- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, this is football: “Most plays last just three or four seconds. So you have to execute immediately, upon the snap of the ball. You have to know where you’re going and move decisively. Linemen, you have to win that initial contact, make the hit, drive your man, stay on your man. If you can move him back even just a foot or two, he doesn’t beat you and the play can succeed. This is how we’re going to win.

“Defenders want to penetrate. Once they cross that line of scrimmage, the play is destroyed. So our mentality is simple - snap the ball, hit your man, move him back a step or two. We win right there. We’re going to go man on man, run it at you, send runners into the holes, pick up four or five yards, move those chains. And there isn’t anything you can do about it, because we’re going to execute better.”

That is what Vince Lombardi told his players in 1959 when he first addressed them as coach of the Green Bay Packers, a once-proud franchise fallen on hard times, according to “That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory” by Baltimore author John Eisenberg.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not football:

“There was a glitch, but it didn’t have to do with the play caller and the play calls or anything like that. It had to do completely with something else. One of the times we had to call the timeout, I am looking around and saying, ‘What just happened?’ I didn’t feel that the clock was being managed right by the scorekeeper or whatever, because it happened so quick. We were getting the play in good enough time, and all of a sudden Jason [Campbell] had to call a timeout and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said it was down to zero. … It happened so fast, I couldn’t believe it. … To work that situation in real time is very difficult.”

That is Redskins coach Jim Zorn talking about the problems his team had with playcalling, clock management and who knows what else during their 7-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

It is unfair, of course, to compare Zorn with Lombardi. But it is important to understand what great leadership and coaching sound like because it’s been so long since we’ve seen it in the District.

It is worth examining what Vince Lombardi did in Green Bay that first season - and certainly worth reading the book about it - because what he accomplished there needs to be accomplished at Redskin Park to restore this once-proud franchise.

The Redskins need to hire someone to change the culture of this organization.

Coaches like Lombardi come along perhaps once every 50 years, but the Redskins don’t need to find another Lombardi. There are coaches who presumably are available who could change the Redskins’ culture - Mike Holmgren and Tony Dungy, for instance - in a role as a team president. Those are men who can lead change.

Of course, the man currently in charge of the Redskins, owner Dan Snyder, would have to want the culture to be changed - and we still have no evidence of that.

Snyder was asked after Joe Gibbs resigned nearly two years ago if he’d consider hiring a general manager.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

Forty years ago, Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams saw a desperate need for a change in the culture of his club, which had not had a winning season in 14 years.

So, in 1969, he hired Lombardi to do for the Redskins what he did for the Packers 10 years earlier.

Sure enough, in just one season here before his death from cancer, Lombardi changed the way people thought about the Redskins and the way the Redskins thought about themselves.

There was the hiccup of a 6-8 season under Bill Austin after Lombardi’s death, but the organization recommitted to the change Lombardi had started the next year with the arrival of George Allen.

Dan Snyder now has the chance to make that kind of change - historic change, the kind they write books about.

- Listen to “The Sports Fix,” with co-hosts Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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