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That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory
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That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  336 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
John Eisenberg's That First Season is the seldom-studied prequel to a phenomenal football career for Vince Lombardi and the Packers, drawing on exhaustive new research and interviews to tell an incredible ensemble tale of a team, a town, and their leader.


The once-vaunted Green Bay Packers were a laughing stock by the late 1950s. They hadn't fielded a winning team in more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 15th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2009)
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Steven Peterson
Sep 03, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
I'm old enough to remember a lot of players in this book. I'm old enough to know the agony of a Chicago Bears' fan as Bart Starr seemingly ubuiquitously on third and short would run a play action fake and hit a McGee or a Dowler or. . . . for a good gain. This book is really about two years in the history of the Green Bay Packers--the year before Vince Lombardi arrived and the year that he did arrive. Night and day!

In 1958, plainly put, the Packers stunk. Under coach "Scooter" McLean, they just
Sep 06, 2009 Seth rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Football fans
Recommended to Seth by: Amazon Vine
I know the name Vince Lombardi and am aware of his legendary status in the sport of football, but I didn't really know what type of person and coach he was with the Packers until I read this book. That First Season is likely an enjoyable read for Packer die hard fans, but even better in my opinion for those who want to gather an understanding about the man, regardless of which team you love. It's somewhat of a historical textbook in that sense. I can't speak for the other books out there about L ...more
Sep 06, 2009 Samantha rated it liked it
This is an average book about Vince Lombardi. There are better books out there. However if you just want to know about the first season then it's a good book. The first part of the book is very good. It talks about how Coach Lombardi came in and evaluated his new players. It showed what his first football camp was like and the expectations that were put into place. Then in the middle section Mr. Eisenberg details each game. I didn't enjoy this section, however I know many readers will. It goes i ...more
Tom Lambrecht
Sep 16, 2013 Tom Lambrecht rated it it was amazing
A great story about how the Green Bay Packers became champions once again in the modern era of football. It was thrilling to read about the men who were household names for me growing up in the 60's. The book illustrates the remarkable impact one visionary person can have on an organization and on people. Packers' fans and football aficionados will enjoy this book immensely.
Oct 01, 2013 Rick rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written account of Lombardi's first season. I grew up watching his teams on a black and white TV--this book rekindled many warm memories.
Ah, Packers. :)
Mar 21, 2017 PWRL marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2017-new
C Baker
Oct 25, 2014 C Baker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: football, sports
Much as been written about Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers dynasty of the 1960's, but John Eisenberg's book is the first to provide details about Vince Lombardi's first season with the Green Bay Packers.

When Lombardi took over as head coach Green Bay was a losing team with a culture of losing, and even quitting, in games. He was starting at ground zero with a group of players who were used to and even accepted losing. Once a team establishes a culture of losing it is extremely difficult
Nancy Neri
Jan 03, 2017 Nancy Neri rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. Became an admirer of Bart Starr. It's easy to read, got some laughs.
Ryan Dejonghe
Mar 18, 2014 Ryan Dejonghe rated it really liked it
“We’re starting at the beginning. Gentlemen, this is a football.” And so the story goes about Vince Lombardi and his plethora of quotable sayings. Thanks to the excellent writing of John Eisenberg, many of my misconceptions of Lombardi have been cleared up. For instance, Lombardi said this quote in sarcasm as a response to a pitifully run (in Lombardi’s opinion) practice. Player Max McGee retorted, “Coach?...Can you not go so fast?” As Eisenberg wrote, practice went much better the next day.

I co
Dick Tatro
Dec 21, 2010 Dick Tatro rated it it was amazing
I have just recentily discovered John Eisenberg's work and I find him a wonderful writer. His nonfiction reads like fiction. In this book he did a great deal of research, interviewing most of the members of Lombardi's first team. He then included their memories and words into the story of that first season. As a football coach I greatily enjoyed the story of Lombardi's first season and I highly recomend this book to coaches, fans, players and people who are not fans but wonder why football is so ...more
Mark Stratton
Feb 01, 2011 Mark Stratton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: football
Everybody knows the Legend. Lombardi comes to the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay and SAVES FOOTBALL, creating a dynasty for the ages in the process.

What most don't really grasp or realize is that the building blocks for that dynasty were already in place when he got there. Many of the players who were later elected to the Hall of Fame (or should be) were already there or got there shortly after Lombardi did. The story Eisenberg so elegantly tells is how. How Lombardi seethed to be given his chance t
Oct 25, 2015 Hal rated it really liked it
I started watching football in about 1963. I had the good fortune of growing up in Wisconsin. There was Vince Lombardi on our black and white TV pacing the sidelines cursing his players on to championship performance. What a time it was. This book filled in the lost time for me when I was too young to know where this iconic team came from. The book captures this lost time and takes this improbable New Yorker who took on a group of talented losers and molded them into what would become one of the ...more
Kristen Wampner
Jun 19, 2013 Kristen Wampner rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Book Cover: I enjoyed this book cover with the image of Vince Lambardi on the cover. *STAR*

Story: This biography was created from a combination of several different resources. It is compiled in such a way that tells your about how Lambardi came to be the coach of the Green Bay Packers and walks you through how he whips them into shape. *STAR*

Author: I think the John Eisenberg did a fantastic job of putting all of this together and having specific plays from certain games in the book. *STAR*

Travis sivarT
This is just a fantastic book. Even better if, like me, you are a Packers fan. But if you're not that's ok because Vince Lombardi is one, if not the, greatest coaches of all time. He was a leader, a commanding presence on and off the field. While possibly hated by some as a person absolutely respected as a coach. He shows and taught what hard work, commitment, dedication and discipline can achieve. Perfection is the goal and not to settle for anything less. You don't necessarily have to be the b ...more
Robert James
Feb 08, 2015 Robert James rated it really liked it
I recently read "instant Replay" by Jerry Kramer which is about the 1967 Green Bay Packers football season. In that book you see the end of the great Packer dynasty. This book is about the beginning of that dynasty. It's 1959 and Vince Lombardi is coming to Green Bay to take over the worst NFL franchise. Many names on the roster are recognizeable and will become legends like Paul Hornung and Bart Starr. Here they are raw talents not even beginning to reach the levels of play we know they achieve ...more
P.e. lolo
Mar 26, 2012 P.e. lolo rated it it was amazing
For a packer fan a great book, for a sports fan talks about trades he made and how he started changing the minds of the players, and the other people around the team. goes into the why he traded for a couple of veteran players, knowing that they would buy into his hard work to change the club. how his relationships with players changed and how he made changes to where a player was going to play for that year and how once they started winning all of the players knew they were on a path for succes ...more
Dale Stonehouse
Apr 09, 2011 Dale Stonehouse rated it really liked it
Having read numerous books about the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s and 2 biographies of Vince Lombardi, I was hopeful this book would not rehash what I had already read and I was not disappointed. The difference Lombardi made in turning a 1-10-1 team of 1958 into a 7-5 team a year later, and eventually winning 5 NFL championships in the 60s, is detailed well here. NFL football was a much different game then, much simpler and easier to watch. Anyone who remembers those days will find this a plea ...more
Oct 10, 2009 James rated it it was ok
Read this one straight through on the plane from Philadelphia to Houston. The glimpses of Vince Lombardi, the man and the coach, are pretty wonderful. He's barking out orders at his players, designing brutal two-a-day workouts, and hosting a 5 o'clock party in his hotel room for the Green Bay press. However, I think this book is too technical, too much of a summary of those first 8-10 games that season, and although I like the focus, I don't think it works as well as a book with a wider range. G ...more
Jul 31, 2015 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know that anything about this is really "amazing" but it's a great sport history read that I had no complaints about. The first half introduces Packers history and Lombardi's hiring and arrival through training camp of the 1959 season, while the second half follows the team through the 12 game season with a brief epilogue. Really enjoyable read-if you're a Packers fan or Lombardi devotee it's definitely worth your time.
Riley Cooper
Aug 15, 2015 Riley Cooper rated it it was amazing
Great addition to the many books about the Packers of the 60's. The first season with Lombardi actually was 1959, and this book details how the core came together. It is fascinating to see the many times when the course of history could have been significantly altered had a break gone the other way. What a very special team they became! I was not even a fan of the Packers back then, but this story makes me appreciate their accomplishments despite that. Great book for any football fan!
Oct 06, 2015 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great research!

Book was well researched, and it was also great how the author gave perspectives of players from over fifty years ago! Very enjoyable read. The writing itself could be a tad better though so, only dinged it for that. You could tell how much work went it this, however!
Jul 09, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it
Shelves: coach-lead-life
I've ready many of the books written about Lombardi, but found this to be a unique perspective with its focus on how the coach changed the culture in Green Bay. There are lessons in there for all of us! Additionally, since Bart Starr was one of my childhood favorites, I found his transformation under Lombardi's tutelage and his perseverance on the bench revealing and inspiring.
Brian G Smith
Jan 31, 2014 Brian G Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I loved this book. Eisenberg retold a story that could be enjoyed by Packer fans and non-Packer fans alike. Lombardi was an incredible coach and his story never gets old.
Dec 22, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Packers fans, football fans
Surprisingly, this was the first book about the Green Bay Packers that I've read. The author's extensive research and interviews really brought Lombardi and the 1959 Packers to life, demostrating how the right coach can truly transform and inspire a team.
Collin Wilson
Nov 02, 2015 Collin Wilson rated it really liked it
Good story that provides a great insight into one of pro football's best teams. If you're not a football fan I wouldn't read this book as it goes into a lot of details about the games, but very well written. Also a quick read if you're not looking for a challenge.
Keith Hughes
May 26, 2012 Keith Hughes rated it it was amazing
This was a well-written book that kept me turning the as it moved through training camp and then game after game of Lombardi's first season. This is a great book for any Packer fan (like me!) or anyone interested in NFL history.
Jeff Angelo
Feb 15, 2014 Jeff Angelo rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book because it reminded me of the books that I read in childhood. The bookmobile would come to my school and I'd select a pile of books...many of which were about sports heroes and great games. The books always described the "game action" vividly and this book does the same.
Jay Fisher
Jan 26, 2016 Jay Fisher rated it really liked it
Pretty much what I expected. A clear solid narrative of Lombardi's first season in Green Bay. The book by itself is closer to four stars but it's about one of my heroes who taught Latin among other things at St Cecilia's in Englewood.
Michael Barker
Nov 29, 2009 Michael Barker rated it really liked it
Shelves: coaching, football
A Commitment to Excellence can make a difference. Football would have left Titletown, USA if he hadn't come along. lots of parallels to the situation in Buffalo today.
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John was a columnist at The Baltimore Sun for 23 years, and before that, worked at the dear, departed Dallas Times Herald. He now writes books fulltime. He grew up in Dallas, Texas, and attended the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and their two college-age children.
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“Lombardi exulted. He hadn’t been this excited all season. Did you see that?!! Huh?! They never saw it coming! What a brilliant call, Lombardi thought—absolutely a knockout punch. Lombardi was starting to view Starr differently. The quiet southerner could be tough and bold after all. Lombardi had underestimated him.” 0 likes
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