Vince Lombardi’s Chalkboard
The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
Vince Lombardi's domain was Lambeau Field, but his mastery of football was evident on another expanse of green: the chalkboard. That's where Lombardi drew up the plays that established the Packers' dynasty of the 1960s.
Plays like the power sweep, the perfect vehicle to illustrate Green Bay's dominance—and to characterize the coach that made the Packers great. “There is nothing spectacular about it," Lombardi once said of the sweep that came to bear his name. “It's my number one play because it requires all eleven men to play as one to make it succeed, and that's what ‘team' means." Every player’s assignment was crucial on the play, but it highlighted the execution of the three interior offensive linemen, the center and both guards, who normally toiled in anonymity. The center, first Jim Ringo and later Ken Bowman, had to execute a difficult cutoff block, against either a tackle or linebacker. That allowed both guards, Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, time to pull outside the playside tackle. The off guard had the toughest duty, since he had the farthest to run. "I know it's a difficult maneuver," Lombardi once said. "But [the off guard] has to get there. I don't give a damn whether he enjoys getting there or not." Then the patience and reading of the blocks by halfback Paul Hornung and fullback Jim Taylor finished off the play.
"You think there's anything special about this sweep?" Lombardi once asked a writer. "Well, there isn't. It's as basic a play as there can be in football. We simply do it over and over and over. … There can never be enough emphasis on repetition. I want my players to be able to run this sweep in their sleep. If we call the sweep twenty times, I'll expect it to work twenty times ... not eighteen, not nineteen. We do it often enough in practice so that no excuse can exist for screwing it up."
—Greg A. Bedard