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.