Since it’s the offseason, there usually isn’t much to write about the Packers, except for the occasional finding of old Brett Favre articles while throwing out the trash.  Or blockbuster free agent signings the Packers aren’t making.

However, since I pretty much mailed in the second half of the 2008 season, I feel like I owe it to my three readers to put in a little work in the off months – rehab the tendons in my brain so I’ll be ready for full contact at game speed come September.

Lindy Infante as Green Bay Packers head coachMy target today is Lindy Infante.  Ordinarily I like to take this time to lambaste the topic of the post, no matter if they helped or hurt the Packers; like everyone else on the planet (and me two times that), Packer players, coaches and staff have done something stupid at some point in their lives, and for some reason, prick that I am, I like to call attention to that.  You know, just for your entertainment.

And in profiling Infante, there ought to be plenty of laughs to go around.  During the early 80’s he enjoyed “offensive guru” status while bouncing around Ohio, serving as the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals (under head coach Forrest Gregg) and the Cleveland Browns.  In between those two jobs Infante held the head coaching position for the ill-fated Jacksonville Bulls, a USFL team that only saw two seasons of play before the league collapsed after the 1985 season.

But all that hoopla didn’t amount to much when he got to Green Bay.  There’s just got to be something about being a buck’s last stop, the head coach of an NFL franchise, that makes a person struggle to maintain those skills that got them the job in the first place.  Or maybe, some people are just built to be really good thinkers and schemers but not head coaches.  Not at this level.

When Infante took over as Packers head coach in 1988, he inherited a team from Forrest Gregg that had never lived up to Gregg’s promise to “field a winning team.”  In the end, after five seasons of fielding no better than a .500 team, Gregg left under cover of night to coach his old college team.  In the next two seasons Infante gave Packer faithful a reason to be hopeful, improving from 4-12 in 1988 to 10-6 in 1989.  Kind of like Mike McCarthy’s 13-3 record in 2007, expectations were high for the next season.  And kind of like McCarthy’s 6-10 record in 2008, Infante’s 1990 Packers proved a bitter disappointment, also at 6-10.

From there the Packers went into a tailspin, finishing the 1991 season at 4-12.  With less than a month on the job, newly hired GM Ron Wolf fired Infante on December 22nd, the day after the Packers’ 1991 season ended (with a Packer victory over the Vikings 27-7).

Infante presided over some really bad Packer years, there’s no denying it.  But I’m having a hard time beating him up for it.  In college I used to watch Infante’s weekend television show – I would usually be watching through a throbbing hangover and bloodshot eyes, trying to remember the name of the girl I was trying to kick out of my apartment from the night before,* but even through all that I recall that Infante seemed like a nice guy.  Someone I’d feel guilty about raking over too many hot coals.  I dunno – maybe someone slipped some Prozac into my Fruity Pebbles this morning and I’m just all soft and squishy.

Infante stayed involved with professional football after the dismissal in Green Bay, returning to the head coaching post for the Indianapolis Colts in 1996, getting the job after a managerial misstep saw the Colts popular and successful coach Ted Marchibroda leave the team when the contract offered him was far less than he was expecting.  Infante’s ’96 Colts matched the previous year’s record of 9-7, but slid quickly, finishing the next year at 3-13, after which he was dismissed by owner Jim Irsay.

After that, the Lindy Infante file gets very thin.

Lindy Infante gets no cloer to football than the occasional photo op like this one.From my crack Googling I’ve found that he’s living right on the Atlantic coast in optical communicationCrescent Beach, Florida. It appears he’s become an occasional topic of interview around Superbowl time for a local St. Augustine, FL newspaper that has circulation in the hundreds. Okay, thousands. “But the newspaper extends far beyond the person who purchased it,” swears the website for The St. Augustine Record. Right. Like extending over the legs of the homeless person using it for a blanket. But I’m getting off track. It seems every so often the SAR trundles down to Crescent Beach to get a text bite from Infante about his time playing college ball in Florida and his varied tenure as coordinator and coach.

Beyond that, it appears Infante has left the world of football behind.  One interview remarks of how the inside of Infante’s home boasts no football memorabilia; no signed balls, no blown-up photographs or framed jerseys.  You get the sense that professional football can be an ACME-sized meat grinder that chews up humans and turns them into cheesy brats for Sunday consumption.  Maybe unhappy recollections of being inside the belly of that machine made Infante want to dispose of that life and purchase another.

Living in a coastal town with perpetual warm weather?  Looks like he made a good buy.

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*Okay, so that only happened once.  With a girl from Canada that you wouldn’t know.  But it happened, dude.  I swear.