Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a reputation for only grumbling out a few words when asked questions by the media, but he can be the most articulate coach in the NFL when asked about a topic he enjoys talking about. And there are few topics Belichick enjoys talking about more than the history of football.
So with the Patriots traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers on Sunday, Belichick delivered a long lecture about the Packers’ place in football history at his press conference on Friday.
“I talked about this Wednesday, but I had a chance to show the team some of the great Packer players, coaches, [Curly] Lambeau, so we all know who Lambeau is. Saw him on the sideline. [Clarke] Hinkle, [Cecil] Isbell, [Don] Hutson, great,” Belichick said. “Some of the great players there. Just connecting the dots a little bit there. Lot of tradition there, lot of tradition going into Lambeau. Seeing those names up on the stadium.”
Belichick talked about enjoying seeing the Lambeau Field scoreboard when he watches Packers film.
“When you watch film, and they play at home, which they did against the Bears, right? But, plenty of other games to watch. Every time they show the scoreboard, there’s Hutson, right? There’s [Vince] Lombardi. There’s Lambeau. You see the names literally after every play, or actually, before every play,” Belichick said. “Before every play on the scoreboard shot. Some of our players, honestly, they don’t know who some of these people are. I mean, this is 80 years ago or more. I mean, Lambeau started in what, 1921? About 100 years for him. Now he was there, what, 25 years? Mid 40s? I forget what his last year was, but somewhere in there. But, I’m just saying, it’s just kind of, you see a lot of names, you see them on the stadium, see everybody talking about them. The stadium’s named after him. Who is he? Who’s Hutson? Bear Bryant, Hutson, Lambeau, [Knute] Rockne, Notre Dame. I think there’s a lot that these players and coaches, I’ve talked to the coaches about it too, you know, ‘I’ve heard about it, where is this all kind of connected?’ It’s all kind of interesting.”
Belichick then showed a detailed knowledge of the Xs and Os of Curly Lambeau’s offenses, and how Lambeau shifted from a power running offense to the NFL’s best passing offense.
“Lambeau took the Notre Dame box, which was a shift in the backfield, power football, nobody ever split out, power play after power play after power play. That’s what it was and then he got Hutson. Then he got Isbell and then he got Hinkle and then he very quickly became ‘Air Lambeau.’ Split Hutson out, you never saw that. So they actually had a split receiver, actually ran pass patterns, pass routes. Isbell was a, like they all were, quarterback-tailbacks, but he could throw. I mean, this guy was a tremendous passer and the Isbell-Hutson connection was a good one, a very good one. I mean, the best in football. Then they got Hinkle, and Hinkle was a great runner. Not that Isbell couldn’t run, but not like Hinkle could. Then it became sort of, Isbell could throw, Hinkle could run and so it was the T from the single-wing, right? Instead of handing the ball from the T-formation, they handed it off from the single-wing formation. Isbell ran occasionally, but most of the time it was Hinkle, and then when they wanted to throw, it was Isbell throwing to primarily Hutson, but whoever.”
Next, Belichick explained how Hutson was such a great player coming out of Alabama that two NFL teams signed him, resulting in the NFL commissioner having to determine which team had submitted its contract first. The NFL implemented the draft after that to determine how college players would be allocated.
“And then the whole Hutson and the draft story, like that’s another tremendous story,” Belichick said. “The whole NFL draft really is a result of the Hutson situation. Which of course all these guys were drafted, or were involved in the draft, every single one of them. Why do we have a draft? Hutson. That’s why we have a draft. We’ve got post mark, postage stamps and letters. Is he a Giant? Is he a Packer? Is he a Giant? Is he a Packer? Alright, he’s a Packer. Betting on him was probably worth it. Greatest receiver in the history of football and certainly in that era. I’m sure he still has a pretty major role in all of the NFL history stats. That’s always kind of fun to look back on it.”
Belichick talked about his first time seeing the Packers in person, and then explained the Packers’ history of playing in both Green Bay and Milwaukee.
“Yeah, preseason game. No actually that was in Milwaukee when I was with the Lions. I actually went there and scouted them,” Belichick recalled. “So it was two games in Milwaukee. If I have this right, it was two games in Milwaukee, and six games in Green Bay, or five games in Green Bay back in the 14-game season. Something like that. In Milwaukee, of course you had both teams at center field. The whole baseball setup. Which was fairly common back in those days. Now you had the other baseball stadiums like Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, or Cleveland Municipal Stadium where teams were on opposite sides. But like here in Fenway, Minnesota and Milwaukee. We had both teams on the same sideline. Again, that was another thing we saw today. That was a look at it, it was actually a game in Detroit. But it’s like why are both teams on the same side of the field? But that was baseball stadiums. But it’s quite, honestly it’s quite a scene there. The whole, the community, it’s kind of in a residential area. Then all of a sudden the stadium just like pops out in the middle of nowhere and here you are. That’s Green Bay. But the fact that they played two games away from Green Bay for however many years they did that, it was quite a few, in Milwaukee. It’s really a state team. See all the cheeseheads. It’s great.”
None of that history will matter much to the Patriots on Sunday, but Belichick said he spent time making sure the Patriots’ players and coaches knew that history this week, as he sees the history of the game as something everyone in the NFL should know.