On this Thanksgiving and by the way Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there, I thought it would be a great time to blog about Vince Lombardi, the greatest head coach of all-time, not just in football, but perhaps in team sports period. I think you’ll have a hard time finding a better head coach because football is not just a huge part of our Thanksgiving holiday and Vince Lombardi is a big part of football. And the Green Bay Packers are a big part of our Thanksgiving football tradition. The Packers have played a lot on Thanksgiving and Coach Lombardi coached a lot of those games.
When I think of Vince Lombardi, I think of what a head coach should be when they are at their best and when they are the best at they are. Someone who constantly strives at making his team the best that they can, at getting the best effort and performance out of his team all of his players at the same time in the same game.
I mean if you look at it that’s what the job of a head coach is, of course they want to win and the head coaches that do win are the successful head coaches, that is win more than they lose and a lot more than they lose. But really the job is to get the best performance out of your players that they can deliver. There have been teams that were 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 and of course missed the playoffs, but their head coach had a good year or a great year. They even had a great record that year because of the team that they had and the players that had to play.
The level of talent that they had to work with and there been teams that were 10-6, 11-5 but they didn’t have very good seasons and didn’t win championships even though they had the talent to, because their players didn’t play very well as a team. They didn’t work very well together, their head coach didn’t get them to play as well as they could’ve. And they ended up basically having a mediocre or even a bad season because their head coach didn’t get them to play as well as they could’ve. The job of the head coach is to get his team and all of his players to play as well as they can at the same time as one team and if he has a good team or a great team, like Chuck Knoll had with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s to use as an example, then that will lead to a lot of wins and championships.
The Green Bay Packers of the 1960s didn’t have a dynasty in that decade and were the team of the 60s Because they were loaded with talent and great players, they had some of those. And some Hall of Famers, they won five NFL Championships in seven years from 1961-67, because they had the best teams and the best head coach. Best team and best talent are two different things, best talent has to do with athletic ability and skills. Best team has to do with the team that plays the best together and plays the best as a team.
I’ll give you an example, Super Bowl 36 between the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, the Rams I believe were a 10-12 point favorite they still had that great Vertical Spread offense (as I call it) with Kurt Warner, Marshal Faulk and all of those WRs. The Patriots were 5-11 the year before, snuck into the playoffs in 2001, winning their division. Beat the Raiders in a blizzard in the famous tuck game and then upset a very good Steelers team in the AFC Final. They had to beat two better teams just to make to the Super Bowl.
The Rams clearly had batter talent in that Super Bowl, but the Patriots had a better team and played better together and of course they had head coach Bill Bellecheck, perhaps still the best head coach in the NFL. Thats what Vince Lombardi had in Green Bay in the 1960s, he had the best teams, not exactly the best talent when he won those championships. So to use my definition of the job of a head coach, then no one is better than Vince Lombardi at getting his teams and players to play the best that they can at the same time. And he is the best head coach of all-time, because he was the best motivator and perhaps the best motivator ever as well.
And he would put it simple, “you want to play for the Packers, you’re going to give me everything you have, or find another job or team to play for”. He knew when to ride someone and when to pride someone and do both of those things in a way that showed the player that he’s just trying to get the best out of him, kinda like a great father would be. Thats what made Vince Lombardi the best ever at what he did.