Monday, February 16, 2015

Developing the Green Bay Sweep

Lombardi had a signature play that he would use in Green Bay that came to be called the Power Sweep, the Lombardi Sweep, and the Green Bay Sweep.  All 11 men on the field had to perform flawlessly for the play to work well, but the key players leading the play were the two guards.  Once the ball was snapped, the guards stepped back and moved in the direction of the play (either right or left) running parallel along the line of scrimmage.  When they reached the tackle position, they would cut upfield with the running back and blocking back behind them.  The blocking back would block the defensive end.  The other players would have their blocking assignments as well.  The tight end was assigned the outside linebacker; the center would face the defensive tackle.  Everyone would have set responsibilities, but some players had to block according to the movement of the targeted player. Meanwhile, the guards would be pushing up field and hitting the defenders in front of them, in some cases linebackers or the safety and corners.  

There were hundreds of potential variations on blocks.  The running back would “run to daylight,” in other words run where the holes were rather than a predetermined place.  The guards pulled, blocks were executed, and the running back decided where to run.  There was a lot happening for a simple running play, so Lombardi drilled the play and its variations over and over again.  To run the sweep to perfection, it required an almost total commitment to the play from an offense and endless repetition.  Most coaches would not spend so much time on one single play and few teams had a guard the caliber of Jerry Kramer who was largely credited with making it work so often in Green Bay. 

The Sweep came to fruition in Green Bay, but it was developed by Lombardi over time.  Something akin to the play had been developed by Lombardi when he was coaching the Giants and Frank Gifford.  According to Father Tim Moore, who assisted Lombardi at St. Cecilia where Lombardi was a coach and teacher, Lombardi was using the optional blocking schemes and “run to daylight” notion there as well.  The Sweep brought attention to the Packers’ guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, who were key to the success of the play.  These guards were often featured in photographs that showed them leading Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor to “daylight” on scoring plays.  Lombardi would bring credit to the Packer guards the way his college, Fordham University, brought credit to the Seven Blocks of Granite of which Lombardi was one. 

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL. 

See Ed Gruver, “The Lombardi Sweep: The Signature Play of the Green Bay Dynasty, It symbolized an Era,” The Coffin Corner, Volume 19, No.  5 viewed at  on February 12, 2013.  For a full chapter examination of the sweep see Bob Berghaus, The First America’s Team: The 1962 Green Bay Packers (Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2011)  Chapter 7, “The Power Sweep,” 95-104. Also see Jerry Kramer, Editor, Lombardi: Winning is the Only Thing, page 33.