In part one of our series, we gave you the offensive backfield. Boy, was that fun, huh?
For part two of OBOD’s all-time 53-man roster, we’ll fill out the remaining “skill positions.”
(Side note: I put that in quotation marks because I’ve never understood why that term is used. Doesn’t it take skill to play offensive line? How bout defensive line or linebacker? It does, right? It’s a dumb term – hence the quotation marks.)
So, here they are: the wide receivers and tight ends.
Starter: Don Hutson (1935-1945) – Where does one even begin to describe Hutson, pro football’s first superstar and arguably still the greatest receiver in the history of the game?
You know what? I’m just going to link to what I wrote about him last summer when I ranked him No. 2 on my “12 greatest players in team history” list.
That pretty much says it all. And, looking back, I was flat-out wrong to put him second. There’s no question he’s No. 1.
Starter: Sterling Sharpe (1988-1994) – Plenty of good, and even great, receivers donned the green and gold after Hutson hung up his spikes. But none have been better, post-Hutson, that Sharpe.
Sharpe was a truly dominating presence at the position, despite being just 6-feet tall. He had very good speed, ran picture-perfect routes and caught damn near everything thrown his way (oftentimes, with little help on the other side). He averaged 85 catches and nine touchdowns over his seven seasons, leading the league in receptions three times (with three All-Pro appearances, as well).
His career ended at just 29 years old because of a neck injury. Had he stayed healthy, Sharpe would have been a near-lock for Canton, especially when you consider that Brett Favre was just hitting his prime at the time of Sharpe’s retirement.
No. 3: James Lofton (1978-1986) – My choice of Sharpe over Lofton for last summer’s “12 greatest players” series drew the ire of some readers. I, of course, have nothing against Lofton. He was a great, great wideout while in Green Bay, despite playing on some truly bad teams.
A perfect combination of size (6-feet, 3-inches) and speed, Lofton recorded 9,656 yards and 49 touchdowns as a Packer. Those numbers were enough to earn him seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. He’s still the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards, although he’ll likely be passed this season (more on that in a bit).
When he retired following the 1993 season, his 14,004 career yards put him at the top of the NFL’s all-time list (he’s since been passed) and he is a 2003 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No. 4: Donald Driver (1999-Present) – Lofton holds the Packers’ career mark for receiving yards. But, really, he’s just keeping the seat warm for this guy, who will, in all likelihood, pass him in 2010 (he sits just 606 yards away and already holds the team’s all-time mark for receptions).
From obscure, seventh round pick in ‘99 to where he is now has certainly been an astounding journey for Driver. Driver is so often credited for his hard-working ways – absolutely warranted – it’s easy to forget how much natural talent he has. He’s lightening fast (and hasn’t lost a step) and has fantastic hands and smarts, the most underrated part of his game.
Throw in his natural charisma and obvious love for the game and the fans and it’s easy to see why Driver is one of the franchise’s most beloved players. He’s got at least two years left in the tank and here’s to hoping he can cheat time a little longer than that.
No. 5: Boyd Dowler (1959-1969) – Like Lofton, Dowler was a great combination of size (6-feet, 5-inches, 225 pounds) and speed (a former sprinter). That indeed made him a massive contributor for the Lombardi Era Packers.
While in Titletown, Dowler recorded 6,918 career yards and 40 touchdowns (he also saw time as a punter in three seasons). He led the team in receiving seven times and was sent to two Pro Bowls for his efforts. My favorite aspect of Dowler’s career, though, is this: He didn’t do much of anything in Super Bowl I after being knocked out extremely early in the game. As frustrating as that was, Dowler bounced back a year later, catching a 62-yard touchdown pass from Bart Starr early in the second quarter of Super Bowl II.
That score gave the Packers a commanding 12-0 lead. They never looked back, going on to defeat the Oakland Raiders, 33-14.
Starter: Paul Coffman (1978-1985) – Like Donald Driver, you can file the start to Coffman’s career in the “unheralded” category. In fact, Coffman might have been even more so.
While working out a teammate of Coffman’s at Kansas State, Coffman approached Green Bay assistant John Meyer and asked if the Packers would give him a tryout. After going undrafted in ‘78, the Packers gave Coffman a shot.
In seven seasons – he played eight yet recorded no stats in his rookie season – Coffman averaged 46 catches, just over 603 yards and over five touchdowns. He was rewarded with three trips to the Pro Bowl.
Backup: Ron Kramer (1957-1964) – The star tight ends of today’s NFL are known for being big and strong with great speed and hands.
Such was not the case in the late 1950s – that is, until Kramer came along.
At 6-feet, 3-inches and 240 pounds – big even for today’s standards – Kramer was a massive force in his final four seasons as a Packer (military time and injuries slowed him for the first part of his career). Over that time, he averaged over 34 receptions, just over 550 yards and just under four touchdowns a season. There’s one trip to the Pro Bowl in there, too.
For his career: 170 catches, 2,594 yards and 15 touchdowns. And a cool nickname: “Oaf.”
No. 3: Ed West (1984-1994) – Ah, West – “The Toolbox.” Thinking about him just brings a smile to your face, doesn’t it?
(Note: If it doesn’t, you’re clearly a Bears or Vikings fan. And, seriously, if you are, I’m not even sure why you’re here or who let you in.)
West went undrafted in ‘84, but still found a way to make a significant impact for the Packers.
At 250 pounds (while being just over 6-feet tall), West was a rumbling, “rolling stone gathers no moss” type of tight end. While certainly never the fastest guy on the field, West used his hands and cunning to make his mark. He holds the franchise record for games played by a tight end (167) and recorded 202 receptions for 2,321 yards and 25 touchdowns.
For some strange reason, he’s not in the Packers Hall of Fame. I don’t know why, but I do know that that needs to be rectified. Like now.
That’s all for part two. Check back Friday for part three: the offensive line.