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Vince brings green days to Green Bay

Oct. 19, 1959
Oct. 19, 1959

Table of Contents
Oct. 19, 1959

New Putter
Texas Delight
World Series
Wonderful World Of Sports
Pro Football
Horse Racing
Golf
Tip From The Top
Nature
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

Vince brings green days to Green Bay

Under the analytical eye of Vince Lombardi, the Packers head for better times

Vince Lombardi started out to be a lawyer. He had all the talent needed: a cold, analytical mind and a streak of sentiment which, in moments of stress, brought tears to his liquid brown Italian eyes. He was, too, a brilliant student. When he finished at Fordham University, he coached St. Cecelia High School in New Jersey in order to earn enough money to pay for his expenses at law school.

This is an article from the Oct. 19, 1959 issue Original Layout

The talents which fitted him so well for a career as an attorney proved equally fitting for a head coach. Lombardi analyzed offenses and defenses and, coldly and impersonally, judged the capabilities of the youngsters at St. Cecelia. His half-time exhortations were so sincere and deeply felt that now and then they moved Lombardi himself to tears. This combination of steely football acumen and arrant sentimentalism worked so well with the St. Cecelia boys that Lombardi's teams won 36 games in a row. In the meantime, Vince acquired a law degree, but he never used it. He had become so thoroughly infected with the madness which infects all football coaches that he stowed his law degree in a dresser drawer and went on to coach the freshman team at Fordham, where he had been a member of the famous seven blocks of granite.

That was in 1947. He moved to West Point in 1949, installing an effective T attack for the Cadets. In 1954 he came to the New York Giants to operate the attack of that team and, after last season, he moved into the difficult and demanding job of head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers are unique in major sports in the United States. Green Bay is a small town, not far from Milwaukee. The town is closer to its pro football team than any other city in the league. Quite a few of the citizens of Green Bay own stock in the Packers. It's as if a town like, say, Little Rock, Arkansas, owned a franchise in the American League. Everyone in Green Bay goes to every home game. Everyone feels perfectly free to second-guess the Green Bay coach. The Green Bay owners listen carefully to what their neighbors have to say, too, because the defection of only a very small percentage of fans can mean the difference between red and black ink on the club's balance sheet.

This civic enthusiasm and participation was a fine thing for creating excitement for the team but an impossible condition under which to coach. The first thing Lombardi did was to make it unmistakably clear that he ran the football team, on and off the field, and that his decisions were irrevocable and, beyond that, not open to question. After the miserable season which had preceded his employment, the Green Bay citizenry accepted this ultimatum in good spirit and have had no cause to regret their acceptance since. Lombardi, consulting no one but Lombardi, traded freely during the off season. Expected to finish last a bit more respectably than the team did in 1958, he now leads the very tough Western Conference.

"My first problem was one of organization," he said the other day. "On and off the field. Then I wanted to strengthen our defense, and I worked hard at it. We got three players in trades with Cleveland which made the difference—or a good deal of it: Henry Jordan at tackle, Bill Quinlan at end and Bobby Freeman in the defensive secondary. They're experienced, tough players, and there's no substitute for experience on defense. When I got Emlen Tunnell from the Giants it took a lot of the coaching load off my back. Tunnell has played defense in this league for 11 years, and he knows the system I use and he has been indispensable."

Defense was particularly important to Lombardi.

"I knew we had to stay close," he said. "We had to be in the game all the way. We couldn't let anyone get a couple of touchdowns ahead and expect to make it up on a couple of long plays. Our offense wasn't that good. So I concentrated on defense."

In his first league game, Lombardi—and his newly assembled old pros on defense—held the Chicago Bears without a touchdown and won 9-6. In his second game he allowed Detroit only one touchdown and won 28-10. Against the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers allowed two touchdowns, but the Green Bay offense, gaining strength from Sunday to Sunday, managed three, and the Packers led the conference 3-0.

You can attribute a good deal of Green Bay's improved offense to Frank Gifford, a tough, competent halfback for the New York Giants who can run exceptionally well and who can pass well enough. Casting about for a Green Bay equivalent to Gifford, Lombardi settled on Paul Hornung. Hornung came to the Packers as a bonus draft choice from Notre Dame, where he had been a quarterback. He was a good Notre Dame quarterback, although he did not operate during the days of glory for the Irish. He ran very hard and he threw the ball with reasonable, though not pro-quality, accuracy. It is almost an axiom of pro football that Notre Dame quarterbacks are not as good as they look and this was, unfortunately, true of Hornung. He threw well for the Packers but that was not, by a good margin, well enough. Then he was moved to fullback to take advantage of his size and strength and he was neither big enough nor strong enough to be a good pro fullback.

Lombardi, who was sold by Frank Gifford on big, strong halfbacks who can throw adequately, saw another Gifford in Hornung. He moved the handsome blond youngster from fullback to halfback, and Hornung responded beautifully. Lombardi still needs a good fullback, but in Hornung at halfback he has a tremendous running and passing threat which has jelled the Packer offense.

The defense reflects the cold, icy-bright mind that is a part of Lombardi. He hasn't moved himself to tears recently during a half-time exhortation, but the sentimental streak in his nature is still valuable to him.

He traded for Lamar McHan, the moody, unpredictable quarterback of the Chicago Cardinals, between seasons. McHan, who has all the physical equipment and skills to be one of the best, had never quite made it under the various Cardinal coaches. He has been the moving force for the Packers under the wise, understanding and gentle guidance of Lombardi.

"All he needed was confidence," Lombardi said. "I tried to give it to him."

Said McHan early in the season when Lombardi stuck by him through a series of mishaps: "You got to put out for a guy like that. If you know he believes in you, what else can you do?"

While the Packers perched rather precariously atop the Western Conference, the rest of the teams in the NFL continued to flout the odds. The Los Angeles Rams, bolstered by the acquisition of Carl Karilivacz to plug a lamentably leaky secondary defense, outscored the so far disappointing Chicago Bears 28-21. The Baltimore Colts, a team which seemed nearly unbeatable last year, had to rally vigorously in the fourth period to beat the winless Detroit Lions. Johnny Unitas, the incomparable Baltimore quarterback, saved the game in the closing minutes with a 54-yard pass-and-run play to Raymond Berry. But the Colts, off their two narrow victories and one defeat so far this season, seem lethargic and even a bit elderly. They are, however, still the strongest threats to the Packers and to the San Francisco 49ers.

Defense, long a trademark of the New York Giants, stood them in good stead again as they defeated the Cleveland Browns 10-6. A week ago, with a defensive back on the sidelines with an injury, the Giants could find no effective measure to contain the passes of one of the league's best, Philadelphia's Norman Van Brocklin. This week, with the defense reasonably healthy, New York had little trouble with the Brown pass offense, which is sadly lacking. Concentrating on stopping the Browns on the ground, the Giants won, although their own offense was not impressive.

Van Brocklin, the particular demon who bedeviled the Giants last week, continued to throw strikes against Pittsburgh. In a game matching two of the oldest and boldest of pro quarterbacks, Van Brocklin outpitched Pittsburgh's Bobby Layne 28-24 to put Philadelphia in a three-way tie with the Giants and the Redskins for the Eastern Conference lead.

The Redskins, still playing scared after Coach Mike Nixon two weeks ago threatened to fire 19 players if they did not improve, whipped the Chicago Cardinals 23-14. Ralph Guglielmi, the old Notre Dame quarterback, took over from the spectacular but largely ineffective Eddie LeBaron to engineer the Redskin victory.

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PHOTO

THE GAME'S GRIEVOUS LOSS

He was a small, paunchy man with a face like a pudgy hawk and a gravelly voice. He lived in a world of giants whom he ruled absolutely. He was, as much as any one man could be, responsible for the burgeoning of professional football, and he was the best commissioner any professional sport has had since the death of Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Bert (De Benneville) Bell, who took over as commissioner of the National Football League in 1946, was responsible for the eminently sane policies of the league on television and procurement of personnel, the two factors which made pro football the success it is today. Before he was commissioner, he was an owner and a coach in the league and not very effective in either pursuit. He was fair in his dealings with owners and players. Sunday he died watching a football game between the Eagles and the Steelers in Philadelphia, and he left a vacancy no one else can fill.

X-RAY OF LAST WEEK'S GAMES

Pts.

Yds. Rush.

Yds. Pass.

Pass Comp.

Packers vs.
49ers

21
20

284
122

94
150

6-14
8-23

Rams vs.
Bears

28
21

245
21

175
285

12-17
14-29

Colts vs.
Lions

31
24

164
190

257
115

13-26
10-30

Giants vs.
Browns

10
6

156
139

94
204

9-17
18-37

Eagles vs.
Steelers

28
24

109
66

172
203

13-28
18-35

Redskins vs.
Cards

23
14

168
104

136
194

8-15
20-32

LEAGUE STANDINGS

Won

Lost

Tied

Pct.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Washington

2

1

0

.667

New York

2

1

0

.667

Philadelphia

2

1

0

.667

Cleveland

1

2

0

.333

Chicago Cardinals

1

2

0

.333

Pittsburgh

1

2

0

.333

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Green Bay

3

0

0

1.000

Baltimore

2

1

0

.667

San Francisco

2

1

0

.667

Chicago Bears

1

2

0

.333

Los Angeles

1

2

0

.333

Detroit

0

3

0

.000