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That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took The Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory

1 rating: 5.0
2009 non-fiction book by John Eisenberg

In the late 1950s the once vaunted Green Bay Packers were a laughing stock. They hadn't fielded a winning team in more than a decade and were very nearly in jeopardy of losing their franchise to another city. The ultimate low came in 1958, … see full wiki

Author: John Eisenberg
Genre: History of Sports, Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: October 15, 2009
1 review about That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took...

Vince Lombardi presided over one of the most miraculous turnarounds in the history of pro sports.

  • Sep 2, 2009

At the conclusion of the 1958 NFL season the Green Bay Packers were a franchise in total disarray.  The team had finished 1-10-1 and had not had a winning season since 1947.   First year head coach Ray "Scooter" McLean lost control of his team early on and never recovered.  The low point of the 1958 season was a 56-0 drubbing at the hands of the Baltimore Colts.  Even in football crazed Green Bay people were beginnng to lose interest in the team.  The situation called for drastic measures. 

At the conclusion of the season the Packers launched the search for their next head coach.  The conventional  wisdom was that the Packers would bring back former star player and head coach Curly Lambeau.  But team President  Dominic Olejniczak was thinking outside the box and became interested in a New York Giants assistant coach.  His name was Vince Lombardi.  Lombardi came highly recommended from some of the most prominent people in the NFL.   It would be a gamble for sure but Olejniczak determined that it was a risk worth taking.  "That First Season:  How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory" is John Eisenberg's comprehensive account of one of the most incredible turnarounds in the history of professional sports.  It is a book that will grab your attention from page 1 and simply never let go. 

When Vince Lombardi was named head coach of the Packers in January of 1959 the reaction of nearly all of the players as well as the fans and the media in Green Bay was "Vince who?".  After all Vince Lombardi was 45 years old and hadn't been a head coach at any level since he coached a high school team in New Jersey more than a decade earlier.  What made the Packers brass think that  this odd looking Italian guy from New York City was the person to turn around the franchise?  Lombardi himself honestly thought that it might take him the full five years of his contract to turn things around.  Vince Lombardi made it clear to Packer officials that the only way he would take the job was if he was given complete control of football operations.  Lombardi immediately changed the way the team looked,  the way it played and especially the culture   In 1959, he ordered that the Packers' uniforms be revamped.  The resulting design was almost identical to the uniforms the team continues to wear today.  It was a new day in Green Bay baby!

As things turned out Vince Lombardi had more talent on his roster than he realized.  As he reviewed the film from the disastrous 1958 season he determined that many of his players had not been utilized properly in the complicated schemes devised by his predecessor.  Lombardi was going to simplify things and demand nothing less than perfection from his charges.  His players quickly discovered that he was a relentless taskmaster.  It was his way or the highway!   After a grueling training camp the Green Bay Packers went into the 1959 season a much more focused and well-conditioned team.  In just a few short months opposing coaches would discover that Vince Lombardi had already made the Packers a force to be reckoned with in the National Football League.  They would go on to experience a level of success that was simply unimaginable at the start of the season.  

 "That First Season:  How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory" tells the remarkable story of those 1959 Green Bay Packers with great verve and flair.  You will get to know many of the greats from that 1959 team including Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Max McGee and of course "The Golden Boy" Paul Hornung.   And you will come to understand  how Vince Lombardi was able to transform a perennial loser into an NFL powerhouse.  Author John Eisenberg proves to be an extremely gifted writer.  I do not generally read a lot of sports books but this is without a doubt one of the finest sports books I have ever read.  I simply could not put this one down.  Very highly recommended! 

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November 06, 2009
Great review. I thought of you when I selected this book from Vine. I haven't read it yet, but am really looking forward to it.
September 04, 2009
I was very upset that I did not get a chance to get this book on the Amazon Vine program!!!! Great review. I can't wait to read it myself.
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