December 30, 2016

Vince Lombardi Celebrates “First Title” December 31, 1961

From Classic Sports Pictures – the originator of vintage sports wall decor from 16mm films – Vince Lombardi “First Title” – sequential images of the legendary coach celebrating after winning the 1961 NFL Championship on December 31, 1961 at City Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Vincent Thomas “Vince” Lombardi is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, where he led the team to five total NFL Championships in seven years (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967).  Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls following the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons.  The NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor.  Vince Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest coach in football history. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, the year after his death.

Lombardi began coaching as an assistant and later as a head coach at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey.  He was an assistant coach at Fordham, at the United States Military Academy, and with the New York Giants before becoming a head coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967 and the Washington Redskins in 1969.  He never had a losing season as a head coach in the NFL – compiling a regular season record of 96-34-6 and a 9–1 record in the postseason for an overall record of 105 wins, 35 losses, and 6 ties.

Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers 1959-1967

The 1958 Green Bay Packers, with five future hall of famers playing on the team, finished with a record of 1–10–1. This record was the worst in Packer history.  The players were dispirited, the Packer shareholders were disheartened, and the Green Bay community was enraged.  The angst in Green Bay extended to the NFL as a whole, as the financial viability and the very existence of the Green Bay Packer franchise were in jeopardy.  All that would change on February 2, 1959, when Vince Lombardi accepted the position of head coach and general manager of the team.

Lombardi’s hard training regimens and expecting absolute dedication and effort from his players resulted in the 1959 Packers finishing at 7–5 earning Vince Lombardi Coach of the Year honors.  The fans appreciated Lombardi and the Packers, and responded by selling out every game for the 1960 season.  Every Green Bay Packers home game—preseason, regular season and playoffs—has been sold out ever since.

In 1960, Green Bay won the NFL Western Conference for the first time since 1944 and played the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Championship Game. In the final play of the game, in a drive that would have won it, the Packers were stopped a few yards from the goal line.  Lombardi had suffered his first, and his only ever, championship game loss.  After the game, and after the press corps had left the locker room, Lombardi told his team, “This will never happen again. You will never lose another championship.”

History proved the iconic coach right.  He would coach the Green Bay Packers to win their next nine post-season games, a record streak not matched or broken until Bill Belichick won 10 in a row from 2002 to 2006.  The Packers would defeat the Giants for the NFL title in 1961 (37–0 in Green Bay) and 1962 (16–7 at Yankee Stadium), marking the first two of their five titles in Lombardi’s seven years.  In 1965, 1966 and 1967 (The Ice Bowl), he led the Packers to three consecutive NFL championships.  This feat has only been accomplished once before in the history of the league – by Curly Lambeau, co-founder of the Green Bay Packers, who coached the team to their first three straight NFL Championships in 1929, 1930, and 1931.