Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh – The Emperor vs. the Genius, introduced this series of posts that will compare Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh.
Any comparison begins with the numbers. How we interpret numbers might be subjective, but numbers themselves do not lie.
Regular Season Victories:
Bill Walsh – 92-59-1 (.603)
Chuck Noll – 193-148-1 (.566)
This is an interesting stat. Walsh does have a better winning percentage, but Noll won more games than Walsh. One hundred and one more to be exact. To give you an idea of the proportions involved, Pro Football reference lists 436 NFL head coaches. Of that number, less than thirty cracked the 100 win mark. One hundred win provides pretty wide margin. Edge: Noll.
Post Season Victories
Bill Walsh 10-4 (.714)
Chuck Noll 16-8 (.667)
Again, Walsh holds the better winning percentage, but Noll again beats him when it comes to the raw numbers. Playoff victories are a scarce commodity (ask Marty Schottenhimer). Noll’s higher playoff victory total trumps Walsh’s better winning percentage. Edge: Noll.
Playoff Appearances and Division Titles
Bill Walsh 7 playoff appearances, 6 division titles
Chuck Noll 12 playoff appearances, 9 division titles
Case is pretty clear here. Noll brought teams to the playoffs almost twice as many times as Walsh, and brought home three more division titles. To that you can add the fact that the Bengals, Browns, and Oilers of the 70’s gave the Steelers far stiffer challenges than anything the 49er’s faced from the Falcons, Saints, and Rams of the 80’s. Edge: Noll.
Bill Walsh 3
Chuck Noll 4
These are the cold, hard facts. Chuck Noll brought home more hardware for the trophy case than did Bill Walsh. 49ers partisans like to argue that credit for Super Bowl XXIV rightfully belongs to Bill Walsh and not George Seifert, because the 49ers surely would have won that year had Walsh not retired. That’s not only plausible, it’s extremely likely.
Alas, as Yoda would say, overwhelming probability does not reality equal.
The fact is that is that Walsh didn’t coach four Super Bowl teams.
Chuck Noll did.
The decision to weight total wins heavier than winning percentage is certainly debatable. But to avoid repetition, we’ll hold off discussion on that until the final section “Walsh vs. Noll, Head to Head.” In the mean time, check back in a few days for our next post: Noll vs. Walsh – Talent Evaluators, followed by Noll vs. Walsh — What Makes a Legacy?