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  'I Will Demand a Commitment To Excellence,' New Chief Says

By Dave Brady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 7, 1969; Page D1

Edward Bennett Williams led Vince Lombardi down from Mt. Olympus yesterday and the new coach of the Washington Redskins had a pronouncement to commemorate the occasion.

"I will demand a commitment to excellence and to victory," Lombardi said. "That is what life is all about, too."

The way club president Williams arranged his end of it, President Nixon went on first, at the White House. Then the drudges of television scurried over to the Chandelier Room of the Sheraton Carlton for the big doings.

Lombardi, who left an avenue named after him in Green Bay, made a triumphal entrance fitting for a son of the Caesars, picking his way over a tangled mass of TV cables with eyes blinded by a battery of kleig lights.

There was a hint for Redskin players that he sets great stock in punctuality. He arrived at 2:28 p.m. for the 2:30 ceremony.

His first remarks were insightful. He indicated that he was only too aware of the snide jibes that had preceded his appearance.

"It is not true that I can walk across the Potomac," he said, then as the first ripple of laughter subsided, he added, "even when it is frozen."

As if to turn off all the tired gags that had been aired about the snatch of fullback Chuch Merceing off the Redskins' taxi squad when he was the Green Bay coach, he said:

"If you are wondering what you are going to get for Merceing, it's me."

Lombardi fielded the first serious question as though it were straight out of a catechism.

"Why did I choose Washington among offers from other cities? Because it is the capital of the world. And I have some plans to make it the football capital."

This was the kind of stuff the fans want to hear in a community conditioned to losing teams, the Redskins since 1955, when they were 8-4, and the baseball Senators since 1953, when they were 78-76.

"I would like to have a winner in my first year, if possible. But we have got to have the right people. We will have to be fortunate with injuries. There will have to be a charisma between the teaching and the receiving."

Charisma is one of the charms Williams was bargaining for when he made a half million dollars in stock available to Lombardi.

"I will try to make trades," Lombardi said in reference to getting the "right people." But he noted, "It is not as easy as it was in 1959 when I began in Green Bay. Only 2 teams participated in the draft then. Now 26 teams do. Nobody wants to give up good players.

"I know this— they have a great quarterback (Sonny Jurgensen) and great receivers (Charley Taylor, Jerry Smith, Bobby Mitchell and Pat Richter)."

Asked to compare Jurgensen with Bart Starr of the Packers, he said, "Sonny is a great passer. Starr is a good passer and does a lot of other things well. Sonny will, too, I hope."

When someone tried to raise the issue of Jurgensen's quoted fondness for "Scotch and broads," as detailed in a magazine article, Lombardi said, "I will have no preconceived notions about anybody. They will be all fresh new faces to me. Everything about the past is in the past as far as I am concerned."

When the subject was pursued, in terms of whether night spots would be put off limits, Lombardi said, "There are 15 times more bars in Green Bay than there are in Washington, despite the difference in size. But I believe in as few rules as possible."

It was when Lombardi was asked about what position Gary Beban would play that the new coach revealed he had begun doing his homework early yesterday.

"The first thing I did was arrange to get hold of every picture (films) available on him. I want to be fair to the boy and to the Redskins, to make sure he plays the right position. He is a fine athlete."

It is remembered that Lombardi converted another Heisman Trophy winner who had been a quarterback into the best of the option-pass halfbacks, Paul Hornung.

The most successful coach of his time conceded that he knew about the Redskins' recent draft picks because Washington was in the same scouting pool as Green Bay, but he said, "I did come here without looking at the Redskins' veterans."

Lombardi begged off discussing the plans for predecessor coach Otto Graham until later and said news about his staff will be forthcoming within about a week, but he left no doubt about his power when asked about what Williams' role will be.

"Well, I have been given his office," Lombardi said.

"I've just asked Vince if I could have my same season tickets," Williams interjected in a similarly facetious vein.

In defense of being termed a touch exponent of hardnosed football, Lombardi said. "I think that means what the mental approach of a player should be. They'd better be physically tough when they start pulling on their football pants."

Expanding on why he came here he said it was the city, Ed Williams, the appeal of living in the East again, and the equity offered him. "My wife wants me back coaching. She told me I was a damn fool to get out of it. She is a fan as well as a wife. Besides, I miss the rapport with the players."

He made his "commitment to excellence" after the formal news conference and also declared that the "first requisite for a team is defense. Go back through football and you will see that the team with the best defense wins."

Asked if he would start right away to plot a defense for O.J. Simpson of Buffalo in the Redskins' first exhibition, Lombardi said, "No, I will be planning for the first regular-season game."

He said he prefers a running game offense, "but it is harder than passing."

He confirmed that he once said he would have drafted fullback Ray McDonald No. 1 in 1967, as the Redskins did.

Lombardi had some advice for Richard M. Nixon: "If the President is a pro football fan, he ought to be out to our games here in his home city."

© Copyright 1969 The Washington Post Company

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