Chuck Knox is a name known by many football fans, especially those that watched pro football from the 1970s to the early 1990s. He isn’t thought of usually though when people start listing the great coaches of all time. Though he may not have had the most successful career in the NFL, he is vastly underrated and accomplished many great things.
Knox got his start in coaching as an assistant for a number of Pennsylvania high school teams. He eventually became a high school head coach before venturing into the world of assistant coaches in college football during the early 1960s. New York Jets coach Weeb Ewbank would hire Knox as an assistant in 1963 which brought him into the world of professional football. Many credit Knox in particular with being one of the driving forces in convincing a young Joe Namath to choose the AFL over the more highly respected NFL. Knox would leave the Jets in 1967 to join the staff of the Detroit Lions. If he had stayed just one more year in New York, he would have received what would have been the only Super Bowl ring of his career.
After six seasons in Detroit, 1973 saw the Los Angeles Rams hire Chuck Knox as their head coach. In his first season there, Knox would win the NFC Coach of the Year Award as he guided the Rams to a 12-2 record and an NFC West title. He could never get the team to the big game though and after five years it was time for a change. Knox’s Rams teams during this five year stretch would win five division titles with five different quarterbacks and have an overall record of 54-15-1. The lack of success in the playoffs and troubles with ownership though would ultimately lead to him stepping down.
In 1978, Chuck Knox would sign on to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, a team going through some very tough times. It didn’t take long for Knox to turn the team around as by the early 1980s the Bills had won an AFC East title, posted an 11-5 record, and made multiple playoff appearances. Knox left the Bills when his contract was up following the 1982 season, but he wouldn’t be without a job for long.
In January of 1983, Chuck Knox accepted the job of head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks had been an expansion team in 1976 and had never experienced any amount of success as a franchise. In his first season with the team, Knox led them to their first playoff berth ever. Not much was expected out of the Seahawks that year, but then they beat the Denver Broncos in the playoffs by the score of 31-7. They traveled down to the Orange Bowl to take on the heavily favored Miami Dolphins and came out of that contest with a 27-20 victory, which propelled them into the AFC Championship Game. They lost that game to their division rival, the Los Angeles Raiders, who would go on to win the Super Bowl. Knox’s Seahawks teams would remain very competitive throughout the 1980s, and behind a solid defense and offensive stars like Curt Warner and Steve Largent, would always be a team that other teams had to worry about. In 1988, Knox would lead the Seahawks to the first division title in team history. He would leave the Pacific Northwest following the 1991 season, though again he wouldn’t be without a team for long.
In a move that attempted to recapture the glory years, Knox returned in 1992 as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. This second stint with the team lasted just three seasons and had none of the earlier success. In Knox’s defense, the team also lacked the talent that had been there his first time around too. On January 9th, 1995, the Rams became the first team to fire Chuck Knox as head coach.
Knox retired from coaching with a record of 186-147-1. He was the first head coach ever to lead three different teams to a division title. He experienced success everywhere he went, though he could never get his team into the big game or win a Super Bowl title. Despite this though, when looking at his string of successes, it is easy to see that Chuck Knox is a very underrated head coach in NFL history.