Jim Lee Howell, who coached the New York Giants to the 1956 NFL title with Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi as his assistants, died Wednesday in his Lonoke, Ark., home after a long illness. He was 80.
Howell joined the Giants as an end in 1937, one year before the team won an NFL championship. Howell played nine years with the Giants, interrupted by World War II from 1943-45 when he served in the U.S. Marines as a company commander in the Pacific. Even while playing for the Giants, he served in the Arkansas State Senate.
He coached ends for the Giants under Steve Owen from 1949-53, then became head coach from 1954-60.
“Jim said, ‘if you let Tom Landry do the defense and Vince Lombardi do the offense,’ he’d take the job,” Landry said. “We had a great time.
“It impressed me that you can lead without really being out front all the time and he could do it and do it without any feelings - hard feelings or anything,” Landry said. “He was very likeable and had a great laugh.”
The Giants, 3-9 in 1953, went 7-5 in Howell’s first season. He led the Giants to four title games, including New York’s 23-17 overtime loss to the Baltimore Colts in 1958. His career record was 55-29-4.
“He was generally overlooked because he had Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi on his staff,” Giants president Wellington Mara said. “But it was to his credit that he recognized their abilities. He was content with that. As he often said, he blew up the footballs and kept order.”
From 1961 to 1979, Howell served as director of player personnel. Following his retirement, he remained with the team as a special scout and consultant until 1986.
Howell coached the Giants against the Green Bay Packers in an August 1955 exhibition in Spokane’s Albi Stadium.