Chuck Knox, the first coach to take the Seattle Seahawks to playoffs and the ninth man inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor, died after a lengthy battle with dementia. He was 86.
“He was amazing in his ability to tailor his teams to the talent that he had,” Steve Raible, the Voice of the Seahawks, said.
He spent nine of his 22 NFL seasons with the Seahawks, starting on January 21, 1983. Knox racked up 80 victories and was the team’s winningest coach until he was surpassed by Mike Holmgren in 2007.
“I feel very strongly that the Seattle Seahawks exist for one thing – to win,” Knox told reporters in his introductory press conference. “Everyone in the organization -- janitors, secretaries, what have you -- they’re here one reason: To help the football players and coaches be successful.”
Until 2005, the Seahawks’ three playoff wins under Knox were the only postseason wins in club history.
The first was Dec. 24, 1983 with a 31-7 victory over the Denver Broncos at the Kingdome. A week later, the Seahawks traveled to Miami where they were underdogs to Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins, quarterbacked by Dan Marino.
Knox’s club pulled off a huge AFC playoff upset in front of 71,032 fans, and millions more watching on NBC.
“It was as big a victory as the Seahawks have ever had,” Raible said. “It was as crazy and as fun a locker room as I had ever seen, and as enjoyable a flight home as the Seahawks have ever had until they won a Super Bowl Championship.
“And that came about because Chuck Knox came in as head coach and instilled something in these guys – many of whom were already here – that let them know they could win championships.”
Players were familiar with Knox-isms.
“Football players win football games.”
“Don’t tell me how rough the water is, just bring home the boat.”
“What you do speaks so well, there’s no need for anyone to hear what you say.”
For as tough as he was on the field, Knox was funny and endearing off it, Raible said. He respected players, and for guys who were loyal to him, “there was no more loyal coach in the league.”
Knox was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and was a two-way starter on the 1953 Sewickley High squad that had the first undefeated record in school history. Knox later coached there and had other coaching jobs before joining Blanton Collier’s University of Kentucky staff in 1961.
Knox moved to a coaching job with the New York Jets in 1963 and is credited with recruiting Joe Nameth – and much of the offensive line that protected him in the 1968 Super Bowl Championship. Knox also was a Detroit Lions offensive line coach before taking the head coaching job with the Rams in 1973.
Knox became known as Ground Chuck for his run-oriented offense. But in 1984 when running back Curt Warner, Knox’s initial first round draft pick, suffered a season ending knee injury, Knox patched together a group of running backs and had Dave Krieg throwing to Steve Largent and others – and earned the Seahawks’ second playoff berth.
Knox ended the season 12-4 – the all-time best record for the Seahawks at the time.
Knox, who also coached the L.A. Rams and Buffalo Bills before joining the Seahawks, earned NFL Coach of the Year honors in 1983 and 1984.
"Chuck Knox was the best coach I ever had," Hall of Fame Rams guard Tom Mack told The Los Angeles Times. "He always took the time to know each player well enough that he could talk to each player and hit their hot buttons. I never saw another coach like that."
Knox stayed in Seattle through the 1991 season, departing for the Rams again while Seattle survived the Ken Behring ownership era. Knox became the first coach in NFL history to lead three different franchises to the playoffs, and he was named NFL coach of the year two other times, with the Rams in 1973 and Bills in 1980.
Knox -- whose survivors include his wife of 65 years, Shirley -- was inducted into the Ring of Honor on Sept. 25, 2005 before a sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field (then Qwest Field).
In 2015, Knox also traveled from his home in Anaheim, Calif., to see the Seahawks face the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
He was there with his wife and son-in-law when they ran into some of his former players and friends waiting for a ride to a team function.
One by one, the players came over. There was Jacob Green, the defensive end who was the team sacks leader; Jim Zorn, the team’s starting quarterback for the first eight seasons. Raible came to greet Knox, as did Dave Krieg, who Knox developed into a playoff quarterback and fellow Ring of Honor member.
Knox was in a wheelchair then, battling dementia and years of back problems. They weren’t sure if the former coach would recognize them.
Then came Curt Warner, the running back Knox picked that he knew would get the Seahawks to their first playoff berth.
“And Chuck’s face lit up,” Raible said. “You could tell he recognized Curt, and he was so pleased to see him. And I think he was really pleased to see all of us come together and rally around him.”
“He was, in anybody’s measure, one of the greatest coaches in the history of the franchise,” Raible said, “and one of the best in the National Football League.”
They told Knox how they adored him, and how they were happy to see him there. Most knew it could be the last time they saw him. For some, the moment was a chance to say goodbye.
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