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Packers Coach Is Lombardi’s Heir

January 22, 1998

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ While Mike Holmgren led Green Bay back to the glory days, he won’t supplant Vince Lombardi in the hearts and minds of fans.

A Packers win in Sunday’s Super Bowl would give Holmgren back-to-back championships, just like Lombardi.

``Nobody can ever be Lombardi, but Holmgren is headed in that direction,″ said Bill Kline, 68, of Green Bay as he toured the Packers Hall of Fame, dominated by displays from the Lombardi era. ``Lombardi is history. How can you ever duplicate that? He got the Packers rolling.″

The museum includes an exhibit called ``The Legend Continues,″ where replicas of the team’s three Super Bowl trophies are displayed. In the background are two gigantic black-and-white pictures of Lombardi that flank a color picture of Holmgren.

Al Breitlow, an assistant principal at Lombardi Middle School, covets a Lombardi autograph he got in 1961. The school is named after the coach.

``I think the myth of Vince Lombardi will stay there whatever (happens), just like George Washington would. It is the idea that this guy is a legend, and I don’t think kids will ever forget it,″ Breitlow said.

Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959 and led the teams to five NFL titles in seven seasons, winning the first two Super Bowls.

Holmgren took over as head coach in 1992. Last year, in his fifth season, the Packers won their third Super Bowl, defeating New England 35-21.

Green Bay honors its successful coaches. Lambeau Field is named after team founder Curly Lambeau, who coached from 1921 to 1949. Lombardi has the school and a street named after him. Holmgren already has a street in his honor _ ``Holmgren Way.″

``If we had a coach in the ’70s or ’80s who had great success, that is who people would be talking about,″ Packers president Bob Harlan said. ``Everybody says it’s been 30 years since we did this and 30 years since we did that. That is why the people recall the Lombardi era so much. Hopefully, we won’t have that kind of gap in the future.″

Some fans think Holmgren’s team already may be outshining the Packers of old.

``Holmgren could get most anything in Green Bay right now. He is the man of the hour,″ said Karen Spaude, 57, of Seymour, after eating lunch in a downtown hotel where Lombardi once had his office. ``I think Lombardi is kind of forgotten right now because he was from 30 years ago.″

One prominent Packers fan was reluctant to enter the Lombardi-Holmgren debate.

``God, I’m not going to get into that,″ Gov. Tommy Thompson said. ``They’re different teams at different times. They’re both world champions. And we’re proud of all the Green Bay Packers who have ever played.″

Krista Corrigan, 24, of Green Bay said Lombardi’s success was part of her upbringing.

``Yes, Vince does mean something to me because he was so profound and that kind of thing,″ Corrigan said. ``Am I forgetting about him? No.″

Scott Skowron, 25, of Green Bay is convinced Lombardi will never fade from fan’s memories.

``There is no way anyone will really start to forget about him because he was the trend setter. He kind of set up the team and made it what it is,″ Skowron said.