The offensive genius of Vince Lombardi comes alive!
Extraordinarily rare, long lost playbooks found after 50 years!
“Lombardi, a certain magic still lingers in the name.
It speaks of duels in the snow and the cold November mud.”
John Facenda, NFL Films
Editor’s note: The Rizzuti family has announced that they have uncovered a long lost and historic set of playbooks that were the property of Vince Lombardi while he was the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants during the 1955 season. The five books include hundreds of Lombardi’s personal notes, play sketches and doodles. The books include the QB series, offensive line blocking, passing game, running game and overall NY offense. The estimated value of this secret collection is unknown but believed to be huge, perhaps up to $20,000.
Here is the true story:
In 1954, the New York Giants professional football team made coaching changes that would reverberate for generations – spanning the glitz and glitter of Manhattan, to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, all the way to Canton, Ohio and the NFL Hall of Fame. Out went Giants legend and head man Steve Owen and in came Jim Lee Howell. Joining Howell as coordinator was Vince Lombardi, replacing another prodigy, Allie Sherman, as the head of the New York offense. Lombardi would team with defensive coordinator Tom Landry in what surely would be the greatest assistant coaching duo in professional football history.
Lombardi came to two conclusions when he took over the Giants offense; first, he decided that the offense would need a fleet-footed flanker-back in the passing game and second, he realized the Giants had to take the running game to a whole new level. New York won only three games the year before, and the ground attack was pathetic.
But Lombardi was awed by the athletic prowess of his team. The roster screamed with mobile, dominant players. Superstars like Roosevelt Brown, Charlie Conerly, Frank Gifford, Rosey Grier, Kyle Rote, Mel Triplett, Emlen Tunnell and Alex Webster. Quick-cutting running backs. Powerful, swift linemen. The talent was there. The results were not.
The Giants players, at first, were not overwhelmed by Lombardi’s new ideas. His playbook thinking began while playing at Fordham, where he was one of the original “Seven Blocks of Granite,” then later at West Point, where he worked under legendary coach Red Blaik.
He soon convinced his players that his offensive schemes, while revolutionary to them, were tried and true weapons he learned coaching at Army. He also picked up plays from watching the highly successful running attack of the Los Angeles Rams. The split-T formation, zone (rule) blocking, miss-direction, unique pass-blocking set-ups and most of all discipline – at every turn he was in the face of the professionals he coached. He prevailed through persistence and determination.
Fast forward to October 2, 1955. “Autumn Leaves” by Roger Williams was playing on the radio, as was Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.” Bread was 18 cents a loaf. A new car cost less than $2000. And the Dow Jones hovered under 500.
But Lombardi had more than soft melodies and the cost of living on his mind. He couldn’t stop thinking about his second season as the Giants offensive leader. It was a cool, windy fall day in Chicago as Lombardi hurriedly packed his travel items on an early Sunday morning. The big game that afternoon, the second in the young NFL season, pitted New York against the Cardinals at Soldier Field. His later-to-be-famous tan satchel carrying his Giants offensive playbooks (his “Bible”) was by his side as he tossed things there and in his brown and beige checkered patterned suitcase to get ready to head out with the team.
Then, something strange and un-Lombardi like happened. The stack of playbooks he had studied the night before as “The Honeymooners” played on his Conrad Hilton Hotel room black and white television set hotel lay by the bed. As he packed his remaining game notes into the brown satchel, he forgot the play- books. No doubt his mind was racing with power sweeps and option passes that he was sure would surprise the Cardinal’s defense.
As he rushed out of his room, the books remained by the bed, until the Hilton housekeeper found them. She turned them into the front office manager. He placed them in his desk and wrote himself a note to try to get them back to the rightful owner.
The next day, a busy Monday with the fall convention crowd that the downtown Conrad Hilton was famous for, the front office manager forgot to contact the Giants and the playbooks nested inside his locked desk for the next fifteen years.
In 1970, when the manager left the Hilton he cleaned out his desk for the last time. He re-discovered the books and thought that his son who had just graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and who would be coaching junior high football might get a kick out of using the playbooks.
Away they went by mail to the son who quickly discovered that the X’s and O’s of professional football were far too complicated for the 13 and 14-year olds he was coaching. But he was wise enough after seeing the name “Lombardi” on the books that he should hang on to them. Into a file cabinet they went where they were undisturbed for the next 35 years.
That was then. This is now.