Friday, May 31, 2013
To Absent Friends: Bill Austin
The man who preceded Chuck Noll as the Steelers head coach, Bill Austin (that's him on the left above), died yesterday at the age of 84. Austin served as Steelers coach for three seasons before he was canned, and Chuck Noll was hired. His term at the helm was, shall we say, undistinguished.
Austin serves as an object lesson for anyone who wants to see a successful sports coach fired (Jamie Dixon? Dan Bylsma? Mike Tomlin?), because you just never know who you are going to get when you hire a replacement.
In 1966, Bill Austin had the perfect pedigree to be the Next Big Thing in NFL coaching circles. A successful assistant coach of the dynastic Green Bay Packers, he came highly recommended to Art Rooney by no less that Vince Lombardi (that's him on the right for all you youngsters out there) himself. When he got there, he modeled himself after Lombardi, right down to the yelling and screaming and winning-is-the-only-thing persona. Trouble was, there was only one Vince Lombardi, and Bill Austin turned out to be just another bad NFL head coach. The NFL was full of them then and it still is.
Anyway, RIP Bill Austin.