Chuck Noll sadly passed away today. If you don't know the man's name, you should: he established the Pittsburgh Steelers as a contender in the 1970s. He won four Super Bowls as a head coach. He was one of the most successful head coaches to ever be in the NFL.
Right, that's all Steelers history, right? Why should you care? Because if it wasn't for Chuck Noll, there would be no Tampa 2. There would have been no Tony Dungy in Tampa. There would have been no Monte Kiffin. There would have been no Super Bowl. Well, they may have found other roads to success -- but Chuck Noll and his defensive coordinator Bud Carson were the driving force behind the innovation of the Cover 2. Tim Layden wrote an outstanding piece on that history back in 2006, if you want some more detail, but we can just go to one of our local beat writers for the scoop.
In all my conversations with Tony Dungy over the yrs, he couldn't talk about football for more than 5 minutes without referencing Chuck Noll— Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) June 14, 2014
Tony Dungy spent just two years playing for Chuck Noll, but he coached under him from 1981 through 1988. The defensive philosophy Dungy brought to the Buccaneers in 1996 was the exact same philosophy he'd learned from Bud Carson and Chuck Noll in the 1970s and 1980s. It's the same philosophy he subsequently taught to Lovie Smith. And it's the same philosophy that has defined every successful Buccaneers defense since the mid 1990s.
That philosophy isn't that difficult, really: get after the passer with four down linemen, get your cornerbacks involved in the running game, and prevent the big play. The Cover 2 and later the Tampa 2 did that by relying on zone coverage and a box safety. That has since evolved into more varied schemes. Cover 3 has become much more predominant in recent years among the old Tampa 2 coaches, for instance.
As the game evolves, so do defensive schemes. But it all still goes back to Chuck Noll and those 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers. It's still the same philosophical approach to the game. And, it still works. So take a moment to remember Chuck Noll. Because without him, the NFL would look very difficult right now.