Vince Lombardi profiled on HBO

Vince Lombardi with his Green Bay Packers.More than 40 years after his death, Vince Lombardi’s status as the NFL’s  greatest all time coach continues to be virtually unchallenged. On Tuesday,  December 21st at 2pm, HBO will present “Lombardi,” a 90 minute documentary on  the legendary Green Bay Packers head coach which made its debut earlier this  month. In addition to film footage supplied by NFL Films, Vince Lombardi’s life  is examined through interviews with numerous family members, newspapermen, Green  Bay Packer employees, and of course, many of the players who he coached. Also  utilized are extensive sound bites from Lombardi, explaining his philosophy of  football and life.

Born in 1913, Vince Lombardi’s first coaching stint was as a high school  football coach at St. Cecilia in New Jersey, following his college years as a  lineman at Fordham University. After guiding St. Cecilia to several state  championships, Lombardi, in 1949, moved on to West Point, where he assisted Red  Blaik, the most successful college football coach in America at that time. In  1953, Vince joined the pro ranks, becoming the New York Giants offensive  coordinator. After six successful campaigns in New York, Lombardi took on the  job that would define his career, and reshape the NFL. Green Bay was considered  pro-football’s version of Siberia at the time of Lombardi’s arrival, as the  Packers had finished 1-10-1 in 1958. Under Lombardi, Green Bay went 7-5 in 1959,  and in 1960, played for the league championship, losing 17-13 to the  Philadelphia Eagles. From that point on, the Packers became the dominate team of  the 1960’s, winning five NFL titles, and the first two Super Bowls. Stepping  down as Packer head coach after the second Super Bowl win in 1968, Lombardi  spent one season in the Green Bay front office, before leaving the Packer  organization to return to the sideline as head coach of the Washington Redskins  in 1969. Leading the Redskins to their best record in 14 years, Lombardi became  ill shortly before the start of the following season, and died of cancer on  September 3rd, 1970.

“Lombardi” does an excellent job in separating the man from the legend.  Through his son Vincent and daughter Susan, we learn the Vince Lombardi was not  an ideal father, while former players Frank Gifford and Bart Starr reveal their  roles in helping Lombardi better relate to his players. One of the more  intriguing stories in “Lombardi” relates how the failure of the underground  heating system that Vince Lombardi had installed beneath the grass at Lambeau  Field resulted in the conditions now known as the 1967 Green Bay versus Dallas “Ice Bowl.”

As often is the case in American culture, Vince Lombardi’s untimely death  at age 57 only added to his legend, as demonstrated by the NFL naming the Super  Bowl trophy after him shortly after his passing. One might wonder what might  have happened if Lombardi would have lived long enough to coach through the  1970’s. Could Lombardi have duplicated his success of the proceeding decade, or  would he have fallen short to the likes of Don Shula, Chuck Noll and Tom  Landry?