Sabol Files: Lombardi vs Belichick

A Football Life, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Sabol Files, Steve Sabol

In our early years NFL Films didn’t capture anyone as well as we did Vince Lombardi.  Thanks to my Dad’s relationship with him, we followed Lombardi around the field and in the weight room, attending church and hosting cocktail parties.  We even filmed him in the sauna.  No one in the NFL was documented on film more thoroughly than Lombardi, the greatest coach of his generation.  Until, the greatest coach of this generation: Bill Belichick.

Not even Lombardi permitted us to wire him for sound in every game of an entire season.  That’s what the Patriots allowed us to do with Belichick in 2009.  And after seeing hours of the footage from that year, which helped make up the two part documentary “Bill Belichick: A Football Life,” I began to notice certain subtle differences between Belichick and Lombardi.

Belichick is a brilliant planner who creates a mental map of each game, then plays it out in his mind before his team has to play it out on the field.  His complex schemes work like a kaleidoscope: with each little twist they present different pictures to the opposition.

By contrast, Lombardi’s game plans were about as complicated as a sledgehammer.  He believed execution was more important than planning, so he crafted the Packer playbook into a manual on the precise exertion of blunt force.

Despite those differences, I do believe there are some areas in which Lombardi and Belichick are identical.  For instance, both men had the complete loyalty of the players they coached.  The complexity of the plan didn’t matter to players; they bought into the man devising it because they saw it succeed when executed properly.   The coaches’ competence earned the players’ trust, which in turn helped generate another thing that Lombardi and Belichick have in common: multiple championships.

A Football Life: Bill Belichick” Part 1 – Premieres Thursday, Sept. 15th 9:00 p.m. EST
A Football Life: Bill Belichick” Part 2Premieres Thursday, Sept. 22nd 10:00 p.m. EST

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