Vince Lombardi had resigned as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. He currently served in an executive role as a General Manager; however he distanced himself from football decisions.
“The Pope” as he was known, felt it disrespectful to engage the team and usurp power from new head coach Phil Bengston. The team needed one head coach to lead, not two. Nor did he believe it would be fair to Bengston to be constantly looking over his shoulder. Bengston had been Lombardi’s top assistant and defensive coach throughout his tenure.
Lombardi would struggle mightily to stay out of the way on January 28th, 1969. It was the day of the first college draft without him making the decisions. The Packers had the 12th pick. Bengston chose a little known defensive tackle from Villanova.
Quietly Vince was not so pleased. Such future standouts as Calvin Hill, Dave Foley, Ted Hendricks, and Fred Dryer were still on the board and projected at the time as high draft picks.
In secret however Lombardi was more concerned with another team’s draft. He had already been in talks with Washington Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams to take over as head coach. He would be in complete charge and receive a share of ownership in the team, something he was unable to establish in Green Bay. Lombardi would replace another Hall of Famer, former Cleveland Browns quarterback and current head coach of the Redskins Otto Graham.
That day in 1969 would soon become even more painful for Vince Lombardi. He sat dumbfounded as Washington traded away their first, second, fourth, ninth and tenth draft picks. “My God, the Redskins are getting nothing!” he said.
Otto Graham was privy to the rumors of being replaced. According to Redskins staff, Graham jokingly said that he should offer an unheralded A.D. Whitfield for two of Green Bay’s up and coming stars Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski in a trade. “If he says yes, I might as well go home” Graham said.