Who was Vince Lombardi? Why was he important

Legendary story: Vince Lombardi - savior of the Packers and avenger of the NFL

Lombardi: Late advances by the New York Giants

The next year there was a rematch for the crown of the NFL. But before that, Lombardi met Mara for dinner. Mara had realized that it was a mistake to let Lombardi go instead of making him head coach. He even made him an offer to ultimately take over the Giants. Lombardi, however, stayed cool, got up from the table and left with the words: "We'll beat you tomorrow!" Lombardi was right and the Packers defended their title with a 16: 7 win.

Lombardi's legacy does not consist of numerous titles - even if he is the only head coach to have made it to five championships within nine years - but also of a certain move.

Lombardi established the Power Sweep - or: Packers Sweep - in Green Bay, which is still used today. In a trivial way, it is a running play in which the running back initially runs parallel to the line of scrimmage and then runs forwards behind lead blockers. He usually has the option of pulling in or out. The Packers used the move very often and were always successful with it.

The play has become a symbol of Lombardi's success as it requires good teamwork. Everyone has to do their job precisely, which was one of the cornerstones of Lombardi's philosophy. At the end of his career, Lombardi was asked what he first asked of his players: "I want him to give 100 percent in a play he is involved in."

Vince Lombardi's fight against discrimination

However, Vince Lombardi was not only synonymous with great achievements in sport. Even on a human basis, he was sometimes ahead of his time.

Already in his youth he struggled with his Italian roots. He had a darker skin tone than his schoolmates, which repeatedly led to discrimination.

This shaped Lombardi so much that in his later life and as a coach he did not spend a second thinking about the color of a player's skin. He made Dave Robinson the first black linebacker in the history of the Packers.

And he made Lionel Aldridge's wedding possible in the first place. He had a white girlfriend, which was not welcome at the time, to put it nicely. So Aldridge went to Lombardi and asked him if he would agree to the marriage, since there have been cases before in which a black player then lost his job and was in a way ostracized by the public.

Lombardi told Aldridge that he didn't care who he married and that he would have his full support as long as he performed at the top of the field. The wedding took place and Lombardi fended off all disapproval from society.

Vince Lombardi: Seasons with the Green Bay Packers

yearVictoriesdefeatdrawplacementPlayoffs
19597503. (Western Conference)-
19608401. (toilet)Defeat NFL Championship
196111301. (toilet)Victory NFL Championship
196213101. (toilet)Victory NFL Championship
196311212. (toilet)-
19648512. (toilet)-
196510311. (toilet)Victory Championship
196612201. (toilet)Super Bowl I win
19679411. (Central Division)Super Bowl II win

Great bowls

After two rather mixed years, the Packers won their third NFL Championship in 1965, the last before the merger of the NFL and AFL. Another NFL championship success followed, this time through Tom Landry's Cowboys. But then, of course, it was not over, the first Super Bowl was on the agenda - at that time under the title "AFL vs. NFL World Championship Game".

The pressure on Lombardi and the Packers was enormous. It was not just about a championship, it was about the honor of the entire NFL, which believed itself to be a superior league and did not want to accept a bankruptcy in the first big showdown with the juvenile AFL - the schedules remained separate until 1970.

Wellington Mara even sent Lombardi a letter before the game, naming him the "best general" for the upcoming battle.

The Packers didn't disappoint, beating the Kansas City Chiefs 35:10, the power of the NFL duly demonstrated.

The coldest games in NFL history

Ice bowl

A year later there was another duel with the cowboys in the semifinals. In the legendary Ice Bowl, the Frozen Tundra lived up to its name. And the Packers, who had been in trouble for a long time, needed a comeback in the final seconds to turn the game around after a 14:17 deficit.

Shortly before the goal line, with a few seconds on the clock, there was a debate as to which move was the right one. Lombardi had a different idea, but quarterback Bart Starr, the MVP of the first two Super Bowls, suggested a QB sneak because he believed he had enough traction despite the frozen field.

Lombardi's answer: "Then run the game and let's get out of here!" He ran it - into the end zone - and the Packers also made it to the second Super Bowl. As it turned out, this game - 33:14 against the Oakland Raiders - was Lombardi's last game as Packers head coach.

The coach was tired, and so was his team. The stars - Starr, Ray Nitschke, Robinson or Jerry Kramer, to name just a few - as well. Lombardi stayed in the front office for another year, but had to admit that a job outside of coaching was not for him.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy

And so he joined the Washington Redskins for the 1969 season, which he led to a 7-5-2 record in what was ultimately his only season - it was the first season with a positive record for the Skins since 1955. Shortly before the start of the Lombardi resigned for the second season in the capital due to health problems.

How many people Lombardi touched positively in his career was shown in his most difficult hour. His final weeks - he suffered from terminal cancer - he spent in a hospital in Georgetown and all of his companions came to say goodbye. The Packers arrived on a chartered plane, many of his Giants players were there, the Redskins anyway.

Redskins-QB Sonny Jurgensen reported that Lombardi told him weeks before his death that he had to prepare for more 3-4 defenses because the AFC teams - 1970 was the first year of the unified game plan - preferred this defensive formation. Even shortly before the end there was one thing for him above all: football.

Lombardi finally spoke about the weather with his old protégé at the Giants, wide receiver Frank Gifford. However, Gifford revealed that Lombardi confessed to him shortly before leaving: "Frank, it hurts to go."

Three months after his death, the NFL paid his last respects and cemented the status of the legendary coach for eternity: with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.