THE GREATEST TEAMS IN NFL HISTORY - 1962 GREEN BAY PACKERS
With the NFL Draft in the books, and on the field action still months away, let’s take a look back at the stars of yesteryear and the teams that shaped the NFL. This list isn’t in any particular order but we will simply highlight 10 teams that left their imprint on the league and whose blueprints are still being studied today. Over the coming offseason I will take a look at each of these teams in depth and talk about what made them great in their own way and whether or not they lived up to their potential. So far we have looked at the 1968 Baltimore Colts and the 1985 Chicago Bears. In this article we will focus on the 1962 Green Bay Packers and the start of the first football dynasty.
The Beginning of the Dynasty
At the start of the 1962 season Vince Lombardi was in his third year as the Green Bay Packers head coach. After joining on February 2nd 1959, taking over from Ray McLean, Lombardi was an instant success. In the 1958 season, with six future hall of famers in his team, Mclean could only lead the Packers to a 1-10-1 record. Through his punishing training programmes and his requirement for absolute dedication and commitment, Lombardi immediately led the Packers to a 7-5 winning season in 1959, which resulted in the rookie head coach being named coach of the year. Needless to say all the cheeseheads in Wisconsin were able to get on board with this and the following season sold out every single home Green Bay game, whether it was pre-season, regular season or post season. A feat that to this day the Packers loyal fan base have continued to do. Since 1960, there has not been a single Packers home game that was not a sell out.
In the 1960 season Lombardi led his Packers to the Western Conference title, something they had not done since 1944. This victory along with Lombardi’s strong religious beliefs led the Packers community to nickname him “The Pope”. Unfortunately, this was not the year that Lombardi and his Packers would win their first title together, going down to the Philadelphia Eagles in the title game, but he wouldn’t have to wait long. After this loss Lombardi famously said to his team in the locker room:
“This will never happen again. You will never lose another championship.”
How right Mr Lombardi was. In the very next season Lombardi led the team to the championship game where they dominated the New York Giants with a resounding 37-0 win. However, it is the following season that his Packers team set a new benchmark for others to follow.
1962 Green Bay Packers
Coming off the back of a diminant NFL Championship victory, the 1962 Packers opened the new season with home game against the Minnesota Vikings and the hopes of another championship started again for Lombardi and his Packers. In the first game of the season, the Packers offense continued with their run first attack. A smash mouth form of football that Lombardi utilised with great success. The phrase “Three yards and A Cloud of Dust” comes from former Ohio State University Coach Woody Hayes but can be seen in Lombardis offenses: A philosophy that utilises run heavy offense and focuses on time of possession by using inside handoffs.
The inside handoff coupled with the “Run to Daylight” or “Packers Sweep” scheme, meant that the offensive line would form a wall for the fullback to lead the running back round the wall after receiving a pitch from the quarterback. Lombardi is credited with bringing this offense to the NFL which has been involved in many coaches’ blueprints to this day. This high powered offense and a stingy defense started the Packers on their way to another championship season. The Packers began 1962 with a comprehensive 34-7 win against the Vikings. Up next were two home games against the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Bears that started the record setting defensive season. The Packers held both teams to zero points and put up 66 points themselves in the process.
At 3-0 the Packers continued their hot streak and went through weeks four to 10 compiling a further seven wins, including a second 49-0 win of the season, this time against the unfortunate Philadelphia Eagles (first one against the Chicago Bears in Week three).
Chasing that first undefeated season in the NFL the Packers had a Thanksgiving trip to Tiger Stadium to face the Detroit Lions for a second time that season. The first outing was a low scoring affair with the Packers coming out 9-7 victors. This time however things were not to go the way of Lombardi and his Packers. The Packers offense could not get going at all in this game and to make things worse the defense couldn’t get them the ball back. The Packers did not register a point until the third quarter and by this time they were down 26-0. The strong offense mounted a late comeback in the fourth quarter but could only muster 14 points and the Green Bay Packers suffered their first defeat of the season and first in 12 games. Luckily for the Packers this was their only defeat and they closed out the season with another three wins.
The old adage of defense wins championships has always just been a phrase used by older fans to me, but, after looking into the greatest teams of all time it is abundantly clear that it is a fact and not opinion. The 1962 Packers are no different. The defense was made up of five future Hall of Famers in defensive linemen Willie Davis and Henry Jordan, linebacker Ray Nitschke, cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood. Add into that two more linebackers, who were named All Pro in the 1962 season, in Dan Currie and Bill Forester and you have a team ready to build the roots of a dynasty.
The Packers only gave up 10.8 points per game, had three shutouts and held opposing quarterbacks to a measly 43.5 quarterback rating. With the defense holding teams to little or no points the offense was able to pile on the points, leading the team to have a decade record points differential of +267. Wood did his best to help the Packers to these records by getting a league high 9 interceptions during the regular season. This led to the 62 Packers being named the fifth greatest defense ever in 2007.
NFL Championship Game
On December 30 1962, the Green Bay Packers had their chance to win back to back titles and begin their reign as one of the greatest dynasties of all time. In cold and windy conditions the Packers once again took on the New York Giants, this time at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. This time the Giants would be looking to do a lot better than a 37-0 loss they suffered in Green Bay the previous season. Unfortunately for the Giants, they still could not muster enough.
For the second year in a row the Giants offense couldn’t score any points and their only touchdown came in the third quarter on after a blocked punt. The Packers would put up 16 points of their own and leave New York as NFL Champions again. After the 1962 win, President John F Kennedy spoke to Lombardi and asked him personally to return to Army and coach there again; A request that Lombardi politely declined.
Championship number two for Lombardi and his Packers was in the books but they were far from done in the 60’s. Lombardi would go on and win another three championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967 making the Packers the only team to win three consecutive championships. That was the second time that the Packers won three consecutive championships with Curly Lambeau also doing it in 1929, 1930 and 1931. Vince Lombardi never lost another postseason game again after the 1960 season and finished as head coach of the Packers with a record of 89-29-4, making him one of the greatest coaches to ever grace the gridiron.
The 1960s Packers will forever be known as one of the greatest dynasties ever but the ’62 team are the ones who really laid down the benchmark on the road to that dynasty. With the stingy defense and the ability to dominate games with their running attack, other teams never stood a chance. Combine the quality of the players on the team with Lombardi’s demand for commitment and dedication and it’s not a surprise that the Packers dominated the season and are one of the greatest teams ever.
Image credit: Bettmann & Associated Press