The Vince Lombardi Trophy is what every NFL team fights for starting in July when they report to training camp. It’s the beautiful prize that only one team gets to hoist at the end of the season for winning the Super Bowl. Many teams have won the Vince Lombardi Trophy over the years, as it has essentially been around since the fifth Super Bowl during the 1970 season. So, with that, who is Vince Lombardi, and why is the Super Bowl trophy named after him?
Vince Lombardi was a legendary coach for the Green Bay Packers
Vince Lombardi became the Green Bay Packers‘ head coach in 1959, which was before the Super Bowl era. The Packers had gone 1-10-1 in 1958 without Lombardi. However, he completely turned them around in his first season as head coach, leading them to a 7-5 record.
Then, in his second season as head coach, the Packers made the NFL championship game, but ultimately lost. They then appeared in three consecutive championship games from 1960 through 1962 and won back-to-back titles in 1961 and 1962. During the 1962 season, the Packers even went 13-1 in the regular season. Hall of Famers Bart Starr and Jim Taylor were some of the legendary players who led the Packers in those years.
Green Bay then didn’t make the title game in 1963 or 1964, but they won the championship again in 1965. That title was their first of three consecutive championships, as the Packers then won the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967.
Lombardi then retired after the 1967 season but continued to work as Green Bay’s general manager. However, in 1969, Lombardi became the head coach of the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins. Washington went 5-9 the previous season and had not had a winning record in the last 13 seasons. With Lombardi in 1969, though, Washington went 7-5-2.
Overall, according to Bleacher Report, Lombardi finished his coaching career with a .728 regular-season winning percentage. He also went 9-1 in the postseason, including five NFL titles (two being Super Bowls).
He tragically died in 1970
According to Packers.com, Lombardi went to the hospital on June 24, 1970. He was then diagnosed with “an anaplastic carcinoma in the rectal area of his colon.” Just a few days later, surgeons “removed a two-foot section of Lombardi’s colon.”
Then, sadly, just 71 days after his first examination, Lombardi died at 57 years old.
“I’ve done thousands of cases of colon cancer and I’ve never seen one this virulent,” Dr. Robert Coffey said in the book Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi, according to Packers.com. “His number was up the day the first cell started to change.”
Additionally, in a 2006 piece in CR magazine, Robert J. Coffey — the son of the aforementioned Dr. Robert Coffey — said this: “I remember my dad telling me it was one of the most explosively growing tumors he’d ever seen when he went back in the second time.”
Why is the Super Bowl trophy named after Vince Lombardi?
The answer to the question of why the trophy is named after Lombardi is pretty simple: he was the ultimate winner. The 9-1 postseason and 5-1 title game records speak for themselves. It’s also, though, because he won the first two Super Bowls and the Packers won both games by a combined score of 68-24.
NBC Sports also highlighted why Lombardi was so important to the NFL: “Lombardi set the standard of what it meant to be a great head coach in the NFL. In other words, coaching wasn’t about just about winning, it was about building a team and teaching them how to play the sport of football.”
The NFL initially called the Super Bowl trophy the World Professional Football Championship Trophy, according to Bleacher Report. However, after Lombardi’s death, the NFL changed the name to what it is now to honor him. The first Vince Lombardi Trophy was awarded during the 1970 season when the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl 5.
Vince Lombardi was the ultimate winner. His incredible amount of success as a football coach is why his name is on the trophy that all NFL teams fight to win. He might be gone, but his legacy will live forever.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference