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Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi 1969
Head Coach
Brooklyn, NY
June 11, 1913
September 3, 1970
NFL Career
10 Seasons
Washington Redskins

Career Highlights and Awards

• Two-time Super Bowl Champion
• Five-time NFL Champion
• AP Coach of the Year 1959
• UPI Coach of the Year 1959
• Sporting News Coach of the Year 1961
• PFWA Coach of the Year 1967
• Pro Football Hall of Fame

One Year Of His Greatness

In 1969, legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi left the Green Bay Packers to take the helm of the Washington Redskins.

Lombardi had already established himself as one of the greatest coaches of all time, having led the Packers to five NFL championships and victories in the first two Super Bowls.

His move to Washington was seen as a major coup for the Redskins, who had struggled in recent years. Redskins president and minority owner Edward Bennett Williams lured Lombardi with the title of Executive Vice President . Williams also gave the legendary coach complete authority over all football operations and personnel, as well as a 5% ownership in the team.

Lombardi’s tenure in Washington was brief but impactful, lasting just one season before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 57. Despite his short time with the team, Lombardi left a lasting legacy and helped set the stage for future success.

Upon arrival in D.C., he was immediately faced with the challenge of turning around a team that had finished 5-9 the previous season. He quickly got to work, instituting a rigorous training camp and emphasizing the importance of discipline and hard work.

He even coaxed Sam Huff out of retirement. The Hall of Fame linebacker returned to the Redskins specifically to be able to play under Lombardi.

Lombardi’s coaching style was characterized by his attention to detail and his demand for perfection. He was a stickler for fundamentals, drilling his players relentlessly on the basics of the game. He was also a master motivator, inspiring his players with his fiery speeches and unwavering commitment to excellence.

On the Field

Under Lombardi’s leadership, the Redskins began to show improvement. They won their first game of the season against the New Orleans Saints 26-20, but then lost to the Cleveland Browns in game two.

Then after a 17-17 tie with the San Francisco 49ers in game three, Washington peeled off three victories in a row. After victories over the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, Lombardi’s Redskins were sitting pretty at 4-1-1.

Despite their early success however, the Redskins fell off and struggled in the middle of the season, losing to the Colts, tying the Eagles and then losing to the Dallas Cowboys. At 4-3-2, they were on the outside of the playoffs looking in. After all, the division rival Cowboys were perched atop the NFL Capitol Division at that point at 8-1.

However, Lombardi did not lose faith in his team. His unwavering confidence and determination helped them turn things around and they won three of their last five games of the season.

They finished with a record of 7-5-2 and in second place in the division.

It was the first time that Washington had finished over .500 since 1955 – a span of 14 seasons.

Lombardi’s time in Washington was cut short by his illness, and he passed away just weeks before the beginning of what would have been his second season with the Redskins.

Vince Lombardi image

Off The Field

Lombardi’s impact on the Redskins was not just limited to their on-field success. He also helped change the culture of the team, instilling a sense of pride and professionalism that would last long after he was gone. He demanded the best from his players and his staff, and his high standards set a new bar for excellence within the organization.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Lombardi’s time in Washington was the way he inspired his players to be better not just on the field, but off of it as well. He emphasized the importance of character and integrity, and encouraged his players to be leaders in their communities.


They say it’s the little things that matter. Lombardi made more of an impact than some people know. Here are some of his less talked about contributions:

Gay Players

Lombardi’s own brother was gay, so perhaps that helped him blaze an inclusive path that was second to none at the time.

Dave Kopay played for Lombardi in Washington, and was the first former NFL player to come out. He has said that while he never told Lombardi that he was gay, that the coach knew it, and knew that Kopay and Jerry Smith were in a romantic relationship. Jerry Smith did not come out of the closet until his playing days were over, but given the way that he talked about Lombardi, it’s quite possible that he told his coach.

Kopay added that, “Lombardi protected and loved Jerry.”

In 1969, the Redskins had a running back named Ray McDonald. He had been arrested the previous year for having sex with another man in public. In Lombardi’s biography When Pride Still Mattered, it stated that Lombardi had told his assistant coaches to work with McDonald and help him make the team. The coach also stated, “If I hear one of you make reference to his manhhod, you will be out of here before your ass hits the ground.”

“I’d go right through a wall for The Man,” McDonald said of Lombardi.

“He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved,” said Susan Lombardi – daughter of the trailblazing coach. “He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was.

Washington were also believed to have had two front-office executives in Lombardi’s time that were gay, including David Slattery, who came out much, much later (1993).

Larry Brown

Lombardi figured out that the great running back Larry Brown had a hearing problem.

“One day while watching game footage in slow motion, he asked me why I was late moving on the snap count. I told him I had difficulty reading the defensive alignments. I thought my answer would satisfy his curiosity and put the issue to rest.

Later in the week, I was sitting in front of my locker at RFK Stadium. I saw two men approaching me in long white coats and I said to myself, “What could I have done to deserve this kind of treatment?” I remember thinking “St. Elizabeth Hospital (insane asylum) here I come!”

Fortunately for me, these men were there to give me a hearing examination. Which confirmed that I was deaf in one ear. Shortly thereafter, Vince got permission from the NFL Commissioner to install a hearing aid in my helmet.” – Larry Brown

Read more in THN’s Larry Brown profile.

Helmet change

The Redskins “R helmet” looked a lot like a Green Bay Packers logo, didn’t it? There’s a reason. It was the suggestion of Lombardi that they make the uniform change. Out was the helmet design with a spear on it, and in was the “R” that obviously closely resembled the simple “G” design of Green Bay. New look, new attitude, new winning ways.

Unfortunately Lombardi would pass away before he ever got to see the team play in the helmets. They played in them in both the 1970 and 1971 seasons.

1970-1971 Logo

George Allen dispatched the “R” helmets in 1972, and they ultimately came up with the Native American chief design that would stand for nearly 30 years.


“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence,” – Vince Lombardi.

His impact on the sport of football was immeasurable. His dedication, hard work, and commitment to excellence helped set the standard for coaches and players alike, and his legacy continues to inspire generations of football fans and players. He left an indelible mark on the Redskins and the NFL as a whole.

So much can be written about the legend. So much has been.

After Lombardi’s passing, the Redskins honored him in a number of ways. They retired his coaching sweater, and later named their training facility after him.

These are just some of the things that happened in his brief time with the Redskins that make him a legend in Washington too.

Even in just one season.


Vince Lombardi Throwback Thursday

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Vince Lombardi



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