History of the Green Bay Packers
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- 1 Founding
- 2 Public company
- 3 Championships
- 4 The first Championships (1929-1944)
- 5 The first "Dark Ages" (1945-1958)
- 6 Lombardi era (1959-1967)
- 7 The second "Dark Ages" (1972-1991)
- 8 1992-1997: A new golden era
- 9 1998-2005: Near Misses
- 10 2006-present: Titletown Reborn
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The Green Bay Packers were founded on August 11, 1919 by Curly Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun. Lambeau solicited funds for uniforms from his employer, the Indian Packing Company. He was given $500 for uniforms and equipment, on the condition that the team be named for its sponsor. Today, "Green Bay Packers" is the oldest team name still in use in the NFL.
The Packers became a professional franchise when they joined the newly formed American Professional Football Association on August 27, 1921. However, the franchise was revoked by the league at the end of the season when the Packers were revealed to have used college players in a game. As it turned out, the man who told the league of this was George Halas of the Chicago Staleys, who changed their name to the Bears the following year. This incident signaled the start of the infamous Packers-Bears rivalry. Lambeau appealed to the league and they allowed the franchise to be reinstated, though Lambeau had to pay the league entry fee of $50 to do so. Further troubles threatened to add more debt to the team, but local businessmen, known as the "Hungry Five," got behind the team and formed the Green Bay Football Corporation in 1923, which continues to run the franchise to this day.
The Packers are now the only publicly owned company with a board of directors in American professional sports (although other teams, such as the Atlanta Braves [Liberty Media, previously Time Warner], New York Rangers & New York Knicks [Cablevision], the Carolina Hurricanes [Compuware], the Seattle Mariners [Nintendo of America], and the Toronto Blue Jays [Rogers Communications] are directly owned by publicly traded companies). Typically, a team is owned by one person, partnership, or corporate entity; thus, a "team owner." It has been speculated that this is one of the reasons the Green Bay Packers have never been moved from the city of Green Bay, a city of only 104,057 people in the 2010 census.
By comparison, the typical NFL football city's population is in the millions. The Packers, however, have long had a large following throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest; in fact, for decades, the Packers played three (one pre-season, two regular-season) home games each year in Milwaukee, first at the State Fair Park fairgrounds, then at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Packers did not move their entire home schedule to Green Bay until 1995.
The reason for ending the series of Milwaukee games, according to team president Robert Harlan, was the larger capacity of Lambeau Field and the availability of luxury boxes, which were not available at Milwaukee County Stadium. County Stadium's replacement, Miller Park, then being planned, was always intended to be a baseball-only stadium instead of a multipurpose stadium.
Based on the original "Articles of Incorporation for the (then) Green Bay Football Corporation" put into place in 1923, if the Packers franchise was sold, after the payment of all expenses, any remaining monies would go to the Sullivan-Wallen Post of the American Legion in order to build "a proper soldier's memorial." This stipulation was enacted to ensure the club remained in Green Bay and that there could never be any financial enhancement for the shareholders. At the November 1997 annual meeting, shareholders voted to change the beneficiary from the Sullivan-Wallen Post to the Green Bay Packers Foundation.
In 1950, the Packers held a stock sale to again raise money to support the team. In 1956, area voters approved the construction of a new stadium, owned by the city. As with its predecessor, the new field was named City Stadium, but after the death of founder Lambeau in 1965, on September 11, 1965, the stadium was renamed Lambeau Field.
Another stock sale occurred late in 1997 and early in 1998. It added 105,989 new shareholders and raised over $24 million, money used for the Lambeau Field redevelopment project. Priced at $200 per share, fans bought 120,010 shares during the 17-week sale, which ended March 16, 1998. As of June 8, 2005, 111,921 people (representing 4,749,925 shares) can lay claim to a franchise ownership interest. Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value, and stock ownership brings no season ticket privileges.
No shareholder may own over 200,000 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no individual can assume control of the club. To run the corporation, a board of directors is elected by the stockholders. The board of directors in turn elect a seven-member Executive Committee (officers) of the corporation, consisting of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and three members-at-large. The president is the only officer to draw compensation; The balance of the committee is sitting "gratis."
The team's elected president represents the Packers in NFL owners meetings unless someone else is designated. During his time as coach, Vince Lombardi generally represented the team at league meetings in his role as general manager, except at owners-only meetings.
The Packers have won 13 league championships, more than any other American professional football team. They have also won 4 Super Bowls. Their arch-rivals the Chicago Bears are second, with nine NFL championships (including one Super Bowl). The historical rivalry with Chicago extends to the Hall of Fame - the Packers have the second most Hall of Famers (21, behind the Bears' 26). The Packers are also the only team to win three straight NFL titles, which they did twice (1929–1931 and 1965–67).
The first Championships (1929-1944)
After going through modest winning seasons during most of the 1920s, the Packers began to build a championship-caliber team, as they signed three future Hall of Famers in "Johnny Blood" McNally, Cal Hubbard, and Mike Michalske. The Packers won their first NFL Championship in 1929 with a 12-0-1 record, the only undefeated season in Packers history. Their only blemish was a tie with the Frankford Yellow Jackets. The Packers were able to successfully defend their title in 1930, going 10-3-1, and won their third straight championship in 1931 with a 12-2 record. The Packers nearly won an unprecedented fourth straight championship in 1932, going 10-3-1, but finished second behind the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans, who shared the best record in the league.
The Packers scuffled in 1933 and 1934, having their first ever losing season in 1933 with a 5-7 record, followed by a medicore 7-6 the following year. However, Curly Lambeau was able to build another elite team during these seasons, signing more future Hall of Famers like Clarke Hinkle, Arnie Herber, and most notably, receiver Don Hutson in 1935.
The Packers became a perennial championship team in the NFL for the next decade, playing in the NFL championship game four times. The Packers went a dominating 10-1-1 in 1936, defeating the Boston Redskins for the championship 21-6, lost to the New York Giants in 1938, then won again in 1939 27-0, and one more title, once again over the Giants, in 1944, winning 14-7. The Packers stayed at the top of the standings thanks to the play of Hutson, Hinkle, Herber, another future Hall of Famer in Tony Canadeo, and other standouts like Cecil Isbell, Ted Fritsch, Buckets Goldenberg, and Russ Letlow.
The first "Dark Ages" (1945-1958)
Following their 1944 championship, the Packers finished 6-4 in 1945 and 6-5 in 1946. After the NFL established a uniform 12-game season in 1947, Green Bay won six games, lost five, and had one tie. The team only won three games in 1948 and began to experience financial problems, which worsened in the 2-10 1949 season. By this time, Lambeau's relationship with the Packers management had greatly deteriorated. He had also begun spending his free time in California, seemingly losing interest in running the team that he had helped founded, causing fans to dub him "the Earl of Hollywood." After the dismal 1949 season, Lambeau met with the Packers executive committee to discuss whether or not he would continue to be the Packers head coach. Afterwards, it was announced that Lambeau was stepping down as head coach, accepting the coaching job with the Chicago Cardinals. The news was shocking to most of the general public, with many Wisconsin newspapers proclaiming, "CURLY QUIT THE PACKERS!" Lambeau had left behind a team that had few quality players and struggling finances. A bond drive was issued in 1950, which raised $118,000 for the struggling team. Gene Ronziani replaced Lambeau as coach, and the team began using the green and gold colored uniforms that have been worn ever since. But Green Bay still only won three games that season and in 1951. They reached 6-6 in 1952 and nearly made the postseason, but were kept out by a loss to Detroit, part of a three-game losing streak to finish the season.
During this period, the issue of a new stadium began to crop up. City Stadium was an extremely inadequate facility, seating only 25,000. Players also had to use the locker rooms at the local high school. In order to improve revenue, the Packers began playing one or two home games a year at the newly constructed Milwaukee County Stadium, a practice that continued until 1995.
The first game played at MCS was a 27-0 shutout at the hands of Cleveland, after which the Packers finished 1953 2-7-1 and Gene Ronziani resigned with two games left in the season. Verne Llewellyn took over as GM in 1954 and Lisle Blackbourn of Marquette University was hired as HC, but the Packers still only won four games that season. A 6-6 record in 1955 again put the team in postseason contention, but a loss to the Bears sent them home. The Packers fell back to 4-8 in 1956, a season most noteworthy for the drafting of University of Alabama QB Bart Starr.
By now, the status of the Packers staying in Green Bay was becoming unstable. With City Stadium greatly outdated, and more and more opponents asking for their games against the Packers to be played at County Stadium in Milwaukee, the NFL told the Packers that if they wanted to stay in Green Bay, they had to build a new stadium. The Packers and the city of Green Bay complied, building a brand new 32,000-seat stadium, naming it New City Stadium. The new stadium was dedicated in a game against the Chicago Bears, with many celebrities attending, including actor James Arness, NFL commissioner Bert Bell, vice president Richard Nixon, and even legendary Bears coach George Halas. The Packers won the game 21-17, but finished the season 3-9. Head coach Lisle Blackbourn resigned after the season, and the coaching job was given to longtime assistant, Ray "Scooter" McLean, who was highly popular with both players and fans. However, McLean was an ineffective disciplinarian, and many players lost interest in playing. The result was a horrific 1-10-1 season, the worst record in franchise history. McLean promptly resigned after the season ended, leaving the Packers franchise at an uncertain crossroads.
Green Bay's struggles in the years after World War II were due to a number of reasons. The small town environment made it hard to attract players. Some were also lost to the CFL and to military service. In addition, the Board of Directors was engaged in constant micromanagement of the team.
The Packers then made their most significant hire in franchise history, hiring Vince Lombardi, the offensive coordinator of the dominating New York Giants, as head coach and general manager. Many Packers fans were skeptical of Lombardi, largely because he was a relative unknown outside of New York, though many others in the league hailed the hiring, including George Halas of the Bears.
Lombardi, upon his arrival to Green Bay, declared, "I want it understood that I am in complete command, here." This meant that he and his assistants would take care of personnel decisions from now on, while the Board of Directors would limit their activities to the business side of the franchise.
Lombardi era (1959-1967)
The Packers of the 1960s were one of the most dominant NFL teams of all time. Coach Vince Lombardi took over a last-place team in 1959 and built it into a juggernaut, winning five league championships over a seven-year span culminating with victories in the first two Super Bowls. During the Lombardi era, the Packers had a group of legendary stars: the offense was led by quarterback Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Carroll Dale, Paul Hornung, Forrest Gregg, Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer; the defense was led by the likes of Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Willie Wood, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, and Herb Adderley.
Several other factors helped the Packers return to success. After Pete Rozelle became NFL Commissioner in 1960, he made sure that every franchise got all its games broadcast on television, as up to that point only big-market teams like the Bears and Giants enjoyed this privilege. TV helped raise revenue for small-market teams like Green Bay, and also there was the introduction of revenue sharing, which ensured that no NFL franchise would have to worry about bankruptcy.
The greatness of the Packers of the '60s really began one year earlier with the hiring of Lombardi. In their first game under Lombardi on September 27, 1959, the Packers beat the heavily favored Chicago Bears 9-6 at Lambeau Field. The Packers got off to a 3–0 start before losing the next five, but then won their last four games to achieve their first winning season in 12 years since 1947, ultimately finishing 7-5. A 21-0 shutout of Washington on November 22 was the last Packers game to date that did not sell out.
The next year in 1960, the Packers, led by Paul Hornung's 176 points, finished 8-4 and won their first division title since 1944. They also contested the NFL championship game for the first time since that year. They won the NFL West Title and played in the NFL Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles at Philadelphia. In a see-saw game the Packers trailed the Eagles by four points late in the game. The Packers began their final drive, aiming for glory, but it was not to be as Chuck Bednarik tackled Jim Taylor just nine yards short of the goal line as time ran out. Philadelphia won the championship, 17-13. In the locker room after the game, Lombardi told his men that this would be the last time the Packers would lose the championship game with him at the helm. That prediction became fact, as the Packers would never again lose the NFL Championship Game under Lombardi. This, in fact, would be Vince Lombardi's only postseason loss.
After going 11-3 the following season in the NFL's newly expanded 14-game schedule, the Packers again won their division and returned to the NFL Championship Game, as they faced the New York Giants, this time at New City Stadium. This time the game was no contest; the Packers exploded for 24 2nd quarter points as Paul Hornung, having recently returned from the Army, scored an NFL Championship record 19 points. The Packers shut out the Giants 37-0 to win their first championship since 1944 and their 7th total.
Not resting on their 1961 Championship, the Packers stormed back in 1962, jumping out to a 10–0 start en route to an amazing 13–1 season. This included a rematch with the Eagles in Franklin Field. Green Bay avenged the 1960 championship game by snuffing their opponent 49-0 in a game widely referred to as "Lombardi's Revenge". It would be the last Packers victory in Philadelphia until 2010. They reached the championship game again, this time in Yankee Stadium. The Packers faced the Giants in a much more brutal championship game than the previous year, but the Packers prevailed on the surprising foot of Jerry Kramer and the determined running of Jim Taylor. They ground down the Giants 16–7 and Titletown U.S.A. reigned supreme.
A three-peat eluded Green Bay in 1963 as RB Paul Hornung was suspended by the league for betting on games. Without him, the team still finished 11-2-1, but was swept by the Bears, who won the division and ultimately the championship. The Packers were then forced into the embarrassing situation of having to go to Miami for the so-called "Playoff Bowl", an exhibition game the NFL held every January during 1960-69 between the second-place finishers of each conference. They beat Cleveland 40-23, but Vince Lombardi was not happy about it, calling the Playoff Bowl "The Shit Bowl. A loser's game for losers. Because that's all second place is."
The Packers appeared to have run out of gas in 1964, winning only eight games, losing five, and having one tie. Once again they had to contest the meaningless Playoff Bowl in Miami, this time with the Cardinals, who won 24-17. Lombardi was again infuriated, calling it "a rinky-dink game in a rinky-dink town between two rinky-dink teams."
During the 1965 off-season, Curly Lambeau died and the Packers renamed New City Stadium Lambeau Field in his honor. After a two-year absence from championship football, the Pack was back in 1965. The Packers rebounded by winning ten games and losing three. They won some crucial games, including a 42–27 win over the Baltimore Colts, a contest in which Paul Hornung (coming back from a betting scandal and injuries) scored five touchdowns. But, the season ender with San Francisco was a tie, forcing them to play the Colts at home in a playoff for the Western Conference title. A close defensive struggle, the game would be remembered for Don Chandler's controversial field goal in which the ball possibly went wide right, but the official raised his arms to grant the three points. The two teams tied at 10-10 and went into overtime, where Green Bay won it on a 25-yard Chandler FG. The disputed win sent the Packers to the NFL Championship Game at home, where Hornung and Taylor ran through the Cleveland Browns, helping the Packers defeat the Browns 23-12 to earn their 3rd NFL Championship under Lombardi.
1966 and 1967 seasons and first two Super Bowls
1966 would prove one of the most important years ever for both the Packers and the NFL as a whole. In 1959, Lamar Hunt and several others, frustrated at the league's lack of interest in expansion, began a rival organization, the American Football League. The AFL was initially laughed at by the NFL, but by 1965 were a serious competitor and began engaging in bidding wars for top college players. This culminated in the New York Jets offering Alabama QB Joe Namath a then unheard of $400,000 contract. During the spring of 1966, NFL and AFL heads met and agreed to an eventual merger into one big league, but only when the latter was deemed up to parity. Until then, the champions of both leagues would meet on a neutral site in January to determine the ultimate champion.
The Packers meanwhile had one of the finest seasons in franchise history, finishing 12-2 and with Bart Starr being named league MVP. They met the Eastern Conference winner Dallas Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl for the NFL championship. This celebrated game saw the Packers win 34-27. The Packers went on to defeat the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I at the LA Coliseum. Bart Starr was named the game's MVP.
1967 marked Vince Lombardi's final triumph. The Packers team was visibly aging, and they finished 9-4-1. However, they still proved all-but-invincible at home as they beat the 11-1-2 Los Angeles Rams 28-7 in Milwaukee to again contest the league championship with Dallas. This game at Lambeau Field became known as the "Ice Bowl" due to the frigid weather conditions. But once again, Green Bay prevailed with a score of 21-17. They now had to face the AFL champions (this time the Oakland Raiders) in Miami's Orange Bowl. By this point, Lombardi and the team were much more confident of victory as they easily beat Oakland 33-14. Again, Starr was named the Super Bowl MVP.
After the game was over, Vince Lombardi announced that he was stepping down as head coach, although he would retain the title of general manager. Phil Bengtson took his place.
Predictably, the 1968 season did not see an impressive performance from the Packers (6-7-1) as Bengtson proved unable to fill Lombardi's shoes and key players retired. Meanwhile, an exhausted Vince Lombardi announced his retirement from football altogether, and Phil Bengtson assumed the GM position. The Packers improved to 8-6 in 1969, but players continued to retire.
Meanwhile, Vince Lombardi had been seduced out of retirement by the Redskins, who made him HC and 50% owner of that team. He led them to a 7-5-2 record in 1969, thus preserving his streak of having never coached a team to a losing season. However, Lombardi fell ill with cancer during the 1970 off-season and died at the age of 57.
The newly merged NFL named the Super Bowl trophy in his honor, and the street in front of Lambeau Field was named Lombardi Avenue. Meanwhile, the Packers finished 1970 6-8, which included being shut out by Detroit twice. Dejected at his inability to match the standards of his illustrious predecessor, Phil Bengtson resigned as Head Coach. Dan Devine assumed the job and began the task of replacing the '60s players with fresh, young talent. Bart Starr himself was the last to go after starting in only four games during 1971 in which he threw three interceptions, scored one rushing touchdown, and had 24 completions in 45 attempts. Most of the work in 1971 was done by newly drafted QB Scott Hunter, and at the close of the season, Starr retired at the age of 36.
The second "Dark Ages" (1972-1991)
For over a quarter century after Lombardi left the Packers, they had little success. Poor drafting of players was a key reason. To cite a few examples, in the first round of the 1972 draft, when future Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris was still available, the Packers instead chose mediocre quarterback Jerry Tagge. In 1981, when no fewer than three future Hall of Fame defenders were still available -- Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, and Howie Long, the Packers chose another mediocre quarterback, Rich Campbell. Finally, in 1989, when such future legends as Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, and Derrick Thomas were available, the Packers chose offensive lineman Tony Mandarich. Though rated highly by nearly every professional scout at the time, Mandarich's performance failed to meet expectations.
Although the Packers would not have winning success until 1992, there were moments when the Packers at times resembled the old Packer days of the 1960s. In 1972, led by workhorse running backs John Brockington and new Packer MacArthur Lane, and a sturdy defense that featured rookie Willie Buchanon, the Packers captured the NFC Central Division Title with a 10–4 record. That team would lose in the playoffs to the Washington Redskins 16-3. In 1975 under new head coach Bart Starr the Packers won only 4 games, but in one of those wins, the Packers beat the eventual 1975 NFC Champion Dallas Cowboys 19–17 on October 19 in Dallas.
1976 was another losing campaign, with the Packers only achieving a 5-9 record, the lowest in their division. The team dropped back to a 4-10 season in 1977. The frequent changes of quarterbacks during this period was indicative of Green Bay's troubles. When the NFL expanded the regular season to 16 games the following year, the team won six of its first seven matches, but largely due to an easy schedule. After the Packers began facing tougher opponents, the wins dried up and the final record for 1978 was 8-7-1.
The Packers had another 1,000 yard rusher in Terdell Middleton: he rushed for 1,116 yards. In the early 1980s, the Packers had a star-studded aerial attack led by quarterback Lynn Dickey and wide receivers James Lofton and John Jefferson.
While the 1978 season had raised the morale of Packers fans, it did not last, for the team finished with a 5-11 record in 1979, and a 5-10-1 showing during an injury-plagued 1980 season. In 1981, the Packers came close to the playoffs, but lost the final game of the season, a road match against the New York Jets, and ending up with an 8-8 record.
After the 1982 season was reduced to nine games by a players' strike, the NFL held a special playoff tournament with the eight best teams in each conference. The 5-3-1 Packers qualified for this, routing the Cardinals 41-16, but in the next round lost to the Cowboys 37-26. Another 8-8 season the following year led to the dismissal of Bart Starr as head coach. Forrest Gregg succeeded him, but after two more 8-8 seasons, he decided to cut several aging players and start over with fresh rookies. The rejuvenated Packers produced a 4-12 record in 1986, as was typical of a rebuilding period.
Another strike affected the NFL in 1987, resulting in a 15-game season. During the strike, the league used substitute players. The Packers fill-ins won one game and lost two before the regulars returned, but in the end the struggling team managed only a 5-9-1 record. Afterwards, Forrest Gregg resigned and was replaced by Lindy Infante. Still did the team struggle, going 4-12 in 1988.
With such a weak record, the Packers gained the privilege of first-round draft picks during the 1989 off-season. They selected Michigan State offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, who was getting considerable publicity due to his huge 325-pound frame. Mandarich (who later admitted to using steroids in college) proved a poor choice in the end, and after three seasons of mediocre performance was cut. The 1989 campaign was the best in 17 years, with the Packers compiling a 10-6 record (including a victory over the eventual Super Bowl XXIV Champion San Francisco 49ers), but still missing the playoffs. There followed another two losing seasons, with 6-10 and 4-12 records. A general overhaul took place during the 1992 off-season, with Mike Holmgren replacing Lindy Infante. Most importantly however, the Packers acquired second-year quarterback Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons.
1992-1997: A new golden era
Favre would get off to a slow start, losing five of his first seven games, but afterwards won six in a row. The Packers finished 1992 with a 9-7 record. In the 1993 off-season, the team signed free-agent defensive end Reggie White. After another slow start, the Packers swept ahead for a 9-7 record, reaching the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. In the NFC wild card round, they faced the Detroit Lions, who had beaten them the previous week. In a close game, Favre led the team to a 28-24 victory, but in the divisional playoff round Green Bay was overwhelmed 27-17 by the Dallas Cowboys, the eventual Super Bowl winner. Brett Favre would also make the Pro Bowl following that season.
The 1994 season was a near-rerun of the previous year. Again the Packers went 9-7, beat the Lions 16-12 in the NFC wild card round, and lost the divisional game 35-9 to the Cowboys. In 1995, Favre continued to cement his reputation as one of the NFL's finest quarterbacks, passing for 4,413 yards and scoring 38 touchdown passes during the team's 11-5 regular season. The Packers reached the top of the NFC Central division for the first time since 1971. However, they still had to go through the wildcard round, overpowering Atlanta 37-20. The divisional round saw them knock out the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers 27-17, but they were once again frustrated by the Cowboys, who triumphed 38-27 in the NFC Championship game and went on to win another Super Bowl title.
As the 1996 season began, the Packers were more determined than ever to reach the Super Bowl. Beginning with an eight-game winning streak, they faced the hated Cowboys during Week 11 on a Monday Night game. The Packers suffered a smarting loss, the score being 21-6. After this, they won the last five regular season games, finishing with a record of 13-3. Reaching the top of the NFC Central division, they were able to skip the wild card round this time. In the divisional playoff, they easily defeated San Francisco at Lambeau, with a score of 35-14. Meanwhile, the Cowboys had lost to the Carolina Panthers, and so the Packers would have to face this two-year old expansion team in the NFC Championship match. The Packers easily beat them 30-13 to advance to Super Bowl XXXI.
Super Bowl XXXI
Facing Green Bay in the New Orleans Superdome in Super Bowl XXXI were the AFC champion New England Patriots. In a see-saw game, the Packers gained a 27-14 lead at halftime, which they never lost despite a valiant effort by their opponent. The final score was 35-21, and Green Bay had won its first championship since 1967. Kick returner Desmond Howard, who returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown late in the 3rd quarter, was named the game's MVP.
The defending champions would have an easy go of the 1997 season, which saw a record of 13-3. Brett Favre passed for 3,867 yards and was named the league's MVP third year in a row. In their fifth consecutive playoff appearance, the Packers rolled over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-7 in the divisional round, then beat the 49ers 23-10 in the NFC Championship to make the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.
Super Bowl XXXII
Playing in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium for Super Bowl XXXII, the Packers would this time engage the Denver Broncos, who had lost in all their previous Super Bowl appearances. In a game that was even more see-saw than Super Bowl XXXI, Denver had taken the lead in the 4th quarter, with a score of 24-17. Denver took its final lead with under 2 minutes in the game when head coach Mike Holmgren intentionally allowed Terrell Davis to score the go-ahead touchdown. In the final minute of the game, Brett Favre threw a desperate pass at tight end Mark Chmura, but it failed and the Broncos walked home with the Lombardi Trophy.
1998-2005: Near Misses
Still playing strong football, the Packers compiled an 11-5 record in 1998, but suffered several key injuries. They made the playoffs for the sixth year in a row, but this time as a wild card. Once again, Green Bay faced its perennial foe the San Francisco 49ers, but luck would not be on their side this time, as they lost a close game, 30-27, on a Terrell Owens touchdown catch with 3 seconds remaining. Afterwards, Mike Holmgren stepped down as head coach and was succeeded by Ray Rhodes. The Packers only managed an 8-8 showing in 1999 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1992, despite a high-scoring season-ending performance against Arizona in an attempt to win a potential points-scored tiebreaker. Rhodes was quickly dumped and replaced by Mike Sherman. In 2000, the Packers finished 9-7, but again did not make the playoffs.
Green Bay rebounded nicely in 2001, going 12-4 and returning to the playoffs as a wild card. Per established practice, they challenged the 49ers and beat them 25-15, avenging their playoff loss three years earlier. There would be no Super Bowl appearance though, as Green Bay was crushed by the St. Louis Rams in the divisional round 45-17. Favre threw a record six interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. The following year began strongly, with the Packers starting 8-1. Divisional realignment had placed them along with Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit in the new NFC North. Being the only team in their division to achieve a record above .500 in 2002, the Packers seemed a virtual shoo-in for the first-round bye. However, they lost the final game of the season at the New York Jets, which gave Green Bay the #3 NFC seed and forced them to go through the wild card round. The playoffs would have a humiliating end as the Packers were routed 27-7 by the Atlanta Falcons on a snow-covered Lambeau Field for the franchise's first-ever home playoff loss.
2003 began rather badly. Lambeau Field had been renovated that year, but in the season opener, the Packers lost to the Vikings 30-25. Brett Favre suffered several injuries during the season, and also had to deal with the death of his father on the eve of a Monday Night trip to Oakland. However, Favre started, and put up an impressive performance as the Packers trounced the Oakland Raiders 41-7. The Packers went into the final week needing to win and the Vikings to lose to win the NFC North in order to get the last playoff spot. The Packers beat the Denver Broncos while the Arizona Cardinals rallied in the final seconds to beat the Vikings, giving the Packers the NFC North championship with an 11-5 record. The wild card round saw a fierce struggle with the Seattle Seahawks, which tied 27-27 and went into overtime. Defensive back Al Harris intercepted a pass from former Packer quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown, giving the Packers the win. In the divisional round, the Packers lost to Philadelphia. That game also went into overtime, tied 17-17, but Favre threw a pass up into the air that was intercepted by Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. Several plays later, the Eagles kicked a field goal and won 20-17.
During the 2005 off-season, the team drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers from California. Rodgers was intended to be the eventual successor to Favre, now 36 years old and showing his age by turning in a poor performance that year. Despite a devastating 52-3 win over New Orleans in Week 5, Favre threw a career high 29 interceptions. Injuries caused the team further problems, and the season ended with a 4-12 record, the worst since 1991. This season was notable for two bizarre incidents. The first was during the Week 8 game in Cincinnati where a fan ran out onto the field and grabbed the ball from Favre, and during Week 12 in Philadelphia where another fan ran out and scattered the ashes of his dead mother into the air.
Head coach Mike Sherman was fired at the end of the 2005 season.
2006-present: Titletown Reborn
It was widely expected that Brett Favre would retire in the 2006 off-season, but he eventually decided to continue playing. In addition, the team hired a new coach, Mike McCarthy. The regular season started badly, with the Packers being shut out at home by the Bears. An uneven stretch followed, and again Green Bay would not reach the playoffs, going 8-8.
2007 witnessed a remarkable resurgence of the Packers. They won their first four games, then fell to the Bears in Week 5. Green Bay would go on to lose only two more regular season games: a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and a heavy 35-7 defeat at Chicago. With a 13-3 record, Green Bay emerged at the top of the NFC North and gained a first-round bye in the playoffs. In the divisional round, they rolled over the Seattle Seahawks 42-20 in a snowy home game, then advanced to the NFC Championship. Also played at Lambeau, this game pitted Green Bay against the New York Giants. With below-zero temperatures, it was one of the coldest games in NFL history, and undoubtedly affected the 38-year-old Favre's performance. The game was tied 20-20 at the end of regulation and went into overtime. After two failed attempts, combined with an interception by Favre, the Giants managed a field goal from Lawrence Tynes, winning 23-20 and eventually going on to win Super Bowl XLII.
In March 2008, Favre announced his retirement, and as planned, Aaron Rodgers stepped up as starting quarterback. Before the team publicly declared Rodgers their quarterback of the future, however, the team asked Favre if he was certain about retirement. If not, he would be welcome to play another year as the face of their franchise. At the time he said he was comfortable with his decision and that he would not be returning to football. But as the summer approached, Favre suddenly decided that he wasn't ready to retire after all, and petitioned NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for a comeback. Goodell granted his request, but the Packers were ready to begin anew with Rodgers and had no interest in taking Favre back. They went so far as to offer him $25 million to stay in retirement, but he rejected it. There followed a three-week war of words between Favre and the Packers management until he threatened to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. The thought of that caused Green Bay's front office to panic, and they decided that he could join the New York Jets in exchange for a conditional draft pick. Favre complied, signaling the end of his reign in Green Bay and the beginning of the Aaron Rodgers era.
The new quarterback got off to a slow start, winning his first two games as starter over Minnesota and Detroit, then losing the next three. Then Green Bay won two against the Seahawks and Colts, afterwards losing to the Titans and Vikings. Aside from a 37-3 victory over Chicago, the rest of the season was one of losses, with a final 6-10 record. Green Bay closed the year on an upbeat note, winning 31-21 over the Lions on a clear, freezing day at Lambeau and giving Detroit a 0-16 winless season.
In August 2009, Brett Favre, after his stint with the Jets, signed with Minnesota, provoking outrage among Packers fans. The regular season got off to a poor start, as the Packers were unable to defeat any opponents with a winning record. In Week 4, the team travelled to the Metrodome to face their former quarterback, losing 30-23. Following easy wins over Detroit and Cleveland, they hosted the Vikings in Week 8. Packers fans burned effigies of Favre, who was greeted by a chorus of boos and obscenities as he stepped onto Lambeau Field in the uniform of Green Bay's hated rival. Minnesota won the game handsomely, 38-26. The lowest point came a week later, when the Packers lost to the then-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-28. After that, however, they recovered and swept through the next five games. Following a one-point loss to Pittsburgh, they defeated the Seahawks and Cardinals to secure a wild card spot in the playoffs. This was the 16th time in the last 17 years that they had won their regular season finale. Having to face Arizona again in the wild card round, the Packers waged a monumental struggle and managed to tie the game 45-45 at the end of the regulation, sending it into overtime. Two minutes in, the Cardinals scored a touchdown on a fumble return and ended Green Bay's playoff run. With a final score of 51-45, the game set a record for the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history. Throughout the season, the Packers struggled with their offensive line, which was rated the worst in the league. Aaron Rodgers was sacked 50 times in the regular season (Matt Flynn was sacked once in relief of Rodgers) and hit 93 times. In the playoff game with Arizona, he took another five sacks and ten hits.
Green Bay's 2010 off-season was mainly concentrated on improving their faulty offensive line. In the season opener, the Packers faced an Eagles team that was playing without quarterback Donovan McNabb for the first time in a decade. However, the O-line failed to deliver again as Rodgers took three sacks in the first half and also threw an interception. Meanwhile, Philadelphia's new quarterback, Kevin Kolb, was pulled with a concussion and replaced by Michael Vick. After a while, the Packers' defense adjusted to him and Green Bay pulled off a 27-20 win, their first in Philadelphia since 1962. Second-year linebacker Clay Matthews (who knocked Kolb down) delivered an impressive performance in the game. After an easy win over Buffalo in Week 2, the Packers traveled to Chicago for a Monday Night matchup with their oldest rival. However, Green Bay exhibited very poor discipline and was plagued by numerous penalties, which had been a persistent problem ever since Mike McCarthy became head coach in 2006. The Packers lost the game 20-17. After this loss, the team returned home to face the 0-3 Lions in Week 4. They escaped with a 28-26 win, but it was an embarrassment to have given up that many points to a team that had not won in Green Bay since 1991 and which had won just two games over the last two seasons. The Packers' woes continued in Washington the next week. Clay Matthews ran Donovan McNabb down repeatedly in the first half of the game, but was then pulled with a hamstring sprain. This took most of the pressure off the Redskins' offense and the game tied at 13-13. Two minutes into overtime, Rodgers threw an interception and was knocked to the ground by Redskins defensive end Jeremy Jarmon with a concussion. Redskins kicker Graham Gano then booted a 33-yard field goal to win the game 16-13. Matthews and other key defensive players were missing from the Week 6 game at home versus Miami, leading to another overtime loss (23-20).
In Week 7, the injury-thinned team hosted Minnesota on Sunday Night. Once again, Brett Favre was booed by the crowd at Lambeau, but the outcome would be different this time as Green Bay took advantage of their opponent's miscues (including three Favre interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown) to win 28-24. Following this emotional game, the Packers gained a surprise 9-0 win over the 6-1 New York Jets by kicking three field goals and shutting an opponent out on the road for the first time since 1991.
In Week 9, the Packers returned home for another Sunday Night game, this time with the struggling 1-7 Cowboys. Green Bay quickly marched out to two touchdowns in the first quarter, en route to a 45-7 crushing of their opponent. Following their bye week, the Packers headed to Minnesota for a rematch with the Vikings, who virtually laid down in much the same manner as Dallas. Green Bay quickly buried them 31-3, causing their head coach, Brad Childress, to be fired. It was the second consecutive game in which the team that lost to the Packers fired their head coach afterwards, as Wade Phillips had been fired by the Cowboys after their loss to the Packers.
Next came a difficult road battle with the 8-2 Atlanta Falcons, in which the Packers lost a close one 20-17. After routing San Francisco, the Packers headed to Detroit. What looked like an easy win proved anything but when Rodgers was knocked out with a concussion during a quarterback sneak and replaced by Matt Flynn. The latter was unable to get anything going as Green Bay lost a defensive struggle 7-3, falling to the Lions for the first time since 2005. Rodgers was then ruled out for the Week 15 game at New England.
Despite dire predictions, the Packers marched out to an early lead and the game remained close throughout. Flynn threw three touchdown passes, but in the end, Tom Brady's greater experience prevailed as the Patriots won 31-27. This game was nonetheless a turning point for the Packers, having been inspired by nearly beating the best team in the NFL when no one gave them a remote chance.
With an 8-6 record, the Packers needed to win their last 2 games to gain the #6 seed, the last seed, in the NFC playoffs. The Packers easily beat the New York Giants at home 45-17 and then hosted the rival Bears for the final game of the season. The Packers won the defensive struggle 10-3, sealing the Packers' playoff berth.
In the wild card round, the Packers had to travel to Philadelphia to play the hot Eagles, led by Michael Vick. Rodgers threw for 3 touchdowns and rookie halfback James Starks had a 100+ yard running game. Tramon Williams had an interception in the closing minutes sealing a Packer victory, 21-16.
The next game was against the Falcons in Atlanta. Atlanta was the #1 seed and was favored to beat Green Bay, but the Packers shocked the Atlanta fans by having a 28-14 lead at halftime, with Tramon Williams returning an interception for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half. The Packers scored on the opening drive of the second half and the Falcons never recovered, as Green Bay rolled to a 48-21 win, sending the Packers to the NFC Championship game.
The NFC North Championship game would be against the Bears in Chicago, in what was considered by almost everyone the biggest game ever in the Packers-Bears 90-year old rivalry. The Packers scored on the opening drive on a touchdown run by Rodgers, and scored again in the second quarter on a run by Starks, giving the Packers a 14-0 lead at halftime. The defense was able to knock Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game with a knee injury and soon after also knocked out back-up Todd Collins. In the 4th quarter, the Bears rallied with 3rd-string quarterback Caleb Hanie. However, two key interceptions, one by defensive tackle B.J. Raji returned for a touchdown, and another by Sam Shields with less than a minute left, sealed the NFC North championship for the Packers, who won 21-14.
Super Bowl XLV
The Packers would play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Packers struck first with two touchdowns near the end of the first quarter, one on a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch and the other on a Nick Collins interception return. Collins' touchdown marked the 3rd consecutive playoff game in which the Packers returned an interception for a touchdown. The first half ended with the Packers leading 21-10, but had lost both cornerback Charles Woodson and wide receiver Donald Driver to injury. The Steelers started to rally, but the Packers defense was able to cause a key fumble on the first play of the 4th quarter and later stopped the Steelers on their final drive, winning their 4th Super Bowl and their record 13th NFL championship, 31-25. Aaron Rodgers was voted the game's MVP. With the win, the Packers joined the Steelers, the 49ers and Cowboys as the only NFL teams to win at least four Super Bowls. The NY Giants won their fourth Super Bowl after the 2011 season.
Despite a lack of practices and training due to a lockout in the off-season, the Packers defeated New Orleans 42-34, hosting the first game of the 2011 season. After a touch-and-go battle with Carolina in Week 2, the Packers came out on top 30-23. Week 3 saw the rematch with Chicago, in which Green Bay once again prevailed 27-17 to get off to a 3-0 start. Green Bay breezed to another easy win over the Broncos to remain unbeaten at 4-0. The Packers became the only undefeated team in Week 5 when Detroit lost to San Francisco and they beat a winless Rams squad. The Packers then went on to win their next four in a row to end the first half of the season with a record of 8-0.
In week 12, the Giants posed to be their greatest challenge thus far. The Giants tied the game 35-35 late in the 4th quarter. But in the last final minute, the Packers persevered and won the game on a Mason Crosby field goal. They continued their winning streak into the second half of the season, bringing them to 12-0 and assuring the Packers an appearance in the NFL's 2011 postseason.
Talk of an undefeated season finally ended in Week 15 when the Packers lost in Kansas City. Returning home, they beat an injury-depleted Bears team and while resting their starters in Week 17, Matt Flynn carried Green Bay to a wild shootout victory over Detroit. With a 15-1 finish and the #1 playoff seed, the Packers completed the 2011 regular season with the best record in franchise history. Their post season came to an abrupt end against the New York Giants (who later won Super Bowl XLVI), with the Packers losing in the divisional playoffs. 20-37.
- Names, Larry D (1987). "The Myth". In Scott, Greg. The History of the Green Bay Packers: The Lambeau Years 1. Angel Press of WI. pp. 27–29. ISBN 0-939995-00-X.
- The Green Bay Packers are the oldest NFL franchise in continuous operation with the same name and the same location.
- Smith, Timothy W. (December 18, 1994). "PRO FOOTBALL: NOTEBOOK; Can Reich Again Rescue the Bills?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- Associated Press. "Rodgers engineers last-minute drive to overcome Giants, keep Packers unbeaten".
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