Coach Lombardi was a Hall of Fame GM

You could fill a library with books about legendary Packer Coach Vince Lombardi and wallpaper a stadium with his quotes.

So ubiquitous are the images of him stalking the sidelines in his trench coat and fedora that children whose parents weren’t even born during the Lombardi Years still dress like him for Halloween.

Coach Lombardi earned his 1971 induction into the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame after a 10-year career that included five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowl crowns. At least one of his former players thinks Vince Lombardi should be recognized just as much for his abilities as General Manager.

“In my opinion, Lombardi was a Hall of Fame General Manager,” said Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley, who played for Coach Lombardi from 1961 through 1969. “He backed it up with what he did with drafting, trading, picking up free agents and switching guys to the best position to help the team. It was easy for him because he recognized athletic ability. Five of us on defense were moved from our original position.”

With an uncanny ability to know his players better than they knew themselves, Lombardi the GM moved Willie Davis from offensive tackle to defensive end, Willie Wood to free safety, Adderley from running back to cornerback,  Dave Robinson from end to linebacker and Bob Jeter from running back to cornerback.

“As you know, four of us who were switched to different positions made it to the Pro football Hall of Fame,” Adderley said.

In fact, including this summer’s induction of Jerry Kramer, the NFL Hall of Fame will include 13 Lombardi era players — six defense and seven offense.

“He brought players in that helped us win titles,” Adderley said. “His thinking was winning and he had a great feeling for talent and made trades for players who he implemented into the system on both sides of the ball. I don’t know if he cared about how old or good the players were.”

One example Adderley cited was Lombardi’s trade of Jim Ringo to the Eagles along with 1962 No. 1 draft choice Earl Gro for linebacker Leroy Caffey.

“The result was that Caffey, along with Ray Nitchske and Dave Robinson, formed one of the best set of linebackers in the NFL,” he said.

Lombardi trades brought Wille Davis and Henry Jordan, two Hall of Fame defensive linemen, to Green Bay, and he sent Ken Iman and Dan Currie to the Rams for Zeke Bratkowski and Carroll Dale.

“He also brought guys in off the street like Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein to help us win titles,” Adderley said.

When Willie Wood went undrafted and wrote letters asking for a tryout to several NFL teams, GM Lombardi was the only one who responded. On Lombardi’s Packers, Wood earned eight Pro Bowl appearances and was named an Associated Press first-team All-Pro five times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

“He didn’t get the credit he deserves for knowing where to play guys,” Adderley said. “He gets my vote for the Hall of Fame as General Manager!”

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Vince Lombardi gets plenty of recognition for his abilities to coach the players on his team (like my dad, good ole No. 77, pictured with him here). But, General Manager Lombardi deserves as much credit for his ability put those players on the field in exactly the right positions to win titles, according to Hall of Famer Herb Adderley.
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As I’ve written about before, GM Vince Lombardi moved Herb Adderley to an entirely different position during his rookie season at halftime of a nationally televised game. To see how well that worked, just look up on the west side of Lambeau Field and you’ll see No. 26 in a place of honor there.

 

 

 

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