Lombardi left legacy of excellence

Updated: October 16, 2001, 10:40 AM ET
By Mike Puma | Special to ESPN.com

Signature Game
Dec. 31, 1967 - For the NFL title game between the Packers and Cowboys, the mercury plummeted to 15 degrees below zero in Green Bay. Before the season, Lombardi had spent $80,000 on an electric heating system installed under Lambeau Field's turf. But on this day, it would be rendered useless.

Dallas rallied from a 14-point deficit to take a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Starting with 4:50 left and the ball on their own 32, the Packers made one final drive. Quarterback Bart Starr moved the team to the one-yard line with 16 seconds left and the Packers called their last timeout. Lombardi had two choices: Go for the win or kick the short field goal to force overtime.

As Starr approached the sideline, Lombardi had already ruled out a field-goal attempt. The Packers would go for the victory. Starr suggested a wedge play in which running back Chuck Mercein would bulldoze through the middle. "Run it!" Lombardi said. "And let's get the hell out of here."

Starr called the play for Mercein, but without telling anybody changed his mind as the Packers broke the huddle, deciding on a quarterback sneak instead before he feared Mercein might lose his footing. Following the blocks of guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman, Starr lunged across the goal line to give the Packers a 21-17 victory.

"The Ice Bowl," as the game would come to be known, was Lombardi's last at Lambeau Field. He would retire as Packers coach in two weeks after winning Super Bowl II.

Lombardi by the numbers

Coaching record
Year Team W L T Pct. Place Post
1959 Green Bay 7 5 0 .583 3 NFL-W --
1960 Green Bay 8 4 0 .667 1 NFL-W 0-1
1961* Green Bay 11 3 0 .786 1 NFL-W 1-0
1962* Green Bay 13 1 0 .929 1 NFL-W 1-0
1963 Green Bay 11 2 1 .846 2 NFL-W --
1964 Green Bay 8 5 1 .615 2 NFL-W --
1965* Green Bay 10 3 1 .769 1 NFL-W 2-0
1966^ Green Bay 12 2 0 .857 1 NFL-W 2-0
1967^ Green Bay 9 4 1 .692 1 NFL-C 3-0
1969 Washington 7 5 2 .583 2 NFL-Cap --
Totals

96 34 6 .728

9-1
* NFL Champion
^ NFL Champion; won Super Bowl

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Entering the 2000 season, Lombardi's winning percentage of .740 was the highest of any coach with at least 100 victories. George Seifert, now of the Carolina Panthers, was second at .730.

  • The most dominant of Lombardi's teams was the 1962 Packers, who went 13-1 in the regular season before defeating the New York Giants, 16-7, in the NFL championship game.

  • Besides building winning teams, Lombardi also helped mold nine Hall of Fame players - Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood and Jim Taylor.

  • No player embodied Lombardi's ideals more than Starr, who got the most out of his ability and seldom made mental mistakes.

  • Starr (1975-83) and Gregg (1984-87) later coached the Packers.

  • When Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959, there was one African-American on the team. In 1967, his final season, there were 14.

  • Lombardi and Mike Holmgren are the only two Packers coaches with winning records.

  • The 1-10-1 record in 1958 compiled by Lombardi's predecessor, Scooter McLean, was the worst in team history.

  • Lombardi said his famous line - "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing" - in a motivational film, "Second Effort." The phrase was first used by another football coach, Red Sanders, in the 1930s.

  • A street outside Lambeau Field is named for Lombardi.

  • Lombardi's uniform number (40) is retired at Fordham.

  • One of Lombardi's classmates at Fordham was Wellington Mara, whose family owned the Giants.

  • Lombardi's coach at Fordham was Jim Crowley, who rose to fame as one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in the 1920s.

  • Lombardi's nickname in college was "Butch."

  • When Lombardi returned to Fordham as an assistant coach, his duties included coaching freshman basketball. Among the players he coached was Dick Tarrant, who would become a successful college basketball coach at Richmond.

  • Late in 1954, Lombardi mulled leaving the Giants to become head coach at Fordham. But the school decided to drop football before Lombardi could accept.

  • While at Army, Lombardi got to know General Douglas MacArthur, who was a big football fan. The two sometimes viewed game films in MacArthur's Manhattan apartment.

  • During motivational speeches, Lombardi often quoted MacArthur.

  • One of Lombardi's few hobbies outside of football was golf.

  • Lombardi's ownership stake in the Redskins was five percent upon becoming head coach and general manager in 1969.

  • Richard Nixon considered Lombardi as a possible running mate in 1968, but dropped the idea when he discovered Lombardi was a Democrat.

  • Lombardi's son Vincent became a motivational speaker.

  • Three days after Lombardi's death in 1970, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced that the Super Bowl trophy would be named after Lombardi.

  • Among the pallbearers at Lombardi's funeral were Starr, Hornung, Davis and Mara.

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