This is the latest post in Kurt’s continuing series to identify the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player of All-Time. For an explanation of his methodology for choosing each franchise’s ultimate franchise player, and then how you and he will choose the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player from that list, click here.
To see all the category page for this series, of which there will be one for every franchise, click here.
Welcome to season number two of Midwest Sports Fans’ Ultimate Franchise Player (UFP) series.
The concept is relatively simple: in a series of articles I am naming the all-time greatest player ever for each NFL franchise. Each of the 32 team UFPs then receive an automatic bid to my eventual UFP tournament, along with 32 ‘at-large’ bids.
Last offsseason I revealed the UFPs for the Cardinals, Falcons, Ravens, Bills, Panthers, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, and Lions.
The first 11 players to receive automatic bids were Larry Fitzgerald, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Bruce Smith, Steve Smith, Walter Payton, Anthony Munoz, Jim Brown, Bob Lilly, John Elway, and Barry Sanders.
The fate of alphabetical order now brings me to the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers Ultimate Franchise Player
The usual custom with UFP is to name several worthy candidates and discuss their considerable career accomplishments, climaxing with an all-time top five for the franchise and then finally picking the franchise’s UFP. But the field of greats over 90+ years of Packers football is “Dean’s Blue Hole” deep and virtually impossible to get to the bottom of.
The real question will be how many of my #1 and #2 Packers seeds ultimately end up with at-large bids in the big tournament to come.
My four brackets for GB UFP represent different eras of Packers history. And like the NCAA selection committee, some players have been transplanted to different eras in an attempt to balance out the complete field.
#1 Don Hutson (End – 1935-45, HOF) v. #16 Lavvie Dilwig (End – 1926-34)
January 31, 2013 will mark the 100th birthday of the man still considered one of the NFL’s all-time best receivers, and all-time best players, period.
He opens against the grandfather of former Packers QB Anthony Dilwig. Lavvie himself was named to five consecutive Pro Bowl teams.
#8 John Brockington (RB – 1971-77) v. #9 Cecil Isbell (QB 1938-42)
Brock is a memory from my early childhood. The bruising Ohio State alum rushed for over 1,000 yards his first three years in the league.
Isbell decided to retire early after five seasons and an NFL Championship. As a rookie, he led the team in rushing and passing.
#5 Clark Hinkle (FB – 1932-41, HOF) v. #12 Billy Howton (End 1952-58)
Howton was a deep threat during the 1950s as long passes were introduced into the pro game and opposing defenders were hard-pressed to keep up. He caught seven balls for 257 yards in one contest.
#4 Arnie Herber (QB – 1930-40, HOF) v. #13 Mike Michalske (Guard 1929-35, 37, HOF)
Arnie Herber led GB to four championships in the 1930s. He opens against lineman Mike Michalske, an All-Decade selection himself.
#6 Cal Hubbard (Back 1929-33, 35, HOF) v #11 Gale Gillingham (OG 1966-76)
Cal Hubbard is not only enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but also is enshrined in Cooperstown as a baseball umpire, which he turned to after his gridiron playing days ended.
Gillingham (passed away in 2011) was a Wisconsin product whose career started towards the end of the Lombardi era and was the glue of the O-line during the majority of the lean 1970’s teams.
#3 Tony Canadeo (HB, 1941-44, 1946-52, HOF) v. #14 Bob Skoronski (OT 1956-68)
Only five Packers players have been honored by having their number retired. The Gray Ghost of Gonzaga is one of them.
He opens first-round play against Indiana alum Bob Skoronski. Although only a one-time All-Pro selection, his 13 years including the entire Lombardi era gets him in the field.
#7 Curly Lambeau (Back 1921-29, HOF) v. #10 Johnny ‘Blood’ McNally (Back – 1929-33, 35-36, HOF)
Lambeau, the man who started the whole corporation itself, balled for the team as well for over a decade as a single-wing back doing the bulk of the passing and running.
Johnny Blood picked up his handle moonlighting for a semi-pro team while hoping to have his eligibility restored at Notre Dame. (Someone on social media picked up on it and Blood’s collegiate career was shot for good.)
#2 James Lofton (WR 1978-86, HOF) v. #15 Bobby Dillon (DB 1952-59)
Out of the lost era of Packers history (1968-91) Lofton stands as easily the most talented from that generation and is still #2 on the all-time receiving yardage list.
Dillon was a one-eyed wonder who is still the franchise’s all-time leading interceptor (52).
#1 Bart Starr (QB 1956-71, HOF) v. #16 Max McGee (WR 1954, 1957-67)
This is how loaded the Lombardi-era bracket is: the equally iconic Max McGee is a #16 seed. If this paring took place at the bar instead of the stadium, I might have to go with Max!
#8 Willie Wood (S 1960-71, HOF) v. #9 Herb Adderly (CB 1961-69, CB)
USC Trojans game film didn’t quite make it to Wisconsin back in the day. Willie Wood didn’t get a tryout until he sent Coach Vin a postcard, and he wound up being a eight-time Pro Bowler.
Adderley came out as a #12 overall selection out of Michigan State as a running back, but he was stuck behind a couple guys named Hornung and Taylor. Herb moved to defense, and the rest was history.
Like most #8/#9 matchups, this is a true toss-up.
#5 Jerry Kramer (OG 1958-68) v. Dave Robinson (OLB 1963-72)
Offensive linemen more than deserve their due. The only problem is that besides team accomplishments there are not many stats to compare. Well Kramer sure boasts an impressive stat: 22 trips to the operating room in 11 years on just about every injury imaginable … and some you do not want to imagine.
Dave Robinson’s biggest play of his Packers tenure was forcing Don Meredith into a game-ending interception at the end of the 1966 NFL Championship.
#4 Willie Davis (DE 1960-69, HOF) v, #13 Fuzzy Thurston (OG 1959-67)
Willie Davis is believed to have recorded in excess of 120 sacks in his career, and Grambling State University ended up borrowing the Packers ‘G’ logo as a tribute. After football, Davis became equally legendary as a businessman.
Thurston was a Valparaiso product who is one of three NFL players to be part of six championship teams, as he was also on the ’58 Colts.
#6 Jim Taylor (FB 1958-66, HOF) v. #11 Bob Jeter (CB 1963-70)
The legendary Jim Taylor only ranks sixth in this bracket, although he held Green Bay’s single-season and career rushing marks until Ahman Green came along in the 2000s.
Bob Jeter starred collegiately at Iowa and won Rose Bowl MVP honors before moving on to the pros. Son Rob Jeter is currently the head men’s basketball coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
#3 Forrest Gregg (OT 1956-70, HOF) V. #14 Jim Ringo (OC 1953-63)
Coach Vin called Forrest Gregg the best lineman he ever coached – I say that’s worth a pretty high seeding.
Like the rest of Lombardi’s O-line, Ringo makes the list. The end of his Packers tenure has been subject to a great urban legend. It was said that he came to camp in 1964 with an agent in tow (a relatively new concept at the time) looking for a raise. Vin then apparently went into his office, picked up the phone, then returned to tell Ringo “You’ve been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.”
#7 Paul Hornung (HB 1957-62, 1964-66, HOF) v. #10 Henry Jordan (DT 1959-69)
If you had Hornung in fantasy football in 1960, you probably won your league as he scored 176 points in a 12-game season. He also moonlighted as the placekicker.
Jordan was a defensive mainstay during the entire Lombardi tenure. He unfortunately passed away way too young at age 42.
#2 Ray Nitschke (MLB 1958-72, HOF) v. #15 Boyd Dowler (WR 1959-69)
In terms of tenure as well as greatness, Nitschke is on the short list of the franchise’s all-time greats. His #66 has been long since retired.
My lasting image of Dowler is his head bouncing off the frozen Lambeau Field turf like a basketball in the waning stages of the 1967 Ice Bowl.
#1 Brett Favre (QB 1992-2007) v. #16 Chuck Cecil (S 1988-92)
Brett Favre opens up tourney play versus Chuck Cecil, who is best remembered for his vicious helmet-first hits on opponents at the dawn of the Holmgren era, a style of play that would have him fined straight out of Roger Goodell’s current NFL.
#8 Desmond Howard (KR/PR 1996, 1999) v. #9 Eugene Robinson (S 1996-97)
Although Howard’s tenure in Green Bay was short, MVP of Super Bowl 31 has to be worth something to the selection committee.
Eugene Robinson also made an impact on Super Bowl 33 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately it occurred 15 hours before game time.
#5 Antonio Freeman (WR 1995-2001, 2003) v. #12 Larry McCarren (OC 1973-84)
‘HE DID WHAATTTTT!!!!!!’
That rainy Monday night in 2000 in overtime against the Vikings remains Freeman’s signature moment with the Packers. Or you can roll with ‘IT WAS MEANT TO BE…’, which was Larry McCarren’s call on Packers Radio.
As a player, Rock McCarren started 162 consecutive games for the franchise (two Pro Bowls) during the Bart Starr-coaching era.
#4 Sterling Sharpe (WR 1988-94) v. #13 Darren Sharper (S 1997-2004)
Before his neck issue prematurely ended his career in 1994, Sharpe was on pace to become one of the franchise’s all-time greats at any position.
I assume Sharpe and Sharper can argue about whom really had the best career on the NFL Network set.
#6 Dorsey Levens (RB 1994-2001) v. #11 Tim Harris (OLB 1986-1990)
Levens reached the height of his career during the height of the Holmgren Era, compiling a pair of 1,000 yard seasons.
Tim Harris became one of the game premiere pass-rushers in the Don Majkowski year, recording 19.5 sacks in 1989.
LeRoy Butler remains perhaps the most iconic player from the Holmgren years after Favre and Reggie White.
Rivera reached Pro Bowl caliber by the end of his nine-year tenure with the Pack
#7 Don Majkowski (QB 1987-92) v. #10 Mark Chmura (TE 1992-99)
Actually, Chmura is really the seven seed, but how could I not give the Majik Man the #7?
Majkowski’s 1989 season remains one of the most thrilling years in Packers history, but a holdout followed by a separated shoulder at the hands of Arizona’s Freddie Joe Nunn the following year changed the course of the franchise forever.
Chmura was a three-time Pro Bowler (1996, ’98, ’99) whose career abruptly ended due to a neck problem. Chmura’s son is a prep star in the Milwaukee area and is already committed to Michigan State University.
#2 Reggie White (DE 1993-98) v. #15 Santana Dotson (DT 1996-2001)
The fortunes of the Packers franchise first started to turn when Holmgren and Favre came on board in 1992. However, it was the signing of the best defensive player in football the following spring that truly returned Green Bay to the NFL map.
The height of Dotson’s career came playing alongside Reggie later in the decade.
#1 Aaron Rodgers (QB 2005-present) v. #16 Fred Carr (LB 1968-77)
Yes, AR’s body of work is already good enough to warrant a one seed.
He opens against post-Lombardi era linebacker Fred ‘Mad Dog’ Carr, which sounds like an awesome name for a pro wrestling jobber.
#8 Ted Hendricks (LB 1974) v. #9 Ryan Grant (RB 2007-present)
The Mad Stork only made a one-year stop in Green Bay during his 15-year career, but he makes the field simply because he was that damn good. In that one year with the Pack, Ted recorded five INTs and blocked seven kicks.
He goes against Ryan Grant, who is not spectacular, but one of the more popular recent Packers.
I just got off the horn with Jennings’ sis, who is absolutely irate that I have seeded Greg this low.
Truth be told, Greg had a nice seven year run, but he will now walk as a free agent as GB replaces him with the explosive Randall Cobb, who will also bust this bracket with a first-round upset.
#4 Donald Driver (WR 1998-present) v. #13 Ezra Johnson (DE 1977-87)
If going by loyalty and longevity, Donald Driver could be ranked as high as #2 in the Mike McCarthy era, and #3 since the year 2000.
He goes against Ezra Johnson, who unofficially recorded 20 ½ sacks during one campaign but seems more remembered for chowing down a hot dog in the waning minutes of an embarrassing pre-season blowout in 1980.
I am going to have to say that Donald is Better than Ezra on this one…
#6 Ahman Green (RB 2000-06, 2009) v. #11 Willie Buchanan (CB 1972-78)
Batman Green remains the most prolific runner in franchise history. The one-time University of Nebraska legend rushed for nearly 1,900 yards in the 2003 season alone.
Buchanan was the seventh overall pick coming out of San Diego State in 1972. Willie did not quite live up to that potential, but he did have quite a homecoming picking off four Dan Fouts passes in a 1978 game that got Chargers coach Tommy Prothro fired the next day.
#3 Charles Woodson (CB/S 2006-present) v. #14 Carroll Dale (WR 1965-72)
It was the Packers dumb luck that they were able to ink Woodson back in 2006 when his career seemed to already be on a downswing. Woodson only wound up cementing his Hall of Fame credentials in his seven years in Green Bay.
You can go ahead and advance Chuck to Round 2 in ink.
#7 Nick Collins (FS 2005-11) v. #10 Chad Clifton (OT 2000-11)
I was screaming at Ted Thompson when he seemingly reached for Collins in Round 2 of the 2005 NFL Draft (whom I couldn’t find in any draft publication). Until suffering a career-ending neck injury early in 2011, Collins was on pace for a potential HOF career.
Chad Clifton will be no easy out though, with a solid 12-year career on his resume. He is the Packers best linemen of recent times and also came back nicely from Warren Sapp’s infamous blindside hit on an interception return in 2002.
#2 Clay Matthews (OLB 2009-present) v. #15 Paul Coffman (TE 1978-85)
It seems like Clay has been around longer than since 2009, perhaps because he was already in the spotlight at USC. All we know is that those four years have been long enough to turn a timid woman seemingly more interested in her kittens into a spunky lady out of control.
We’ll easily advance Clay over ‘80’s lost hit Paul Coffman.
So, let’s see who advanced after all the matchups are computed…
- LAMBEAU: #1 Hutson v. #5 Hinkle, #2 Lofton v. #3 Canadeo
- LOMBARDI: #1 Starr v. #5 Kramer, #2 Nitschke v. #3 Gregg
- HOLMGREN: #1 Favre v. #5 Sharpe, #2 White v. #3 Butler
- MCCARTHY: #1 Rodgers v. #4 Driver, #2 Matthews v. #3 Woodson
Sorry – I have to go chalk: Hutson/Starr/Favre/Rodgers
AND THE WINNER IS…
If I give this five more years, Favre and Rodgers could very much be neck and neck. Rodgers definitely stayed the course in 2012. I think he needs a second Super Bowl win to give himself a serious argument over #4.
There are others who will go the Bart Starr route simply based on number of championships. Valid discussion. It was a different era though, and Bart just drove the ship. As evidenced by my seedings, the 1960s teams were a collection of well-coached stars.
Even others will go the Don Hutson route. The lone non-QB of the group, Huston was definitely way before his time, and he feasted on defenders of a long-ago era. It’s a shame that there is virtually no video of his career.
You may not have liked his exit, but my vote has to go to Brett Favre.
The retired numbers, the walk of fame down Lombardi Avenue. There just seems something vacant right now. A true Packers fan cannot act like Favre never happened. He was an entire generation of Packers football.
Don’t worry. Rodgers, Starr, Reggie, Hutson, and maybe a couple others will get at-large berths in the final UFP tourney. But for now, I cannot possibly go against 17 years…
MSF’s nomination for Green Bay Packers Ultimate Franchise player goes to…