We hear stories of great coaches all the time, but what makes a coach great? I will be comparing two of the greatest coaches known to NFL history, Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. Tom Landry is known as one of the most innovative and strategic coaches in NFL history. Vince Lombardi is debatably the greatest football coach to ever exist and is reputed as one of the greatest coaches of all time regardless of the sport. Each coach is renown for having their own unique coaching style, rallying their players and leading their team to countless victories.
I will be giving a brief background to each coach, discussing their individual coaching behaviors, comparing their coaching styles, relating their coaching to our textbook and reflecting on what I have learned from studying both coaches. While in high school, Tom Landry maintained a high GPA, was a member in the National Honor Society, and excelled in his football team as a fullback. He later served in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a first lieutenant, and discharged so he could continue his education.
He attended the University of Texas, and was also a full back for the Long Horns football team. Tom would graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and also a degree in Mechanical Engineering soon after from the University of Houston. After he graduated, he began his career as a cornerback for the New York Yankees, which eventually became the New York Giants. He would later move on to work as an assistant coach for four years until he accepted a head coaching job for the Dallas Cowboys. While initially having a losing record of eleven, he changed his strategy drastically, and revamped their formations. His strategy revision served as the driving force to propel The Cowboys to the Superbowl five times and winning two Superbowl Championships. (Tom Landry, 2019) Vince Lombardi attended St. Francis Prepatory school and was a fullback on their football team. He then attended Fordham University and quickly became the team’s all-star player. Upon graduation, he worked for a finance company during the day and continued his education attending law school in the late evenings. He decided to go a completely different route, and accepted a teaching and assistant coaching position at St. Cecelia highschool in Englewood, CA. After his time there, he would move on to teach at the West Point Academy, where he gained a reputation for being a workaholic. His reputation would help gain him a position with the New York Giants as assistant coach. Lombardi led his team to five winning seasons and finished with a league championship in 1956. His apparent success caught the eyes of the Green Bay Packers and he was offered a head coaching position. He would skyrocket the Green Bay Packers into being one of the most successful NFL teams in the 1960s. He led them to five NFL championships, and won two super bowls. (Vince Lombardi, 2019)The reason why it is perceived that Tom Landry was a great coach is primarily due to his overall track record for wins and loses and how often he led his team to the Superbowl. He compiled a win loss ratio of 270-178, which is the fourth most wins for any coaches throughout NFL history. He lead twenty consecutive winning seasons ranging from 1966 to 1985. Landry won two Super Bowl titles, five NFC titles, and thirteen divisional titles within his career. Vince Lombardi was perceived in exactly the same way, except he coached for half the time of Tom Landry and yielded even more impressive results. He led them to five Superbowl championships, won Superbowl I and Superbowl II. The National Football League also named the actual Superbowl trophy the Lombardi Trophy, and it is given to the victors of every Superbowl.Tom Landry was very innovative in regard to this particular coaching style. He was a unique coach, because he is one of the few coaches that have not only a business degree, but also a mechanical engineering degree at his disposal. This combination seemed to serve him well, not only as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys to manage and motivate, but also as a tactician to strategize wins. He is most famous for developing his famous 4-3 defense, nicknamed The Flex, which later became NFL standard. Upon his first season as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he was losing horribly. He decided to utilize his own innovative techniques to offset his teams lack of aptitude and reformat his formations. He implemented an adaptive new formation based on the strengths and weaknesses of his players and opponents. One of his greatest strengths was his adaptability. According to Tom Barry, The survival and success of organizations today depends not only on devolving responsibility to individual employees, but also on the ability of managers to change their role accordingly in order to guide and support these individuals.(1994) I think Tom Landry was one of the best adaptive coaches out there, and I believe that is what made his coaching style particularly effective. Vince Lombardi’s style of coaching was more focused on simplicity and proper execution. He was very strict with his coaching, on his team, and ensured they trained to their maximum capacity. He is renowned for conducting very demanding training camps and demanded dedication from all of his players. He worked his team to the point of exhaustion, continuously drilling until perfection was achieved. He knew that working harder than any other team would give him the competitive edge his team needed. Lombardi also believed that a large percentage of overall success was due to the mindset of the individual. The first step is a move in managers’ thinking away from attempting to control others to empowering others. (Barry, 1994). I believe this is one of the aspects that Lombardi triumphed in. Vince Lombardi famously once said, Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character (Richards, 2019). In his mind, there was only winning, it was the only thing. His simplistic yet effective methodology to coaching resonates with what many of us were told in our youth. Hard work really can pay off, and the Green Bay Packers in the 1960’s were evident of that. In terms of commonalities, both coaches were hard working individuals. Landry earned himself two bachelor’s degree directly after serving in the armed forces. Lombardi graduated from his university, then started attending law school during the day and work at a finance company at night. The coaches were both college graduates and well read. Landry and Lombardi were without a doubt very passionate about football, and the overall success of their teams. Perhaps the most important commonality that both coaches shared was the trust that both coaches had earned from their team. When a relationship of trust exists, another person allows us unique access to his or her core. (Irwin, 2018) Both coaches differed in their style a great deal. Landry was more about adaptation, and planning. While he did push his team, he didn’t push them as hard as Lombardi. Lombardi was focused primarily on working harder than other teams and maintaining a winner attitude to obtain winner results. Without debate he utilized strategy to a certain degree, but it wasn’t his primary coaching methodology. Chapter 10 from our text book emphasizes that while employees are responsible for their performance, managers also play a significant part. The impact that managers can have on their employees is often underestimated. While it may sound daunting, it doesn’t necessarily have to be exceedingly complex. Even just receiving performance feedback from supervisors, having individual development plans and having access to training is enough for many employees (Dessler, 2017). While business managers and athletic coaches are different in many aspects, they are also very similar as well. For instance, Lombardi had very high standards for his team, he would ensure that he picked quality team members, informed them of expectations and expected them to maintain or surpass those expectations. If the team members performance was subpar, he would provide definite feedback. Tom Landry planned very well, he knew his team members well, and worked with them to plan their strategy on the field. The chapter also discusses mentoring. Mentoring means having experienced senior people advising, counseling and guiding employees’ longer-term career development (Dessler, 2017). Both coaches mentored their players and provided guidance to their players. Based off this exercise , I learned that coaching is a complex term, it means different things to different individuals. One method of coaching may work in one situation, while another may be a horrible disaster. Poor coaches treat coaching as a tick-box exercise, an exercise that they apply using the same techniques and learning opportunities to every one of their team no matter their ability (Graham, 2015). Tom Landry’s coaching strongly emphasized planning and strategy. Vince Lombardi’s coaching was centered around hard work, inspiring by motivation and putting winning above all else. In regard to business, athletic coaching and managing aren’t drastically different overall. Both require the leader to manage, plan, motivate, provide feedback, and mentor their staff. Managers and coaches alike that follow this methodology will most likely find success in their endeavors and build a talented work force that can accomplish great things.In conclusion, while Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi may have had different coaching styles, it is unquestionable they were great coaches. Each played to their own strengths, their players strengths, and adapted in their own way to their own situations. Both coaches led their team to numerous victories, super bowls, and won many championships. The names Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi will be forever etched in NFL history.