Spartacus defeats Crassus’ Roman legions (71BC);
The Red Army fails to hold Stalingrad (43);
JFK (63) had staff as loyal as did Charles de Gaulle;
Geo. Zimmerman carries no gun the night he encounters Trayvon Martin (12);
Marlon Brando (Lawrence of Arabia), Robert Redford (The Graduate) and Hedy Lamarr (Casablanca) filled-the-bill in these respective classics;
“Portland selects (Michael Jordan (R1-3))” instead of “Sam Bowie (2)” in 1984;
Bill Russell joins the St. Louis Hawks in (56 / R1-2) rather than Auerbach’s Celtics;
Cardinals pursued local talent Yogi Berra (STL) and Mickey Mantle (OK) to team-up with Redbird Stan Musial (Mantle was offered paltry $1000 bonus in ‘50);
Danica Patrick takes a checkered-flag in Sprint Cup (or Nationwide);
John Elway honors his draft notice (83 / R1-1) from the Baltimore Colts;
Jerry Glanville (ATL) pipes-down long enough to vet-out 3rd stringer Favre; and…
Tebow remains in Denver after Indy drafts Andy Luck AND re-signs Manning?
What if? It’s the eternal question, that or “to be or not to be (de Vere).” Don’t want to visit either query too often, but as to the former, sometimes you just can’t resist.
For every event, good & bad, for every decision made there’s an antecedent ‘What if?’
The Vikings and Vince Lombardi share a ‘What if,’ though Packer-backers would call it pure nonsense. Vince certainly made his big mark radiating on the Lambeau (City) Field sidelines but did live a life prior to, and after his “Daylight” days in America’s Dairyland.
In 1959, both Lombardi and Minnesota’s football elders were biting at the bit, trying to become ‘players’ on the NFL scene: Twin Cities wanted a franchise while Vince, pushing fifty and going gray, wanted a head-coaching gig that was proving all too elusive due to a prevailing prejudice against Italian-Americans and Catholics.
Back in those days there was something called competition in the market. Folks believed in it and the Courts, for the most part, validated the concept. Texas big shots Bud Adams and Lamar Hunt challenged the NFL monopoly with formation of the AFL (American Football League). The Land of 10,000 Lakes had been selected as a charter member of the fledging operation and would need a stadium, ownership, team and, yes, a head coach.
Green Bay was coach-casting too around this time. Pack had gone 1-10-1 in 58 and badly needed a new beginning. Here’s where the ‘What ifs’ come into play.
Iowa Hawkeyes’ great head coach Forest Evashevski had been offered the Packers’ job. He turned it down but recommended friend Vince Lombardi in his place.
What if Forest had said ‘yes’ to GB’s offer, had not vouched for Vince or, had vouched, but the Packers’ brass balked at his suggestion?
Though Lombardi was a valued member of Jim Lee Howell’s famous Giants’ coaching staff, the future icon was getting the ‘cold shoulder treatment’ from around the NFL. And there’s no good reason to believe he’d have gotten the nod over friend & co-staffer Tom Landry for the new Dallas position (60) (just as he’d been passed over for the NYG job (Sherman)) had he not eventually donned the green & yellow.
Minneapolis had been slated for charter membership in the embryonic AFL but the Senior Circuit did an end-run by offering them membership in the establishment for 1961, which they accepted. Oakland would then fill the void created by Minnesota’s switch-a-roo.
If Green Bay doesn’t materialize for Vince in 59, regardless of which league Minnesota joins, the former Giants’ assistant just might’ve been treating Fran Tarkenton and the rest of the newborn Norsemen “all the same…like dogs (Thurston),” instead of Norm Van Brocklin doing the same.
But that’s all speculation. What’s real is the philosophy current Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier shares with Vince. And it starts with, big surprise, defense.
First off, you need a top linebacker corps; second, front-lines of the stout variety; third, a serious run game; fourth, D-backs that tackle; fifth, special-teams that matter and sixth, maybe the most critical of these keys to victory, a mature, pass-efficient QB who’s not afraid to live, breath and even die in the pocket (figuratively speaking).
An NFL quarterback has gotta’ be married to his passer pocket. It’s a man’s challenge. The blind-side hits are wicked and run-separations can happen, but you gotta’ stick it out if you wanta’ hoist Mr. Lombardi.
Three-year Vikings’ starter Christian Ponder has a rival in ‘13 in KC cast-off Matt Cassel. Ponder likely gets the nod come September but it’s a tenuous hold. Frazier’s aware that the loss of main-man Harvin midway in 2012 was a big blow for his developing QB but with Greg Jennings now in the fold the coach’s patience will have an expiration date (WK4?).
In early May Frazier & staff took a page outta’ Lombardi’s book when they began process of converting run-QB Joe Webb to wide-out. Though a bit dissimilar, it’s reminiscent of Paul Hornung’s 1959 switch from Packers’ QB to half-back, a move that may’ve been the single most important act of Lombardi’s early reign. Like Paul, Joe too had non-QB duties in college, has open field speed and might fill at least one of Percy Electric’s shoes.
It’s a bold-ish move, “go(ing) where (none in the current NFL have) gone before,” and one this writer had hoped Andy Reid would’ve “bravely” undertaken back in 09 when Mike Vick was looking for new colors. As Mike, Colin Kaepernick and Rob Griffin love to run and do a fine job of it, why not cut to the chase, stop the QB charade and slot ‘em all where they can do their best Percy Harvin or Dez Bryant imitations? The short answers: celebrity sells and pride is powerful.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on Adrian Peterson who’s been doing a lot of talking in public lately, covering a wide array of topics from gay marriage to his personal goals for the upcoming 2013 season which includes besting Eric Dickerson’s single-season rush mark. I believe the figure “2500” was mentioned by the reigning MVP.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for All-Day to ‘get on the same page’ with Mr. Lombardi where goals are concerned. In Lombardi’s book, everything was subjugated to the team goals, everything (win NFCN, 6-0 v divs’n foes). Maybe “Run to Daylight” should be on Adrian’s, heck, every NFL player’s summer reading list.
NFL Hunch Line
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.