Charles Robert "Chuck" Knox (born April 27, 1932 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania) is a former football coach at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. He is best remembered as head coach of three National Football League teams, the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, and the Los Angeles Rams, serving two separate stints with the latter team over more than two decades.
The son of a steel worker who had emigrated from Ireland and a Scottish born mother, Knox developed into a 190-pound tackle at Pennsylvania's Juniata College, playing on both sides of the ball and serving as co-captain of the 1953 unit, the first undefeated team in school history. Also competing in track, Knox graduated in 1954, then served as an assistant at the school that fall. He stayed in the Keystone state the following year as an assistant coach at Tyrone High School, then began the first of three years as head coach at Ellwood City High School in 1956. During his first year at Ellwood, Knox had just 18 players, but by his final year, 85 players were on the squad.
Building on his success, Knox then moved back to the colleges, serving two seasons as an assistant under Paul Amen at Wake Forest University in 1959. He then joined Blanton Collier's staff at the University of Kentucky in 1961, and stayed the following year under new mentor Charlie Bradshaw. In both these places, Knox learned the concepts of organization, discipline and a focus on fundamentals. While at Kentucky, Knox was on the staff of Bradshaw's infamous first team, which was known forever as the Thin Thirty.
On May 8, 1963, he was hired as offensive line coach of the American Football League's New York Jets by head coach Weeb Ewbank. Over the next four years, Knox helped build a line that would protect quarterback Joe Namath, eventually leading to a victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Unfortunately for Knox, by voluntarily leaving the Jets in 1967 he denied himself what would have been the only Super Bowl ring in his career as the Jets won the World Championship in 1968.
Knox then moved to the Detroit Lions on February 13, 1967 under new head coach Joe Schmidt, spending six seasons in the Motor City. Despite some impressive stretches, the Lions only reached the postseason once during this period, losing a 5-0 road contest to the Dallas Cowboys in 1970. When Schmidt resigned after the end of the 1972 NFL season, Knox was hired as head coach of the Rams on January 24, 1973.
Sometimes referred to as 'Ground Chuck' for his team's emphasis on its rushing attack, Knox used a comeback year by veteran quarterback John Hadl to lead the Rams to a 12-2 record during his first season, winning the NFC West title. Knox earned NFC Coach of the Year honors, but in the first round of the playoffs, the team lost to the Cowboys, beginning what would be a frustrating string of play-off defeats for Knox.
During the next three years, the Rams would win their division, but lost three consecutive NFC Championship games from 1974 to 1976, two of them to the Minnesota Vikings. In the team's rainy first round home playoff game against the Vikings on December 26, 1977, quarterback Pat Haden was having problems handling the wet ball and moving the team. Joe Namath was warming up in preparation for what seemed to be a Hollywood ending in the making, but Knox hesitated and the Rams lost again in a mudbath, 14-7. That was it as far as owner Carroll Rosenbloom was concerned and Knox got out before he could get fired. In five seasons as the Rams head coach the team had won five straight NFC West titles with five different quarterbacks (John Hadl, Ron Jaworski, Pat Haden, James Harris, and Joe Namath) and had a regular season record of 54-15-1 and a play-off record of 3-5.
On January 11, 1978, Knox left the Rams to sign a $1.2 million, six-year contract with the Bills. The move was in response to the continuing conflict between Knox and team owner Carroll Rosenbloom, with Knox taking over a team that had won five of 28 games during the previous two seasons.
In his first year (under the new 16-game schedule), Knox led the Bills to a 5-11 mark. Just two years later, the Bills won the AFC East title with an 11-5 record, but dropped a close battle with the high-powered San Diego Chargers in the divisional playoffs. The following year, his team defeated the Jets in a wild card clash, but then fell to the Cincinnati Bengals. After a 4-5 strike-shortened season in 1982, Knox failed to come to terms on a new contract with team owner Ralph Wilson, and left to accept the head coaching position with the Seahawks on January 26, 1983.
During his first year in the Northwest, Knox led the team to its first playoff berth, beat the Denver Broncos 31-7 in the wildcard game and then upset the Miami Dolphins 27-20 in the Orange Bowl in the second round. However, the dream died in the AFC Championship game when the Seahawks fell to the Los Angeles Raiders 30-14. Subsequent seasons would see the Seahawks remain competitive, but did not reach a conference championship game again during his tenure.
After nine years with Seattle, Knox left on December 27, 1991, having become the first NFL head coach to win division titles with three different teams. Looking to recapture the magic of two decades earlier, Knox returned to the Rams as head coach in 1992, but had no success in his three seasons and was fired on January 9, 1995.
Knox retired with a mark of 186 wins, 147 losses and 1 tie record, with his son, Chuck, Jr., keeping the family's name alive as an NFL assistant coach, most recently as defensive backs coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2005, Knox donated $1 million to his alma mater, Juniata, to endow a chair in history, his major at the school. The donation was the largest of many contributions by Knox, with the institution re-naming the school's football stadium in his honor in 1998. Quaker Valley High School in Knox's hometown of Sewickley, Pennsylvania has also named its football stadium in his honor
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