(Before we begin: We understand the importance of the ongoing Brandon Underwood situation and will definitely write about it, once something happens. But we’re not going to get into the speculation game here. That’s not our style.)
It’s been a wild ride, but here were are – at the finish line, at long last.
The first seven parts of this series covered, obviously, the offensive and defensive players. That covered 50 of the available spots. But we’ve still got to get to the three special teams guys – I’m not including a holder and will only have one return man - and we’re going to do that now.
Before we do, though, I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts (and, sometimes, disagreements) with my selections, both at OBOD and over at PackerChatters. It’s always a great reminder of just how passionate a fan base we really are and I love it.
Okay, let’s wrap this thing up. And I promise I won’t cut to black near the end of the final selection like some people (looking at you, David Chase).
Ryan Longwell (1997-2005) – I know many of you will be upset by this selection, as Longwell is now the enemy. Believe me, the site of him booming kicks – where did this big leg come from, all of a sudden? Anyone know? – in purple makes me as sick as it does you.
But we have to give the man his due.
He had his ups-and-downs, yes, but he’s still the franchise’s all-time leading scorer (1,054 points). He also connected on 81.6 percent of his field goal attempts and hit his share of clutch kicks as a Packer.
And, yes, that’s all I’m going to say about him.
Craig Hentrich (1993-1997) – Funny we should mention PackerChatters, because over there right now, there’s an interesting article by C.D. Angeli which lists Ron Wolf’s 10 greatest moves.
I can tell you one of Wolf’s worst moves: Failing to re-sign Hentrich following the ‘97 season.
Hentrich, still the franchise’s all-time leader in gross average for a career (42.8 yards) and a season (45.0 yards, in ‘97), was an extremely good – maybe even elite – punter. He also handled kickoffs from time-to-time.
He went to two Pro Bowls with the Tennessee Titans and didn’t retire until after the 2009 season. Think of all the B.J. Sanders, Derrick Frosts and Jeremy Kapinos’ we could have been spared of had Wolf simply paid Hentrich.
That would have been nice.
Desmond Howard (1996, 1999) – I know, I know – Howard only played 24 games in a Packers uniform. But, I mean…come on, who else could earn this spot?
Remember how good – make that, electrifying – Howard was during the 1996 season? If not, here’s a reminder: 875 punt return yards on just 58 returns (an average of 15.1 yards per return, which is just astounding). Three of those returns went for scores. And that was just in the regular season.
There was also his 71-yard punt return touchdown that opened Green Bay’s scoring in the divisional round win over San Francisco. He then had 104 yards in kick returns in the NFC Championship Game win over Carolina. Those only set the table for his true masterpiece: Super Bowl XXXI.
In 10 total returns (punt and kick), Howard had 244 return yards. Included in that was his 99-yard kick return for a touchdown that busted the game wide open for the Packers. It was Green Bay’s last touchdown in the 35-21 win over New England and it also was the big reason Howard earned Super Bowl MVP for his efforts. Think about that for a second: Howard scored the first and last Green Bay touchdowns of the ‘97 playoffs as a returner.
He left for Oakland after that season (the Raiders promised him he’d get a shot as a wideout, which he never really did) before briefly returning to the Pack in ‘99. He didn’t do much for Green Bay the second time around, but for one season, he was absolutely magical. And, really, he’s the perfect player to end this list.
Again, that’s all for our series. We’ll resume regular OBOD activities Wednesday.