Vince Lombardi is immortalized in stone for a reason. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

The Green Bay Packers: From Glory Days to Glory Days


It starts when we are old enough to learn to read and write well enough to pick up a newspaper, thumb our way to the sports section, and scan to anything with NFL and Green Bay Packers material.

Back in those days (early 1960s) the season was only 12 games long, ending around the first week of the New Year. After that, Packers news would trickle down for a week or two, then be a rare event until the draft, summer camp, and up to the preseason.

In comparison, we can find material on our team every day, year-round, in this day and age. It just so happened I was fortunate to be able to read it as it happened. The Glory Years, with a coach so well respected in the NFL, they named the Super Bowl Trophy after him.

Vincent T. Lombardi.

His records still stand as one of the esthe winningest head coach in Packers history.

Bart StarrLombardi came to Green Bay from New York in 1959 to begin what cannot be argued as less than one of the best eras in professional football.

There were a few years that Lombardi took on the head coach as well as general manager (GM). He went on to become the legend of legends. The impact this change had was exactly what he wanted, to develop a winning tradition beyond all others. His record speaks for itself. Year after year, the team ranked deep into the ranks as one of the top NFL teams, with every year being a new chance to take the championship home; the teams were that good.

NFL championships came with the turf back then, along with victories in the first two Super Bowls, back in 1966 and ’67 when they were known as the AFL/NFL Championship. Some say Vince knew that since a few of his best players were retiring after the 1967 season, a rebuilding phase would be needed, and he didn’t want to continue on that note, bringing him to his decision to step away from his coaching duties.

It was a short-lived retirement at that, taking the Washington Redskins head coaching job for what turned out to be his last year as a coach, as terminal cancer led him to his last fight. He passed on June 24, 1970, leaving the Green Bay Packers with a record of (105–35–6) which was a .740 winning percentage.

The 1966 Super Bowl marked the year the NFL had taken in the AFC (American Football Conference) formerly a league of its own. Though the new league has added several teams, it still consists of the same basic two leagues, as the most successful sports event in the world. In this series of events, the sports world changed forever. The Packers had enjoyed what proved to be the best coach the NFL has ever seen. Then came the “lesson.”

THE LESSON

Going through unprecedented winning seasons nearly a decade long is not stressed to humiliate or disturb losing coaches, or even correct any single coach. To some, and let’s just call them poor stories, the team is something to write puns about, or rude fun is poked out of team mishaps.

What this means – poorly written sports football stories followed the Lombardi era time and again for the next 25-plus years. The fortunate circumstances we have had since the early 1990s has taken most of those poor stories off the newspapers’ front pages, but we had to learn a tough lesson along the way. That lesson is what I believe the writers own value of sportsmanship. This goes to say poor sports teams write tragic stories. This was endured after 1967, and in some circles a common factor to “bash” the home team. That bothers some fans, and I am one for not rubbing salt on any wounds.

Knocking the home team, in dancing a choice of words to fit the pun, is not good reporting. Expressing blame or purposely ridiculing the home team has no place in good journalism. This was found in some local news outlets in Wisconsin, even while others, such as the Press Gazette in Green Bay, held firm in reporting facts without the digs and knocks. No issue with the latter reports. Even when losing good things can be found, and that is the home team reporters’ job. Let’s make the sting of defeat sweet. Let’s not add in bitter, snide remarks.

THE LEAN YEARS

Phil Bengston took over after Vince Lombardi, and had the last of the good seasons, then things slid into losing ways, with under 500 seasons. After Bengston came Dan Devine and the times became vulgar, going as far as having some twisted person killing the coach’s dog, for what was called “giving away” the team’s future, by way of bad draft trading.

Lombardi’s .753 lifetime record were followed by .488 and .481 records by coaches Bart Starr and Forest Gregg. The losing bottomed out with Lindy Infante,

Bart Starr had a pretty good team in 1982, but not good enough to win a title. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Bart Starr had a pretty good team in 1982, but not good enough to win a title.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

who could only muster up .375 percent. A couple decent years were mixed in, but things were not built strong enough to be considered “contenders” with the Pack during those lean years.

In time, things had to move the other way again. In walked Ron Wolf after the 1991 season and with him the winning ways began. In just two years, the Packers were back in commission as a team to beat, under a new coach, Mike Holmgren, who went on to join the top four in team coaching history. Mike Holmgren was a disciple of the Bill Walsh era of the West Coast offense.

Holmgren worked well with Brett Favre, creating a monster who shattered every team and most league records for passing. The departure tore the team apart, before handing the quarterback job to Aaron Rodgers. In the end, Favre went on to play for the Jets and Vikings before retiring from football.

Ron Wolf was rightfully given credit for turning the team around. The Green Bay Packers were once again America’s team after decades of mediocrity. Mike Holmgren was offered part ownership of the Seattle club to coach and manage the team for a wage Green Bay could not come close to at the time, leading the way to a few more changes in upcoming years, until Mike McCarthy was handed the job, and began winning.

The good years continued until the team was so embedded as contenders, a .500 season was considered a poor year. Even with these good years, some want to dwell on negative events within the team. As fans today, the Cheeseheads are spoiled. We have gone through 22 years of some of the best NFL teams Green Bay has ever fielded.

Ron Wolf retired years ago, and left Green Bay with his legacy. Ted Thompson rose above league GMs to become an icon in his own right. Like hand and glove, Mike McCarthy makes his own set of records and the best thing about it all? McCarthy and Thompson are not finished with making their history.

Win or lose, we will stand by them. They gave it their all, and we only see them getting better at doing their jobs. More championships are on their minds.

Enjoy the ride, and in the end, well, just get there.

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Tags: Green Bay Packers Mike McCarthy Ted Thompson