When the Big Game (SB51) is over n’ done, when all the “whohoopers” have blown and “tartookas” have bung, when the champions raise the Lombardi as a prize they’ve just won, serious discussion should begin at NFL Central about the prospect of re-naming the Big Trophy, after he hangs up his headset, of course, for the New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick who has for the better part of two decades mastered the sport like no other before.
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It is Vince Lombardi’s name that is etched onto each Super Bowl trophy since 1971 (SB5), the year after the great NFL coach and teacher died from colon cancer in Washington, D.C.
Vince’s professional journey began as the offensive coordinator on the 1950s Jim Lee Howell Giants (Tom Landry as DC), then on recommendation of the Packers first choice, Iowa’s Forest Evashevski, was offered and accepted the project of resurrecting the greatness that had been Green Bay football under its founder, Curly Lambeau. When he was done in the Dairyland (‘68), having piled up five (5) NFL titles, including Super Bowls I & II, the Brooklyn-born taskmaster (Thurston: “He treats us all the same, like dogs”) was the standard of excellence in coaching and then started to tackle a new reclamation project in Washington, D.C. in guiding the long-suffering Redskins to their first winning season since Harry Truman’s first year as President in 1945 (7-5-2 (69)).
Lombardi’s Packers dominated much of the 60s, became the pride of Wisconsin football fans once again and, in its earlier days, the small source of no small joy for the man and #1 Catholic in the White House, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
With his winning ways and confident, at times arrogant air, his legend grew, so big that the name Lombardi become sacrosanct in sporting circles. All of which means a call to replace the name on the Silver Swag would lead Packer-backers and media friendlies to just about freak.
But the Vince Lombardi brand of ball is as old as a pair of Johnny Unitas high-tops. Not lesser in its importance, just older.
His style of coaching (“Captain Ahab” to Mike Tomlin “cheerleader(ing)”) and the game plans that dominated the gridiron are largely long gone, unknown to younger fans as the NFL’s Network rarely showcases their vintage & voluminous NFL Films library, fixated instead on gab & top ten lists to bring in the teeny-boppers.
The last remnants of the Lombardi / pre-pass game retired with his rival Bud Grant handed-in his clipboard (‘85). Though personalities far apart (See; MMQB – SI.com), Vince & Bud were like-minded in their passion and emphasis on ground-game, team-play and toughness: No gloves, warming or sticky, nor heaters on the Metropolitan Stadium (d. 1983) or Lambeau Field sidelines, no matter the frigidity (-13°). It was a man’s game, though, on occasion, brutish ball (See; Ice Bowl).
‘So what’ you say, ‘Lombardi’s name is a terrific tie to the NFL’s glorious past!’ Agree. Nobody loves history more than this scribbler but the trophy should be fairly current in name-plate, more representative of the National game as it stands. Not to cue a change every ten (10) years but when 2+ generations have spanned and a good candidate is present (BB), a renovation is in order. Frankly, the Tiffany-designed trophy needs an update, a new model to lose the tail-fins.
This pitch isn’t about pegging the best head coach in NFL history. We know who the best assistant coach is in Buddy Ryan (d.2016), Hall-worthy anyway, vote-snobs, but trying to make permanent by etching a name the best ever in coaching is foolish.
There’s never been a better coach, motivator, than Vince Lombardi. But then one could safely say the same about Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs, NFL founder George Halas (NFCC trophy), Weeb Ewbank, Hank Stram, Curly Lambeau, John Madden and so on & so on.
And Bill Belichick ain’t just any ol’ champion coach.
New England’s hoodie-wearing, gridiron guru is nonpareil and stands as the League’s new standard of excellence, a winning method as clear and consistent, as admired and feared by opponents as was the Packers power-sweep in the 1960s. Success seems almost automatic.
What about Spygate? With ever-changing technologies there’s a corresponding rapid change in societal mores and then challenges in defining new boundaries.
Detractors might say this about Bill: ‘Without Brady, Belichick’s fair at best.’
But every great coach has his great player(s): Riley had Magic, Jackson had Michael, Holmgren had Favre, Huggins had Ruth…and Gehrig, Pop Warner had Thorpe, Bill has Tom and Vincent had Bart Starr, wise quarterback who was the master implementer of Lombardi‘s vision.
The difference is that some have a flair for innovation. In the Big Name group, coaches like Pop Warner, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sid Gillman, Halas, Lambeau, Paul Brown, Lombardi, Tommy Gorman, Bear Bryant, Dick Irvin, Nick Saban Adrian “Cap” Anson, Pete Carroll, Hank Stram, John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Knute Rockne and Belichick invent ways to win while putting strong emphasis on the fundamentals.
Beauty of Belichick is best illustrated, not in Pats 2016 regular season mark (14-2), almost ho-hum for a B&B team, but that even as Tom was out, NE went 3-1 (Ws v. AZ, MIA & HOU), guided by two quarterbacks who, though played with composure, had zero (0) starts prior between them in Jim Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.
By the time Bill retires, probably not long after his #1 (Tom) hangs up his cleats, Lombardi’s name will have graced the Big Trophy for over fifty (50) years. That’s a long, respectful time.
When the Powers-that-Be named the trophy in 1970, it was about excellence, empathy & remembrance. Another naming (2020+) could be about excellence, remembrance and relevancy. But even if, Belichick, as was Lombardi, is proud and would likely refuse the honor. Great minds think alike. Vince wasn’t all too keen about renaming City Field for the equally legendary Lambeau. But it’s hard to imagine the famous frozen tundra titled otherwise.
Will Bill Belichick hoist his 5th Lombardi when SB51 comes to a close? That I haven’t yet decided. Falcons are a force. Whether he does or doesn’t, the name game will begin.
Photo credit: B.Belichick, wc, D.Shakbne, 4.24.12; LombardiTrophy, wc, SafetyCap, 6.16.16; SB-Trophy, wc, 2.5.12, L.Tyrnes, S.Luke; Lombardi-Starr, wc, Wisconsin, 1960s; NFL-logo, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao
Posted: 1.27.17 @ 4:27pm EST; Copyright © 2017
Tagged with: 1969 Washington Redskins, Adrian “Cap” Anson, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bart Starr, Big Game, Big Trophy, Bill Belichick, Bud Grant, Buddy Ryan, Captain Ahab, changing name on Super Bowl trophy, cheerleading, Chuck Noll, City Field, Curly Lambeau, Dick Irvin, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Football, Forest Evashevski, Fuzzy Thurston, George Halas, Green Bay Packers power sweep, Hank Stram, He treats us all the same like dogs, Herman Melville, Jim Lee Howell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Joe Gibbs, John Kennedy, John Madden, John Wooden, Johnny Unitas high-tops, Knute Rockne, Lambeau Field, Lombardi Trophy, Metropolitan Stadium, Mike Tomlin, Minnesota Vikings, Moby Dick, music, new england patriots, NFL 2016-17, NFL Network, NHL, Nick Saban, Paul Brown, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Pete Carroll, Pop Warner, Shirley Ellis, Sid Gillman, Silver Swag, sports, Spygate, sticky-gloves, Super Bowl 51, tartookas, teeny-boppers, The Name Game, Tiffany trophy, Tom Brady, Tom Landry, Tommy Gorman, Vince Lombardi, Weeb Ewbank, whohoopers