Goodbye Phil

As a defensive coach, Phil Bengtson was instrumental to the success of the Lombardi Era Packers. As Vince’s successor at head coach and, one year later, general manager, Phil demonstrated the Peter Principle of individuals in an organization naturally rising to their level of incompetence. Granted that several key players to the dynasty were reaching the end when Bengtson took control, but his personnel moves and draft choices did little to alleviate the declining situation.

Coming into the December 20th finale of the 1970 season, the Packers stood at 6-7, and Bengtson’s three-year record as head coach was 20-20-1. Green Bay travelled to Detroit to take on the Lions, a team that had defeated them 40-0 on opening day, causing the distraught Lambeau faithful to boo the listless home team that day.

In Tiger Stadium, the Packers’ defense put on a much stronger performance than in the opener when they allowed over 200 yards rushing, including a record-setting 76-yard run by quarterback Greg Landry. The offense, though, was still pathetic, accruing less than 180 offensive yards in each game. In the first game, Bart Starr threw a pick-six to Lem Barney; in the rematch, Barney not only duplicated that feat, but also set up another touchdown with a 65-yard punt return and a field goal with a 74-yard kickoff return. The 20-0 loss meant that Green Bay had been outscored 60-0 in two humiliating games against the rival Lions in 1970.

Bengtson fell on his sword and resigned the next day. In three seasons his record against the team’s chief division rivals was a dismal 1-4-1 against Detroit and 1-5 against the Vikings. Three weeks later, the team hired Dan Devine as coach and general manager and the diseased seeds of a long fallow period were sown.

1968tpbengtson2  1969tpbengtson


1970 custom card is colorized.

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