is already better than Bradshaw, he’s just needs eight NFCS championships and four Super Bowl titles to catch up. lol