Woodson Learned From One Of The Greats

Great players don't always make great coaches. But former Steelers superstar Rod Woodson has a chance, according to Len Pasquarelli.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, the old adage suggests, teach.

At age 45, Rod Woodson can't do it anymore, although those who viewed him manning his NFL Network responsibilities at the Super Bowl a couple weeks ago -- and witnessed first-hand the taut condition in which he remains seven-plus years after his final league game -- might ardently disagree.

And so the Hall of Fame defensive back has decided to teach, sort of, in accepting a job as an Oakland Raiders' secondary coach.

The guess here is that Woodson, despite the history of pratfalls by outstanding NFL players who followed their careers by becoming coaches, will be a good one.

One primary reason why: Because Woodson, whose previous coaching experience consists of a stretch as a volunteer assistant at Valley Christian High School near his home in the East Bay, spent the first five seasons of his 17-year career apprenticing under one of the best instructors in NFL history.

Chuck Noll.

"He never got impatient as a coach, at least not in the (tutoring) atmosphere, not at all," said Woodson at the Super Bowl, recalling his inaugural NFL mentor. "He might get a bit (undone) as a coach ... but not as a teacher. He was always calm and made sure everyone got the point."

For those folks who grew up despising the Raiders (as a died-in-the-wool former 'Burgher, I learned at an early age the difference between black-and-gold and silver-and-black), it might be a tad incongruous watching Woodson slip into Oakland duds for the 2011 season. After all, on Christmas Eve, Woodson's former employers at the league's cable entity chose Woodson as the No. 4 greatest Steelers player of all-time.

So from a fan's perspective in Pittsburgh, this is akin to an American manufacturer relocating his factory to China.

But first-year Raiders coach Hue Jackson is attempting to assemble the best staff he can, regardless of initial pedigree, and Woodson should do just fine.

The odds of success will be better, doubtless, if Woodson can convince standout corner Nnamdi Asomugha, an unrestricted free agent who will be among the most pursued players whenever it is the market opens for business, to re-up in Oakland. But even minus Asomugha -- and the chances of keeping the Pro Bowl cornerback, who has a tight relationship with Woodson, might have increased with Jackson's latest addition to his staff -- the Hall of Fame defensive back should be good in his teaching role.

A terror as a player, Woodson might not possess the same calm as Noll, but he does have the same even manner and palpable repose. A lot of players-turned-television analysts gain attention by screaming. Woodson draws focus in much the same way Noll did. By speaking with measure, not bravado, and by cleverly forcing a listener to edge forward to hear him.

He speaks, not in whispers, but hardly in anything approaching aircraft-level decibels.

And he listens, as do all great teachers, before he speaks.

Often players who were great in their career tank as coaches at any level because of a simple reality: The game was so natural for them that they find it really difficult to verbalize the work ethic one must possess to succeed at the NFL level. Describing it to someone less gifted becomes much more daunting than doing it one's self. Indeed, syllables are much tougher than deeds.

Maybe that will be a problem for Woodson, but we're guessing not. The man who made a seamless transition from cornerback to safety should be able to promulgate the switch to coach.

He may not in time be one of the best, but he learned from one of the best, and the bet here is that he'll put the lessons imparted by Noll to good use.

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