As a new NFL season begins, every team has hope. And considering how 2020 has gone, we all need some hope. As we debate over whether the Chiefs can repeat, the Ravens will soar or Brady will ride one more wave to a title- all hope to hold a trophy at the Super Bowl. That trophy is named after one of the great coaches in the league's history. Vince Lombardi may be replaced in the minds of those who follow the sport today by Bill Belichik as the greatest coach ever. But Lombardi's impact remains today all through the league. His approach and coaching style is duplicated in many ways and his history is something most should know.
Lombardi was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a family that mandated you attend church, go to school and respect everyone- regardless of their religion, skin color and place of origin. He attended and played football at Fordham for Jim Crowley, who was one of the famous Four Horesmen of Notre Dame(the football players, not the wrestlers). As an undersized lineman, Lombardi learned how technique can often overcome the disadvantages in height and weight. He was part of the famed "Seven Blocks of Granite" named for the Fordham line.
After an unsuccessful attempt at law school, Lombardi took an assistant coaching position at a Catholic school in New Jersey. He became the head coach shortly after and stayed eight seasons before returning to Fordham to coach the freshmen football and basketball teams. Lombardi moved on to Army as an assistant before taking a job on the staff of the New York Giants in 1954. He spent five seasons as offensive coordinator in the Big Apple.
In 1959, the Green Bay Packers went 1-10-1. That roster had six future hall of famers. Lombardi was interested when the board controlling the Packers went looking for a coach. But he demanded full authority. After debating the request, the board agreed and Lombardi took over the downtrodden franchise. That 1959 season saw Lombardi install a system of discipline, accountability and culture. The Packers went 7-5 and Lombardi was named Coach of the Year. In 1960, the Packers won the Western Conference and advanced to the NFL Championship. Before the game, the Giants wanted to hire Lombardi as their head coach. Lombardi declined the offer. The Packers faced the Eagles in the title game. A championship was denied just yards of the goal line in what became the only title game Lombardi would lose. He vowed such a short coming would never happen again and it didn't.
Lombardi never suffered a losing season in his career. He posted a record of 105-35-6. But beyond his record, Lombardi was known to be ahead of his time not just on the field but off. He taught and coached his players that a man is not defined by the color of his skin but his character and what he stood for. Im 1960, the NFL still had a color barrier. Lombardi would have none of it. He said players are not black or white but Packer Green.
He would go on to coach the Redskins for one season in 1969. He battled cancer for three years before passing in September of 1970. That season the NFL honored the great coach by changing the name of the trophy given to the champion. It was Super Bowl V when the Colts beat the Cowboys 16-13 when Baltimore was handed the first ever Vince Lombardi Trophy.
So as a new season begins, all teams have hope. And now you now a little bit more about the man whose name sits on the trophy some lucky team will hold high when the year ends.
FInal note: The Rubber Band was patented in England in 1845