JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- John Fox's introduction to NFL coaching was a bit rude, but it has also provided some of the best teaching points from a mentor he believes was simply a great teacher.
Fox joined Hall of Famer Chuck Noll's staff in Pittsburgh in 1989 after Fox's three-year stint at the University of Pittsburgh. And as a 34-year-old defensive backs coach in his first two NFL games, Fox saw the Steelers lose 51-0 to Cleveland in Week 1 and 41-10 to Cincinnati in Week 2.
With that he also learned some things from Noll that Fox says he still applies now as he closes in on the finish of his 12th season as a head coach.
"I was very blessed to be with Chuck Noll as head coach," Fox said. "We kind of had a bizarre season. We started the first two games -- I think we got beat 51-0 at home by Cleveland ... then, we went to Cincinnati, which was a very good football team, and we lost. It wasn't a very tremendous start. Everybody was down. And of course, fans as they are, were a little bit honest. He stayed even keel. That is the most valuable lesson: to be the same guy and don't go through the highs and lows because it is very easy to do, especially with outside influences."
Fox talks about that season often. The Steelers finished 9-7, winning their final three games of the regular season and Fox has consistently said Noll handled it all with grace and focus.
This season, the Broncos' bumpy ride included the offseason arrests of two front-office executives in separate DUIs, Von Miller's six-game suspension, a pile of injuries and Fox's own health scare when he had open-heart surgery in early December. Fox said the team, from the front-office, to the coaches, to the players, simply kept working through all the issues.
"(Noll) was a tremendous technician in the individual fundamentals of football, which was something very important to him. I still believe it comes down to blocking and tackling, even at this level," Fox said. "Sometimes, we lose sight of that with the schemes and stuff. I really think it is staying even keel, not experiencing the highs and lows that a football season can bring to you. And really, the technique, and not more of the ‘want to' but the 'how to' play football."