August 8, 1969 -- This is something of a great trivia question for Buffalo sports fans. How many times was Vince Lombardi the head coach of an NFL team in Buffalo?
One is correct. Lombardi led the Washington Redskins into Buffalo for a preseason game in War Memorial Stadium on this date. He left with an 0-1 record here, as the Bills defeated the Redskins, 21-17. Tom Flores hit Haven Moses with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to give Buffalo the win.
Lombardi didn't have many chances to coach here, of course. He became a head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1959. He won five National Football League championships there, retiring after taking his second straight Super Bowl in January 1968. Lombardi then retired as head coach, but found he couldn't stay off the sidelines and took the head coaching position of the Washington Redskins in 1969. Preseason games between the two leagues only took place from 1967 to 1969 (after the 1966 merger).
After the preseason loss in Buffalo, Lombardi went on to guide the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in 1969. Sadly, he was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1970 and died in December of that same year.
Lombardi is the subject of one of the great "what ifs?" in Buffaloi sports history. He actually applied to be head football coach at Canisius early in his career during the late 1940's, but didn't get the job. Lombardi once told News sports writer Larry Felser how disappointed he was about that at the time. Canisius discontinued its program a few years later.
--- Budd Bailey