Dave Hanner speaks on long run with Packers

Revealing interview about Lombardi, Wolf, others


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*

After spending 13 years as a defensive tackle with the Packers, Dave Hanner served another 30 as an assistant coach and scout, one of the longest tenures in team history. Hanner began his coaching career under Vince Lombardi and retired from the scouting department five years into Ron Wolf's reign as general manager. This oral history covers that period of Hanner's time with the Packers. A previous oral history, posted Feb. 5, covered his playing career from 1952-64. Hanner served as an assistant coach from 1965-79 and again in 1982. He worked as a scout from 1983-96.

On working as a scout for General Manager Ron Wolf:"He wanted an answer as to how you felt about a guy. It was like during the Lombardi times. There was no beating around the bush. What you saw, you spoke of. What you didn't see, you didn't bring up. He wanted to know what your opinion was. But he wouldn't try to put words in your mouth or get you to change your opinion. If he liked a player and you didn't, even if he saw him, he wanted your opinion. It was all business. All he wanted was for you to do a day's work and make a good evaluation of a guy and give your opinion of him."

On how it changed from when Tom Braatz was running the football operations: "When Tom Braatz was there, we'd come in and cover personnel, but we didn't look at much film or look at it together. He didn't even want coaches looking at film. We didn't use film; we used the book. If you go by the reports, you're going to see people on good days and bad days. With Ron, we'd get seven, eight films on a guy. Many times, I'm going to screw up. But if you come back and look at film as a group, it might embarrass you, but you'd change your mind in a minute. You'd see something you didn't see when you were out there. Boy, that can make a lot of difference."

On how Wolf was different from when the head coaches who followed Lombardi had the final say on the draft: "The way Ron Wolf evaluated people and the way time was spent -- there was no comparison with all those other guys that had been there before. Some coaches would call and talk to head coaches in college. They might call the coach at Washington State or Maryland and get their opinions of players. I think they listened to too (darn) many people. They'd talk on the phone and talk on the phone, and everybody had a friend somewhere. They're going to say something good about their players. Ron didn't listen to a lot of people outside, although he talked to people all over the country. The (Packers) assistant coaches before would have a lot to say. With Ron, he'd listen to them, but no more than his scouts. Maybe with the offensive and defensive coordinators (he'd give them more say), but they'd be in the same boat we were. They'd have to show him on film what they did. He'd have to see it before he'd go along with it."

On how things were done more efficiently under Wolf: "He would listen to you and then make his own decision. Some people before then would just take certain people's words. You'd see a player and wouldn't even get a chance to give your opinion. One thing Ron did was he always sat down and looked at a player with a group. He would make the final decision, but he would listen to everything you had to say about a guy. And it was just so much better organized. Some times, some of us would see a guy early in the year and you'd knock him a little bit, then you'd see him late and he'd produce. So what (Wolf) did was evaluate the guy as you went along."

On comparing Braatz's and Wolf's personalities: "(Braatz) was hard to get to know. He liked his guys from Atlanta. Ray Wietecha (former Lombardi assistant coach and Packers scout) and I were on the outside. About half the time, we'd report on players and if one of Braatz's guys, Bobby Riggle, had seen them, he wouldn't listen to us."

On whether there were internal battles over players when Wolf was GM: "He'd listen to you, but the coaches would have their say. I know Ray Rhodes (did.) For example, back when the guy from Wisconsin, (Troy) Vincent, and (Terrell) Buckley came out, I liked Vincent so much better. I didn't think there was any comparison. When Vincent got beat, he could catch up. Once Buckley got beat, it was all over. Plus, he wasn't very tough. But I know Ray liked (Buckley). But I thought Ron was a great scout and great to work for."

On whether there was a change of philosophy toward the draft under Wolf:"What system you used and how you wanted to use (players), he'd put a lot of evaluation into that. He'd try to draft to suit your team. He wouldn't bring a guy in who didn't fit the mold. (Also) when some of those (head) coaches were there, they wanted to pick players who they could win with right now. They didn't want to wait on anybody. You get in that third, fourth, fifth rounds, you're going to have to wait on some people, bring them along and coach them."

On what the approach to the draft was like under Lombardi: "Coach Lombardi didn't look at a lot of film on players. Personnel did and had more say-so."

(Note: The drafts from 1960-66 when Lombardi was coach were held in November and December or during the stretch run of the NFL schedule.)

On whether Lombardi gave him any options when he retired as a player at the end of training camp in 1965:"They announced it at the (final preseason) game and (Lombardi) asked me if it would be all right. And I had no choice. He had treated me pretty darn good beforehand. I had a chance to go with another club and he asked me to stay. He said I'd be put on the coaching staff if I didn't play. I had a chance to go with the Rams. Bill Austin (offensive line coach on Lombardi's original staff in Green Bay) was with the Rams and he talked to me about going out there. But I didn't want to go to the Rams."

On Lombardi's moods as a head coach: "Tony Canadeo (a Lombardi friend and executive committee member) called one time. He said, 'What's wrong with Lombardi?' I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'You can't get along with him at all.' I said, 'He's your friend, not mine.' Lombardi wasn't going to let anybody close to him to take advantage of him: Dick Bourguignon (another Lombardi friend and executive committee member), (club President Dominic) Olejniczak, any of those people. To me, that was the key to (Lombardi's) success: Never let people get close enough to you to take advantage of you."

On Lombardi's willingness to pursue more African-American players than many of the other NFL coaches in the 1960s:"If you said anything about race with Lombardi, you were out of here."

On Phil Bengtson as a defensive coach:"He had a lot of patience. He wanted to take away what you do best. He thought certain patterns were tougher to throw than the inside routes. So you could make completions on the short outs. I think he was a good coach."

On Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson: "He was a (heck) of a player. I know people think I'm crazy, but if you had to pick between (Ray) Nitschke and Dave Robinson, I'd take Dave Robinson. He was tougher against the tight end than anybody. Dave Robinson would make a lot of plays."

On outside linebacker Lee Roy Caffey, who took over as a starter in 1964 after being acquired in a trade from Philadelphia: "He wasn't as good as Tommy Joe Crutcher. (Caffey) was a better athlete and looked better, but he wasn't as productive. (Crutcher) was smart. He and Lee Roy were really close. Lee Roy would come out during a game and go straight to Crutcher. Crutcher would tell him what to do."

On Ron Kostelnik, Hanner's replacement at defensive tackle:  "He could run, use his hands, make plays."

On defensive end Lionel Aldridge, a third-year starter when Hanner became defensive line coach: "He was a good player. I didn't think he was very tough. Willie Wood didn't think he was tough at all. Willie didn't like him, but coach Phil (Bengtson) liked him. I think coach Phil was the one who kept him."

On cornerback Bob Jeter, who replaced Doug Hart as a starting cornerback in 1966: "He wasn't very tough, but he could run."

On Hart, who would regain a starting job at safety in 1969: "He was a tough kid and had speed. He wasn't a bad athlete."

On Tom Brown, a starting safety when the Packers won three straight titles from 1965-67: "That was another case where coach Phil (Bengtson) probably thought he was the best we had at that time. But (Brown) was limited, too. He wasn't very aggressive. He had some athletic ability. They called him, 'The Garbage Man.' He'd pick up a few interceptions and fumbles and tipped balls."

On Carroll Dale, who was acquired in a trade in 1965 and was a starting wide receiver when the Packers won three straight NFL titles from 1965-67: "He'd go home and come back to St. Norbert the next year in as good a shape as when he left. He was pretty religious about taking care of himself."

On guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston:"(Lombardi) wasn't a Jerry Kramer guy. Fuzzy was a good player. Better in pass protection than he was on the run. Jerry looked good running, but as far as playing over somebody, you'd rather play over Jerry than Fuzzy."

On guard Gale Gillingham, who took over as a starter for Thurston in 1967: "He was the best lineman Green Bay ever had. I'll bet if you ask 90 percent on the club who played years ago, they'll tell you the same thing. He was so gosh darn strong and a pretty good athlete."

On what happened to fullback John Brockington after he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons: "He had speed and was strong. But he wasn't going to dip in and dip out. There were only one or two plays that he ran well. He had some pretty good blocking at that time. I don't think he lost speed; he was just a straight-line runner. A lot of times, he had to take four, five steps before he'd get to the line of scrimmage and that wasn't his type of running. You just had to give the ball to him and let him run. He was doing more dancing and looking than running."

On comparing Brockington to Jim Taylor: "Taylor was a completely different back. He didn't have the speed that Brockington had, but he had great balance and change of direction. He could find the hole much better."

On Phil Bengtson as a head coach:"I don't think he was a head coach. When Lombardi (retired), the players were hoping in a year or so he'd come back. But the year he was (general manager), we were in Chicago, I think, at the 5 o'clock club (a Saturday night social gathering at the team hotel). I asked (Lombardi) if he was going to come back to Green Bay. There was a little rumor around at that time. The players were talking about him coming back. (Lombardi) told me, 'Dave, I can't come back to Green Bay. It wouldn't be fair to Phil at all.' The reason I mention that, I knew (film director) Al Treml was making copies of all the composite films. So I knew darn well, (Lombardi) was going to go somewhere."

On Lombardi returning to Green Bay for a visit following his first season as coach at Washington, but before he was diagnosed with cancer:"When he went to Washington, he came back to Green Bay after the first year to play golf. I was sitting in the defensive room and he came in and put his hand on everybody's neck. I asked him, 'How are you and (Sonny) Jurgensen getting along?' He said, 'Dave, if we would have had Jurgensen here, we wouldn't have lost a game.'"

On Dan Devine as a head coach: "He didn't know what the (heck) was going on."

On what happened to Ray Nitschke in the twilight of his career and why he was replaced as the starting middle linebacker in 1971: "He was having trouble with cut blocks and all that. He wasn't quite as aggressive. He could run, but as far as changing direction, he wasn't the same. He was going to get hurt. That's the way all of us felt at the time. Low blocks and all, people were going after his knees and trying to cut him."

On Jim Carter, Nitschke's replacement at middle linebacker:  "Jim was a little bit limited. But he was a good player and he was tough. He was tougher and could get through trash. He played hockey in college."

On Nitschke having a tough time accepting that his career was near the end:  "Yeah he did. And I think I was the one who had to talk to him about it. But he was going to get hurt. They were going for his knees all the time. But he wouldn't have lasted as long as he did if he felt any other way. Age you can't hide. You take so much beating and that's all you can do. And you have to be hungry to play the game."

On Lloyd Eaton, Packers director of player personnel from 1972-74 and then a West Coast scout: "About two years and he couldn't take that office anymore. He just didn't like sitting in that office. The most honest guy I ever knew."

On Forrest Gregg as a head coach: "Forrest was tough as hell, but sometimes he was too tough. When I say that, I mean too negative with them."

Hanner died in 2008 at age 78. The excerpts above were taken from interviews conducted in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

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