Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lindy Infante Dies at 75

The Packers have announced that former head coach Lindy Infante, who guided the Pack from 1988-91, has died at the age of 75.

From his New York Times obituary:
Lindy Infante, who was named the N.F.L.’s coach of the year in 1989 when he revived the fortunes of the Green Bay Packers, and who later coached the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs, died on Thursday in St. Augustine, Fla. He was 75.

The Packers announced his death on their website. LeRoy Butler, a Pro Bowl safety for the Packers who had played for Infante and spoke with his wife, Stephanie, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the cause was pneumonia.

Coaching the Packers from 1988 to 1991 and the Colts in 1996 and ’97, Infante had only one playoff squad: his first Colts team, which lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild-card game. His overall record was 36-60, but he was the victim of bad timing, losing both his head-coaching jobs in the seasons before his teams obtained two of pro football’s greatest quarterbacks.

Infante was fired by the Packers after they went 4-12 in 1991. The next season, they obtained Brett Favre in a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Infante was fired by the Colts after they went 3-13 in 1997, although they had achieved a major upset with a 41-38 victory over the Packers, the defending Super Bowl champions and eventual National Football Conference champions. The Colts drafted Peyton Manning in 1998.

Gelindo Infante was born on March 27, 1940, in Miami. He was a running back at the University of Florida for three seasons and then an assistant coach with Florida, Memphis State and Tulane before coaching the Giants’ wide receivers in 1977 and ’78.

He was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals team that went to Super Bowl XVI on Jan. 24, 1982, losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 26-21. He was head coach of the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League for two seasons, and then spent two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns before getting the Packers’ head-coaching post, taking over what had been a losing team under Forrest Gregg, a star Green Bay offensive tackle in the Vince Lombardi dynasty years.

Infante’s first Packers team won only four games, but his 1989 squad went 10-6. Although the Packers did not reach the postseason, The Associated Press’s poll voted him coach of the year.

But two losing seasons followed, resulting in his ouster.

Infante’s 1996 Colts playoff team went 9-7, but Indianapolis was 3-13 the next year, and he was fired once more.

In addition to his wife, Infante had two sons and six grandchildren, The Florida Times-Union reported. A full list of survivors was not immediately available.

“I kiddingly call myself the ‘before coach,’ ” Infante told The Times-Union. “I was at Green Bay until one year before they got Brett Favre, and at Indianapolis one year before they drafted Peyton Manning.”

If he had either one of them, he said, “my career might have taken on 15 more years.”
It's easy to forget that era in Packers history. He was preceded as head coach by high-profile former players Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg, and replaced with Mike Holmgren.

I personally have fond memories of those years, especially quarterback Don "Majik Man" Majkowski. The æsthetics of the era have largely faded away like the silkscreen numbers on their jerseys, but as I review photos of him now I'm struck by the mesh trucker's cap he is often pictured wearing. The simple (even generic) "Breen Bay block over large "Packers" script was a commonplace style in the 1980s, and I'm strangely nostalgic for it today.

Farewell, Coach. Thanks for everything.

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