Monday, March 3, 2014

Playing for Lombardi

In Patrick McCaskey's new book Pillars of the NFL, the lives and careers of the top ten NFL coaches and their teams are examined.  In our Sporting Chance Press Talk blog, we excerpt some of Patrick's book to give potential readers a glimpse at this great new title. Here we take a quick look at Vince Lombardi. 

Playing for Lombardi

How would it have been to play for Lombardi back in the 1960s in Green Bay?  Coach Lombardi demands that all his players understand and practice the fundamentals.  He tells everyone “unless you can block and tackle, you don’t belong on the team.”  Lombardi reasons: “…if you block and tackle better than the other team and the breaks are even, you’re going to win.” There are no prima donnas on Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers.  

Yet the coach understands reality.  Not everyone can knuckle down 24/7.  He tries to reform his playboys, but in his heart of hearts, he understands that he cannot change them, so he fines them.  A few hundred here and a few hundred there—every player pays a price for indiscretions. 

Time is important to Lombardi—so important in fact, that he expects his players to be present at all team meetings 15 minutes before the scheduled start.  If you are not early, you are late.  It comes to be called “Lombardi time” and eventually the clock out in front of the Lambeau Field in Green Bay will be set to Lombardi time.

Teamwork is also fundamental.  Lombardi has no tolerance for racism.  He tells the team that racism is something that he will not tolerate.  Lombardi himself was victim to prejudice due to his dark complexion and his Catholic faith.  

Focus is another critical aspect of Lombardi’s success formula for his players as exemplified by the famous words: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”  He wants his players to put aside most everything that might take away accomplishing the team goal of winning.  This does not mean that he wants his players to do anything to win, such as cheating or taking cheap shots at the opposition.  It simply points to the personal sacrifice required to succeed and deliver the highest performance on the field. 

There is a hard edge to Lombardi and softness too, but his players never know what they are going to get.  Lombardi is the father who is hard to please, but who loosens up to praise and joke.  He is the school teacher who criticizes everyone, even his star students, but looks out with tears in his eyes on graduation day. 

Lombardi believes that all the great ones want to win fiercely and they possess a hunger for glory.  Lombardi recruits highly competitive players who want to be the best.  And being the best is what Vincent Lombardi is all about.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

 Update: Sporting Chance Press's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey now available--March 2014!  Order your copies here  for immediate shipment.