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Herb Adderley sounds off on Lombardi-era Packers

Posted May 15, 2014

Legendary coach introduced harmony to Green Bay

Cliff Christl started gathering oral histories with former Packers and others associated with the team in 2000 and will continue to gather them as Packers historian. Excerpts from those interviews will be periodically posted at www.packers.com.

Herb Adderley is the Packers’ first African-American, first-round draft pick. Although he played at Michigan State during the period of one-platoon football, when players were required to play both offense and defense, the Packers originally intended to play him on offense. Vince Lombardi’s plan was to use him as a right halfback in a three-back set and also as a flanker, similar to the way the Baltimore Colts were using Lenny Moore, but the experiment failed.

Called on to play cornerback late in his rookie year, Adderley found his calling and went on to a Hall of Fame career. He played with the Packers from 1961-69 and with the Dallas Cowboys from 1970-72.

On Emlen Tunnell, the 37-year-old future Hall of Fame safety Lombardi purchased from the New York Giants in 1959:

Adderley -- “He was a great athlete. He was a great team man and well respected. Lombardi brought Emlen Tunnell here with him. He brought him for a couple of reasons. No. 1, he had respect for him. He loved Emlen. No. 2, he made a statement to let the white players in Green Bay know that I have a black man riding shotgun with me, and we’re going to get more black players on this team.”

On whether Tunnell was a de facto player-coach before there were black assistants in the league:

Adderley: “When I came here, Emlen was the man who brought everybody together, black and white. All the guys loved Emlen Tunnell and respected Emlen Tunnell.”

On Lombardi’s defensive coach, Phil Bengtson:

Adderley -- “Phil Bengtson was a great defensive coordinator, as far as putting things together and helping us out with a personal touch, compared to (Tom) Landry. Landry figured he was the smartest man in the world because he ran everything. He ran offense, defense, special teams. He didn’t trust his assistant coaches, and he didn’t trust his players on the field. In Green Bay, we could make adjustments on the field without going to Bengtson or Lombardi. If you see something, make the adjustment. Bengtson was OK with that. In Dallas you couldn’t make adjustments on the field. If you made adjustments on the field, they’d snatch you out of the ballgame whether you made a good play or not.”

On Bengtson’s conservative philosophy:

Adderley -- “We didn’t play anything other than four, five basic defenses. We played all man-to-man. The defenses that were called told the linebackers what to do. On the defensive line, it would tell 4-3 odd or 4-3 even. If it was odd, somebody lined up over center. If it was even, nobody lined up over center. Then we’d go from there.”

On man-to-man coverage:

Adderley -- “We played 99 percent man-to-man. We didn’t play zone. Lombardi said, ‘Gentlemen, we’re not playing zone. You have to be held accountable. I want to know who is covering these guys.’ Playing zone, you’re playing an area.”

On the Packers’ success stopping Cleveland’s Jim Brown:

Adderley -- “We stopped Jim Brown every game we played them. Jim Brown never got 100 yards against the Packers.”

On what he remembers best about holding Brown to 50 yards in the 1965 NFL championship:

Adderley: “The play (Ray Nitschke) made in the 1965 championship was as big as any play he made that year. Jim Brown came out of the backfield (in the third quarter) and Nitschke knocked the ball down in the end zone.  (Brown) ran down the hash mark 20, 30 yards and Nitschke was right there with him. If Nitschke doesn’t make that play in the end zone, it could be a whole different ballgame.”

On Jesse Whittenton and Hank Gremminger, the starting cornerbacks when Adderley was drafted: (Note: Gremminger moved to strong safety in 1962 when Adderley took over as the left cornerback.)

Adderley -- “Gremminger was one of the best strong safeties in the league. He could cover one-on-one. Jesse Whittenton was good. He went to three or four Pro Bowls. He could cover. He didn’t have great speed, but he had a knack for it.”

On Bob Jeter, the starting right corner during Adderley’s final four seasons in Green Bay:

Adderley -- “Without a doubt he was as good a right cornerback as there was in the league. Right corner was a lot easier than the left corner.”

On teammate Dave Robinson going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

Adderley -- “Dave Robinson is as good or better than any outside linebacker in the Hall of Fame, including Bobby Bell or Jack Ham.”

On linebacker Nelson Toburen, whose career was ended in his second season by a neck injury:

Adderley -- “We were rookies together. He would have been All-Pro. He was a great athlete.”

Comparing starting left defensive tackles Dave Hanner (1952-64) and Ron Kostelnik (1964-68):

Adderley -- “(Kostelnik) might have been a little better. He was quicker. Let me say this about Hawg Hanner and Kostelnik. Their main job was to play the draw and the screen. That was the main assignment for those guys. If you don’t see a draw, don’t see a screen, then rush the passer.”

Comparing starting right defensive ends Bill Quinlan (1959-62) and Lionel Aldridge (1963-71):

Adderley -- “Aldridge was a better athlete and had more discipline. He played what the defense called for and carried out his assignments. Quinlan was a freelance guy. He was disruptive. He’d run down the line of scrimmage no matter what defense was called. Sometimes he guessed right. Most of the time he guessed wrong.”

Comparing starting right linebackers Bill Forester (1953-63) and Lee Roy Caffey (1964-69):

Adderley: “Caffey was (better). Caffey was the fastest linebacker we had and the biggest. (But) Caffey got benched for lackadaisical stuff. Lombardi came on to Lee Roy in LA. He said, ‘Lee Roy, you know something? You’re not going to get your job back until you start playing better.’ He called Lee Roy a big turkey. Then all the guys started teasing him, ‘Gobbledy-gobbledly-gobbledly.’”

Today, Adderley lives in Mantua, N.J. He turned 75 on June 8.

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