Monday, March 18, 2013

One Thing Learned about Vince Lombardi on the Way to Another Book



Sporting Chance Press has another book in the works, tentatively titled Pillars. It will include a thorough discussion of the top ten coaches in NFL history. The selection of coaches is based strictly on championship wins: Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Guy Chamberlin, Curly Lambeau,  Bill Belichick and George Halas. 


When doing research for our book, we spent a lot of time reviewing mounds of material and eventually got a vision of each subject as a person and a coach. When you are researching someone in modern times, you can also see that person and his contemporaries on film, which is often instructive.  There are many things that strike me about Lombardi, but I will focus on one for this posting:

Lombardi had a core group of players in place when he joined Green Bay and he turned them into a championship team. 

When Lombardi joined Green Bay in 1959, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg,  Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, and others were already on the team. One might say that with those players, how could Lombardi fail. Well, keep in mind that the Packers record in 1958 was 1-10-1 with those players. Bart Starr was not doing very well when Lombardi came on board. The Packers young running back and kicker, Paul Hornung, was not lighting the world on fire either. Frankly, many of the future Packers' stars were hardly glimmering. Lombardi lit a fire under his players like few coaches in history.

Some look at the Packers after the Lombardi championships and they see the collection of Hall of Fame players on the team. They suggest that many coaches would have taken the Packers to the championships, but they'd be wrong. Lombardi simply brought the best out in players, better than most of the players themselves would have thought possible. His fiery temperament at first brought out disdain and hate from many players, but once the Packers started winning, much of the ill will departed and most players came to love the man who had been breathing down their necks every practice.

Some of the great coaches were superb at judging talent, some were organizational geniuses, some were skilled at systems and schemes,  and then some like Lombardi, were superb at motivating men to perform at their best.