Lindy Infante, the 10th head coach in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers, died today in St. Augustine, Fla., at age 75.
Infante's wife, Stephanie, told the Associated Press that he died following a lengthy illness.
Infante coached the Packers from 1988 to 1991 and is best remembered for leading his 1989 team to a 10-6 record, including four, down-to-the-wire one-point victories. In all, the Packers won seven of their 10 games by four points or less, including a controversial 14-13 triumph over the rival Chicago Bears in what will forever be remembered as "The Instant Replay Game."
"In 1989, which was my first year as president, we had been looking for a long time for a winning combination," said former Packers president and Packers Hall of Famer Bob Harlan. "And that year seemed to make everybody think we were on our way. We had a decent record. We won a lot of very close games that could have easily gone the other way and Majik (quarterback Don Majkowski) showed some great talent for us., We thought maybe we'd finally found the coach and player who could lead us. Unfortunately, it didn't happen the next couple years."
Harlan said he specifically remembered the euphoria in the locker room following a 17-16 late-season victory at Tampa Bay.
"I can still remember Majik coming up to me in the locker room afterward and he said, 'Bob, this is our year. We're going to do something this year,'" said Harlan. "Everybody was feeling it and we hadn't had that feeling in Green Bay for a long time. It was a very optimistic team and a very optimistic locker room."
The Packers lost to Kansas City at home a week later, then won their final two games, but lost out on the NFC Central Division championship and a playoff berth on a tiebreaker with Minnesota.
Born Gelindo Infante, he was hired by the Packers on Feb. 3, 1988, to succeed Forrest Gregg. Tom Braatz, executive vice president of football operations, conducted a three-week search, interviewing numerous candidates, and first offered the job to Michigan State coach George Perles. Perles accepted then changed his mind.
"Tom Braatz thought he had George Perles," said Harlan. "That had been Tom's first choice. When Perles backed out, Tom went to Lindy as his next coach."
Infante had been offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Over the next four years, the Packers went 24-40 under Infante with nearly half of those wins coming in 1989. Following a 4-12 finish in 1991, Infante was fired by newly hired general manager Ron Wolf.
After his time in Green Bay, Infante served as both the offensive coordinator (1995) and head coach (1996-97) of the Indianapolis Colts. He pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 1997 season by beating the defending Super Bowl champion and eventual NFC champion Packers, 41-38, with a Colts team that would finish 3-13. Senior writer Mike Spofford contributed to this report.