When Vince Lombardi was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, he proved that he was the best coach to ever grace the sidelines in NFL history.
In nine years as head coach, Lombardi led the Packers to a 89-24-4 record in the regular season, plus his team won six Western Conference titles.
The Packers were even better in the postseason under Lombardi. The Pack was 9-1 and won five NFL championships in seven years. That also included winning three straight NFL titles in 1965, 1966 and 1967. No team in the modern era of the NFL has ever duplicated that.
In addition to all that, the Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Lombardi as their coach. Is it any wonder that the Super Bowl Trophy is named after him?
But as good a Lombardi was as a head coach, he was also very astute as a general manager. He made a number of key acquisitions which helped make the team a championship contender year after year.
One of those acquisitions was defensive tackle Henry Jordan. Lombardi acquired Jordan in 1959 from the Cleveland Browns for just a fourth-round draft pick in 1960.
A year later, Lombardi made a trade with the Browns again, this time acquiring defensive end Willie Davis for end A.D. Williams.
A couple of shrewd trades, huh? Lombardi netted two players who would one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It should also be noted that Paul Brown, the legendary coach of the Browns is the person who made those two trades with Lombardi. Brown, along with George Halas of the Chicago Bears, both gave strong endorsements for Lombardi when the Packers were searching for a new head coach in 1959.
David Maraniss writes about that scenario in his classic book about Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered.
Jordan turned out to be everything Lombardi he imagined he could be. Although not real big at 6’2″, 248-pounds, No. 74 was exceptionally quick at defensive tackle.
Jordan was named first-team All-Pro five times and was also named to four Pro Bowl teams.
The former University of Virginia star also came up big in the postseason. In the five postseason games that the Packers played after the 1966 and 1967 seasons, Jordan had six sacks.
Most notable was the 1967 Western Conference Championship Game at County Stadium in Milwaukee when the Packers faced the Los Angeles Rams. It appeared like Jordan had quarterback Roman Gabriel of the Rams as a dance partner, as he had his arms around Gabriel so much. No. 74 had 3.5 sacks in that game in which the Packers won 28-7.
Jerry Kramer knew Jordan very well. They were friends and neighbors in Green Bay. No. 64 reflected about some of his memories of Jordan.
“Henry was a very bright fellow,” Kramer said. “He had extreme quickness. He was small for a defensive tackle, but he had great quickness and he survived on his quickness. He was also pretty strong, but his quickness was outstanding.
“Henry also had a great sense of humor. His most famous saying was that Lombardi treats us all the same, ‘like dogs.’
“Henry was just a really good pal. Because we lived so close to each other, we did a lot of things together. We went to dinner together. His wife Olive was like a Mother Teresa kind of lady. She always had a sandwich, a bowl of soup or an extra plate for dinner for whoever would drop by.”
Kramer also talked about how well Jordan did in the business community.
“Henry took over Summerfest in Milwaukee when it was still floundering. They didn’t have a lot of sponsors at the time. Maybe 25 or 30 sponsors. They were losing money as well. Two years later after Henry took over, they had between 400 to 500 sponsors and the event was doing very well. That was due to Henry Jordan.”
Jordan died tragically at age 42 in Milwaukee in 1977 while he was working out.
Kramer remembers where he was when he heard the sad news.
“I was down in Costa Rica in the jungles on the Pacific coast,” Kramer said. “I was down there fishing on the Colorado River and I didn’t hear about Henry’s passing for two or three days after his funeral was over. I missed his funeral and I’ve always felt bad about that.”
Kramer also talked about another reason why Jordan was so effective at defensive tackle.
“If you would start guessing with Henry, you would get in trouble,” Kramer said. “He was so damn quick. He was a little like Artie Donovan in that he would read you a little bit and give you a move and go.
“Plus Henry was a NCAA wrestling champ or close to it at Virginia, so he used the things that made him a great wrestler when he got to the NFL. Things like strength and quickness, plus by using leverage at the right time.”
Jordan was recognized for what he had done in the NFL in 1995, when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a senior candidate for the second time, after being a finalist in 1976 and 1984.
It sure would be appropriate if his Green Bay friend and neighbor, Jerry Kramer, would receive that same prestigious honor in the very near future.
No. 64 rightfully deserves it.