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Dallas @ Green Bay: A Rivalry Born Of Friendship

Close friends during their days as the offensive and defensive coordinators on Jim Lee Howell's New York Giants coaching staff, Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi locked horns twice for the NFL Championship.

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas and Green Bay; it is an NFL rivalry that owes its origins to the New York Giants coaching staff under Jim Lee Howell in the mid to late 1950's. During that time span the Giants won three NFL Championship in four years, thanks in large part to two men, close friends, who provided the nucleus for the success that New York would experience. Those two men would soon leave the Big Apple and become true giants of the game in their own right. Each man would soon take over a team of his own, and each would experience the kind of success that would lead to his enshrinement in Canton's Hallowed Halls.

Legend has it that once the two coordinators accepted positions as head coaches in the National Football League, they exchanged playbooks in an effort to help themselves get a leg up on the competition. Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers experienced success first, while Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys experienced the struggles of an expansion team. Regardless of success, or lack there of, each man continued to influence the other. Up north Lombardi adopted the 4-3 defensive philosophy that Landry had first derived during their days in New York. In Texas, Landry saw the success of his friend's "run to daylight" offense that was considered to be unstoppable. Landry was an engineer by training and he soon set his engineering mind to stopping the unstoppable. A showdown would loom on the horizon.

With the NFL set to merge with the American Football League, the commissioners of both leagues agreed to an annual showdown between the champions of both leagues, a winner take all game for bragging rights as the best in professional football. By the time that the event actually took place, Coach Lombardi and Coach Landry had both built squads worthy of the teams that they had put together during the glory days as colleagues in New York. Those two teams would meet on New Year's Day, 1967 on Lambeau Field to decide the 1966 NFL Championship and the right to represent the National Football League in the first ever Super Bowl. When all was said and done, Lombardi's Packers walked off the field with a hard fought title, their fourth in six seasons under the legendary head coach. Landry and his team returned to Texas to regroup.

For three hundred and sixty four days, that loss was to eat at Tom Landry. The two franchises met once again on the gridiron in Wisconsin to close out 1967 in the same way that they had kicked it off, by playing championship caliber football. In the 1966 title game the temperature had been a balmy 52 degrees, the battle for the 1967 NFL Championship, played on New Year's Eve, would see dramatically different conditions. The temperature at kick-off was a bitter -13. In a game that would become known to history as the Ice Bowl, Landry was forced once again to accept defeat at the hands of his friend.

That loss was the most bitter pill that Landry had to swallow during his illustrious coaching career. In two championship opportunities against his old friend and colleague, he had been bested both times by Vince Lombardi. That day remains a red letter day in the history of both teams, and not just for the conditions the game was played under, it is a significant moment in the championship pedigrees of both organizations.

[Landry] had devised the perfect game plan, but his old buddy Lombardi did the last thing he would have ever expected. Tom Landry was devastated because the Dallas Cowboys lost the world championship to one of the most basic plays in Lombardis' offense. Weather, turnovers and penalties played a major role throughout the game, but the Dallas Cowboys were labeled as the team that can't win the big game. The Packers made history by winning three consecutive world championships, but it was also the beginning of the Dallas Cowboys 20 year dynasty that remains unchallenged to this day.

Landry would not have a third opportunity against his old friend. Lombardi would soon move on to the Washington Redskins as the General Manager and Head Coach. Both coaches having teams in the same division would seem to be the impetus for many great battles to come, but before Lombardi could finish his task of building a powerhouse in the Nation's Capitol, cancer robbed the game of one of its greatest coaches. The two friends would square off no more, but through their efforts the game of football had been revolutionized and it would soon embark on a period of growth that has culminated in the game that we know and love today.

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