Tag Archives: George Halas

NFL17 – SB51: Lombardi’s Legend Lives But It’s Bill Belichick’s Trophy Now, Vince

27 Jan

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 discussions 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 football coach Bill Belichick who has for the better part of two decades mastered the sport like no other before.

— — —

It is Vince Lombardi’s name that is etched onto each Super Bowl trophy since 1971 (SB5), the year after the great NFL coach, teacher and cultural icon died from colon cancer in the nation’s capital city, Washington, D.C.

belichick-wc-d-shankbne-4-24-12-m176Vince’s pro journey began as the offensive coordinator on the 1950s Jim Lee Howell Giants (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 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 source of no small joy for the #1 Catholic and Vince’s friend in the White House, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

With his winning ways and confident, at times arrogant air, his legend grew to colossal size, 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’s “cheerleader(ing)?”) and game plans that dominated the gridiron are 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.

lombarditrophy-wc-safetycap-6-16-16-619kThe last remnants of the Lombardi / pre-pass game retired when 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, voting snobs, but trying to make permanent the best ever by etching a name is foolish.

There’s never been a better football 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 and so on.

sb-trophy-wc-2-5-12-l-tyrnes-s-lukeNot just any ol’ championship coach should be knocking the great Vince Lombardi off of his lofty, symbolic perch.

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 Green Bay 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.

His detractors might diss this on Bill, ‘Without Brady, Belichick is fair at best.’

But every great coach has his great player(s): Holmgren had Favre, Jackson had Michael, Huggins had Ruth…and Gehrig, Pop Warner had Thorpe, Riley had Magic, Bill has Tom and Vince had Bart Starr, who, if not the master-motivator behind the success was the master implementer of Lombardi‘s vision.

The difference? Some have a flair for innovation. In the Big Name group, men like Pop, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sid Gillman, Hank Stram, Halas, Walsh, Lambeau, Paul Brown, Lombardi, Tommy Gorman, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, Dick Irvin, Adrian “Cap” Anson, Pete Carroll, John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Knute Rockne and Belichick invent ways to win while putting an emphasis on fundamentals.

lombardi-starr-wc-cca-gbBeauty 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 and 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 either about renaming City Field for the legendary Lambeau. But one can hardly imagine today the famous frozen tundra titled any other way.

Will Bill Belichick hoist his 5th Lombardi when SB51 comes to a close? That I have not yet decided. Whether he does or doesn’t, the name game will begin.

ford-851k-wc-grfl-1933-umSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; B.Belichick, wc, D.Shakbne, 4.24.12; LombardiTrophy, wc, Safetycap, 6.16.16; SB-Trophy, wc, 2.5.12, Tyrnes, S.Luke; Lombardi-Starr, wc.cca; G.Ford, wc, GRFL, 1933, UoM
Posted: 1.27.17 @ 1:40pm, edit (+BW) 1.28 @ 9:42 EST; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Conference Cherry Picks: Top Dogs Hunting & Halasing on Way to Houston

17 Jan

If the Pittsburgh Steelers chatty guru Mike Tomlin is a “cheerleader” coach as one sport personality recently opinionated, then all I’ve got to say (write) is this:

Give me a W!
Give me an I!
Give me an N!
Give me another N!
Give me… … you get the picture. Mike’s a winner.

tomlin-wc-m-rooney-9-16-07-405kWhether he’s a skilled tactician in offensive (Sid Gillman) or defensive (Bud Ryan) scheme or a leader who prefers delegating those duties to specialize in the emotional game (rah-rah), Mike wins alot, regular (.644), post (.615) and is 1-1 in Supers. Tomlin & team went through a rough playoff patch in recent period (2012 – 2016 (1-3)) where Steelers went one n’ done, twice, then lost in 2016 divisional.

But Pittsburgh is 2-0 in their march on Houston (SB51), prevailing over a slightly off-center Miami club who were without starter Tannehill, and then Sunday won a gutsy road game over a scoring-lite Chiefs who’re back to the drawing board.

Tomlin is a bit off-center himself, showing poor judgment in the nationally-televised 2013 Thanksgiving contest in Baltimore, stepping into the pathway of Ravens return-man in a clear effort to disruption, hence the whopping $100G fine. More recently Mike was recorded making crude reference to his next week’s Conference title opponent, the Patriots. Stay classy, MT. Ugh.

halas-1922-wc-therakishfellow-188kThere’s been speculation that former Steelers Super Bowl QB and present Fox analyst, Terry Bradshaw and his curiously-timed critique of Tomlin, just prior to playoffs, was more than simple opinionating but instead intended to stoke the fires of Steel City players, a crew that’s been fizzling out early in recent playoff ventures.

Whether staged or sincere, Bradshaw’s statement on Tomlin’s coaching style seems to have had no negative impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers championship run, one that looks to be unified and motivated to the gills, a necessary group mental state given that their next destination has been most typically an opponent’s graveyard-of-dreams in Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts.

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7

Conference Cherry Picks 2017: Crème de la crème

Packers (12-6) @ Atlanta (12-5): 1.22 Fox 3:05 EST (Halas Trophy)

Conference play presents the best in competition as none of four remaining teams is a pretender. Nobody gets this far on smoke & mirrors. Experience over exuberance is how GB got back to the NFCC (2012). A-Birds punched their return ticket (2013 (Smith)) by topping the same Seattle and being the most offensively juggernautious team in NFL16, ranked #2 in YGPG, #1 in points scored and led by MVP-caliber Matt Ryan. Packers ranked at #8 / 4 and were rising at W17. For most of his coach career (1994 W&M), Falcons Dan Quinn has been a defensive specialist but that skill has not been apparent in Atlanta with poor 2016 team ranks indicate (#25 / 27). Lucky for the hosts, Packers didn’t fare much better on the D-side (#22 / 21), a group that nearly served up a Cheese-Melt II (See; Seattle 2015) in the Dallas divisional game. I like Falcons’ resolve: Behind early to the Seahawks (0-7), roar back with a killer 2Q (19), maintain matriculation and the D bolts it down (2H-10p). Kicker Crosby was cool late for GB (2-50+) but A-Birds Bryant (K) & Bosher (P) are toppers too. Clubs are very comparable, as it should be, except Atlanta’s run game is more est’d, and then they’ll be Benzing…the dome, not the hydrocarbon. Pack should’ve gotten hot earlier. Falcons win.

afc-hunt-trophy-a-kirk-wc-2-4m

Steelers (13-5) @ New England (15-2): CBS 6:40 (Hunt Trophy)

Media pounced on New England who lost but one quarter ((2) 10-3) to offensively tepid and defensively cranky Texans (34-16). Only surprise is that Brady’s O-mates failed to pounce on the QB’s crank (Clowney). Not in their job description (ugh)? Tom’s 2 INTs of tipped variety. Pitt had tougher time in KC but like Falcons, showed resolve. Must go back to ‘05 for Pittsburgh’s last AFCC visit to Foxborough, a 41-27 loss. Cowher’s out and Big Ben wants to forget (3 INT). Comparable clubs, too, on both O-side (NE: #4 / 3 – PIT: #7 / 10) and the stoppage (NE: #8 / 1; PIT: #12 / 9). Steelers #1 horse is clear (Bell) but I wonder why Blount (8c (HOU)), Pats proven gainer, fell to #2 behind Lewis (13c)? Pressure on the QB sets the tone: Pats OL is a wall (24sk (HOU 2)), Pitt’s is a bigger one (21 (KC 1)). Putting on pressure, both were…capable, Steelers made 38 sacks (1 KC), New England 34 (3 HOU). Weather folk see Sunday in Boston metro as 42°, clouds and no flakes, not from above, anyway (See; Mike). If not the AP-MVP, Tom should have shot at the Super variety. Patriots win.

Record: 85 – 93 – 3

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject; MikeTomlin, wc.cca, M.Rooney, 9.16.07; GeorgeHalas, 1922, wc.cca, therakishfellow; cherries-ripe, wc.cca, 6.24.07, Chirak; AFCC-LamarHunt-trophy, wc.cca, A.Kirk;
Posted: 1.17.17 @ 11:37am, edit 7:59 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Conference Cherry Picks: Halas n’ Hunt

22 Jan

“Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,                        5
Go wade like the crane;
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You ’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you ’ll walk like a man!”                                 10

Do You Fear the Wind?, by Hamlin Garland (1860 – 40 (W. Salem, WI)), contemporary audio illustration by J. Facenda, NFL Films

Dichotomy Bowl

Cherry Pick NFCC: Arizona Cardinals

Before big games it’s customary to look for common threads that run between the two opponents, maybe as a proof that there’s a winning template or something of the sort. But as “Donnie Brasco” might’ve said, “forget about it.”

Besides the obvious rare appearance in Conference championship play, memorable 2015 runs and a rare Heisman head-to-head in signal-caller spot, analogies between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers are few & far.

......Rozelle.Halas.80s.J.Summaria.wc.cca.thmCarson and Camster couldn’t be more different in poise (pocket v. run), personality (low-key v. high-flyin’) and roads taken (USC v. Auburn).

To the history buffs this 2016 NFC championship offers up a contrasting pair, pitting one of NFL’s charter-members in the Cardinals, Phoenix being their 3rd stop (CHI ‘20 / STL / AZ), against one of it’s newest clubs, the Carolina Panthers (‘95).

All that variety should help make for a top-notch tussle in Charlotte for Sunday’s Super selection game slotted in the late showing on Fox (1.24 / 6:40 EST).

And the winner can hoist high the coveted George Halas trophy, named in honor of one of the League’s original players (Decatur Staleys), founding fathers (“Papa Bear“) and long-time coach of the Monsters of Midway.

If you think Manning – Brady is big doings, even as Peyton’s embers may burn their final blaze, when you talk about sport rivalries, none was bigger than the Halas – Bears v. Lambeau – Packers – Lombardi battle that rocked back n’ forth for parts of five decades (1920s – 60s). Trophy hogs, these guys were.

.....Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.SwamiAnother chasm in claim of commonality between Carolina and the Cards are the differing personalities and résumés of the two head honchos, Bruce Arians (AZ ‘13) and Ron Rivera (CAR ‘11).

You could say the former Hokie’s pathway to his present job took the “Long and Winding Road (‘75 VT / 14 jobs)” while Ron’s, comparatively speaking, is more like ‘the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (‘97 CHI / 5).’

After playing QB at Virginia Tech Arians went straight into coaching while Ron played 9 seasons with Chicago (‘84-95 (LB)) and five years later took a job with the Bears as a defensive coach. Shoot-from-the-hip (Arians) vs calculated (Rivera), Bruce tends towards offense (See Also: Harold Goodwin (OC)) while Ron is, not surprisingly, a defensive specialist (Sean McDermott (DC)).

What’s gotten both teams to the pinnacle of these playoffs is their coaches similar ability to expand their repertoires and fashion success on their lesser sides, with the respective help of top-notch staffers in Carolina’s Mike Shula and Cardinals’ James Bettcher (DC).

.....Rivera.6.10.11.R.Paraglide.wc.thmOf course, both clubs are red-flagging a smidgen.

Playing at home, AZ barely got by GB in the divisional (26-20 OT), Pack not exactly being juggernautious in 2016, while Carolina forgot the realtor’s mantra, ‘always be closing.’ Cats jumped out big against the defending NFC champ ‘Hawks only to invite Swing Time (’36) and see their sizable lead fritter away, lose all scoring punch (0 2H) and escape with the win.

That coach who can best work his left-handed talent, that coaching area to which he was not befitted by a natural inclination, may prove the winner in Sunday’s slugfest between these top dogs who tangled in last season’s WC round where Cats came out on top (27-16) of a Cards team that featured 3rd-stringer Ryan Lindley subbing for Palmer who’d exited late-season with injury.

Continuity Bowl

Cherry Pick AFCC: Denver Broncos

Since 1997 the Patriots and / or Broncos have been represented in the AFC title game fourteen (14) times, Bill Belichick at the helm for ten, with one head-to-head in 2014 (DEN 26-16). A 3-game stretch (2009 – 11) being the longest time w/out either club appearing. Stout stuff, to say the least.

....AFC.Hunt.trophy.2.2.13, A.Kirk,thumbThese franchises are on solid footing, to be sure, thanks to ownerships that have vested fully in success, Patriots Robert Kraft and Broncos’ Bowlen family (‘84) where Pat ran the club until diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014.

It was Bill Parcells who re-awakened New England pro football which hadn’t had a title-test since their crushing loss in SB20 (Bears), in guiding Patriots to SB31 (GB 35-21 (L)), and then Mike Shanahan, building some on Dan Reeves’ work, did the same in Denver where in SB32 John Elway would run & gun the Broncos to their first NFL crown in besting the Green Bay Titletowners, 31-24.

Add in Tom Brady and the near perennial playoffer Peyton Manning and Sunday’s early game (3:05 CBS) at Sports Authority field drips with cachet, if not for the haters, of which both teams and QBs have gaggles.

‘America loves a winner’ someone once quipped but may, in these present times, love even more trying to tear one down.

....Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumbWho prevails Sunday at Mile High stadium even has the sporting gods hedging.

Trendy talk says Peyton’s running on fumes with Denver’s home-field and D not enough to deny a Patriots destiny that has confidence of a champion (SB49).

Pragmatists liked what they saw from Denver against Pitt in the divisional (23-16 W). Come-from-behind victories reflect more than “Whew, that was close (Close Encounters ‘75)!”

Against Pittsburgh, Mr. Mustang orchestrated a 65 yard, 14-play drive for the go-ahead TD, took 6+ minutes off the 4Q clock and converts the 2. Holding your pot (defense) and cashing in your opportunities in crunch-time shows a team laden with leadership in any football fan’s book.

....Kubiak.wc.J.Beall.10.5.08.thmExpect New England’s glamour grabbers (Gronk, Edelman) to suit up but they’re still feeling the pain. Patriots’ run game is nearly nil (0) with Blount out and late pickup Jackson’s game looking gone which only puts more pressure on pocket-passer Brady. Whereas, an admittedly lesser Peyton compared to the one who won AFCC in2014, has a more reliable motor-pool in Anderson & Hillman.

And not exactly ‘advantage Denver’ with the likes of Steve Gostkowski kicking well for NE, but watch if it comes down to the leg-men (Ginger Rogers had the best). Broncos’ Brandon McManus went 5-5 v. Pitt and hit a 50+ yarder.

Cheese & Whine: Arizona 26 v Green Bay 20 (OT (NFCD 1.16))

It wasn’t always this way (I lived in Packerland in 70s & 80s), but ever since the good times began “rolling” again at Lambeau (‘92) no franchise, jocks and fans alike, has more consistently served up the ‘whine’ in casks after a defeat, quite like Packer-backers. Unbefitting of this a glory-laden franchise, the gripe-fest has become as standard as the pre-game tailgate (See: Cheese-Melt 2015).

....Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.12.7.8.thmThe Cardinals – Packers game went long (OT) and Aaron Rodgers got the call, heads or tails. Then something unusual happened: Coin no flippy.

Since the NFL rules do not specify necessity for at least one complete rotation of the fly-coin (It will now), referee Clete Blakeman did Pack a solid, his common sense, no doubt, by affording a 2d toss that was not mandated. In effect, Packers got two tries at winning the toss. Not exactly gripe-able.

The reigning MVP has been quoted as saying the ref called “off” the first toss to “avoid the embarrassment.” Hardly, Mr. Double-Flip. My guess is he, as Aaron (“we obviously thought it was unfair”), simply believed a non-flip toss was “not right” nor w/in the spirit of the act, i.e., toss a coin so it rotates to enhance probability of chance for either team to win the side-show (head-tails).

...Favre&Lopez.11.7.08.E.Durie.USN.thmbThere is regulation fairness and there is overtime fairness, a different balance that seeks to afford opportunity (If that’s your defense stopping the opponent’s offense, so be it) while encouraging a conclusion to a game that’s gone long.

Aaron Rodgers may someday equal or surpass his predecessor, the well-decorated ironman, former Wisconsin demi-god but now back in the fold quarterback Brett Favre in key statistics, MVPs and Super Bowl starts, but the Chico, California native will never match the peerless one in style. There is where Brett will always have him beat.

Record: 103 – 100

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Rozelle-Halas, 1980s, wc.cca, J.Summaria; G.Halas, wc, therakishfellow, 1922; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; R.Rivera, wc, 6.10.11, R.Paraglide; AFCC.Hunt.trophy, 2.2.13, A.Kirk, wc; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.9; G.Kubiak, wc, J.Beall, 10.5.08; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.8; B.Favre-Lopez, 11.7.8, E.Durie, USN; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 1.22.16 @ 1:31pm EST; Copyright © 2016