Tag Archives: Knute Rockne

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.

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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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NCAAF16: Bad Karma Behind the Brian Kelly – Notre Dame Blues?

22 Nov

Karmic Backlash

It’s become standard operating procedure today for many in the mainstream and social media, that when a public figure makes a misstep or puts them self too far ahead of interested others, that judgment is passed quickly and with teeth.

So when current Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly bid his then employer the University of Cincinnati an unexpected sayonara in December of 2009 before conclusion of their football campaign (Sugar Bowl), one would’ve expected his dubious departure to’ve received the same testy treatment.

kelly-wc-j-meier-7-25-12-356kInstead, sport observers turned a collective blind eye to the move: No big deal.

Why the kid gloves then for Kelly and his new employer, the University of Notre Dame? South Bend clout? Chicago clout? Boston clout? Catholic clout? The Pope’s a powerful pontiff. No lo sé.

When Kelly, who, on taking the job in northwest Indiana, was in his 3rd season with the Bearcats (‘06 (1) – 09), a tenure that began when he left C. Michigan to take the reins from Mark Dantonio (MSU) to coach UC in the International Bowl and compiled a 33-6 mark, undertook in-season negotiations with ND to fill the void created by Charlie Weis’ firing and left Cincinnati (#3) before their Sugar Bowl (UF), this observer expected negative reverberations for the opportunistic act. But outside of maybe southwest Ohio, nary a peep was heard from sporting types on what could be termed, at best, exploitive, at worst, unethical behavior on Brian’s part who apparently lets nothing so trifling as loyalty and spirit-of-contract stand in the way of what looks to be the perfect job (cha-ching!).

In fairness to the Everett, Massachusetts native (10.25.61), the slightly seamy game of coaching musical chairs has become as standard of a practice in college football as has that rush to judgment in the world of scribblers & gossips.

Nevertheless, Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame cohorts might now be getting their comeuppance for their crass contract play some seven years back. Maybe Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State handlers, too (MSU 3 -8 (2016)).

notredame-logo-wc-nduBut not from mainstreamers and social gadflies. Uh uh. The media are as captured and compliant as an FDA new drug approval committee. Eek.

Rather, Kelly might be getting his just deserts from the Sporting Gods, those spirited entities in charge of that immeasurable force called karma. In his case, bad karma. Specifically, the karmic backlash.

As of last Saturday’s contest, a 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech, his record with the Fighting Irish stands at a modest 59-30 (.662), 3-3 in bowl action. Brian did as early as his third season get the green & gold to a BCS title game (12-1), then got steam-rolled by the Crimson Tide, 42-14. Since then it’s been fair-to-middling.

“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”

Last January Notre Dame and Brian Kelly inked a 6-year extension. While other terms such as salary were not made available, the coach’s haul is estimated to be $4 million a year (coacheshotseat.com).

AD Jack Swarbrick (2008), Trustee Chair John Brennan and Board members chose to re-invest in Kelly in a signing just weeks after the team took another PS shellacking, this time in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl from the team coached by the other half of the two-coach dominated FBS system, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Urban Meyer, 44-28 (See Also: Saban (CBK: Krzyzewski & Calipari)).

Their basis: Swarbrick cited the word “foundation” and it having been laid with knowing care by Brian Kelly in key facets of a strong college football enterprise.

Also factoring into their decision may’ve been the fact that his coach’s win-% (.705 (55-23 thru 2015)) ranks better than Weis, Willingham, Davies and Faust, all four who came in just above or below the .550 mark. Terrific.

notredamestadium-wc-1930-bpl-tichnor-3mBut “foundation” and ‘better than Charlie, Ty, Bob & Gerry’ ain’t gonna’ cut it when it’s Notre Dame football, where Rockne, Layden, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine & Holtz forged a standard that became bigger than life, a regal reputation admired by sport fans from coast to coast.

Like Dallas (1996) in the NFL, the Fighting Irish are still top dog nationally. When they do well, the world seems right with money-makers and fans alike. But with Nick and Urban building legendary programs in their respective schools, that top spot gets more tenuous with every season sans national title #16, the last coming as far back as 1988 (Holtz), the longest drought since Knute arrived (1918).

With the Irish falling at home to Virginia Tech their 2016 record sinks to 4-7.

The Irish had five players go pro after post-2015, but all the top factories lose most of their rated workforce to the NFL draft come declaration day. Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Washington, PSU, they all cope with the talent drain.

Brian Kelly represents that growing element in college sport where personal opportunity becomes the “foundation” of that individual’s coaching career, ergo the Cincinnati play. Coaching legend Larry Brown is their poster-boy. And it’s a mind-set that always has an eye open for NFL possibilities (BK- Eagles 2012).

Notre Dame Trustees would be wise to adopt a similar approach. Re-read its football coach and athletic director contracts, in good faith, but in a light most favorable to its University and in perpetuating its champions legacy. Then, when they find their new candidates, make them reasonably generous offers but only AFTER the college football season ends. Oy vey.

macroecono-lamcasinoroyal-2011-wcSteven Keys
MacroSport
Photo credit: B.Kelly, wc.cca, 9.171.2, Andyohsbass09; Kelly, wc, J.Meier, 7.25.12; ND-logo, wc, UND; ND-Stadium, wc, BPL, TichnorBros, 1930; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011
Posted: 11.22.16 @ 3:17pm, edit @ 5:17 EST; Copyright © 2016