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Ernie Stautner, Pro Football Hall of Famer, Dies at 80

Ernie Stautner, a Hall of Fame lineman from the Pittsburgh Steelers and longtime defensive coach for the Dallas Cowboys died today aged 80, apparently from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Ernie Stautner, former longtime defensive coordinator with the Cowboys, died today. He was 80.

Stautner was with the Cowboys’ organization from 1966-1988, serving as defensive line coach from 1966-72 and defensive coordinator from 1973-1988. Stautner, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played 14 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was named to nine Pro Bowls and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1950s. Stautner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on September 13, 1969.

“We are deeply saddened by Ernie’s passing,” said the Hall’s interim executive director, Ron Dougherty. “His lifetime of devotion to the game, especially his contributions of playing at a Hall of Fame caliber, is a legacy that will be carried in Canton forever.”

A shame.

Twenty-two years as a coach with one team, let alone a position coach and coordinator, is remarkable. Indeed, he coached for the entirety of the Cowboys’ first dynasty period. His career ended when Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and fired Tom Landry.

Update: From WikiPedia,

Stautner played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite being small even for his day at 6-1 and 235 pounds and playing on some bad teams, he was able to distinguish himself as one of the best defensive linemen of his era. Stautner was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his twelve year career. Stautner was selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on September 13, 1969 and is the only player to ever have his number (70) retired by the Steelers.

From 1966 to 1988, he was an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys, and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1973.

Form 1995 to 1997, he returned to Germany to become head coach of Frankfurt Galaxy, winning the World Bowl in 1995 for this NFL Europe team.

Stautner died at his Colorado home on February 16, 2006 from complications with alzheimer’s disease.

From Stautner’s Hall of Fame page:

Photo:Ernie Stautner Hall of Fame At 6-1 and 230 pounds, Ernie Stautner was smaller than most defensive linemen of the 1950s. Still, the Pittsburgh Steelers were willing to take a chance on the undersized lineman and drafted him in the second-round of the 1950 National Football League Draft.

It turned out to be a sensational pick. Blessed with excellent mobility and burning desire, the Boston College star went on to excel in the game of giants. For the next 14 years, Stautner was a fixture at defensive tackle, a veritable folk hero with long-suffering Steelers fans and a major factor in the Pittsburgh defense, one of the most punishing in the NFL at the time.

His outstanding play earned him first- or second-team All-NFL honors nine times. Selected to nine Pro Bowls, Ernie had the unusual distinction for a defensive tackle of winding up not once, but twice, in the NFL record book. His three career safeties tied him for a then all time high, and his 23 opponents’ fumbles recovered placed him third on that list.

Ironically, he is pictured in a jersey other than the #70 that the Steelers retired. Below is one with the “correct” jersey from The Official Site of Ernie Stautner, along with his biography from that site:

Photo:Ernie Stautner home page There have been numerous instances in NFL history where a very good player is overlooked because he toils for a very bad team. This, however, was not the case for Ernie Stautner.

During his 14-year career, all with the Steelers, Stautner never played for a winning team. He did, however, have no problem gaining attention for his stellar play. Undersized for a defensive lineman, Stautner was incredibly persistent and tough as nails. He would beat on a player until he would eventually wear him down.

Though Stautner never won any championships with the Steelers, he made enough of an impact to be selected Pro Bowl 9 times and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.

The irony is that the Steelers soon became a dynasty and beat Stautner’s Cowboys in the two most exciting Super Bowls of the 1970s. Stautner coached in five Super Bowls total and won two of those.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.