I am a huge fan of the Super Bowl and of the National Football League (NFL). This Sunday Febuary 3, 2008 will mark the 42nd Super Bowl. This championship game started January 15, 1967 as a battle between the established NFL and the upstart American Football League (AFL). The AFL was a direct competitioner of the NFL. Eventually the AFL was merged with the established league. This merger took place after Super Bowl IV. Of the first four Super Bowls, the NFL won the first two, and the AFL the next two.
Today marks the day the Green Bay Packers hired coach Vince Lombardi so I thought I’d write about how this man had such a great impact on the Super Bowl. He was hired by the Packers on January 28, 1959. At the time the Packers were a losing team having finished with a 1-10-1 record the previous season. This was his first head coaching job in the NFL. For 4 years prior to this he was assistant coach of the New York Giants.
The first season with the Packers he lead them to a 7-5 record, and the next year to the championship game where they lost 17-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles. He won his first championship in 1961 when they defeated the NY Giants 37-0. In total his Packers won 5 NFL Championships (pre-Superbowl era) and the first two Super Bowls.
After the second Super Bowl Lombardi retired. He just could not stay retired though, and in 1969 he accepted a head coaching job with the Washington Redskins. The first season he coached the Redskins to their first winning record in 14 years. His overall coaching record now stood at 105-35-6 without a single losing season.
(above: Ring and ticket from Super Bowl I)
Vince Lombardi personified football coaching in the 1960s, and was perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history. Tragically, he died September 3, 1970 at the age of 57 of intestinal cancer. The NFL inducted him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next year. Most significantly, the Super Bowl Trophy was renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his honor.
His beloved Green Bay Packers have appeared in four Super Bowls and have won three. This season they came close, but lost to the NY Giants in the NFC Championship Game in overtime.
Above: Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl Championship being held aloft by winning players.
I’ll leave you with some quotes about and by Vince Lombardi.
“He made us realize that if the mind was willing, the body can go.”
– Forrest Gregg, Green Bay Packer
“He made us all better than we thought we could be.”
– Jerry Kramer, Green Bay Packer
Vince Lombardi Quotes:
“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”
“Winning isn’t everything – but wanting to win is.”
I think you’ll agree a lot of what he said made sense, not just to the sport of football, but to everyday life. Vince Lombardi was a truly remarkable man.