First, an apology: I told you I would have part four up on Thursday. Due to unforeseen circumstances with my place of employment, however, I was unable to complete it before press time, as it were.
But, fear not, OBOD fans, I’m going to make it up to you.
How so, you ask?
Well, instead of getting parts four and five, I’m going to combine them into one mega, epic, super-fantastic segment.
Um, so, that being the case…this is it. The final segment. The greatest four players in the history of the Green Bay Packers. You probably know who they are. But where will they land?
Let’s find out, starting…..now.
4. Forrest Gregg (1956, 1958-1970), offensive tackle - Of all the players coached by the great Vince Lombardi, only one was special enough to earn “the finest player I ever coached” status.
That player was Alvis Forrest Gregg.
Right tackle is often the most important position along the offensive line in a strong running attack and Gregg held that position for the Lombardi era Packers (he also played a little left guard, which shows his versatility). Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that the green and gold averaged over 151 yards a game on the ground during Lombardi’s time there.
Outside of his athleticism, durability was Gregg’s strongest asset as he played in 187 consecutive games. That mark stood until 2003 when some guy named Favre broke the record.
As a result of his play, Gregg went to the Pro Bowl a whopping nine times. Four of his eight All Pro selections were consensus picks.
He was also a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and a 1977 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a guy thought to be undersized at just 6-feet, 4-inches and 249 pounds.
3. Reggie White (1993-1998), defensive end – With White, the honors and statistics are nearly endless:
- 198 sacks, second all-time behind Bruce Smith (he also led the NFL in sacks twice, tied for a league record)
- 13 straight Pro Bowls
- Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards
- 12 sacks in the postseason, third all-time
- Set a Super Bowl record with three sacks in Green Bay’s 35-21 win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI
- Missed just one game in 15 seasons
- A 2006 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
But there are two numbers that stand above all else when discussing White (aka, “The Minister of Defense): 4 and 17.
Those are the numbers, in years and millions of dollars, of the contract White signed with Green Bay in 1993. No one – no one – expected the Packers to land White. But they did in a signing that single handedly changed the direction of the franchise. Yes, the Packers were on the up with Ron Wolf running the front office and Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre in charge of things on the field. But they need something, someone, to put them over the top, to legitimize the whole enterprise. That person was White, a player who instantly made fans and everyone in the organization believe greatness was possible for the Packers.
White’s signing made it possible for Wolf to go out and get players like Keith Jackson, Sean Jones and Santana Dotson, players who likely would not have come to Green Bay, whether Favre was there or not.
With those talented players surrounding him, White then set his mind on achieving that greatness he made everyone believe was possible. It took a few years, but he finally did it in Super Bowl XXXI.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to have Reggie White to grow old with. His death the day after Christmas 2004 at just 43 years old was the shocking passing of a towering figure.
But whenever I think of White, I never think of him as being gone. I still think he’s around. Legends, after all, never really die.
2. Don Hutson (1935-1945), end/defensive back - Pass patterns – posts, slants, quick ins, quick outs, etc. – are, obviously, an integral part of any offense in today’s NFL.
Before Don Hutson played, however, pass patterns didn’t even exist. Hutson changed all that – he’s widely thought to be the inventor of the pass pattern – but it’s what he did with those newfound patterns that puts him at No. 2 on this list.
Arguably the first true superstar of professional football, Hutson – a 1963 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – set several marks during his time that have yet to be topped. Among them are:
- Led the league in touchdown receptions nine times
- Led the league in receptions eight times
- Led the league in receiving yards seven times
These are marks that, over 60 years later, still stand (he also held the career receiving touchdown record for over 44 years until Steve Largent passed him). Think of all the great receivers to have played in the last 60-plus years. That none of them could top Hutson’s marks in these categories shows his true greatness.
Those are just the league records. Hutson also still holds several team records, including most receiving touchdowns in a game (six, which he actually did twice) and receptions in a game (14).
He was also a pretty good kicker, which helped him rack up even more points, something he held the franchise record in for 58 years until Ryan Longwell passed him.
That’s a pretty good description of Hutson’s amazing talents, but I feel like there’s something I’m leaving out. But what is it?
Oh yeah, now I remember: He also picked off 30 passes as a defensive back.
1. Brett Favre (1992-2007), quarterback – We could have led into this with some sort of drumroll or something, but at this point, you probably knew who was going to top this thing.
(Before we go any further, I want you to close your eyes, concentrate and block out everything that has happened with Favre since his retirement from the Packers. Everything. His embarassing actions last summer, his play with the New York Jets, this whole disgusting flirtation with the Minnesota Vikings – all of it. Okay? We good?)
Records have become Favre’s namesake in recent years (all-time leader in passing touchdowns, yards, completions and, yes, interceptions) but those are not really the reasons why he’s tops on this list. Sure, those things helped his cause, but his impact on the franchise, the fanbase and the league are the main reasons for him being the greatest Packer of all-time.
Think about where this franchise was before Favre took over starting quarterback duties. We had a coach and general manager we knew nothing about, a quarterback (Don Majikowski) who was good but not really good enough to do anything special and….well, Sterling Sharpe. That was about it.
Then Favre came in for an injured Majikowski. He changed the culture of the franchise. The Packers went from believing they were going to lose to thinking they could win. Yes, White put them over the top, but Favre was responsible for getting the ball rolling.
He did the same thing for us, too. He brought pride back to Packers fans. We felt good about our team. Win or lose, we were always proud to have him as our guy under center.
His was not a phenomenon exclusive to Green Bay, though. His highlight reel plays (either good or bad) made him a star and his gunslinger style and fun-loving personality made him a household name, the face of the NFL for roughly a decade.
He was, in short, the man. I can’t imagine I’ll see a greater Packer in my lifetime.
And having watched Favre for all those years, I’m more than okay with that.
That’s all for our list. Thanks so much for continuing to come back throughout the week. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.