The 12 – well, sort of – greatest players in Packers history: Part One « Ol' Bag of Donuts

The 12 – well, sort of – greatest players in Packers history: Part One

Remember when I said we were going to be rolling out some special series over the course of the summer to help feed your Packers addiction during the dead zone for NFL activity?

Well, this is the first of those. And it’s a real doozy: The 12 greatest players in team history.

Well, sort of.

I say that because there are actually 14 players on this list. Kind of uncool, I know, but when you see why I ended up with that number, I think you’ll understand.

First, some facts:

  • I started this process by compiling a list of those I thought to be the best players in team history. That left me with 63 players. Some made sense; a great deal more didn’t (I had Chuck Cecil on there for God’s sake. Was I nuts?).
  • Through a slow, painstaking series of cuts, which took about three weeks in all, I was able to whittle the list down.
  • I settled on the final number of 12 because that’s the number of World Championships won by the team. Funny – if I was running a Vikings’ site and decided to do the same, I’d have to title this, “The greatest zero players in team history.”
  • The Packers have sent 21 players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some of those players made this list. There are some on this list who are not in there, as well. Impact can’t always be measured by a bust in Canton.
  • Along those lines, I want you to know Curly Lambeau’s name will not appear on this list. He was a great and important player, to be sure, but not nearly as much as his impact in other areas. Don’t worry, though. His name will appear on another list we’ll be rolling out later this summer.
  • Finally, a big thanks to the excellent archives section at the team’s official site. The statistical listings and information on the team’s Hall of Famers were crucial helpers in compiling this list.

Now that you’re fully informed, let’s tee this thing up, shall we?

Enjoy, and I can’t wait to read your comments telling me how stupid I am.

-Chris Lempesis

Honorable Mention:

  • John Anderson, linebacker (1978-1989) – A first round pick out of Michigan in the 1978 draft, Anderson holds Green Bay career records for most total tackles (1,020) and most unassisted tackles (783). He never went to any Pro Bowls, but was one of the team’s lone bright spots during an otherwise forgettable era.
  • Ahman Green, running back  (2000-2006) – It’s funny how quickly time changes opinions. Now seemingly remembered for everything but his abilities (his fumbling, his weird Batman obsession or his various run-ins with the law, take your pick), it’s easy to forget just how great of a runner Green was. Acquired in a steal of a trade with Seattle – Green and a fifth-rounder for cornerback Fred Vinson and a sixth-rounder – Green was a fantastic combination of speed and power. His 1,883 rushing yards in 2003 is still the seventh best season in NFL history. He’s also one of just two players in league history to have two or more runs of at least 90 yards (Bo Jackson is the other). He was also a very good receiver. He went to four Pro Bowls – earning two All Pro honors in the process – and is the second leading rusher in team history with 8,162 yards, behind only Jim Taylor.
  • James Lofton, wide receiver (1978-1986) – The Packers actually had two first round selections in the 1978 draft. Anderson was the second; Lofton was the first (sixth overall out of Stanford). Lofton put up huge numbers in his nine seasons in Green Bay, recording 530 catches for 9,656 yards and 49 touchdowns. Those numbers earned him seven Pro Bowl selections and, actually, he still holds the franchise record for receiving yards. He went on to have further success elsewhere, most notably with the Buffalo Bills, and is a 2003 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Wow. If those guys are the honorable mentions, can you imagine who will actually be on the list? Come back later in the week to….just kidding (wouldn’t that be a jerk move on my part, to hype this list and then only give you the honorable mentions in part one? Don’t worry – I wouldn’t do that to you guys).

Now, for the first two members of the offical list:

12. Jim Ringo, offensive line (1954-1963) – Somewhat similar to Green, Ringo’s time in Green Bay is most remembered for something other than his actual play. Ringo’s story, one of the most infamous contract demand tales in the history of sport, goes something like this: After the 1963 season, Ringo felt he deserved more money. Ringo and his agent went to see coach Vince Lombardi to make their demands known. Lombardi left the room for a brief while, only to return to tell Ringo he was in the wrong city. Lombardi, so infuriated at the demand for a raise, had traded Ringo to the Philadelphia Eagles just that quickly. It’s been argued the story didn’t exactly happen that way, but either way, it became Ringo’s calling card for his tenure as a Packer.

It’s kind of a shame when you look at who he was as a player. Ringo used his lack of size (just 6-feet, 2-inches and 235 pounds) as an asset, turning himself into a quick-footed blocker who could pull to lead the way for all those sweep plays the Packers ran under Lombardi.

Ringo was so good, in fact, that he went to seven straight Pro Bowls from 1957-1963. He was also a consensus All-Pro selection every year from 1959-1963 (imagine the kind of cash he would be pulling in had he played in today’s NFL). He won five championships – two with Green Bay, three more with the Eagles – and is a 1981 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

11. Sterling Sharpe, wide receiver (1988-1994) - The first curveball of our still young list. I can already hear you asking: Why, Chris, is Sharpe on here while Lofton isn’t? After all, Lofton spent more years with the team and had more receiving yards, didn’t he?

Well, yes he did. But, in two less seasons than Lofton, Sharpe had more catches (595-530), more touchdowns (65-49) and more First Team All-Pro selections (three-one).

Plus, you have to remember that Sharpe’s career ended at just 29 years old because of a neck injury. Imagine the kind of long-term numbers he and Brett Favre – despite the fact the two couldn’t seem to stand one another – could have put up had Sharpe not gotten hurt. Heck, they connected for 41 touchdowns in less than three years together and, at that point, Favre hadn’t even come close to reaching his prime.

If Sharpe plays another, say, four seasons, he probably finishes with around 900 catches, 12,000 yards and well over 100 touchdowns, numbers that would have put him in Canton for sure. That’s why he’s on this list and Lofton isn’t.

That’s all for part one. Make sure to check back tomorrow for part two.

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