Assistant Coach: 1959-67
Head Coach: 1968-70
Bengtson was the mastermind of the defenses that played a major part in Vince Lombardi’s success as head coach of the Packers and then accepted the unenviable task of succeeding Lombardi as head coach. In the nine seasons that Bengtson ran Lombardi’s defense, it ranked in the top three in the NFL in fewest yards allowed seven times. In the first three NFL championship games and the two Super Bowls that the Packers won under Lombardi, Bengtson’s defenses never allowed more than 14 points.
During his three seasons as head coach, Bengtson compiled a 20-21-1 record, the best of the first five head coaches to follow Lombardi. Even then, Bengtson fielded stout defenses in his first two seasons. The Packers ranked third in 1968 and fourth in ’69. From 1962 to 1968, the Packers finished first in pass defense six times and second the other year.
“In all my years of coaching in the National Football League, I never saw any better a defensive man than Phil Bengtson,” said Jerry Burns, who spent two years coaching defensive backs for the Packers from 1966 to 1967 and then 24 years with the Minnesota Vikings, including six as head coach. “Very smart.”
Before coming to Green Bay, Bengtson was an assistant for the San Francisco 49ers from 1951 to 1958. Lombardi hired him as defensive line coach, but gave him charge of the entire defense and subsequently the title of “coach of defense,” before the term “defensive coordinator” had been coined. In 1969-70, Bengtson doubled as the Packers’ general manager. After leaving Green Bay, he served as interim head coach of the New England Patriots for five games in 1972.
Born July 17, 1913, in Rousseau, Minn. Given name John Philip Bengtson. Died Dec. 18, 1994, at age 81.
- By Cliff Christl