What would Vince do?

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By Larry Brown

Next year will mark the fortieth anniversary of Vince Lombardi’s coming to Washington to coach the Redskins. As one of those lucky enough to have played under Vince during his all-too-brief time as the Redskins coach I’m often asked how he’d fare if he were around today, operating in a professional football world of multi-million dollar salaries, free agency, and problems related to individual players who want to operate by their own rules. My answer is that the character traits that made Vince Lombardi a winner in the 1960s would make him a winner today. He had strict standards that covered personal conduct and the way the game ought to be played, but he could be flexible as long as a player fit into the team concept. Vince could adapt. Free spirits like Paul Horning and Max McGee could play for his Green Bay Packers because they were team players who did whatever was needed to win on the field. But when a player, no matter how talented, conducted himself in a way to distract from the team effort, you can bet Coach Lombardi would draw the line. What I don’t think Vince would like in today’s NFL, however, is the fact that to a large extent the game has been taken away from the players and given to the coaches. We had no more than half-a-dozen coaching assistants when I played and today teams have up to two dozen, plotting offensive and defensive strategy. I think it takes the spontaneity out of the game. Football isn’t chess and players aren’t chess pawns. Vince Lombardi understood that much as he liked to control things, he left room for his players to improvise. Sonny Jurgensen called his own plays in the 1960s and if Vince were around today his quarterback would still call the plays. And win games that way just as Vince Lombardi’s teams did forty years ago.

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ROBERT JANIS

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