Tag:Vince Lombardi
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:17 am
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Top Ten with a Twist: Living Legends

Bum Phillips is a living legend (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With the death last Saturday of Raiders owner Al Davis, we got to see a side of him that most people under 35 never got to experience. When Davis was an innovator, a kick-ass coach and owner, a fighter against The Man and one of the most important figures in NFL history. It was nice to be reminded of that with tributes all over the Internet, newspapers and in NFL stadiums on Sunday.

Maybe we didn’t think about it in terms like this, but Davis, though largely reclusive to the public, was a living legend, and in the final years of his life, we probably didn’t appreciate him as much as we should have.

That said, here are 10 other living legends who hold (or who should hold)  a special place in the league’s heart. No matter what they’ve become today -- those who are outspoken for and against their old teams, those who spend their time behind the scenes, and those who have disappeared for now -- it’s not too late to show them our appreciation for all the good they’ve done and the lives they’ve led.

10. Ron Wolf: Another of Davis’ protégés, Davis gave Wolf a job as a scout for the Raiders in the early 1960s, and after helping the Raiders to a plethora of wins, he helped set up a 1979 division title in Tampa Bay before moving on to Green Bay as the general manager. He hired Mike Holmgren as the head coach, traded for a backup quarterback named Brett Favre, revitalized that franchise that led to Super Bowl riches and restored the name of a storied organization that had fallen into disrepair.

9. Mike Westhoff: The only man on this list who’s still active in the game, you might remember Westhoff from his turn on Hard Knocks where he played the Jets awesome special teams coach. It wasn’t much of a stretch, because Westhoff has been an awesome special teams coach. Aside from that, he’s a bone cancer survivor (he had to have nearly a dozen surgeries to get rid of it), and he’s one of the most respected working coaches today. But he won’t be around much longer. After 30 years of coaching, he’s said this season will be his last.

Kramer8. Ray Guy: Last year, I made him my No. 1 former player who deserves be in the Hall of Fame, but since he probably won’t ever get to Canton, that list and this one will have to suffice. Once Shane Lechler’s career is over, he’ll be considered the No. 1 punter of all time (maybe he’ll have a chance at the HOF!), but Guy was the one who showed the NFL how important a punter could be to his team.

7. Jerry Kramer (seen at right): He was a better football player than Jim Bouton was a pitcher, but both opened up the world of sports that fans had never seen before. Bouton’s tome, “Ball Four,” is a masterpiece that shocked those who had watched baseball and thought of players like Mickey Mantle as pure of heart. Kramer’s 1968 book, "Instant Replay," was a diary he kept of the 1967 season in which he gave glimpses of what life was like inside the Packers locker room under coach Vince Lombardi while chronicling some of the most famous moments in Green Bay history.

6. James “Shack” Harris: He was the first black player in the NFL to start at quarterback for the entire season in 1969, and in 1975, he led the Los Angeles Rams to an 11-2 record and an NFC West division title. He wasn’t a dominant quarterback in his day, but he was a trailblazer. And after retirement from playing, he was the head of pro player personnel when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. He’s currently a personnel executive with the Lions.

5. Chuck Noll: We don’t see much of Noll -- who’s rumored to be in declining health -- these days, but his impact is unmistakable. He won four Super Bowls as head coach of the Steelers in the 1970s, and Al Davis thought so much of him that he once tried to sue him (the two were on the same staff in San Diego in the early 1960s). And he was the first coach to allow his team to take baseline concussion tests -- which, as we know today, was a pretty important development.

4. Joe Namath: The legendary Jets quarterback has become a thorn in coach Rex Ryan’s side. Namath is constantly on Twitter, exhorting or back-handing his former team, and because he’s Joe Freakin’ Namath, the media has to pay attention. With that -- and his on-air exchange a few years back with Suzy Kolber -- it’s not difficult to forget just how good Namath was as a signal-caller. He was the first to throw for 4,000 yards (in a 14-game season no less), and he boldly guaranteed victory for the underdog Jets in Super Bowl III and then went out and delivered.

3. Joe Gibbs: One of my colleagues recently called him the greatest coach of the last 40 years, and considering Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien), he’s one of the legends. His return to the Redskins from 2004-07 didn’t go so well (a combined 30-34 record), but before that, his complete career winning percentage was better than all coaches not named John Madden or Vince Lombardi.

2. John Madden: We don’t get to hear much from John Madden these days, and that’s too bad. I liked him on Monday Night Football -- his football knowledge and his enthusiasm -- and though he was before my time, you have to admire his coaching record. He took over the Raiders job in 1969 at the tender age of 33, and when he retired after the 1978 season, he had a coaching record of 103-32-7. That is a winning percentage of .763, and to go with it, he won a Super Bowl and seven division titles in 10 years.

1. Bum Phillips: The old Oilers coach -- and 3-4 defense innovator -- is still kicking around in Texas, attending Texans games, wearing his big cowboy hat and writing books about his life (OK, it’s one book, but you should check it out). He’s a fun guy to speak with, and he’s fully into philanthropy. But aside from his defensive prowess, the dude is a great storyteller. Quickly, one of my favorites: when he was an assistant coach to Sid Gillman, one of the earliest believers in breaking down film, Phillips barely could keep his eyes open one night as Gillman continued studying game tape. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Gillman excitedly claimed that watching film made him feel so awesome that it was better than having sex. Responded Phillips: "Either I don't know how to watch film, Sid, or you don't know how to make love."

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Books we want to read

It's time for a biography on Ed Sabol and his son, Steve. (US Preswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With the controversy surrounding the new Walter Payton biography, written by Jeff Pearlman, I got to thinking about the other books we need to read but that haven’t been written yet. I’m not talking about a season in the life book of the 2010 Packers or the latest words written by Mike Ditka (at least five authored or co-authored by the Bears coaching icon), but about subjects we don’t really know and on topics we would love to explore.

For this Top Ten List with a Twist, I’m discounting what a publisher might say if he/she was presented with some of these ideas (namely, the idea that blah, blah, blah won’t sell or that nobody has ever heard of blah, blah, blah). Some of these ideas, no doubt, would work, and maybe, one day, you’ll see one of them on the shelf of your nearest book store in the cart of your Amazon.com page.

Without further ado, here are the Top Ten books we absolutely deserve to read.  

10. The inside story on the NFL lockout: Yeah, maybe many football fans wouldn’t care about a book like this, because they only wanted the work stoppage to end as soon as possible so they could continue to watch the game they love, but I bet it would be fascinating. What is the relationship between Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith really like? How were the compromises finally reached? Did Jerry Jones really tap his fists together and walk out of a negotiation session to make a point? For those  who reported and analyzed the entire ordeal, it would be a mind-churning look from behind the curtain.

9. Bill Belichick end-of-career autobiography: Although he almost always comes off completely uninteresting during his midweek and postgame press conferences -- hell, he eats his lunch during teleconference calls with the media! -- the recent NFL Network documentary showed that he’s an interesting dude. The fact he got a little emotional during a trip to the Meadowlands was almost shocking, and I’ve seen interviews with him before that are really, really good. If he let down his guard, like during that documentary, his autobiography would be a fascinating study of the best coach in football. There have been big-name authors who have written big-name books about Belichick, but when his career is over, I want him reflecting on the impact he’s made and the reason he did it all the first place.

8. A biography on Tom Brady’s hair: We’ve already had the obituary for Brady’s shorn locks. Next, we should have a book that tells the tale of the entire two-year history of the hair that helped Brady land that lucrative Uggs endorsement.

7. Sid Gillman biography: Gillman is the most important coach you might not remember. Unlike Paul Brown (who has a stadium named after him and a legacy in Cincinnati) or Vince Lombardi (who you might have heard a little something about) or Woody Hayes (a decent-enough coach at Ohio State) -- all of whom were Gillman contemporaries -- Gillman has fallen through the cracks of history. And considering, he’s the father of the modern passing offense, that’s a shame.

Rex and Rob Ryan (US Presswire)6. Rob/Rex Ryan quote book: This could even be made into one of those peel-a-page-every-day calendars, like the Jeff Foxworthy redneck gags or the best of the old Far Side comic strips. But if you like to laugh (or just shake your head), this book would be a big seller. You could have Rex talking about not wanting to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings or Rob discussing how Calvin Johnson would be the Cowboys No. 3 receiver behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. See what I mean? It’d be high hilarity.

5. Bryant McKinnie in the Blind Side, part II: Since McKinnie was the one to replace Michael Oher as the Ravens left tackle, McKinnie should have his own Michael Lewis-penned biography. I’m pretty sure McKinnie didn’t live in foster homes and on the streets before he was adopted, like Oher, but McKinnie has had struggles with his weight and he did (allegedly) spend $100,000 on a bar tab this offseason. It’s not as heartwarming as the Oher book, but a tome about McKinnie would be pretty fun.

4. The early struggles of black players: You know all about Jackie Robinson in major league baseball, but if I asked you who the broke the color barrier in the NFL, you probably wouldn’t have any idea. Hell, I read a long article about the NFL’s integration the other day, and I couldn’t tell you the guy’s name*. But this is an important -- and somewhat complicated -- history. Black players participated in pro football at the turn of the 20th century, and they also were part of teams in various professional leagues until the NFL stopped signing them in the early 1930s. It would be an interesting look at an era that, just like much of society, was decidedly unfair for anybody who wasn’t white.

*After blacks were excluded from the league in 1933, Kenny Washington was the one to break the barrier in 1946, one year before Robinson did it in baseball.

3. A Cam Newton investigation: Don’t we deserve to know who Newton’s bag man is or if there was a bag man at all? Not that it would make any difference in his pro career, but don’t you want to know if Newton’s father really demanded $180,000 from Mississippi State for Newton’s service? Maybe Auburn fans wouldn’t, but I certainly would.

2. NFL Films biography: People underestimate the importance of Ed and Steve Sabol. Proof of that was that it took so long for Ed to earn his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the NFL -- and the NFL fans -- owe them a huge debt of gratitude, because the way you watch football today might not be possible if NFL Films hadn’t been created on the backs of the Sabol’s in the 1960s. I want to know how it started, the obstacles they faced in the early years and the impact the company has made to this day. It’s a book the Sabol’s deserve to have written.

1. An investigation into the rise of CTE: There have been a few journalists (the Newark Star Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg and the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz are two who come to mind) who do fine work keeping watch on the NFL’s relationship and response to the rise of head injuries that continue to devastate retired players and keep us reminded about what a brutal game football is to those who play it for your enjoyment. But from the premature death of Steelers legend Mike Webster to the shock of what Chris Henry’s brain looked like during his autopsy, from the suicide of Dave Duerson to the continued work of those who track of the rise of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, this is a book that needs to be written. And the sooner, the better.

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Posted on: June 24, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 6:57 pm
 

Fuzzy Thurston's Super Bowl ring to be auctioned

F. Thurston apparently owes $1.7 million in back taxes (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Former Packers OG Fuzzy Thurston, who won Super Bowls with Vince Lombardi in Green Bay in 1966 and 1967, will lose his Super Bowl II ring when the government sells it at an auction to recover part of the $1.7 million the government says he owes in back taxes.

This comes according to the Green Bay Press Gazette, which writes that the government also wants to auction his Super Bowl I ring, as well as the NFL championship jewelry from 1958, 1961, 1962 and 1965. The government, though, apparently hasn’t recovered those items yet.

According to the Press Gazette, the Super Bowl II ring could sell for $20,000.  The Associated Press reports that other rings from Super Bowls I and II have sold in recent years; running back Paul Hornung's Super Bowl I ring fetched about $40,000 in 2002, and former offensive lineman Steve Wright sold his Super Bowl I ring in May for $73,409.

More details via the AP:
Messages left at Thurston's Waupaca home weren't immediately returned. Green Bay lawyer Owen Monfils, who represented Thurston in some of his tax cases, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette he was certain Thurston didn't owe "nearly as much as the government claims."

The tax fight stems from Thurston's post-Packers days, when he and his business partners opened a chain of restaurants. According to a federal complaint, Thurston and the others withheld federal income taxes from employee salaries but failed to turn all the money over to the Internal Revenue Service.

After a court fight, Thurston was ordered to pay about $190,000 in 1984. With interest, the debt now stands at just over $1.7 million, according to court documents.
"We hope to reach out to fans who might wish to purchase the material to return it to Thurston," said Chris Ivy, the director of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions of Dallas.

It’s certainly a sad moment for a former Pro Bowler.

But I like the idea presented by the Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard, who formerly covered the Packers for the Milwaukee paper. Wrote Bedard on Twitter: “It will take about 2 min for a Packers fan to bid on Fuzzy's ring and give it back to him. Favre should do it. Start the healing. Seriously.”

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Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2011 1:32 pm
 

Hot Routes 5.27.11: Black bears beware!



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • If there is no new labor deal by July 15, the Bengals won’t hold their training camp in Georgetown, Ky. – the club’s regular preseason spot. Which means no more daily jaunts to the local Ruby Tuesday for players and scribes (to be fair, it IS a 30-second walk from the Fairfield Inn).
  • How many people have been tending to the gravesite for legendary coach Vince Lombardi for the past 25 years? Apparently, more than one. And they didn’t know about each other.

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Posted on: February 4, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: February 4, 2011 9:26 am
 

Young Packers play with a passion for the past

Posted by Will Brinson

IRVING, Texas -- No one questions the historic importance of the Green Bay Packers franchise, but it'd be entirely possible for the current rendition of the Pack to lose a sense of connection with the teams of the past.

That's not the case at all, though.

Even on this is young squad (average age: 25.88 years; none of the current players were even alive when Vince Lombardi died) there's an impressive sense of where Super Bowl 45 fits in the NFL's historical context.

That's probably because they hear it from the man in charge.

"The history of tradition with the Green Bay Packers is a tremendous asset for us as a football team and for us as an organization," head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "It’s something that’s embraced on a daily basis.

You definitely want to win this game for the Packer nation, represent the tradition and history of the great players - Jerry Kramer and all the way down through. We understand where we are, it’s the standard of the Green bay Packers, it’s about winning Super Bowl trophies, and it’s time for the Lombardi Trophy to go back home."

[More Super Bowl coverage]

That's a sentiment that's echoed throughout the locker room "History and tradition is strong in Green Bay," center Scott Wells said. "It's one of the things when you get drafted or signed as a free agent -- they bring you in, and I remember they brought my family in and they give you a tour of the Hall of Fame.

Embracing tradition is obviously important in Green Bay -- a member of the Packers probably couldn't survive a tour in Cheeseland without a belief that the publicly-owned football team is more than just a simple recreational activity for fans and a business for players.

That's not to say it's a requirement, though -- Ted Thompson, the architect for this team, doesn't necessarily demand people who will embrace the Packer tradition.

"We look for good people," Thompson said. "We're very conscious of what kind of person we put in our locker room. We feel like that's very important. But in terms of them embracing tradition, it's something that's acquired.

And once you're there and once you see it and once you experience it on the streets and in the grocery stores, I think you have an appreciation for it and I think these guys do too."



Clearly the pride of the Packers lives in the city, but as almost any member of the team will attest, the walk to work is filled with piles of memorabilia that would serve to humble even the most talented of football players. For this team, though, it serves more as a challenge.

"When I first got to Green Bay to walk around and see the fans and see how much it means to them, and then you go through Lambeau and the Hall of Fame and see all the tradition, I think it motivates you," right guard Josh Sitton said. "You want to be part of something great and you thank all the guys who came before you and we're here because of them, so it's pretty cool."

The pictures of trophies -- named after this fella who once upon a time won some games in Green Bay -- in the media room are constant reminders of a goal, as well.

And they're not just there for show. In fact, there was a purposeful preseason placement for the photos.

"I gave Mike (McCarthy) that idea in the offseason," Aaron Rodgers said. "He might not tell you that, but a good friend of mine who is also a professional athlete, talked about how his coach motivated them in that way.

I thought that would be a cool thing for us to see every day in the meeting room because we start a day off in that room. To be able to think about the entire season what we’re really playing for by having that empty picture up on the wall."

Talent, good coaching and a little bit of luck probably didn't hurt the Packers get this close to achieving their goal, either.

But there's a very clear sense of purpose within the entire team -- and it all seems centered around the tradition they all embrace quite seriously.

None of them knew Vince Lombardi. And none of them even watched him coach. But because a heightened sense of pride's already instilled within the town, the team's substantially more focused on making sure that the NFL's biggest prize makes its way home once more.

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Posted on: January 19, 2011 11:34 am
 

Hot Routes 1.19.11: Beware of beards



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • A newer, faster, less sticky way to procure your beer at a football/baseball/rodeo/curling event? Sign me up and color me impressed. This is today’s must-read, by the way. Via Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports’ The Postgame.
  • Former Lions WR Charles Rogers continues to have problems keeping his houses from not going into foreclosure. This time, he owes about $421,000 for a condo in Birmingham, Mich.
  • A circuit court judge in Tampa has ordered former Buccaneers DL Chidi Ahanotu to give up his 2002 Rams conference championship ring, as his ex-wife tries to recover from him $130,000 in legal fees. Naturally, this news did not make Ahanotu very happy.
  • If you believe trash-talking fires up the other team or if you think Rex Ryan is trying to take pressure off his players with his continued proclamations, Ross Tucker of ESPN.com insists you’re completely wrong.
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan writes he’d rather have Packers coach Mike McCarthy on the sidelines than Vince Lombardi. An … um … interesting perspective. Writes Southan: “Clearly, McCarthy is the better coach. But in the interest of even-handedness, we have to give Lombardi this: He was the better dresser.” This is what we call the “minority voice.”
  • I wonder if Brett Favre can try to hijack major league baseball as well. A link to the MLB Facts & Rumors blog. I also think those boys are taking a shot at us.
  • Apparently, there are quite a few different ways to spell Chicago (my old Cincinnati Post buddies could think of at least one). The Green Bay Press Gazette came up with another attempt.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com