History. The inexact science that has received so much of Noll's scorn. Ever since Noll's second Super Bowl win, in 1976, people have asked him: How will history evaluate the Steelers? Are they really a dynasty?
"Can't tell now," Noll says. "It's like sainthood. You have to wait 10 years.
"This whole area of historic evaluation bothers me. It's not so much that I dislike history; it's just the interpretation of it that screws everything up. It's always the way they see it, as opposed to the way you see it. It comes back to the same thing. You hear what you want to hear. It's the same in teaching. You think to yourself, Boy, I did a great job teaching today, but it's no good if the words fall on infertile ground. It's teaching, plus the common repeated experiences, that make the whole thing work."
So how do we evaluate Chuck Noll, a basic person and something of an intellectual, too? A man who inspires reverence in the people who work for him. "He's brilliant," Perles says. "I could never be as good as he is, and anyone who thinks he could hire one of us to be as good as Chuck is whistling Dixie."
" Chuck Noll," says Father Benedict Sellers, who teaches Latin and French at Benedictine in Cleveland, where Noll went to high school, "has been given by God the ability to lead men to victory after victory. He's humble about this gift. In a different era he would have been a great battlefield leader, certainly a great religious leader."
Don Shula and George Allen were once asked to give capsule portraits of themselves as coaches, to put in a few words the way they would like to be remembered. Each man gave it considerable thought.
"Fair-minded," Shula finally said. "Tried to do things with class. Never knowingly screwed anybody."
"I want to be remembered," Allen said, "as a man who wanted to win so badly that he'd give a year of his life to be a winner."
The same question was put to Noll recently. He smiled. Again, the interpretation of history.
"A teacher," he said. "A person who could adapt to a world of constant change. A person who could adapt to the situation. But most of all a teacher. Put down that I was a teacher."