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Saturday, January 19, 2013

LOMBARDI'S FIRST GREEN BAY PACKER TEAM MEETING

The following comes from a book I'm currently reading "America's Quarterback Bart Starr" written by Keith Dunnavant.  The passage below is Vince Lombardi's very first team meeting as the new head coach of the Green Bay Packers.  There are several points to notice in the passage including:

1. The simplification of the playbook
2. The simplification of the team's terminology
3. His ability to communicate
4. His ability to maintain eye contact
5. The way he set the tone with the standard of excellence he set forth

Here is how the first meeting reads on Dunnuvant's book"

After Lombardi walked around the room handing out new playbooks and took up a position near the blackboard, chalk in hand, he said "We're going to take a giant step backward, gentlemen."

The first milestone in the transformation was a dramatic simplification of the offense.  As he asked the player to empty their sculls full of Scotter McLean's much, they noticed that the new playbook was less than half the size of the old one.  The point was clear.  They were going to do a few things and do them all well.

In contrast to McLean's unnecessarily verbose working, which often left his quarterbacks overwhelmed, Lombardi introduced a new play calling terminology that boiled down to two digits: one number for the formation, another for the hole.  The new system transferred the calling if blocking assignments from the quarterback to the offensive lineman and gave the quarterback much great latitude to react to the defense.

"This was such a radical change," Starr said.  "He threw out all the crap.  And you're thinking: Man, does this make sense or what?"

As he diagrammed several plays, Lombardi was able to manipulate the chalk without losing eye contact with his players, a little detail that impressed Starr.

Then, in what amounted to a verbal mission statement, he clarified the purpose of his Green Bay Packers.

"Gentlemen," he said, "we are going to relentlessly chase perfection...knowing full well that we won't catch it, because nobody is perfect..."

Starr was on the edge of his seat, soaking up the message like a sponge.

"...but we're going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process, we will catch excellence."

Perfection.

Excellence.

The words tumbled into Starr's mind as Lombardi paused and moved closer, close enough to see the fire in his eyes.  Starr would always remember the pause, the perfectly timed theatricality of it, the way it heightened the sense of anticipation pervading the room.

"I'm not remotely interest in being just good."

When the took a break for lunch, Starr rushed downstairs to a pay phone and place a long-distance call to Cherry at their off-season home in Birmingham.  "Honey," he said excitedly, "we're going to begin to win."

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