Former Head Coach Chuck Knox Dies

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The Seahawks and Seahawks fans mourn the death of former head coach Chuck Knox, who passed away May 12 at his home in Anaheim, California. He was 86.

Knox was coach of the Seahawks for nine seasons (1983-1991), leading them to the playoffs and the AFC Championship game in his first season. He was named NFL Coach of the Year three times: in his first year as a head coach with the Los Angeles Rams (1973), with the Buffalo Bills (1980), and in his second year with the Seahawks (1984).

Referencing games as “knock-down drag-out” affairs, Knox’ emphasis on the running game led to him being known as “Ground Chuck,” making stars out of the likes of running backs Curt Warner and John L. Williams.

He finished his nine-year Seahawks coaching career  with an 80-63 regular-season record, and a 3-4 playoff record.

“My father told me that you have to take your lickings, take your knocks,” Knox said. “Don’t bemoan your fate. Everybody’s not going to be dealt the same hand. Everybody’s going to go through tough times.”

“Conservative coaches have one thing in common: they are unemployed.” – Chuck Knox

“Playing for Chuck Knox was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” said Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent. “I can honestly say that things that Chuck Knox taught me, not just on the football field, have helped me to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man. I reflect on things he said time and time again. He was one of the great influences on me, on what I am today and what I’ve done.”

“Winners bring reality up to their vision. Losers bring their vision down to reality.” – Chuck Knox

Charles Robert Knox was born on April 27, 1932. The son of Charlie and Helen Knox, Chuck grew up on Walnut Street in Sewickley, a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania. His parents were first-generation immigrants: his father from Ireland, his mother from Scotland.

He married the former Shirley Rhine after his junior year at Juniata College. After graduation, Knox continued as an assistant football coach at Juniata. He would move on through the high school coaching ranks before becoming an assistant coach at Wake Forest University in 1959 and the University of Kentucky in 1961.

Knox entered the NFL on May 8, 1963, when he was hired as the offensive line coach for the New York Jets. He left the Jets after four seasons, just a year away from a Super Bowl ring when the Jets won the championship in 1968.

“If you could have won, you should have.” – Chuck Knox

Knox joined the Detroit Lions in 1967, spending six seasons as offensive line coach with the organization. It would also be his last job as an assistant coach.

He was well-known for his simple philosophies – aka “Knoxisms” – short and sweet, which reflected on football and life in general.

“Chuck had a million sayings and he didn’t spare any on us,” said Largent. “He was very much a motivator, but he was also a good thinker. The Seahawks didn’t really have a specific plan until Chuck came there, but the first time he talked with us, he articulated his plan. It wasn’t complicated, it was pretty straightforward. We were going to practice hard and we were going to be prepared. When he spoke to us, he was never off message. We all got the sense that we were playing for a coach who knew exactly what he was doing, knew exactly what he wanted, and knew exactly how to get there. I think there’s too much emphasis, both in the media and in the game, about how smart a coach is, or how cute his design is. But coaching is still about motivating and getting your players to play well. Chuck was the epitome of that kind of coach; he was, without a doubt in my mind, one of the great coaches ever.”

“The difference between a champ and a chump is u.” – Chuck Knox

In January, 1973, Knox was hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.

Over his five seasons as the Rams head coach, the team won five straight NFC West titles and compiled a 54-15-1 regular season record and a 3-5 playoff record.

Knox left the Rams in January, 1978, to return to the Buffalo Bills as head coach. In his first year with the NFL’s new 16-game schedule, Knox led the Bills to a 5-11 mark. Two years later, the Bills won the AFC East title with an 11-5 record. He compiled a 37-36 regular season record and a 1-2 playoff record over five seasons with the Bills.

“Practice without improvement is meaningless.” – Chuck Knox

On January 26, 1983, Knox signed on as head coach of the Seahawks.

“I’m very excited about the challenge,” Knox said at his first press conference as the new head coach. “I feel the Seahawks exist to win, from the janitors, secretaries, to the players.”

“When he came we were, I don’t want to say in disarray, but he brought a little more stability to the program,” said former Seahawks defensive tackle Joe Nash. “He was the kind of coach who didn’t take any guff. He brought a new feeling when he came in and brought with him a group of veterans who’d won before. He shook things up. By bringing in those guys he raised the bar for all of us.”

“Football players win football games.” – Chuck Knox

The Seahawks finished second in the NFC West with a 9-7 record in the 1983 season, and followed with their first-ever playoff appearance. The Knox-led Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 31-7 in the wildcard game, followed by an upset 27-20 win against the Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs. The Los Angeles Raiders downed the Seahawks 30-14 in the AFC Championship game, and would go on to win the Super Bowl XVIII.

That upset win over Miami put the Seahawks on the NFL map.

“Our plane had been delayed for four hours in Seattle because they couldn’t find the black box,” Knox recalled of the flight to Miami. “We didn’t get to Miami until 5 a.m. on Saturday, but we decided to go ahead with our scheduled 9 a.m. practice. And then Sunday we beat ’em. And after the game, Dave Brown gave me the game ball and the players started chanting, ‘Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck,’ and the tears came pouring out. I was so happy for the guys.”

The Seahawks’ 12-4 regular season record in the 1984 season was only ever topped by the 13-3 Seahawks in 2005 and 2013. Knox would go on to compile a 80-63 regular season record and 3-4 playoff record with the Seahawks.

After nine years with Seattle, Knox left on December 27, 1991, becoming the first NFL head coach to win division titles with three different teams.

Knox returned to the Los Angeles Rams as head coach in 1992, and over three seasons compiled a 15-33 regular season record, with no playoff appearances.

“They say the breaks even up in the long run, and the trick is to be a long-distance runner.” – Chuck Knox

Knox retired from the NFL following the 1994 season. He ranked tenth all-time in career regular season wins as a head coach, and was one of only three retired NFL coaches not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor on September 25, 2005.

Knox is survived by his wife of 66 years, Shirley, son Chuck Jr., daughters Chris, Colleen and Kathy, and six grandchildren.

Chuck Knox’s NFL Coaching Record

Regular Season and Post Season
YearTeamWonLostTiedWin %FinishWonLostWin %
NFL Total1861471.558711.389
1973Los Angeles Rams1220.8571st in NFC West01.000
1974Los Angeles Rams1040.7141st in NFC West11.500
1975Los Angeles Rams1220.8571st in NFC West11.500
1976Los Angeles Rams1031.7691st in NFC West11.500
1977Los Angeles Rams1040.7141st in NFC West01.000
Rams Total54151.78235.375
1978Buffalo Bills11110.3134th in AFC East
1979Buffalo Bills990.4384th in AFC East
1980Buffalo Bills550.6881st in AFC East01.000
1981Buffalo Bills660.6253rd in AFC East11.500
1982Buffalo Bills550.4444th in AFC East
Bills Total3736.50712.333
1983Seattle Seahawks970.5632nd in AFC West
1984Seattle Seahawks1240.7502nd in AFC West
1985Seattle Seahawks880.5003rd in AFC West
1986Seattle Seahawks1060.6252nd in AFC West
1987Seattle Seahawks960.6002nd in AFC West01.000
1988Seattle Seahawks970.5631st in AFC West01.000
1989Seattle Seahawks790.4384th in AFC West
1990Seattle Seahawks970.5633rd in AFC West
1991Seattle Seahawks790.4384th in AFC West
Seahawks Total8063.55934.429
1992Los Angeles Rams6100.3754th in NFC West
1993Los Angeles Rams5110.3134th in NFC West
1994Los Angeles Rams4120.2504th in NFC West
Rams Total1533.313