1960

Background:  After a tremendous turnaround season in ’59 that saw the Packers wind up with a winning record for the first time in 15 seasons, Vince Lombardi was faced with the challenge of taking his team to the next level and winning a championship.  This would not be an easy task since the Baltimore Colts, the defending league champions in ’59, seemed strong and the Packers would not be able to sneak up on teams as they had done last year.

Key Departures:  The word here, is “key.”  None of the players who were lost to the Dallas Cowboys in expansion were “key”, nor were those who departed in trades or the waiver wire in ’60

Key Additions:     DE Willie Davis.  Acquired from Cleveland in exchange for E  A.D. Williams.  A.D. Williams? Another steal and for the second year in a row, Paul Brown gives away a future HOF d-lineman.  Like he had a lot of those hanging around then, in Cleveland?

S  Willie Wood.  An undrafted, undersized college QB out of USC, Wood wrote to the Packers for a tryout. Returned punts in ’60.

HB Tom Moore.  A first round pick out of Vanderbilt. He provided depth at HB and returned KOs in ’60.

Season summary: Bart Starr starts the season at QB, but presides over a come-from-ahead loss to the Barelys and loses the staring job to Lamar McHan.  The Packers then rattle off wins in four straight games, but change QBs at the end of the run.  November was not kind for the ’60 Packers as they go 1-3 in the month, nearly falling out of contention for the Western Conference crown.  However, like last year, the Packers finish strong, winning the last three and the Colts, beset by crippling injuries to Unitas and Ameche, go into a late season swoon.  The Packers clinch the Western Conference title by defeating the Rams, 35-21, in the season finale, setting up an NFL title game against the Eagles.  Although the inexperienced Packers won the statistical battle against the Eagles in the title game, they fell just short, 17-13.

The low point:  The Packers’ November swoon.  After splitting the first two games (a loss to the Colts in Baltimore and a drubbing of the expansion Cowboys in Green Bay) the Packers gift wrap a last-minute loss to the Rams in Milwaukee, falling, 33-31, and then fall flat in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, 23-10, leaving their postseason hopes all but dead in the water.

The key point:  Actually, I see two of them. The first happened in Pittsburgh during the Packers’ October 30th game against the Steelers.  QB Lamar McHan in benched at the half after failing to move the team and is replaced by Bart Starr, who rallies the team to victory in the fourth quarter.  Starr is never dislodged as a Packers starter for the remainder of his career (except by injury).  McHan challenges Lombardi at dinner that night, and calls him a “dago” in a heated exchange, numbering his days in Green Bay.  Rut-roh.

The second key point was after the loss to the Lions in Detroit.  On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Jack Vainisi, the Packers personnel guy, drops dead of heart failure and a week later the Packers rip Vainisi’s hometown Bears, 41-13 to climb back into contention.

The high point: Following the victory over the Barelys, the Packers go west and sweep the Niners and the Rams in a pair of Saturday matinees to win the Western Conference crown. The first win came over the Niners in a quagmire in Kezar, 13-0, as the Packers derailed the Niners’ high powered offense.  The second came against the Rams in a pass-dominated 35-21 win.

Postseason:   As mentioned earlier, the Packers had a statistical edge over the Eagles, but failed to put enough points on the board.  A key component of this failure came in the game’s opening minutes as the Packers were unable to convert two quick Eagles’ turnovers into more than just one FG, as Lombardi opted to not go for the sure FG after the first turnover.  Perhaps the Packers entered the big game with a lack of confidence and played tentatively.  In any event, Lombardi tells his defeated troops in the post-game locker room. “This will never happen to us again.”