Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh – The Emperor vs. the Genius

When Bill Walsh passed away in September 2007, he took hs rightful place alongside departed coaching legends like Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, and Tom Landry.

When commentators rushed to assess Walsh’s place among other coaching legends, his name was rarely matched against of Chuck Noll’s.


The stock response is, “…Sure, Noll was good… but you know, Walsh made a much deeper imprint on the game….”

Bill Walsh was great by any and all measures. His legacy, in terms of game plan design and coaching cadre, is on display every Sunday for all to see, and this will continue for a long, long time.

But what is the true relation between a “legacy,” and sheer coaching greatness? To what extent can you differentiate the two? How do you separate a man’s impact on the game from his on-the field coaching ability?

These are difficult questions to answer, but if you peel away aura that accompanies “the Bill Walsh coaching tree” and the proliferation of “the West Coast Offense,” Walsh retains his greatness, but becomes much more of a mortal.

The Conventional Wisdom both inside and outside of Steelers Nation will probably always rank Walsh higher than Noll. But Steel Curtain Rising revels in challenging the conventional wisdom, and we argue that when measured as a mortal, the lofty perch the Walsh occupies doesn’t necessarily overlook Chuck Noll.

What follows is a series of posts that compare The Emperor who led the team of the ‘70’s, to “the Genius” who led the team of the 80’s. Noll vs. Walsh — By the Numbers quantifies the competition. Noll vs. Walsh – Talent Evaluation examines the mens’ respective abilities as talent evaluators. Noll vs. Walsh – What Makes a Legacy? traces the impact both men had on the sport beyond the actual games that they were involved in.

Finally, we wrap it up with Noll vs. Walsh — Head to Head. Enjoy. “By the numbers” follows immedately below, with the others scattered out throughout the blog. Enjoy, and feel free to jump into the debate in the comment section, just keep it civil.

Click here to read Part II of the Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh Series, click here to return to the main article.

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