It's Called The Lombardi Trophy For A Reason
By Jon Krouner
"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." — Vince Lombardi
To this day, Vince Lombardi remains a giant in the coaching profession. His legend continues to grow even as we get further away from his death in 1970.
On the occasion of his 100th birthday on June 11, ESPN named Lombardi the greatest coach of all-time but, this was a mere formality. After all, it’s called the Lombardi Trophy for a reason.
After serving as the New York Giants offensive coordinator during much the 1950s, Lombardi accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. The move to hire Lombardi wasn’t the stroke of genius it appears to be today. Lombardi was only offered the position after Iowa coach Forrest Evashevski passed on the job.
Green Bay had suffered through three straight losing seasons prior to Lombardi’s arrival in 1959. From 1956-58, Green Bay was 8-27, including 1-10 in 1958. In fact, Green Bay hadn’t finished over the .500 mark since 1947.
That would all change with Lombardi’s arrival in soon-to-be called Titletown. In 1959, Green Bay went 7-5 while Lombardi took home Coach of the Year honors. But those were just the building blocks of a dynasty.
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
In the 1960s, Green Bay won five NFL Championships, including the first two Super Bowls in 1966-67. During that span, Green Bay boasted three NFL MVPs: Paul Hornung (1961), Jim Taylor (1962) and Bart Starr (1996). One of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Starr won the MVP award during both Packers triumphs in Super Bowl I and II.
The Packers did not win the Super Bowl again until 1996.
In eight seasons as head coach of the Packers from 1959-67, Lombardi never endured a losing season. Not surprisingly, the Packers went 6-7 in 1968 after Lombardi stepped aside to become Green Bay’s general manager on a full-time basis. He'd go on to coach the Redskins for one season in 1969.
"We're going to relentlessly pursue perfection, even though we know full well that we won't catch it, because nothing is perfect."
The numbers speak for themselves, but it’s also Lombardi’s coaching style that brandishes him a legend of the game. Lombardi’s dogged pursuit of perfection, insatiable work ethic and legendary charisma turned a losing franchise into one of the great dynasties in American sports.
Lombardi is not only the greatest Packers’ coach, but the greatest football coach in the NFL's storied history.
A more interesting conversation would be to grade coaches on coaching. Lombardi is special - average players built to be champions - but say Dallas completes a pass in '66, or holds Starr in '67 - where is Lombardi then? History can change the outcome of a list like this with a few plays. But great coaches hold up. Landry is often docked simply because he only won two titles, but look at how he changed defensive thinking and Dallas' streak of winning seasons. Sid Gillman never gets enough love but he thought outside the box more than anyone except perhaps Paul Brown. Coach lists are too easy to predict. Show me a list where the usual suspects show up somewhere unexpected.
So you're telling me that Brian Billick didn't invent the game of football? You must be joking. For what it's worth, I'd take Billick's straw hat over Lombardi's fedora any day of the week.