Football Short Story
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Best Coordinator Tandem Ever? - 1
Lombardi and Landry: How Two of Pro Football's Greatest Coaches Launched Their Legends and Changed the Game Forever, Ernie Palladino (2011)
Vince Lombardi was what today would be called the Offensive Coordinator for the New York Giants from 1954-58 and Tom Landry was the Defensive Coordinator 1954-59. The head coach was Jim Lee Howell. The Giants won the NFL Champ­ionship in '56 and lost in the championship game to the Baltimore Colts in '58.
In his first year with the Giants, Lombardi was almost universally disliked among the team's veterans ... Who did this big-mouthed guy think he was, full of bluster but devoid of any pro experience? Did he really think that rinky-dink Army offense was going to work? Gifford, who later became one of Lombardi's greatest friends, called him "loud and arrogant, a total pain in the ass." ...
Though the bombast continued, Lombardi adjusted. After some initial, failed attempts to gain their trust that first (training) camp, Lombardi visited some of his key players and asked for help. What plays did they like to run? What were they comfortable with?
"We would listen to him and he would listen to us," QB Charlie Conerly said.
He made accommodations to age and skill sets. He bent. And in return, the players gave him their loyalty and attention. Though he would become more aloof from the players as a head coach, with these Giants he drank, played cards, and communed as a human being. ...
Landry was a totally different personality. "Very quiet," said John Mara (the eldest son of Giants owner Wellington Mara). "Lombardi was not that way. Very gregarious. Talkative and loud. Two completely different personalities." ...
The one quality Landry and Lombardi did share was competitiveness. Be it football, golf, tiddly­winks, whatever, they both possessed an unquenchable desire to win. ...
When it came to football, the performance of the two coaches' individual units became their ulti­mate measuring stick. Each became a major pain in Howell's ear while promoting the offense or defense, lobbying for more time, more attention; a punt instead of an offensive play on fourth-and-short or, in one instance, a risky play instead of a field goal on fourth-and-10.
There, in keeping Landry and Lombardi on a peacefully even keel, Jim Lee Howell's true genius emerged. He wasn't a fantastic game coach. He wasn't a great strategist. He never garnered undying love from his players. But without a head man like Howell - a boss willing to hear out both sides but strong enough to break a tie knowing full well he'd bruise one of his assistants' egos - Lombar­di and Landry might well have become football's version of the Hatfields and McCoys.
"Howell was smart enough to keep those two at bay," said Don Smith, the Giants PR Director. "He knew he had a good team there ... He'd keep the har­mony so the two of them wouldn't be at each other's throats. He might suggest some things, like put this guy here, or do this on this play, but for the most part Lombardi and Landry ignored him." ...
When things went right with the offense, out came the jovial Vinny ... But when things went bad, a depressed, angry Vinny would take over. Landry hung the nickname "Mr. High-Low" on him "because when his offense did well, he was sky high; but, boy, when they didn't do well, you couldn't speak to him."

L-R: Tom Landry, Jim Lee Howell, Vince Lombardi, Frank Gifford, Charley Conerly
Whether by loud, crude cajoling or calm explanation, both men were tremen­dous teachers. Diffe­rent, certainly, but both extremely effective in his own manner.
"Tom never swore," Landry's star MLB Sam Huff said. "He always said, 'If you do what I tell you to do, we can control the game. Don't guess. You gotta believe in what I'm telling you,' and you did."
When things went wrong, it only took a mere glance from Landry to let the player know he'd sinned.
"He never screamed," Huff said. "It was just the way he looked at you. When Tom Landry looked at you, it was a stare. It was like, 'You know better than that.' He was a master teacher."
Wellington Mara likened them both to college professors in their blackboard presence. The only difference was that Landry's intellectual approach made it seem like he was teaching the top 10 percent of his class while Lombardi's earthier, repetitive method seemed directed at the bottom 10 percent.
As it happened, the Giants defenses under Landry became one of the league's most intelligent units, especially once cerebral players like Andy Robustelli, Harland Svare, and DB Jimmy Patton came aboard.
verywhere. He would stop practice to correct a player, or the entire unit, for failing to run plays correctly. No one was immune, be he Frank Gifford, Alex Webster, or any blocker.

 

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