Organizations like to pick nice, even-numbered years to go with all-time teams. Teams will roll these lists out at such grandiose mile-markers as 50 and 75 years.
We’re going a different way here at OBOD.
The Green Bay Packers have been around since 1919 – roughly 91 years – but that isn’t stopping us from selecting OBOD’s All-Time 53-man roster for the Pack.
(See? I told you this series would be a doozy.)
A few notes before we begin:
- This is an idea I’ve had since during the season, but I didn’t begin the process of selecting the names until about six weeks ago. It took a little longer than I first expected.
- In terms of number of players at each position, I’ve tried to duplicate the average NFL roster. That means three quarterbacks, three running backs, etc. I definitely did not keep three fullbacks, for example.
- That, of course, meant there were some tough decisions that needed to be made (imagine having to do this in real life…it must be damn near impossible sometimes). You won’t like my groups for every position, I can guarantee, but just know that I put a lot of time into it and hopefully made the best choices I could. I’m always cool with differing opinions and, hopefully, we can avoid any controversy like we had with last summer’s “12 greatest players” series.
- This series will run over the course of the next two weeks. The offense will be on display this week and next week I’ll shift to the defense/special teams.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s tee this thing up, shall we?
Without further adieu, here is part one of our roster: The backfield.
Starter: Bart Starr (1956-1971) – If you want to talk “sexy” numbers, Starr isn’t necessarily your guy. In 16 seasons, he put up 24,718 yards passing, 152 touchdowns and 91 interceptions. Not overwhelming, by any stretch.
But if you want to talk efficiency – a huge stat for quarterbacks – Starr is definitely your guy. His 57.4 percent completion rate was, at the time of his retirement in 1971, the best the NFL had ever seen. For good measure, let’s throw in four Pro Bowls, the 1966 Most Valuable Player award and a 1977 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The real reason Starr is the starter for my team, however, is this: his leadership. On a team full of colorful – and powerful – personalities, Starr was never once doubted as the leader. He was also the only guy unafraid of standing up to head coach Vince Lombardi (speaking of strong personalities) if he felt he was in the right.
That’s who I’d want running this show.
Backup: Brett Favre (1992-2007) – No synopsis or description here. And you all know why.
No. 3: Arnie Herber (1930-1940) – By today’s standards, Herber’s numbers just wouldn’t stand up. He never threw for more than 1,239 yards and 11 touchdowns in a season.
Then you remember that he played in the 1930s and, well, Herber’s impact becomes a little clearer. Herber was indeed the first truly great QB the Packers had – despite his tiny hands that forced him to palm the ball when he threw it instead of using the laces - and, along with that guy named Hutson, formed the NFL’s first lethal quarterback-to-wideout connection. Herber-to-Hutson has a lovely ring to it, wouldn’t you say?
He led the league in passing three times and finished his time in Green Bay with 6,749 yards passing and 66 touchdowns (okay, he threw 90 interceptions, too, but come on – they were still figuring out that whole “forward pass” thing back then). Roughly 70 years after his time in Green Bay concluded, his touchdown pass total is still good enough for fifth on the team’s all-time list (although I have a feeling he’ll drop to sixth sometime this season).
The NFL certainly recognized his impact as Herber was a 1966 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Starter: Ahman Green (2000-2006, 2009) – I can almost guarantee this is the first choice people will disagree with. But, before you go losing your cool, hear me out. First, it’s important to note that Green is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher (for this franchise, that’s really saying something) with 8,322 yards. He also hit paydirt 54 times and went to the Pro Bowl four times.
Secondly, Green was able to do his damage as, really, the second-option on the team (with Favre, of course, being top dog). For him to be able to do that, that just shows how special he really was. Plus, he wasn’t just a pure runner, either, as he was also an extremely dangerous receiver (2,726 yards).
Finally, remember the skill set Green had. He was lightening fast, for sure, but he possessed very good power, as well. It’s pretty rare to find a guy with both qualities. He had fumble issues, yes, but I’d still feel very comfortable with him being the main ballcarrier on my squad.
Backup: Paul Hornung (1957-1962, 1964-1966) – Players like Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs and Minnesota’s Percy Harvin are looked at as do-it-all players in today’s NFL. Those guys have nothing on Hornung (aka, “The Golden Boy”).
While he never ran for more than 681 yards in a season (1959), Hornung is my No. 2 running back because of his ridiculous versatility. In addition to running the ball, Hornung caught it (1,480 career receiving yards), threw it (383 passing yards and five touchdowns) and even kicked it (66 field goals, 190 PATs). His nose for the endzone (62 touchdowns) doesn’t hurt my case, either. Add it all up and you’ve got the franchise’s fourth all-time leading scorer.
He went to two Pro Bowls, won the 1961 Most Valuable Player award (weirdly, he didn’t get voted to the Pro Bowl that year) and is a 1986 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His fun-loving ways would keep the team loose, too. I feel good about this one.
No. 3: Tony Canadeo (1941-1944, 1946-1952) – Green and Hornung were obvious choices. Selecting my No. 3 was a tough call between Canadeo and Johnny “Blood” McNally. I wanted to pick McNally – for God’s sake, the man lept from a balcony to head coach Curly Lambeau’s window ledge to pick up an advance…and Lambeau was staying on the eighth floor! – but, in the end, I had to go with Canadeo (aka, “Grey Ghost of Gonzaga”).
After spending this first half of his career playing multiple roles (running, passing, defense, punting, returns), Canadeo became the top dog in the backfield upon his return to the game after serving in World War II (can you imagine ANY athletes doing that nowadays?).
Canadeo was a tough, hard-nosed runner, with his career year occurring in 1949 as he ran for 1,052 yards and four touchdowns. His 1,000 yard season was the first by a Packer (and only the third ever in the history of the league at that point). His 4,197 career rushing yards still rank him fourth on the team’s all-time list, he is one of only five players to have had his number retired by the team and he is a 1974 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Starter: Jim Taylor (1958-1966) – Hornung was “The Golden Boy” for the Lombardi Era Packers, the smooth runner with the nifty footwork. There wasn’t much “Golden”, smooth or nifty about his backfield counterpart, Taylor.
Taylor was a devastating, punishing human being with, to quote an old NFL Films piece on him, “a singular approach to straightfoward mayhem.” He could run around you, yes – but he’d rather go right through you.
That stuff is all great, for sure, but we can’t forget his numbers. Taylor eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark every year from 1960-1964 (recording 66 touchdowns in that time). Those numbers were enough to get him voted to the Pro Bowl in each of those years, as well, and earn him the 1962 Most Valuable Player award.
His 8,207 career rushing yards had him first on the team’s all-time list for 43 years, until Green passed him just last season. And, oh yeah – he’s a 1976 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Backup: Clarke Hinkle (1932-1941) – Hinkle, like Hornung and Canadeo, was extremely versatile. Throughout his career, he played linebacker, kicker and punter in addition to being a brusing ballcarrier and decent receiver.
He racked up 3,860 rushing yards for his career, still good enough for sixth on the team’s all-time list. He also recorded 44 total touchdowns (35 rushing, nine receiving) and even led the league in scoring in 1938.
With Hinkle, though, two things really stand out. First, his mark on the organization was so great that, in 1997, the Packers re-named their practice field in his honor.
And then there’s this: Hinkle was only one of a handful of linebackers tough enough to actually tackle legendary Chicago Bears running back Bronko Nagurski with any regularity. The two had some famous battles in their day, but respect was always there, so much so that when Hinkle was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964, guess who gave his induction speech?
That’s right – Bronko Nagurski.
Anyone who can earn that type of respect has to be on this list.
That’s all for part one. Check back Wednesday for part two: wide receivers and tight ends.