January 18, 2022

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The football equivalent of winning a…

4 min read
The football equivalent of winning a...

A Bite of Text – (Ted) Thompson might have left (Mike) Sherman shorthanded in the fall of 2005, but his springtime decision to select University of California quarterback Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall choice in the draft turned out to be the football equivalent of winning a multimillion-dollar jackpot.

Robbing the Databank – Under Ron Wolf’s reign as general manager, from 1992 to 2000, the Packers tied for second-best record in the NFL, behind only San Francisco, with a .639 winning percentage. In the 24 years prior to Wolf’s arrival, the Packers had a .423 winning percentage, fourth worst in the league.

A Secret to Share – When Thompson drafted Rodgers in 2005, he not only stood his ground over the objections of the coaching staff, he did it again in the second round when he selected safety Nick Collins of Bethune-Cookman. Jim Bates, the Packers’ new defensive coordinator, lobbied hard for Thompson to select linebacker Jordan Beck of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo instead. Collins was named to three straight Pro Bowls by the time he was 27. Beck was drafted in the third round by Atlanta, lasted two seasons and never started an NFL game.

Memory to Cherish – The night of Dec. 22, 2003, when a grieving Brett Favre passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders, a day after his father Irv died of a heart attack at age 58. It will long be remembered as one of the most emotionally charged victories in Packers history, not only for Favre but also his teammates and many others in the organization.

Deathbed Moment – A WBAY-TV poll that showed a dead heat a week before the Sept. 12, 2000, referendum on the Lambeau Field renovation project. Had the referendum not passed, it was conceivable that Green Bay might have lost its NFL franchise in the not-too-distant future.

If You Were a Fan – The Packers played 24 regular-season games in December and January at Lambeau Field during the decade from 2000-09. In the 1990s, they had played 15. In the 33 seasons from 1957-89, they had played only 21. 

Shattering Myths – When Mark Murphy was named president in December 2007, the Packers were en route to a 13-3 finish and their first appearance in the NFC championship since 1997. But Murphy didn’t exactly step into a bed of roses. Not only was a decision looming on what to do with an aging Favre, but there also was a growing unease over the direction of the Packers’ corporate structure. It resulted from John Jones’ resignation shortly before he was scheduled to replace Bob Harlan and sweeping changes to the executive committee that had led to infighting and concerns that some members were overstepping their bounds.

Best Player – Favre. Even heading into 2006, when he was coming off what was his worst season in 16 years with the Packers, Favre was still the team’s highest rated player in Pro Football Weekly’s annual rankings. Based on extensive input from general managers, personnel directors and scouts, the magazine gave Favre a grade of 3.95. The highest grade a player could receive was 5.0. The cutoff for a solid to quality starter was 3.0. Other than Favre, the Packers had only six other returning veterans who fell into that category: Chad Clifton, 3.9; Ahman Green, 3.85 but coming off a ruptured quadriceps tendon; Al Harris, 3.4; Bubba Franks, 3.25; Mark Tauscher, 3.1; and Nick Barnett, 3.0. Over the previous six years, Favre had been rated the league’s best player three times.

Overlooked by History – Wolf’s acquisition of Favre in his first year as general manager ranks as the best trade in Packers history and maybe the best in NFL history. But Wolf also pulled off another trade before his final year as GM that might have been the second best, at least in the last half of the team’s first century, when he acquired Green from Seattle for cornerback Fred Vinson. To sweeten the pot, the Seahawks also gave up a draft pick 34 spots above the one they received in return.

Among the Chapter’s Rare Photos – Taken by staff photographer Jeffrey Phelps, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s photo of Chris Gizzi emerging from the tunnel carrying the American flag on the night of Sept. 24, 2001, 13 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a plane that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa. A full-page color photo, it leads off the chapter. Gizzi, who played college football at the Air Force Academy, was a special teams standout for the Packers that season.