Bill Austin, the offensive line coach for the first of Vince Lombardi’s three NFL championship teams, died at his home in Las Vegas. He was 84.
Austin was a Pro Bowl lineman for the New York Giants and a member of their 1956 NFL championship team. Austin's playing and coaching career included stints with eight teams and spanned almost four decades.
A 13th-round draft choice for the Giants in 1949 out of Oregon State, Austin played for the team from 1949-50 and from 1953-57. He played in 75 games in his seven seasons and was a Pro Bowl guard in 1954.
In 1958, he started his coaching career at Wichita State. The following year, he became the Packers' offensive line coach under Vince Lombardi, a position he held for six seasons.
Led by Austin's coaching and the skills of Hall of Famers Forrest Gregg and Jim Ringo, along with Jerry Kramer, Bob Skoronski and Fuzzy Thurston, Green Bay unleashed a juggernaut rushing attack.
In 1958, the Packers won one game and ranked 10th out of 12 teams in rushing. With Austin, Green Bay went 7-5 and ranked third in rushing in 1959; 8-4, played for the championship and ranked second in rushing in 1960; 11-3, won the championship and ranked first in rushing in 1961; 13-1, won the championship and ranked first in rushing in 1962; 11-2-1 and ranked second in rushing in 1963; 8-5-1 and ranked first in rushing in 1964; and 10-3-1, won the championship and ranked 10th in rushing in 1965.
Three of the top five seasons in Packers history in terms of yards per rushing attempt came under Austin. All five of the best seasons for rushing touchdowns came during Austin's tenure, including a still-standing league-record 36 in 1962. Four of the top five yardage seasons also came during his tenure, with No. 1 on the list coming in the 16-game 2003.
Austin became the Rams’ line coach in 1966, then served as head coach of Pittsburgh from 1966-68. The Steelers were 11-28-3 during his tenure and he was replaced in 1969 by Chuck Noll, a Hall of Fame coach who held the job for 23 years and won four Super Bowls.
“Bill Austin was a great contributor to the growth of the National Football League as both a Pro Bowl lineman and coach,” Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said in a statement. “He was highly recommended for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coaching job by Vince Lombardi, who Austin served as the line coach for in Green Bay and Washington. Austin was an excellent person when he coached for Pittsburgh and our condolences go out to his family. He will be missed.”
In 1969, Austin joined Lombardi's Washington Redskins as the offensive line coach. When Lombardi was diagnosed with cancer and had to relinquish his duties, Austin was promoted to head coach. The Redskins were 6-8 in 1970 and Austin was let go following the season.
He then coached the offensive lines for the Chicago Bears (1971), St. Louis Cardinals (1972), Redskins (1973-77) and Giants (1979-82). He concluded his career with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL (1983-84) and the Jets (1985).
Austin was born in San Pedro, Calif., but grew up in Oregon where he first began his football career as a high school guard. He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. He was married to Goodrun Austin for 56 years. The couple had four daughters, Barbara, Deborah, Pamela and Marietta, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.