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A defensive history of the Green Bay Packers.

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Packerlifer, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Once again defense stands as the issue most pressing as the Packers start preps for the next National Football League season. Almost every year for as long as many fans can recall that's been the case. Will the Pack ever get a defense that can help them with another Super Bowl? Only time will tell. But we know when the Packers did have defense; and not coincidentally those have been the teams with the world championships on their resume. There's also a long history of the kind of questions and frustrations that have become the usual annual experience of the team for its fans.

    The old saying "offense sells tickets but defense wins championships" is generally credited to the great college coach Bear Bryant. It seemed to ring true during the 1960's and '70's. The clubs that won the championships or made the most playoff games almost always had the elite defenses and there were more great defenses over a more sustained period than in any other era before or since in pro football.

    And no one won more championships during that time than the Packers of Coach Vince Lombardi during the 1960's. Offense then, as now, got the marquee billing (Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, etc.) but defense was the bedrock of the Green Bay title teams of that decade. In fact, if not for that defense the Packers might not have won all of those 5 NFL and Super Bowl world championships then.

    The Packer defense ranked first in the league twice and was second or third five times during the Lombardi dynasty run. They never finished outside the top seven. In ten championship and playoff games- 9 of which they won- they only once allowed the opponent to score more than 17 points against them. And Green Bay still won that game on a game saving play by the defense in the closing seconds.

    More than the statistical ranking was the way the defense dominated and changed games. They four times led the league in fewest points allowed and were second or third in four additional seasons. The following is what the Packer defense achieved in scoring defense, turnovers and defensive touchdowns during the Lombardi championship decade. ( Keep in mind the turnovers and defensive scores were in only 14 game seasons then.)

    Season PPG INT's Fum. Rec. TD's

    1960 17.4 22 21 1
    1961 15.9 29 20 4
    1962 10.6 31 20 2
    1963 14.7 22 19 0
    1964 17.5 16 23 4
    1965 16.0 27 18 5
    1966 11.6 28 15 6
    1967 14.9 26 11 2

    Of ten players from that decade in the Pro Football Hall of Fame six are from the defensive side. End Willie Davis, tackle Hank Jordan, linebackers Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson, cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood were the steady nucleus of the unit through the decade. In addition at least a half dozen more Packers defenders were Pro Bowlers, when that selection really meant something.

    One reason the defense was consistently so good for so long was their ability to find replacements when time and circumstance required. End Bill Quinlan and tackle Dave "Hawg"Hanner were followed seamlessly on the line by Lionel Aldridge and Ron Kostelnik. Bill "Bubba" Forrester, Dan Currie and Tom Bettis flanked Nitschke on the early title teams and were succeeded by Robinson and LeRoy Caffey for the "threepeat" run of '65-67. Bob Jeter teamed with Adderley to give the Packers one of the best shutdown corner duos in league history. And also circulating through the secondary then were Emlen Tunnell, Hank Gremminger, Johnny Symank, Jesse Whittenton, Tom Brown and Doug Hart.

    Lombardi gets all the credit for the great things that happened in Green Bay football in the '60's, understandably, but the man who was most responsible for the defense was assistant Phil Bengtson. The term "coordinator" wasn't in use then but that's what Bengtson was for the Packers. Lombardi was primarily an "offensive guy," and he turned the defense almost entirely over to Bengtson to design, implement and run.

    It was no accident that Lombardi chose Bengtson to be his successor as head coach in 1968. And how good a defensive coach Bengtson was may be most clearly evident in how strong the Packers remained on that side of the ball during his otherwise unsuccessful 3 year stint as hc. Even after the dynasty had ended in 1968 the Packers still had the 3rd ranked defense in the league and allowed only 16.2 ppg: less than 2ppg more than in the previous year's world championship season. In 1969 the Packers defense ranked 4th and was third in fewest points allowed at 15.8 ppg.

    Dan Devine, who followed Bengtson, is one of the most controversial and criticized head coach-general managers in club history and with good reason. But to his credit Devine appreciated the importance of defense and during his four year run in charge of the team the Packers were generally solid on that side of the ball.

    When Green Bay won the NFC Central Division title in 1972 they had the top ranked defense in the NFC and were second overall in the NFL only to the undefeated Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins. They continued as a top ten unit in 1973 and in 1974, though only a 6-8 team ,they had the 6th ranked defense in the league and allowed only 14.7 ppg.

    Devine appointed the first official "defensive coordinator" in Packers history when he promoted former player and defensive line coach Dave Hanner to the position in 1971. Hanner would be Green Bay's dc for the remainder of the '70's.

    The Devine-Hanner defense was a mix of holdovers from the late Lombardi era, additions and acquisitions brought in under Bengtson and filled out by some astute drafting and trading by Devine himself.

    The 1972 defense tends to be overlooked nowadays but it was arguably the best in Green Bay between the Lombardi era and the Super Bowl XXXI team in 1996. It allowed opponents an average of only 16.1 ppg and generated 39 turnovers in 14 games. In the club's only playoff game of the decade they held a Super Bowl bound Washington team to 16 pts in a road playoff loss in the nation's capital. The unit had 5 starters on it that were or would become Pro Bowlers during the 1970's.

    Linebacker Dave Robinson was closing out his eventual HOF career and another remnant of the Lombardi period big dt Robert Brown had a breakout year, becoming a Pro Bowler.

    Bengtson had begun bringing in fresh talent during his time in charge. He whiffed big time when he used his first round pick in the 1969 draft for a huge for the time dt Rich Moore. But in 1970 he swung a blockbuster deal with Chicago for the Bear first round pick, the second overall in that draft, and used it to land another mammoth dt Mike McCoy out of Notre Dame.

    Needing a replacement at end for retired Willie Davis Bengtson dealt for a young talent from a crowded Dallas stable Sweeny Williams, who would be a starter for Green Bay for most of the decade.

    Bengtson also had a knack for finding guys in the draft who were offensive players in college and making them solid defenders in the pros. Fred Carr was the Packers' first round pick in the '68 draft as a tight end. He was converted to linebacker and would be a 3 time Pro Bowl selection during his 9 years in Green Bay.

    Jim Carter was a Big Ten fullback at Minnesota when the Packers drafted him in '70. Bengtson made him a linebacker and Devine anointed him the successor to Nitschke in the middle of the defense for the remainder of the decade.

    Ken Ellis was a fast receiver and kick returner who became the replacement for Herb Adderley at corner.

    Devine brought in linemen Alden Roche, Vern Vanoy and Dave Pureifory and safety Jim Hill to follow Willie Wood. And he hit a home run with his first round pick in 1972 cb Willie Buchanon, who became the NFC Rookie of the Year.

    The secondary of Buchanon and Ellis at corner, Hill and Al Matthews (a Bengtson draftee) at safety allowed only 7 td passes to be completed against them for the entire season.

    Devine continued to work the defense in 1973 trading for veteran de Aaron Brown and finding a good young lb prospect in Tom MacLeod.

    Devine is most remembered for the desperation trade for overage qb John Hadl in 1974. But earlier that same year he did a deal that was a masterstroke. He acquired all-pro lb Ted Hendricks from the Colts. An established, perenniel Pro Bowler, Hendricks had signed a contract with an upstart rival to the NFL the World Football League,which is why the Colts considered dealing him at all.

    In his one season in Green Bay the 6ft 7 in. "Mad Stork" was a one man gang on defense and special teams. He had 75 tackles in 14 games, 5 interceptions and a fumble recovery, scored a safety, blocked 7 kicks. Quarterback sacks were still not being kept as a statistic but he was a dangerous rusher blitzing from the edge.

    Defense, though, wasn't really the big problem in Green Bay during the Bengtson and Devine years. Of 45 games the Packers lost during those 7 seasons 18 or 38% were games in which the Packers held opponents to 17 pts or under. In those same 18 games, however, the Packers scored an average of only 6.4 pts.

    The offensive struggles were the direct result and consequence of the failure of the team to find a consistent, NFL-caliber quarterback to replace Bart Starr. Thinking Starr himself might revive the offense and bring the Pack back helped fuel the sentimentality driven decision to hire Starr as Packers head coach and general manager following Devine's resignation under fire.

    In time Starr would succeed in bringing the offense back and making it the identity of the club. But during the 9 year Starr era the defense would start to fall into patterns of disappointment and frustration that would recur for most of the following history of the team and sound all too familiar to present day fans.

    Hailed as "the people's choice" Starr was initially received with enthusiasm by a fan base appreciative of his achievements as the club's championship winning quarterback under Lombardi. A "fresh start with Bart" was widely expected. But the Packers were in a mess state and Starr's lack of coaching experience didn't help matters.

    The defense was considered his best asset heading into his first season in 1975 and Starr retained his old teammate Hawg Hanner as coordinator and assistant head coach. But a new set of position assistants was brought in among whom was a recently retired Detroit Lions cornerback Dick LeBeau.

    LeBeau would coach the Packers secondary for four seasons under Starr and, though the team was in a rebuilding mode with young players coming in, they would manage to produce double-digit interception totals each year. LeBeau, of course, was just starting his coaching career and it would be years before he would become the defensive guru and genius he is known as today.

    The Packers struggled to 4-10, 5-9 and 4-10 records in Starr's first 3 seasons and the defense dropped off from its previously more respectable standing. They went from 6th to 16th in defensive ranking in '75, improved slightly to 16th in '76 and dropped back to 18th in '77.

    Part of the reason for the drop-off was the loss of their best defensive member Ted Hendricks. A Devine loyalist, Hendricks didn't care to stay in Green Bay for an uncertain rebuilding program under Starr. After just one season with the Pack Hendricks signed with the Raiders and would go on to play on 3 more Super Bowl winning teams there; giving him four for his career and would be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Although a Packer for just one year Hendricks would be the only defensive player to serve in Green Bay between the Lombardi era and Reggie White to be inducted into Canton.

    But time was also marching on many of the players who had been on the defense since the beginning of the '70's. Starr gradually restructured the Packer secondary, bringing in safeties Steve Luke and Johnnie Gray and corners Mike McCoy, Perry Smith and Estus Hood. In 1976 the Packers signed a WFL and CFL veteran tackle Dave Roller.

    By 1977 the Packers had finally paid off the mortgage on the '74 Hadl trade and had two picks in the first round of the draft. Starr used them for de's Mike Butler and Ezra Johnson.

    The 1978 draft brought in linebackers John Anderson, Michael Hunt, Mike Douglass and Rich Wingo. And that year Starr dealt for run stuffing dt Carl Barzilauskas; a former first round pick of the Jets.

    For awhile in '78 it appeared that Starr was succeeding in bringing the Pack back. The team started 6-1 and at midseason had a commanding 3 game lead on the division. The defense was at the best it would ever be during the Starr tenure. Although it ranked only 19th it was the 8th toughest unit in the league to score on; giving up an average of only 16.8 ppg. They tallied 46 turnovers and, though qb sacks weren't yet being counted, by most estimates they approached 50. DE's Ezra Johnson and Mike Butler combined for an estimated 30+, with Johnson alone being credited with 20.5.

    This was the era when it was fashionable for top defenses to get monikers to recognize and tribute them. "The Steel Curtain, " the "Purple People Eaters," "Doomsday," "NoNames," "Fearsome Foursome," "Orange Crush." The '78 Packers took as their handle "The Gang Green."

    The club faltered, though, in the second half. They won only 2 and tied 1 of their last 9. Though they finished the season tied for first they lost out on the division title and the playoffs by the tiebreaker. But "The Gang Green" did their part of put the Pack back in the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. In three crucial games during the second half of the season the Packer defense held the Eagles and Vikings to 10 points and the Bears to 14. The offense, however, managed to score only 3 and 10 and were shut out in the third. Had the Packers won any one of those games they would have been NFC Central champions and in the playoffs.

    The team would fail to build on the promise of '78 in 1979. A plague of injuries decimated the team and the defense fell off as well. The Packers allowed 2,885 yds rushing that season; at the time the fourth worst in NFL history. Opponents rushed for 150+ yds in 14 of 16 games and ranked dead last in rushing defense and 23rd overall.

    Starr's coaching seat was now getting very warm. Club president Dominic Olejiczak and the Executive Committee gave him a vote of confidence but still removed him as general manager. It was mostly an administrative move. The Coach retained authority over the draft, trades and free agent signings.

    But Starr knew he couldn't ride forever on the reservoir of goodwill from his playing days. He decided on a dramatic shake-up of the team for 1980. He would convert the Packers to a 3-4 defense. To implement the new scheme he jettisoned the Packers' long time defensive assistnt Dave Hanner and promoted linebackers coach John Meyer to the coordinator's job.

    The centerpiece of the new defense was supposed to be Bruce Clark, the team's first round draft pick out of Penn St., as the nose tackle. But Clark, a 4-3 end in college, didn't want to play nose in a 3-4 or in Green Bay and warned the Packers against drafting him. Starr ignored him and took him with the fifth overall pick in the '80 draft. Clark promptly signed to play in the Canadian League and never played a down for the Packers.

    Losing Clark was only the first setback in what would turn out to be a bad year for the team playing its first 3-4. During a winless preseason game against Denver at Lambeau Field de Ezra Johnson was seen on the bench during the game eating a hot dog. The incident outraged defensive line coach Fred vonAppen, who was having issues already with the Packers' best pass rusher. When Starr meted out a discipline to the player that the assistant coach considered too lenient vonAppen abruptly resigned from the staff the week before the opening of the regular season.

    The year was essentially downhill from there. The Packers finished with another double-digit losing record. The team's first 3-4 defense gave up a club record 5,782 yds. and ranked 25th in the league.

    But the offensive pieces seemed to finally be coming together and by the early '80's the NFL game was changing to favor more offense. Defenses didn't have to be great any more, just good enough for the offense to outscore the opposition. At least that became the approach in Green Bay.

    Despite the poor first season there was reason to hope the Packers could yet develop into a respectable defense. They still had their bookend rushers Ezra Johnson and Mike Butler. The linebacking corps of John Anderson, George Cumby, Mike Hunt, Rich Wingo, Randy Scott and Mike Douglass were quick and could rush the passer or drop into coverage. By the early '80's the Packers had a now veteran secondary group in cb's Mike McCoy and Estus Hood and safeties Steve Luke and Johnnie Gray. And it would soon be upgraded with the draft additions of cb Mark Lee and s Mark Murphy and a free agency acquisition s Maurice Harvey.

    But nose tackle would be a continuing problem. Whether Bruce Clark would have lived up to expectations can only be speculated. The Packers tried several options on the nose in the wake of his loss. Charles Johnson, Terry Jones and Richard Turner were hardly dominant.

    In 1981 the defense improved notably,moving up to 9th in the league ranking but only 20th in points allowed. The Packers managed an 8-8 season and were in contention for the playoffs to the final game of the season.

    The 1982 season would get an asterisk for the two month strike by the NFL players union two weeks into the schedule. The season was reduced to only 9 games and the league had to scrap its usual format for the playoffs. The Packers went in as the third "seed" behind Washington and Dallas; which got them their first home playoff since the "Ice Bowl," 15 years before.

    The Pack won big over the St.Louis Cardinals 41-16, even though they were actually outgained in the game. The Packer defense gave up 453 yds., including 347 passing, but generated four turnovers to help make the game a scoreboard rout. The next round in Dallas they would not be so fortunate. Against a playoff seasoned Cowboys team the defense got punched for 375 yds. and 37 pts and Green Bay's best chance for a Super Bowl in the Starr coaching era came to an end a game short of the championship round.

    In 1983 the Packers would reach the offensive height and the defensive valley of the Starr tenure. The offense produced at historic levels while the defense was its mirror opposite. The Packers scored 52 td's and the defense got torched for 50. The Packers scored 429 pts. and allowed 439. They racked up 6,172 yds. and allowed 6,403. They had the 28th ranked defensive team in the league.

    As a result the team traded wins and lossses throughout the season but would still make the playoffs if they won the season finale in Chicago. Leading 21-20 in the fourth quarter the defense needed to make only one stand for the season. And they didn't. The Bears drove 58 yds. in 10 plays in the final 3 minutes and kicked the game winning field goal in the last 10 seconds. The defense for the day allowed 369 yds., including 236 rushing - led by Walter Payton's 148.

    The loss dropped Green Bay from the playoffs and the next day Starr was fired as head coach; leaving a coaching record over 9 seasons of only 52-76-3. The defensive part of the story of the Starr coaching era was bad luck and some bad decisions and in a few instances a combination.

    On the hard luck side was the case of 1978 second round pick lb Mike Hunt out of Minnesota. His career was curtailed by injuries, including concussions after only 3 years but he was only active for one full season. The Bruce Clark case and the 1983 free agency defectiion to the United States Football League of former first round de Mike Butler were a combination of luck and decision making by Starr.

    Then there were some crucial misses on opportunity in the draft when top notch defensive prospects were available but passed on. In 1981, with the fifth overall pick in the first round, Starr took qb Rich Campbell; who would be a complete bust. The players selected immediately after Campbell were lb Hugh Green (Tampa Bay) and s Ronnie Lott (49ers) who would both go on to all-pro careers- and in the case of Lott to the Hall of Fame. In 1982 Starr reached at #22 for guard Ron Hallstrom of Iowa. Had he looked to the other side of the Hawkeyes team he would have noticed lb Andre Tippett, who would have a HOF career with New England. Starr would not use a first round pick on a defensive player again until 1983 when he took good cornerback prospect Tim Lewis. Another play who, unfortunately, would have his career prematurely ended by a neck injury.

    The knock on Starr from the beginning of his coaching career was that he was too gentlemanly, "too nice a guy" to be a successful NFL head coach. What the Packers needed, in the opinion at the time, was an old-fashioned ear chewing, butt-kicking coach; as the popular perception of Lombardi had become. And the Packers seemed to have just that kind in their next coaching hire, another of Lombardi's Hall of Famers Forrest Gregg. (End of part 1.)
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
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  2. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Advance to 14:30 in this summary of Super Bowl II for a good feature of the Packers' defense of the 1960's. www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=video&cd=11&ved=0CFQQuAIwCg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailymotion.com%2Fvideo%2Fx2fgwe7&ei=xrgjVd6zFcXWsAXv54GIDA&usg=AFQjCNHaFxR3nicRvOkHmKcZfShUuDoraQ&bvm=bv.89947451,d.b2w

    L-R: Lionel Aldridge, LeRoy Caffey, Hank Jordan, Ron Kostelnik, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson http://cache1.asset-cache.net/gc/153383735-football-green-bay-packers-lionel-aldridge-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=GkZZ8bf5zL1ZiijUmxa7QayU50cxHuESWMYB5CKuyBCtY82TZbBBQnW7/06PY9rMgQW9TpdGm5mHMl6QEH4BVA==

    Willie Davis http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/d0/93/41/d093412c6dd1e451a2462d3ca4d49135.jpg

    Ray Nitschke http://homepages.uwp.edu/baile022/RayNitschke.jpg

    Dave Robinson's story http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Dave-Robinsons-road-to-Green-Bay/202243bd-10be-4e63-8393-0a62e206fa33
    Dave Robinson's story http://www.packers.com/media-center...-Packers/24b50493-3daa-4e61-b512-635d6d864f93

    The dynamic duo Willie Wood & Herb Adderley http://media.jrn.com/images/638*360/620wtmj_021715_wood_adderley.jpg

    Bob Jeter http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/000/365/831/Bob_Jeter_display_image.jpg?1283006445

    Bill Forester http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/forester-provided-packers-with-talented-versatility-6o7or5h-181309851.html

    Tom Brown intercepts to save 1966 NFL Championship win over Dallas http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5jRDome29...ACUk/_-ECslyyeDI/s1600/Brown_Tom1_Packers.jpg

    Phil Bengtson http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Pk49mVrUKD0/SQJy8sV9GNI/AAAAAAAABBU/hdG8duJ6oBA/s400/phil_bengsten_01.jpg

    "Hawg" Hanner http://media.jrn.com/images/mjs-dave-hannerb.jpg

    Mike McCoyhttp://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Mike-McCoy-We-were-the-new-kids-on-the-block/9f1b4f37-0733-4e8d-a157-0161fcba3f56

    Willie Buchanon http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Willie-Buchanon-We-had-the-talent-/c1de325c-bd27-4f41-a5ab-0f11fe4b45c0

    Jim Carter http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Alumni-Spotlight-Jim-Carter/4ee84d78-24d9-4de9-903f-3dce8479158b

    Sweeny Williams http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Alumni-Spotlight-Clarence-Williams/169d203a-a3ef-43e3-9ec7-59f294f2a3f3

    Bob Brown http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/a-real-heavy-hitter-v23v558-138529409.html

    Fred Carr http://lombardiave.com/2014/07/13/53-days-packers-football-fred-carr/

    Ken Ellis http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Ken-Ellis-Green-Bay-was-the-ideal-place-for-me/f1a33d0c-6936-4593-ae82-7219c90f996d

    Ted Hendricks

    The "Mad Stork" in Green & Gold http://www.posters.ws/images/836207/ted_hendricks_on_sidelines_photofile.jpg

    Dave Hanner http://www.packers.com/assets/image...le_images/2015/04-april/150409-hanner-950.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2015
  3. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
  4. yooperpackfan

    yooperpackfan Cheesehead

    Jul 16, 2005
    Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy should read the OP.
    They might get an idea as to what defense has meant to the Green Bay Packers.
    Perhaps it would light a fire under their butts.
  5. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
  6. JBlood

    JBlood Cheesehead

    Dec 4, 2004
    Packerlifer's post is excellent. It should be noted that the Packers' defenses under Bengston were extremely simple (http://www.packers.com/news-and-eve...-Packers/f832b109-4e5d-467d-a288-8a5b352c65be), which shows the importance of playmakers on those teams. The game has changed a lot since then, but the need for playmakers on both sides of the ball has not. We need a few more on the defensive side of today's team.
  7. HardRightEdge

    HardRightEdge Cheesehead

    Jul 28, 2012
    If McCarthy had to look back at history to appreciate the disfunctions of last season's D, we'd be in more trouble than we think. Fortunately, McCarthy's move back, up, away (choose a favorite phrase) from micromanaging the offense is clear indication he appreciates the urgency.
  8. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    PART 2: Forrest Gregg had turned around losing teams in Cleveland and Cincinnati. He had been named AFC "coach of the year" with the Browns in 1976 and had taken the 1981 Bengals to the Super Bowl. But he had also been fired from both his previous NFL head coaching jobs as his teams had started to regress. Gregg's demanding intensity and brusque personality could be wearing on players and in an organization in time. But the Packers were close to contention and the club led by president Robert Parins thought he could push the Pack "over the top."

    Gregg was also expected to bring the answer to the Packers' defensive debacle of 1983. His Cincinnati team had the top ranked defense in the league and accompanying Gregg to Green Bay would be several members of his defensive staff, including highly regarded coordinator Hank Bullough. Bullough was a master at that time of the 3-4 defense and played a leading role in introducing and popularizing the scheme in the NFL. He was one of the major formative influences on Dick LeBeau; who had also served on that Bengals staff. LeBeau, however, did not return to Green Bay with the Gregg hire.

    Before Bullough could take over the Packers defense, however, he was intercepted by a head coaching offer in the United States Football League. The deal fell through but he was hired instead as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. To replace him Gregg promoted another member of his Cincinnati staff defensive line coach Dick Modzelewski as coordinator. "Modz" would dc the Packer defense for the entire four year term of Gregg.

    Gregg set about straightaway to deal with the Packers' defensive issues. His first round pick in the 1984 draft was de Alphonso Carreker. In the third round he took Donnie Humphrey, projected as a nose tackle but able to play end as well. He also brought in an undrafted, small college nose tackle Charles Martin. Robert Brown, a 1982 draftee, would be promoted to defensive end and become one of the longest tenured players in Packers' history.

    Gregg also began to bring in bigger, more physical linebackers to replace the relatively smallish ones that Starr had been using in his 3-4. Between 1984-87 Gregg would add John Dorsey, Tim Harris, Burnell Dent, Johnny Holland, Brian Noble and Scott Stephan.

    Gregg also liked "hitters" in his secondary as well. Coming in to Green Bay during the Gregg years were safeties Tom Flynn, Ken Stills, Tiger Greene, and cb Mossy Cade.

    The Packers improved markedly on defense in 1984, moving up from 28th to 16th in their league ranking and giving up 130 fewer points than the previous season, ranking 10th at 19.3 ppg. In 1985 they moved up even a little more becoming the league's 12th ranked unit. But the Packers were able to produce only a pair of 8-8 seasons in Gregg's first two years and he decided the team had "plateaued out" at .500 and needed a major shake up.

    Gregg massively purged the Packers' roster in 1986 and the result was a club record 12 loss season, including an 0-6 start. Most of the change came on the offense and the defense managed to keep its 12th ranking but it fell to 27th in scoring at 26.1ppg. Some of the point yield, though, could be blamed on a struggling, turnover prone offense that allowed turnovers to be run back for touchdowns against them or placing the defense in difficult short field situations.

    Confidence in Gregg began to dissipate among the fans and with the Packers executive committee. But he still had two years remaining on his contract and there was reluctance to deny him a fair chance. But the club did bring in an executive vice president of football operations, Tom Braatz, a long time NFL front office exec. Problem was there was no clear delineation of authority between the new general manager and the head coach; a reason they didn't land another interviewed candidate for the job Ron Wolf in 1987.

    The only winning Packers team Gregg coached was the 1987 strike replacement team. After two weeks the NFL was hit for the second time in 5 years by a player strike by the NFL Players Association. This time the league played on, using "replacement players" while the regulars walked picket lines. The Packers replacement team managed a 2-1 record. The regulars, before and after the strike, were only 3-8-1.

    The Packers were not only losing but acquiring a negative reputation and image on and off the field under Gregg. There were several serious incidents of off field bad acting by some players; the most notorious being the case of cb Mossy Cade. On the field, too, the Packers were coming under complaint for being an at least borderline "dirty" team. Especially in games against their oldest rivals the Bears. http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/mike-ditka-to-this-day-i-dont-respect-forrest-gregg/.

    Gregg resolved the increasingly deteriorating situation by resigning in January 1988 to become athletic director and football coach at his alma mater Southern Methodist University. After 13 years of trying to recapture the glory of the Lombardi era with former Packers greats as coaches the club was ready to try for a "real" head coach on the next search. Their first choice was the recent Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship winning coach George Perles of Michigan St. Perles had been defensive coordinator of the famous "Steel Curtain" defense of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl dynasty of the 1970's. But Perles turned the Packers down at the last minute which sent them to their second choice Lindy Infante.

    Infante was a highly regarded offensive coordinator. He had been oc for Gregg in Cincinnati in 1981 when the Bengals reached the Super Bowl. And under Marty Schottenheimer in Cleveland he had produced one of the league's most efficient offenses and helped the Browns to two consecutive classic AFC Championship games against John Elway and the Denver Broncos in '86-'87. He had also briefly been a head coach in the USFL.

    Since the offense at the time was the unit particularly struggling Infante seemed a good hire. But the Packers also gained a bonus when they got the defensive coordinator they had expected four years earlier Hank Bullough. People remembered what happened the last time the Packers had been turned down by a Big Ten coach and went with an NFL offensive coordinator of Italian background instead. If Infante was to be a latter day Lombardi Bullough would be his Bengtson.

    Of course it never played out that way. In three of the four years Infante ran the team the Packers finished with double-digit losing seasons. But there was one exceptional teaser in the second year in 1989 when the Pack went 10-6 and just missed the playoffs by tiebreaker.

    The offense was mostly responsible for that season. It would be one of the ironies of the Infante era that offense, which was his forte, would most of the time by the major liability for the team. Injuries and some notably bad luck with prime draft choices would be at the heart of those problems.

    The defense, however, under Bullough was generally respectable. It was only 16th in ranking in '89 but was top ten in the first and fourth seasons; reaching 7th in 1988 and 10th in '91. The unit was 11th in points allowed in '88 (19.7 ppg).

    During this time the Packers had, arguably, the best set of linebackers they would ever have while playing a 3-4. Brian Noble and Johnny Holland were steady on the inside and , first, Tim Harris and John Anderson and later Bryce Paup and Tony Bennett would give them outstanding outside linebacker play.


    Harris had a particularly great year in the 10-win season of '89. He set the Packers' still standing official record for qb sacks in a season with 19.5. Paup and Bennett would follow him as double-digit sackers themselves.

    The Packers played with a veteran secondary group during these seasons. Long time Packers Mark Lee, Mark Murphy, Ken Stills were still around. The club also made trades for experienced veterans Dave Brown and Jerry Holmes.

    They didn't lack youth, however. A hard hitting safety Chuck Cecil emerged during the Infante years and in 1990 the Packers drafted a safety who would in time go on to become one of the greatest in team history LeRoy Butler.

    The line,however, lacked consistency. Former first rounder Alphonso Carreker left after the '88 season and Robert Brown was in the late stages of his long career with the team. The Packers shuffled Blaise Winter, Matt Brock, Bob Nelson, Jerry Boyarsky, Esera Tuaolo, Lester Archambeau and Shawn Patterson around in hopes of finding a winning combination up front.

    As the Packers opened the 1990's with a 10-22 start it appeared they were only beginning a third decade of losing. It was approaching a quarter century with no title in Titletown, by far the longest championship drought in club history. Talk of privatizing the club and possibly relocating it; not heard since the dismal 1950's, was once again being revived.

    But changes were underway at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. In 1989 Bob Harlan became club president and ceo. Harlan had been in the Packers front office for almost 20 years and had a front row seat for the goings on in the organizatiion during the '70's and '80's. Harlan had a vision of making the Packers winner and champions once again. And in 1991 he began to translate the vision into reality.

    He replaced Tom Braatz as GM with Ron Wolf. He gave Wolf full authority over the Packers' football operation: drafting, trading, free agent signing and the hiring or firing of the head coach. Wolf spent the closing weeks of the '91 season evaluating the Packers team and coaching and when the 4-12 season ended he fired Infante and brought in Mike Holmgren as the new head coach. (End of Part 2.)
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  9. weeds

    weeds Cheesehead

    Dec 9, 2004
    I feel as though lighting a fire under their butts isn't going to be enough. I'm thinking it might be better to light their butt on fire -- there is a difference. ;)

    I've never been a fan of the 3-4 or the variations that the Capers schemes provide. They very seldom line up in a base 3-4 these days, but they're still heavy in personnel suited to the 3-4 ... and as I've said ... I've never been a fan.

    Even in 2010, I sat through that season waiting for the other shoe to drop -- waiting for the defense of the first half of the season to magically reappear in the playoffs. I don't have the answer...I'm 'jes sayin'.

    After Ray Rhodes left as DC (story goes his wife despised Green Bay) and Holmgren went looking for a new DC ... he picked up Fritz, because Shurmur knew how to shut down a West Coast offense. Holmgren commented that during his time in SF, the Rams just gave him fits. I feel as though the Capers' schemes in a variant 3-4 is something of a cookie cutter approach in providing juuusssttttt ennnouuuugh defense to outscore an opponent.

    Anyway, the references to the defenses of the late 70's and early-to-mid 80's brought back the all too familiar cold sweats. Haha... thanks for that. :)
  10. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 3.

    Mike Holmgren arrived in Green Bay after coaching only 6 years in the NFL; first as quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. He had been on the team for two Super Bowl winning seasons and was close to a third. Working under the top coach of the decade Bill Walsh he had mastered the intricacies of the famous West Coast offense and even began to develop refinements of it to take it to new heights. He had experience working with two future Hall of Fame qb's Joe Montana and Steve Young. It was his work for the Niners offense in 1991 when both Montana and Young were injured and he kept the unit elite with third stringer Steve Bono playing it that really boosted Holmgren to the top of head coaching prospects for the coming year.

    The Packers had presumably made some impression on Holmgren from two games against San Francisco during his time there. In 1989 the Packers had gone to the West Coast and upset the Super Bowl reigning and bound 49ers 21-17. In that game Holmgren had seen the Packer defense sack Joe Montana 6 times and force 4 turnovers as well as getting a first hand look at qb Don Majkowski in his career year. In 1990 the Niners had come to Green Bay and won a close 24-20 decision in which the Packers had held them to only 34 rushing yds. on 20 attempts.

    Holmgren retained two assistants from the previous regime; defensive line coach Greg Blache and secondary coach Dick Jauron. He brought in as his coordinator fellow 49ers assistant Ray Rhodes. Rhodes had coached the San Francisco secondary for ten years, helping them to 4 Super Bowl wins and handling such all-pros as Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Dwight Hicks.

    Holmgren and Rhodes decided to stay with the 3-4 defense during their first two seasons in Green Bay. They were, after all, inheriting a top ten unit from the previous season and the strength of the unit was in their linebacker corps of Bennett, Noble, Holland and Paup.

    With his first first round pick as GM of the Packers Ron Wolf selected cb Terrell Buckley. A highly regarded prospect at the time Buckley, though, was overhyped in some quarters as "a next Deion Sanders. " The Packers expected to pair Buckley with the previous year's first round choice Vinnie Clark in giving them a long term shutdown, playmaking pair on their corners.

    The Packers brought in a new nose tackle John Jurkovic and linebacker George Koonce and promoted safety LeRoy Butler to a starting position next to Chuck Cecil.

    Holmgren succeeded in doing what no Packers coach since Lombardi did in '92; producing a winning record. The Packers went 9-7 and just missed the playoffs by losing their final game of the season at Minnesota.

    Most of the story of 1992 was on the offensive side where the acquisition and emergence of qb Brett Favre and an historic passing combination with wr Sterling Sharpe were the headlines. The defense dipped to 23rd in league ranking. but there were some positives. They were 15th in scoring defense; allowing 18.5 ppg. They got a good pass rushing season from lbs Tony Bennett (13.5 sacks) and Bryce Paup (6.5). Safety Chuck Cecil picked off 4 passes and rookie Buckley 3.

    The defense, though, would make the headline during the 1993 offseason. Reggie White, the greatest free agent in NFL history, was on the market. The all-pro defensive end of the Eagles was coveted by every team in the league, most made pitches to him. Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, the Jets and Cleveland were thought to be the leaders. That little Green Bay had any chance seemed impossible. The sports world was stunned and Packers' fans stunned and delighted on April 6,1993 by the announcement that Reggie would be coming to Green Bay.

    Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren had pursued White with determination and skills. And a four year contract at $17 million. Reggie immediately gave Green Bay a credibility and cache the Packers hadn't seen in decades. He would be a transformative player for the franchise, not only making plays on defense but exerting leadership and inspiration for the entire team.

    The only question was how would Reggie do in the Packers' scheme. He had never been in a 3-4 defense before but soon proved it didn't matter. In his first season in Green & Gold he registered 13 sacks, 79 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 3 recovered fumbles. With Reggie on board the Packers' defense rose to second in the league rankings; Green Bay's highest in 21 years.

    White wasn't the only addition to make a difference to the defense in 1993. The club had a particularly productive draft for players who would make an immediate or early starting impact. With two first round picks Wolf nabbed lb Wayne Simmons and s George Teague and in the 6th round cb Doug Evans. The Packers also picked up a big run stuffing, pocket-collapsing nose tackle Gilbert Brown (aka The Gravedigger) on waivers from Minnesota.

    The Packers produced another 9-7 season but this time it was enough to put them in the playoffs. The Packers clinched their playoff berth in the next to last game of the season at Lambeau when they shut out a contending Raiders team 28-0. This was the game in which Reggie White and LeRoy Butler collaborted on a fumble recovery return for a td that began the now familiar tradition of touchdown celebration by the Packers at home known as "the Lambeau Leap."

    The Packers had a shot at winning the NFC Central Division title in the final game of the season the following week at Detroit. And the Lions would be without their great runningback Barry Sanders, due to a knee injury. But the Packers couldn't capitalize on the opportunity. Back-up Eric Lynch hit them for 115 yds on 30 carries and scored two td's. The offense had a meltdown game with 5 turnovers, including 4 interceptions off qb Brett Favre. Detroit won 30-20 and the Packers would have to return to the Pontiac Silverdome the next weekend for the Wild Card playoff. And Barry Sanders would be back for that game.

    For much of the playoff the Lions pushed the Pack around and were threatening to break the game open in the third quarter as they moved into the Packers' defensive red zone with a 17-14 lead. Safety George Teague saved the day, though, by intercepting qb Erik Kramer's pass in the end zone and returning it 101 yds. for a td. The play gave the Packers a temporary lead but kept it close enough for Green Bay to pull it out in the last seconds on Brett Favre's 40 yd. pass to Sterling Sharpe against a blown Lions' defensive coverage.

    The Lions, though, put up 410 yds. on the Packers' defense, including 175 rushing, led by Barry Sanders 169 on 27 carries. The 28-24 win sent the Pack on to the divisional round to face the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. As would happen for 3 consecutive seasons the Packers would be eliminated by the Cowboys in postseason play. They put on a spirited effort in the 27-17 loss, as both teams were rather ragged. The game showed that the Packers had a ways to go to reach Dallas' level. But reach it in time they would and major changes on the defense would be a big part of that progress. (End of Part 3)
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  11. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    The great, incomparable Reggie White. http://www.nfl.com/videos/all-time-greats/0ap3000000483441/NFL-Legends-Reggie-White-career-highlights

    LeRoy Butler initiates the Lambeau Leap.http://www.nfl.com/videos/green-bay-packers/09000d5d8206bde1/The-first-Lambeau-Leap

    The Gravedigger Gilbert Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CMoVoM-rPg

    Craig Newsome https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOHo4R7osn8

    Sean Jones profile http://www.nfl.com/player/seanjones/2501518/profile

    LeRoy Butler career stats http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/ButlLe00.htm

    Santana Dotson http://www.packers.com/news-and-events/article-1/Dotson-answered-the-call-in-96/89a8457e-938a-42a3-94bd-ee2e71ca9a86

    Mike Prior http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Alumni-Spotlight-Mike-Prior/aa87886f-19e8-43c6-ad8a-0384ad01eb8c

    Doug Evans http://www0.nfl.packers.com/news/stories/2006/07/28/1/

    Wayne Simmons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqbcj0dg5AE

    Fritz Shurmur http://brophyfootball.blogspot.com/2012/11/fritz-shurmur-nickel- dime-defense.html

    George Koonce https://localtvwiti.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/koonce-packers-closeup.jpg

    The Shut-Down of Barry Sanders http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/01/sports/sports-of-the-times-minus-1-new-number-for-barry-sanders.html

    Brian Williams http://www0.nfl.packers.com/news/stories/2006/09/15/4/

    Eugene Robinson http://media.jrn.com/images/1996eugene.jpg

    LeRoy Butlerhttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91NUnDb-0uL._SL1500_.jpg

    Bernardo Harris http://www.packertime.com/2001/101401/photos/2-43.jpg
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  12. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 4:

    Ray Rhodes left the Packers after the '93 season to return to San Francisco as defensive coordinator there. Fortunately for Green Bay one of the most experienced, creative, respected defensive coaches in football was available to replace him. Fritz Shurmur by that time had been coaching defense in the NFL for almost 20 years; 13 as a coordinator for the Lions, Patriots, Rams and Cardinals. http://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/04/11/fritz-shurmurs-eagle-defense-the-birthplace-of-the-zone-blitz/.(to be continued.)

    And with new defensive coaching the Packers also switched defensive schemes. After 14 seasons as a 3-4 team they converted to 4-3 in 1994 and would play that scheme for the next 14 years. The decision was driven in part by circumstance. Former first round olb Tony Bennett had already left in free agency the year before. Injuries had ended the careers of Brian Noble and Johnny Holland. And as good as Reggie White had been in Green Bay's 3-4 the previous season it was still felt he would be most effective playing with a four man front. The Packers brought in veteran all-pro Sean Jones in free agency to bookend Reggie.

    The team also added a veteran mlb Fred Strickland, who had played under Shurmur before with the Rams. Strickland's addition allowed the Packers to move George Koonce outside opposite Bryce Paup.

    An interesting addition to the team in '94 was 37 year old dt Steve McMichael; a member of the famous 1985 Chicago Bears "46" defense. McMichael would play in all 16 games, 14 as a starter in '94 as part of a rotation at tackle with John Jurkovic, Gabe Wilkins and Gilbert Brown. He would manage 2.5 sacks, 19 tackles and 9 assists.

    The Packers produced a third consecutive 9-7 season in 1994 and for the second year in a row made the playoffs as a wild card team. But that was considered a bit of underachievement as rising expectations were by now attaching to the club.

    The defense led the league for the first half of the season but then fell off during the second half and dipped from second to 6th in the final rankings. Though they did manage to hold steady in allowing 17.9 ppg and ranking 5th in scoring for the season.

    Reggie White dropped from 13 to 8 sacks but much of the slack was picked up by newcomer Sean Jones who posted 10.5 sacks in his first season in Green Bay.

    In a particular "test" game the Packers visited Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and couldn't stop third string qb Jason Garrett, who led the Cowboys to a 42-31 win after trailing at the half 17-7.

    The Wild Card playoffs in the NFC in '94 were an all-NFC Central tournament as the Vikings, Lions and Bears all also made the postseason that year. For the second year in a row the Packers would face the Lions in a playoff, but this time at Lambeau.

    The two had split their season games, with each winning a shoot-out at home. The Lions were a good team. They had won two of the previous 3 division titles and were in the playoffs for the third time in four years. And they had the best runningback of his generation in Barry Sanders; the 1994 NFL rushing champions with almost 1,900 yds.

    Two weeks before the playoffs, however, the Packers had suffered a huge blow. All-Pro wr Sterling Sharpe suffered a neck injury, that would prove to be career ending, in the Packers' final game at Milwaukee County Stadium against Atlanta. Brett Favre passing to Sharpe was essentially the Green Bay offense at that time so his loss was gigantic. It would place even more stress than before on the defense for this playoff game.

    In their two games against Detroit in 1994 the Packer defense had allowed 64 points and over 700 yards. Barry Sanders had hit them for 188 rushing yds. in their previous meeting in Pontiac. And he had demonstrated before that he could run against them on grass in Green Bay or Milwaukee in prior career games. It would take a monumental effort by the defense for the Packers to win this playoff game.

    Monumental is what the Packer defense produced. They held Barry Sanders to minus-1 yd. rushing on 13 carries and the Lions as a team to minus-4 yds. on 15 attempts as the Packers edged out a 16-12 win to advance once again to a divisional round playoff at Dallas.

    And once again they would see their season end there. The Cowboys handed the Packers their worst playoff defeat ever 35-9. Dallas racked up 450 yds on the Packers. QB Troy Aikman completed 23 of 30 passes and 3 Cowboys receivers had 100 yd. receiving days.

    One conclusion coming out of the Dallas debacle was that the Packers needed a bigger, more physical corner to match up with the big Cowboys receivers. Former first rounder Terrell Buckley had been particularly roughed up in that game and the Packers would let him walk in free agency the next off season. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BuckTe20.htm.

    The Packers would replace Buckley in the first round of the 1995 draft with Craig Newsome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JflWgKvcts.

    The Packers would achieve a breakthrough season in 1995. They won 11 games, their highest total since 1966. They captured the NFC Central Division title for the first time since 1972. And they would break a playoff barrier to reach their first championship game since Super Bowl II.

    For the first half of the season the Packer defense led the league. Until another meet-up with the Cowboys in Dallas in which they were hit for 448 yds and began a second half tail-off to end up ranked 14th. But they were 4th in scoring, giving up only 19.6ppg. Reggie White returned to double-digit sacks with 12 and Sean Jones added 9, leading the Packers' total of 39 qb sacks for the seasons. They could have used the 17.5 sacks made that season by Bryce Paup, who left the team in free agency that offseason, in Buffalo.

    The Packers' 37-20 wild card playoff win at Lambeau over Atlanta was perhaps a representative game of the year for the defense. They gave up 366 passing yards and touchdowns on plays of 65 and 27 yds. but snared 2 INTs and held the Falcons to only 21 yds rushing and 20 points.

    In the divisional playoff the Packers were once again expected to be eliminated. This time they would be going to the West Coast to take on the defending Super Bowl champion and playoff favorite 49ers.

    On the first play from scrimmage lb Wayne Simmons delivered a jarring tackle on Niners back Adam Walker, forcing a fumble which Craig Newsome scooped up and returned 31 yds for a td. Before the 49ers knew it they were down 21-0 and, although they would rally in the second half, Green Bay held on for the 27-17 upset win.

    The Packer defense forced 4 turnovers and sacked all-pro qb Steve Young 3 times in the game in addition to producing the game changing initial score.

    The win was a particularly satisfying one for head coach Mike Holmgren, who was returning to his hometown against the club he began his NFL coaching career with. And it sent the Packers to their first championship game appearance in 28 years.

    Unfortunately that NFC Championship Game was played at Dallas and with the usual result of a Packers' loss. They actually led 27-24 at the end of three quarters but then the Cowboys flexed their muscle and blew past the Pack in the fourth for the 38-27 win and go on to their third Super Bowl win in four seasons.

    The Cowboys hit the Packer defense for 419 yds. in the game. Emmit Smith rushed for 150 of Dallas' 169 team rushing yards and scored 3 td's. Troy Aikman was his usual efficient self against Green Bay completing 21 of 33 passes for 255 yds. and 2 td's with no interceptions and was sacked only once.

    In 6 games against Dallas under Mike Holmgren- five of which were at Dallas and all of which Green Bay lost - the Cowboys had run up 212 pts and 2,529 yds (1,771 passing, 758 rushing.) The Packers had managed to hold them under 30 points only once (27.) Four straight times the Cowboys had amassed over 400 yds. against the Packers. If the Packers were ever to make the Super Bowl they would have to figure out how to beat Dallas.

    Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren knew their club was close as they loaded up to take down the Cowboys and win the Super Bowl themselves in 1996. The defensive mismatches for them against Dallas had mostly been dt John Jurkovic, mlb Fred Strickland, cb Terrell Buckley and s George Teague.

    In free agency in '96 Wolf signed dt Santana Dotson from one of the top defensive teams in the league in Tampa Bay. Dotson could give the Packers more power and inside rush. The Packers also pursued another Bucs' Pro Bowler mlb Hardy Nickerson but were unable to close a deal with him. Fortunately second year lb Brian Williams emerged into a starter, allowing the Packers to move George Koonce to the middle. For additional depth and insurance Wolf also signed ex-Bear veteran Ron Cox. For the final piece Wolf traded for veteran Pro Bowl safety Eugene Robinson from Seattle and traded George Teague. (He would , ironically, end up playing in Dallas that season.)

    With the defense upgraded and the offense led by league MVP qb Brett Favre the table was set for 1996.

    End of Part 4.
    Last edited: May 6, 2015
  13. Vrill

    Vrill Cheesehead

    Nov 1, 2011
    Honestly, with our offense, we only need a middle of the pack defense to be Super Bowl contenders. As long as our D is ranked in that 15th area, we'll be fine.
  14. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 5.

    NFL Films, in its feature on Super Bowl XXXI, describes the 1996 Packers as "a colossus." Seldom has a team ever been as balanced, complete and deep as that club. Dominating the league in historic fashion by the time their 13-3 regular season ended and the playoffs began it could be said that they didn't have a weakness. http://www.packershistory.net/1996PACKERS.html . (to be continued.)

    The defense that season reached a level not seen in Green Bay since the prime Lombardi years. The '96 Packers were the league's top ranked defense and its lowest score allowing at 210 pts total for the season (13.1 ppg.) They were first against the pass and 4th against the run. They produced a relatively modest 37 sacks but generated 50 turnovers. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/gnb/1996.htm

    Across the line they presented opponents with "the Minister of Defense" Reggie White, Gilbert Brown "the Gravedigger," Santana Dotson and Sean Jones. Behind them patrolled lb's Wayne Simmons, George Koonce and Brian Williams. Craig Newsome and Doug Evans manned the corners. LeRoy Butler and Eugene Robinson were high impact safeties.

    The depth on that team is frequently overlooked nowadays but those players gave the defense depth and versatility and helped the Packers to achieving the best special teams in the league that season as well.

    Line back-ups included Gabe Wilkins, Bob Kuberski, Darius Holland, Keith McKenzie. Behind the starting trio at linebacker the Pack had Bernardo Harris, Ron Cox, Lamont Hollinquest. Veteran safety Mike Prior and rookie corner Tyrone Williams and Roderick Mullen allowed Fritz Shurmur to use his patented nickel and dime defenses to maximum effect.

    The Packers also led the league in scoring that season and qb Brett Favre picked up his second consecutive league MVP award. But the offense had issues during the season. The running game was slow to develop into the two-headed monster of Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens. Injuries bit hard on the receiving corps, with 3 starters lost for significant parts of the year. And an issue ensued at left tackle after long time starter Ken Ruettger was forced to retire due to injury.

    While the offense was something of a work in progress the defense was set to carry the team through the stretch. After starting 8-1 the team lost two straight road games to Kansas City and Dallas and looked to be on the verge of a third at St.Louis. Trailing the Rams in the third quarter and struggling, Doug Evans intercepted and returned a pass 32 yds. for a td that put the Pack in the lead. Like a door swinging on a hinge, the play ignited the Packers and they never looked back the rest of the year.

    The 13 win season tied for the club record for wins in a season with Vince Lombardi's 1962 club, won a second straight NFC Central title for Green Bay and most importantly secured home field advantage for the playoffs for them; considered a crucial requisite for finally beating Dallas.

    The Packers won their divisional round playoff at Lambeau over the 49ers 35-14. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199701040gnb.htm San Francisco played the game without all-pro qb Steve Young. The Packer defense held the Niners to 196 total yards and forced 5 turnovers, including 3 interceptions of qb Elvis Grbac. As the final minutes of the victory ticked off the fans in the Lambeau stands began to chant, "We want Dallas."

    They would not get Dallas, however. The Cowboys Super Bowl reign was ended in the playoffs that year by the second year expansion club Carolina Panthers. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/car/1996.htm . Coached by Dom Capers and with Bill Polian leading in the front office the Panthers had risen farther and faster than any expansion club in NFL history. In just their second year of existence they had won 12 games, taken the "No.2 seed" in the playoffs and dethroned the defending world champions. They would be underdogs against the Packers but could not be underestimated.

    In the first championship game to be played in Green Bay since "the Ice Bowl" the visiting Southern team was greeted with classic Packer weather conditions. A 3 degree temp and wind chill of minus-16. The Panthers gave fans a few anxious moments early as they cashed in on two turnovers off Brett Favre for a pair of temporary leads. But once the offense settled down and the defense settled in it was really no contest. The Pack won 30-13, holding the Panthers to 251 total yds. producing 2 sacks and 3 turnovers. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199701120gnb.htm (to be continued.)

    Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans was as much the Packers' coronation as the NFL's world championship game. The culmination of a four year building program and a season long expectation. The Packers' opponent the New England Patriots were a good young team, coached by two time Super Bowl winning veteran Bill Parcells. They put up a gallant fight but really never had a chance of winning.

    All three phases of the Packers team displayed their power. The offense rolled up over 300 yds. with a balanced attack; 115 yds rushing, 246 passing, and put 3 touchdowns on the board plus executed a successful two point conversion.

    Special teams dominated. Desmond Howard, the game MVP, returned 10 kick-offs and punts for 244 yds, averaged 15.4 yds. per punt return and 38.5 on kickoffs; including a 99 yds. return for a td. Chris Jacke connected on two of three field goal attempts. The Packers' own coverage teams bottled up one of the game's most dangerous returners Dave Meggett, allowing only 23.5 yds on kick returns and 7.5 on punts.

    And the defense did what it did all year long. They allowed the Patriots only 43 rushing yards for the game and 257 total. They sacked qb Drew Bledsoe 5 times and intercepted four of his passes.

    They struggled for awhile with the Pats' throwing to fullback Keith Byars out of the backfield and with New England's Pro Bowl te Ben Coates. The Patriots temporarily led 14-10 in the second period and closed to within 6 in the third. But once the Packers got that figured out New England's goose was effectively cooked.

    Desmond Howard's 99 yd. kick return for a td and a successful two point conversion put the Pack up by 14 but there were still 3 minutes left in the third quarter and all of the fourth for New England to come back. The defense would seal the deal. The Patriots had 5 possession after the Howard return but two would be killed by interceptions and 3 others would end in punts. Reggie White sacked Bledsoe 3 times, a Super Bowl record. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199701260gnb.htm.

    After 29 years the Packers were world champions again and they were well manned and structured for a repeat in 1997. There was talk of a new dynasty rising again in Titletown. That talk would continue right up to the next Super Bowl.

    The Packers in 1997 matched the record of the '96 team at 13-3 as they won a third consecutive NFC Central title but weren't quite the dominating club they had been the year before. There were some notable changes on the defense between Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII. DE Sean Jones was retired. CB Craig Newsome suffered a serious knee injury in the season opener against Chicago and was lost for the year and his career would never been the same afterward. After just 6 games with play declining and one off-field incident too many the Packers traded former first round lb Wayne Simmons to Kansas City. http://lombardiave.com/2013/06/22/wayne-simmons-super-bowl-green-bay-packers/.

    Fortunately the Packers would have ready replacements for the lost and departed. Gabe Wilkins stepped into the starting end position and produced 5.5 sacks that season. Tyrone Williams moved into the starting cb spot and became a fixture in the Green Bay secondary for the next six years. When injury took down George Koonce at mlb Bernardo Harris stepped in as the new starter. And in free agency the Packers signed a Pro Bowl veteran Seth Joyner at olb. Joyner had played with Reggie White on the great Eagles defense of the late '80's and early '90's. In the draft that year the Packers added a dynamic play-making safety Darren Sharper.

    The defense dipped a bit from the previous season, going from first to 5th in yardage and from first to 7th in scoring at 17.6ppg. But they were up slightly on sacks with 39 and tied a club record by returning 6 turnovers for td's. Overall, though, their turnover total was down by 17 at 40. But they were in fit form as the playoffs began and the Packers marched to a second straight NFC Championship.

    In the divisional round at Lambeau they stuffed Tampa Bay 21-7, holding the Bucs to only 263 yds. They were even better in the NFC title game at San Francisco. They held the league's 5th best scoring team to only a field goal in Green Bay's 23-10 win. The 49ers could manage only 257 total yds., Steve Young was sacked 4 times and the defense registered two turnovers.

    The Packers were heavy favorites heading in to Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego against the Denver Broncos. The NFC had won 13 straight Super Bowls over the AFC to that time. The Broncos had lost- badly- in all four of their previous Super Bowl appearances; including 3 with their great qb John Elway.

    The year before the Packers had trouned them 41-6 in a game at Green Bay that was billed at the time as a Super Bowl match-up preview. Elway had missed that game due to injury but, as was said repeatedly, Elway didn't play defense. It was assumed that the same magnitude would separate these two teams more than a year later.

    The vulnerability in the Packers' defense in '97 was against the run. In 1996 they had ranked 4th against the run but in '97 had dropped to 20th and were 23rd in allowing 4.2 ypc. This played directly to the strength of the Broncos' offense, which was their great young back Terrell Davis. Davis came into the game off his third straight thousand yard rushing season and averaged 4.7 ypc for the '97 season.

    Davis would hit the Packers for 157 yds. on 30 carries in the game and score a Super Bowl record 3 td's. It could have been worse; he missed most of the second quarter with the recurrence of a migraine condition.

    DE Gabe Wilkins left the game early with a knee injury. One of the post-mortem debates about this Super Bowl is whether he could or should have tried to return, as replacement Darius Holland was ineffectual dealing with the Broncos Hall of Fame LT Gary Zimmerman. Just as equally debated is the question of whether Wilkins would have made any difference.

    Denver's offensive line was a veteran group and had mastered the technique of "zone blocking," developed by their line coach and zone blocking guru Alex Gibbs. They handled Green Bay's big defensive front in both running the ball and pass protection for John Elway. The Packers never sacked Elway in the game. RT Tony Jones, with some help, shut out Reggie White and the Broncos neutralized LeRoy Butler by blocking him with their Pro Bowl te Shannon Sharpe.

    In the second half, though, the defense did get two turnovers that enabled the Packers to tie the game and have a chance to win. Early in the third period Tyrone Williams recovered a Terrell Davis fumble deep in Denver territory; which the Pack converted into a field goal And later in the quarter Eugene Robinson killed off a potential game sealing scoring drive at the Packer 15 by intercepting Elway. The Packers produced a td scoring drive from that to tie the game at 24-24.

    The game would come down to the final 3.5 minutes. Pinned deep in their own territory the Packers got a short punt by Craig Hentrich that started Denver at the Green Bay 49 yd. line. On the first play of the drive Darius Holland was called for a 15 yd. facemask penalty. The Broncos advanced to the Packer 1 yd line with 1:47 remaining when Mike Holmgren, fearing they intended to run down the clock and leave the Packers no chance at another score, ordered the defense to let them score. Unfotunately, Holmgren had lost track of the down; thinking it was first rather than second. Terrell Davis' Super Bowl record third rushing td was a "gimme." But it left the Packers facing the need to go the distance for a touchdown rather than kick a field goal to get the game into overtime.


    The Packers' last desperate drive to save their title reign got as far as the Denver 35, where it petered out on 3 straight incomplete passes and a turnover on downs with 28 seconds left. Given the tradition stretching back to Lombardi it was inconceivable that the Packers would lose a Super Bowl and the 31-24 defeat was a most bitter pill for the club and its fans to swallow. The post-mortem would include discussions of whether the Packers were overconfident, out-coached and out-played. But Denver was a better team than most realized and they would prove it by producing their own Super Bowl Championship repeat in 1998.

    The Packers were far from being done as a Super Bowl contender themselves. But the XXXII loss did change the atmosphere about the team. Reggie White considered retiring but finally decided to play one more season. But not before he became involved in an offseason controversy over remarks he made in a speech before the Wisconsin state legislature. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19980326&slug=2741766.

    More speculation swirled around the future of Mike Holmgren with the team. He hadn't agreed to a contract extension and, besides looking for more money, it was rumored he wanted more power as a head coach and general manager; an ambition which,if to be achieved, would necessitate moving elsewhere in the NFL.

    Relations between Holmgren and Ron Wolf had also become strained over the XXXII loss. http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/29487844.html.

    The Packers produced a, by most standards, good 11-5 record in 1998. They extended their own club record by reaching the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. They posted their seventh straight winning season. They achieved something not even the Lombardi teams could do; record a fourth straight double-digit winning record season.

    They had a chance to become the first NFC team to make 3 straight Super Bowl appearances and get another crack at the Broncos. But this time around they would have to do it by the wild card route.

    The Packers were displaced in the NFC Central in '98 by the suddenly explosive Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had been a thorn to the Packers throughout the Holmgren years but with the addition of rookie wr Randy Moss they became an offensive juggernaut that season and showed up the Packers in a Monday night showcase game at Lambeau in the fifth game of the season. Both teams were undefeated coming into the game but the Packers at the time were riding a 29 game home regular and postseason winning streak. The Vikings made a shambles of all that by rolling up 545 yds. and putting 37 points up against the Packer defense, less than two years removed from being the top unit in the league.

    In his "coming out" Randy Moss caught 5 passes for 190 yds (38 ypc) and scored td's on plays of 52 and 44 yds. Randall Cunningham, who was out of football and laying bathroom tiles just a year before, passed for 442 yds and 4 td's; the most passing yards ever against a Green Bay defense.

    Moss with that game began a seven year career of being the most feared offensive opponent for Packers' defenses and fans; joining Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson in a unique category of threat.

    Ten days later the Packers would meet Sanders at the Pontiac Silverdome and watch him rush for 155 yds. , including a 73 yd. scoring run to help the Lions beat the Pack for their second straight in-division defeat.

    The rematch with Minnesota in the Metrodome saw the Packers close the gap some but not enough as Moss again torched them with 153 yds on 8 receptions and scored the game sealing td on a 49 yd. play.

    Despite those games, though, the Packers remained a top notch defense. They ranked 4th in the league for the season; although dipping to 11th in scoring, allowing 19.9 ppg. They improved dramatically against the run, moving up to 4th, from the year before and allowed opponents only an average of 3.7 ypc.

    They registered a new club record by officially recording 50 quarterback sacks. In his "farewell season" Reggie White got 16: the most in his time in Green Bay and fourth best of his Hall of Fame career. Rookie Vonnie Holliday got his career off to a good start with 8, as did young vet Keith McKenzie.

    Tyrone Williams' 5 interceptions and McKenzie's 3 fumble recoveries led the Packers 33 turnovers. LeRoy Butler would add 4 INT's 2 fumble recoveries and 4 sacks.

    The Packers were a "darkhorse" entering the playoffs but they could not be discounted in the Super Bowl chase based on their ability and experience. They appeared to draw a favorable match up in the Wild Card round at San Francisco. The Packers had come to "own" the Niners in the Nineties. They had beaten them three straight years in the playoffs and won 5 in a row, including a 36-22 win at Lambeau during the '98 season.

    With a 27-23 lead with 1:55 remaining it looked like the Pack was headed to Atlanta for the divisional round next; when their season and an era ended suddenly, shockingly and most unfittingly. The 49ers were on their last desperate drive with 46 seconds remaining when Steve Young passed to Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice. The Packers had effectively shut Rice down all game and appeared to have done it again as safety Scott McGarrahan and lb Bernardo Harris converged on the play at the 41 and jarred the ball loose and recovered the fumble. But an official away from the play ruled Rice down by contact. Replay was on hiatus that year so the Packers couldn't challenge to get the mistaken call overturned. http://www.sikids.com/photos/48406/most-controversial-endings-in-sports/16.

    Retaining possession and with one last chance the Niners drove a stake into the heart of PackerNation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3C4P9O20Qk.

    It was Reggie White's last game ( at least as a Packer.) Five days after the loss Mike Holmgren left to become head coach and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. He took 8 members of the Green Bay assistant staff with him; including defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur.

    End of Part 5.
    Last edited: May 15, 2015
  15. JBlood

    JBlood Cheesehead

    Dec 4, 2004
    Aaahhh, for the days of Fritz Shurmur and a real defense......
    • Agree Agree x 2
  16. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 6:

    The Packers and Eagles traded coaches in 1999, even though there was no actual deal between the two clubs. Ron Wolf had ruled out promoting any of Mike Holmgren's assistants to succeed him so quarterbacks coach Andy Reid went to Philadelphia. And the Packers hired recently fired Eagles hc Ray Rhodes as their new head coach.

    Rhodes had been Green Bay's defensive coordinator in 1992-93. In 1994 as dc in San Francisco he had helped the 49ers to a Super Bowl championship. He went on to head coach in Philly for four years. In his first two he turned a losing Eagles team around and made them a playoff club. He was NFC "coach of the year" in 1995. But in his last two years the team started losing and he was fired after a dismal 3-13 in 1998. Most of the blame for the Eagles' slide at the end of his tenure there, though, was being put on injuries and lack of a quarterback.

    In Green Bay Rhodes would certainly not lack for a qb with Brett Favre still elite. And with Ron Wolf in charge to stock the team he figured to have enough to work with to at least keep the Packers a playoff team. The offense was still intact and with Sherm Lewis remaining as coordinator promised continuity.

    There were still plenty of members remaining from the Packers' recent top tier, championship winning defenses. Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown, Brian Williams, LeRoy Butler, Darren Sharper, Tyrone Williams. But Wolf realized some renovations were in order to keep the defense in shape.

    Anticipating Reggie White's retirement Wolf had used the Packers first round pick in 1998 for de Vonnie Holliday and selected dt Jonathan Brown in the third round. After watching the Packer secondary get torched by the big, fast receivers in Minnesota and Detroit and letting Terrell Owens get open to beat them in the 49ers playoff Wolf loaded up with defensive backs in his 1999 draft. In the first round he took cb Antuan Edwards, in the 2nd Fred Vinson, Mike McKenzie in the third and s Chris Akins in the 7th. These were supposed to be a "young Turks" group that would match up better with the Randy Mosses, Cris Carters, Herman Moores of the NFC Central Division that the Packers would face twice each year; one-fourth of their annual season schedule.

    For some veteran presence post-Reggie White the Packers added free agent veterans Vaughn Booker and Roy Barker. They also signed undrafted free agents lb Jude Waddy and cb Tod McBride. And for good measure along the line added a big dt Cletidus Hunt in the draft.

    Accompanying Rhodes from Philadelphia as defensive coordinator was Emmitt Thomas, a ProFootball Hall of Fame safety in his playing days and already a veteran of almost 20 years of defensive coaching in the NFL. With the Eagles Rhodes and Thomas had kept Philly in the top half of the league in defense and in their first two years produced top 5 units.

    Rhodes' coaching in Green Bay, though, would be short but not sweet. The team dropped to 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Posted their first non-winning record in eight.

    The defense slipped to 19th in yardage and 20th in points allowed at 21.3ppg. They were 18th in pass defense, 22nd against the run. The beginning of the end for Rhodes was a Week 13 game in mid-December at Lambeau against Carolina. Leading 31-26 the Packer defense allowed the Panthers to drive 63 yds. in the final 3:52 with qb Steve Beurlein running the final five yards on a qb draw as time expired for the winning td. The defense's failure to hold and Rhodes clock management on that drive - he didn't use a single time out to leave any time at the finish for the Pack to attempt a comeback - helped convince Ron Wolf that a change was in order.

    Just hours after the season ended the Packers fired Ray Rhodes and his entire staff. Ron Wolf went to an old familiar well with his third head coaching hire for the Packers Mike Sherman.

    Sherman had been coaching in the NFL for only 3 years at that point but had been Packers' tight ends and assistant o-line coach in 1997-98 and went with Mike Holmgren to Seattle where he became the Seahawks' offensive coordinator in 1999. His connection to Holmgren and familiarity with Holmgren's West Coast offense, which was still being played in Green Bay, were undoubtedly what commended him to Wolf after he failed to get either of his first two preferences Marty Schottenheimer and Rams' offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

    Sherman would restore the Packers to being a consistent winning, playoff making team. During his time in charge the Pack would make four straight playoff appearances, three consecutive as the first NFC North Division title winners. But Sherman would end up with the distinction of being the only head coach in Packers' history to have a winning record but never win or even reach a Super Bowl or conference championship game.

    The offense during Sherman's time would rank high and even produce some historic results, though with a tendency to self-destruct in big mistakes at critical times. The defense would struggle to establish its identity and during Sherm's first 5 seasons would only rank at best in the middle of the league's units. The Packers would have 3 different defensive coordinators during Sherman's six year tenure, the most under any Packers' head coach; including a period near the end when they would have a different dc every year for 3 consecutive seasons.

    During his last four drafts as Packers' GM Ron Wolf used first round picks on defensive players 3 times; selecting de Vonnie Holliday in 1998, db Antuan Edwards in '99 and in 2001 trading up for the 1oth pick for de Jamal Reynolds. Holliday would have a good, though not great career for the Packers. Edwards struggled with consistency and injury as both a corner and safety. Reynolds would simply be one of the biggest draft busts in club history.


    Of the four defensive backs drafted in 1999 only third rounder Mike McKenzie produced any real value on the field for the Packers. Second rounder Fred Vinson was packed in the trade with Seattle that brought rb Ahman Green to the Packers in 2000. Safety Chris Akins would hang on for a couple of years before being released. He would be best remembered with the Packers for a bonehead personal foul penalty that helped the Falcons upset the Packers in a 2001 game that ultimately cost the team the division title and led to an "in your face" confrontation with Mike Sherman on the bench during that game.


    With Santana Dotson winding down his career and 1998 third round pick Jonathan Brown turning out to be a bust, the Packers used their third round pick in the '99 draft for big dt Cletidus Hunt. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HuntCl20.htm

    Wolf continued to be a player in free agency. In 2000 he brought in two veteran, former first round draft picks. End John Thierry had been a one time first rounder of the Bears and tackle Russell Maryland was a mainstay on the Dallas' defenses that won 3 Super Bowls and was the first overall pick of his draft class in 1991. Maryland only played for the Packers one season; while Gilbert Brown was out dealing with weight issues and injuries. Thierry started for the Pack for two seasons in 2000-01, registering ten sacks.

    Ed Donatell was the Packers first and longest serving defensive coordinator during the Sherman years. He came to Green Bay after coaching defensive backs for the Jets and Broncos for ten years but had never previously been a coordinator in the NFL. Donatell would run the Packers' defense for four seasons, producing rankings of 15th, 12th twice and 17th.

    While never great Donatell's defenses weren't altogether terrible. They cracked the league's "top ten" in rushing defense twice and in 2002 were third against the pass. They were 5th in scoring defense in 2001, allowing 16.6 ppg. They set a new club record with 51 quarterback sacks in 2001 and notched more than 20 interceptions every year.

    A big part of the reason for the Packers' efficiency in getting to the quarterback was the emergence of 2000 5th round draft pick de Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. "KGB" would post double-digit sack seasons four straight years and would end up as Green Bay's all-time official qb sacks leader with 74.5 http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/G/GbajKa20.htm

    They got strong corner play from Mike McKenzie, Tyrone Williams and, later, Al Harris. They kept 2000 free agent pick-up Allen Rossum consigned to return duties; where he became the Packers' best return man since Desmond Howard.


    The Packers suffered a major loss in 2001 when All-Pro safety LeRoy Butler sustained a broken shoulder blade and was consequently forced to retire. The Packers would struggle for the next four seasons, trying Antuan Edwards, Chris Akins, Marques Anderson, Bhaoh Jue and Mark Roman in the void, until another #36 would arrive in the 2005 draft to fill the need.

    Darren Sharper, however, gave the Packers strong play at the other safety post. Although frequently criticized for his at times shaky tackling and frustration that he didn't show up big in the big moments of the biggest games Sharper was a 3 time Pro Bowler during his six years with the Packers, leading the league with 9 interceptions in 2000 and returning 5 of his career 36 INT's with Green Bay for touchdowns. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/S/SharDa00.htm

    Knee injuries curtailed the once promising career of lb Brian Williams after 1999 and in 2002 5 year starting mlb Bernardo Harris left in free agency forcing the Packers into a perenniel search for linebacking help in the 2000's. They brought in free agent Nate Wayne and drafted Na'il Diggs who played the outside positions but were sorely disappointed in the outcome of the drafting of Torrance Marshall. Even worse was a quality drafted player the Packers let get away from them and acquired by the Bears. Hunter Hillenmeyer was a 4th round pick of Green Bay in 2003 and was waived at the end of the preseason. He would go on to become a starter on
    Chicago's league leading defense that took the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006. When Nate Wayne left in free agency for the Eagles in 2003 the Packers signed a free agent veteran Hannibal Navies from Carolina.


    To replace the departed Bernardo Harris in 2002 the Packers signed former Pro Bowl free agent Hardy Nickerson from Jacksonville. The Packers had been interested in Nickerson when he was with Tampa Bay in their 1996 load-up for Super Bowl XXXI but he then decided to stay with the Bucs. In '02 the 5 time Pro Bowler was 37 years old and his age showed in his one season with the team. Undrafted free agent Paris Lenon was only a fair back-up or alternative. The Packers were prompted by need to use their first round pick in 2003 on Nick Barnett.


    At first the Packers seemed to be following the same pattern under Mike Sherman that they had under Mike Holmgren toward the Super Bowl. They went 9-7 in 2000 and in 2001 returned to the playoffs after a two season absence as a strong 12-4 wild card playoff team.

    In their Wild Card playoff at Lambeau the Packers resumed their mastery over the 49ers with a 25-15 win and with the defense holding the Niners to 290 yds. That sent the Pack on to the divisional round at St.Louis, where the defense would face one of the historically great offenses in league history; the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf."

    The Rams had won a Super Bowl only two seasons before and appeared headed to another in 2001. They had the league's MVP qb Kurt Warner, dual threat back Marshall Faulk, and a swift set of receivers led by Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce. http://www.pro-football-reference.com

    The Packers defense did a credible job under most difficult circumstances in the game; "limiting" the Rams to 292 yds. and 24 pts. The offense, though, turned the ball over 8 times, including 6 interceptions off Brett Favre and returned 3 for touchowns to turn the game into a 45-17 scoreboard rout.

    Though disappointing the loss was likened to the playoff losses to Dallas in the '90's, preceding the run up to the Super Bowl XXXI season and the Packers were still regarded as a contender in 2002.

    Ron Wolf retired as Green Bay's GM following the 2001 draft and, on his recommendation, the Packers promoted Sherman to replace him. In complete charge of the Packers football operations Sherman was determined to show he could "go big" on getting the Pack and Brett Favre back to the Super Bowl. In 2002 free agency he signed de Joe Johnson from New Orleans. http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/2002/03/26/Packers-sign-Joe-Johnson./92601017193956/

    The Johnson signing was immediately reminiscient of the signing of Reggie White nine years earlier http://a.espncdn.com/nfl/columns/pasquarelli_len/1355070.html. The reality of what actually resulted was anything but.

    "JJ" was ineffectual in the few early season games he did play, then he got injured and was lost for the season after only 5 games. He would get himself in trouble on pot charges http://accesswdun.com/print/2004/3/17419. All the Packers would ever get for their $16 million investment on Johnson was 11 games with 2 sacks, 12 tackles and four assists and one fumble recovery. The deal would leave the club in a serious salary cap bind and make the organization ever after "gun-shy" about doing big money deals with big name free agents.

    Fortunately, on the field, the Packers got a steal in the 2002 draft in 5th round pick Aaron Kampman. "Kampy" would step in immediately to fill the void created by the Johnson bust and over the next 8 seasons would become a Pro Bowler and Green Bay's most consistent and best defensive player of the 2000's. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players./K/KampAa99.htm

    Despite the Joe Johnson fiasco the Packers had the look and feel of a team bound for the Super Bowl for much of the 2002 season. They started fast, 8-1, and ran away with the first NFC North Division title; finishing the season 12-4 and six games ahead of the rest of the division. But injuries kept adding up and in the last weeks of the season they were starting to "wheeze" to the finish line.


    The Packers missed a chance at a first round bye and home field advantage for the playoffs by getting blown out in their season final at the Jets and so went into the Wild Card round. They would host a Southern dome team with a rookie quarterback in a winter game at Lambeau and, at that point, no Green Bay team had ever lost a home field playoff game in club history.

    But the rookie qb the Packers would meet against the Atlanta Falcons was Michael Vick, who had taken the league by storm that year. The Packers had seen Vick first hand in the season opener at Lambeau, when he ran and passed for 281 yds. against them in forcing them into a 37-34 overtime shoot-out.

    And, in an ironic twist of history, the Falcons' head coach Dan Reeves was halfback on the Dallas team that had lost in the iconic "Ice Bowl" at Lambeau in 1967. Reeves threw the halfback option td pass in the fourth quarter of that game that nearly denied the Packers their "threepeat."

    This time wouldn't be an Ice Bowl either in weather conditions or outcome. The Packers came out flat and disorganized from the start and the result was an historic, shocking loss. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=230104009 .

    During the 2003 offseason Sherman faced a dilemma with the pending free agency of de Vonnie Holliday and dt Clete Hunt. A former first round draft pick, Holliday had a good career but was injury prone. The Packers had Aaron Kampman and KGB at end and Sherman still hoped to get something from Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds.


    Hunt was a little younger and the Packers did not seem so set at tackle. Gilbert Brown was aging and winding down. Santana Dotson was already retired. Besides Hunt the only available prospects at that position were a pair of underwhelming back-ups Steve Warren and Rod Walker and a trio of unproven rookies Kenny Peterson, James Lee and Terdell Sands.

    Sherman chose Hunt, giving him a six year $25 million contract with a $6 million signing bonus. Holliday would go on to play 9 more years in the league with 5 different clubs and in a turn of the wheel would face the Packers 7 years later in a Wild Card playoff shoot-out in Arizona as a Cardinal. http://www.azcardinals.com/assets/images/imported/ARI/photos/article/MainNovember2012/HollidayNotesMAIN.jpg .

    Once he got the big contract, however, Hunt became another bust. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=2188620 (to be continued.)

    Sherman went heavy on defense in the Packers' 2003 draft. He took lb Nick Barnett with the first round pick and 6 of the 9 players drafted that year were on the defensive side. He tried to put beef into the line with the selections of 6-3,295 lb Kenny Peterson and 6-5,325 James Lee and added on waivers 6-7,337 lb Terdell Sands. The Packers also added a speedy corner Chris Johnson.

    Barnett became an immediate starter and a fixture on the Packers defense for 8 seasons but the Packers got nothing from the rest. They released lb Hunter Hillenmeyer, who was claimed by the Bears and went on their trip to a Super Bowl in 2006. Another member of the Packers' draft class of '03 would also make a Super Bowl with another club. Chris Johnson would cap a 9 year NFL career with 4 teams by joining Baltimore in time for their Super Bowl winning season in 2012 after the Packers traded him in 2004.

    Among the prospects the Packers passed on in that '03 draft were cb Asante Samuel, de Robert Mathis and lb Tully Banta-Cain. And Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds continued to bust.

    The Packers started out the 2003 season losing four of their first seven games and finding themselves 3 games behind the hot starting Vikings in the NFC North race. In the first half of the season the defense gave up 300-plus yards in 7 of 8 games, over 100 yds. rushing in 5 and opponents scored 30 or more points against the Pack 3 times.

    As it looked like the season was slipping away two events occurred which changed things completely. The Packers signed a big, veteran Pro Bowler dt Grady Jackson on waivers from New Orleans. And Minnesota would have one of the epic second half collapses in league history.


    Jackson charged the Packer defense. After he joined the team only once in the second half of the season did an opponent gain as much as 300 yds. against them- and the Pack still won that game. Only one opponent in the second half scored over 21 points on the Packers- and Green Bay still won that game. In the first half of the season the Packers had only 11 turnovers; in the second half 20.

    The Packers won 7 of their last ten games while Minnesota, after a 6-0 start, lost 7 of their final ten. Still, the Packers prospects for the playoffs looked dim as they entered the final game of the season. They were at a disadvantage in any tiebreaker with Seattle for a wild card spot or Minnesota for the division. They needed to win and have the Seahawks and/or Vikings lose their final game of the season.

    The Packers trampled the Broncos 31-6 in their regular season finale at Lambeau to finish the season 10-6. Then the team and most of the fans stayed on the field to watch the final seconds of the Vikings-Cardinals game in Arizona to see whether they would have another.

    Entering the final two minutes Minnesota held a 17-6 lead on the 3-12 Cards. But Arizona converted a 4th & 26 and scored to cut the margin to 5 pts. Then they recovered the on-side kick. And literally on the last play of the last game of the season they would score the touchdown that gave the NFC North, after a season long chase, to the Packers:

    https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIRyk3FVRisA24r7w8QF; (_ylu=X3oDMTByZWc0dGJtBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDMQ--?p=car dinals+knock+vikings+out+of+the+playoffs&vid=3bfdd4a07bc9a4acfb806bc233c65e01&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts3.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DWN.K0kZ5EaF1cW1oTveDWOwWg%26pid%3D15.1%26h%3D225%26w%3D300%26c%3D7%26rs%3D1&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DmL8S4G9zFK8&tit=The+Cardinals+have+knocked+the+Vikings+out+of+the+playoffs!&c=0&h=225&w=300&l=26&sigr=11bup9qtc&sigt=11rc9st87&sigi=12ku13qhn&age=1358301104&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Av&fr=sfp&tt=b

    The Packers met their former head coach Mike Holmgren and former back-up qb Matt Hasselbeck in the Wild Card playoff at Lambeau. The game was a well played contest by both teams and probably should be regarded as an NFL playoff classic. Fittingly, it was tied 27-27 at the end of regulation.

    During the coin toss to start the OT, which the Seahawks won, Hasselbeck was picked up on the mike saying, "We want the ball and we're going to score." On his first play from scrimmage Hasselbeck threw a short out route toward the sideline which Packers cb Al Harris jumped, intercepted and returned for the game winning td.

    There was by now a feeling that "destiny" might be guiding this Packers team. If they had peaked too early in 2002 they were peaking at just the right time this season. The road to the Super Bowl from the NFC seemed open for them at this point. However, that road would run through Philadelphia, where the Packers would have one of their bitterest defeats and where the defense of the 2000's would acquire its defining moment: 4th & 26.



    It wasn't the first and would not be the last time the Packers would experience bitter frustration over a playoff game they were expected to or seemingly had won by a single catastrophic mistake but it has ever since been the one to be recalled and revisited whenever such happens. The play has been haunting the Packers and their fans ever since.


    In the wake of the playoff loss Ed Donatell was fired as defensive coordinator. Although denying that "4th & 26" was the reason Mike Sherman's vague, even torturous attempts at explaining his decision created an impression in many that Donatell was being scapegoated for a game lost more by several of Sherman's coaching decisions in it.

    Sherman promoted Bob Slowik to be Green Bay's next dc. Slowik had been on Sherman's staff since 2000 coaching the defensive backs and had prior NFL defensive coordinator experience with Chicago and Cleveland. Sherman and Slowik promised a more aggressive, dynamic defense but before any new philosophy could be implemented the club found itself in a confrontation with one of the unit's key members.

    Mike McKenzie had been the only one of the 4 defensive backs drafted by the Packers in 1999 to amount to anything much for the Packers or in the NFL. The five year vet had intercepted 15 passes and, though never selected to a Pro Bowl was a caliber player. McKenzie had signed a 5 year, $17.1 million contract extension with the Packers in 2002 but became miffed when several lesser corners around the league signed larger deals after. Under the influence of his agent, the famous (or infamous) Drew Rosenhaus, McKenzie demanded to renegotiate his deal or be traded and held out of the Packers training camp, preseason and opening regular season games.

    The Packers, i.e. Mike Sherman, stood fast in refusing the player's demand as a matter of policy and principle. Most opinion was against McKenzie and even Brett Favre weighed in with talk about honoring one's word and fulfilling a contract. When McKenzie finally came in he did everything he could to exasperate the Packers and force them to trade him. He prepared and played poorly and then was injured- though many believed it was faked- until finally fed up Sherman dealt him to New Orleans for a pointless back-up qb J.T. O'Sullivan and a 2005 second round draft pick.(Which the Packers would parlay into Nick Collins.)

    Mike McKenzie: the rest of the story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_McKenzie_%28American_football%29

    Sherman, though, let the McKenzie situation drive him in the 2004 draft. Whether looking for a replacement or wanting to send a message and leverage the veteran into relenting Sherman took two fast but raw cornerbacks with the Packers' first two picks. Ahmad Carroll out of Arkansas in the first round and Joey Thomas from Montana St. in the third. Both players were regarded as "reaches" at the time and subsequent developments would only confirm that evaluation.


    In so focusing on the corner position Sherman took a pass on several other notable talents that were available to him instead: cb Chris Gamble, s Bob Sanders, lb Karlos Dansby, dt Darnell Dockett and de Jared Allen.

    To compenate for earlier draft and free agent misses on the line Sherm took 6-6,330 dt Donnell Washington with another third round pick and from him the Packers would get "bupkus." And if punting is considered as part of a team's defensive posture Sherman traded up into the third round for B.J Sander. Sander had won the Ray Guy Award as college football's top punter at Ohio St. but immediately became a basket case in the pros. (to be continued.)


    Finishing up his preseason moves by bringing in a new safety Mark Roman and de R-Kal Truluck Sherman was ready to launch his new and improved defense for 2004. The Packers opened the season at Carolina against the defending NFC champion and Super Bowl runnerup Panthers in a "would, coulda,shoulda" match up of the previous season's conference championship game had the Packers not choked away their playoff in Philly. And the Packers dominated the game 24-14.


    The defense played to script the first time out. They held the Panthers to only 38 rushing yards and shut down rb Stephen Davis, a 1,400 yd. rusher the prior season, to only 26 yds. on 9 carries. They got two sacks and forced two turnovers and limited the Panthers to only 1 third down conversion in 5 attempts. But that was as good as the defense would be in 2004 as the Packers ended up with their worst defensive season in 20 years.

    The Packers would end up with the 25th ranked defense in the league; 23rd against the pass, 14th against the run and 23rd in points allowed. They would allow opponents 300-plus yds. in 8 games and in 7 were gashed for 400 or over, including 542 in a 30 point blow-out loss at Philadelphia. Three times during the season opponents would score 45 or more points on the Pack and over half their games would see the opposition run up at least 30 on them. Although some of that was due to the opponents scoring off the Packer offense's turnovers.

    Although they would manage a respectable 40 quarterback sacks the Packers managed only 8 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries. Somehow they managed to turn those meager 17 turnovers into 5 defensive td's. Fan wrath turned early on new dc Slowik but Mike Sherman came in for heavy criticism for his moves with the team's defense.


    Despite the defensive liability the Packers still managed to make the playoff for the fourth straight year and won a third consecutive NFC North title. Rallying from a 1-4 start they won 9 of their last 11 to finish 10-6 again and again overtook a late choking Minnesota team for the division title. They clinched on Christmas Eve in the Metrodome with a game remaining and they looked in tune for the postseason with an impressive 31-14 beating of the Bears at Soldier Field in the season finale.

    The Vikings, however, managed to back in to the playoffs that season despite only an 8-8 record and would meet the Packers at Lambeau in the Wild Card playoff. The Packers had beaten Minnesota twice during the season in a pair of 34-31 shoot-outs but the Vikings were highly motivated and intensively prepared for the Packers in the playoff. Unfortunately Green Bay did not match their level.

    For the second time in club history and in three seasons the Packers lost a home playoff game. Though considering the opponent and the occasion this one was probably more upsetting to Packers' fans than the loss to the Falcons two years before. It sent reverberations through the Packers organization.


    To no one's surprise Bob Slowik was fired as defensive coordinator after just one season. But in a development not many saw coming club president Bob Harlan relieved Mike Sherman as GM and brought in Ted Thompson from Seattle as the new executive vice president of football operations. Sherman remained as head coach.

    Thompson had been an assistant to Ron Wolf with the Packers in the 1990's and had gone to Seattle as part of the Holmgren exodus in '99. As vice president of operations for the Seahawks "TT" had played a major role in identifying and scouting players for the draft and his work preparing Seattle's draft boards had yielded an impressive series of drafts that had the Seahawks on course for a Super Bowl trip in 2005.

    Harlan hoped that by bringing in TT and allowing Sherman to concentrate on coaching the team the Packers would get the kind of results that transpired during the Ron Wolf & Mike Holmgren arrangemt the previous decade. Sherman, though, wasn't pleased by his loss of power in the franchise and, though there was no obvious conflict between the coach and GM, the team remained essentially Sherman's in 2005 and Thompson would move at his first opportunity to bring in his own man to coach the team.

    Improving the defense was the obvious priority for the '05 season and the Packers would make their major effort on that side of the ball by improving its coaching. Fortunately one of the league's best defensive coaches happened to be available for the Packers' job; Jim Bates.

    Bates had been coaching defense in the NFL since 1991 after a long career in college ball. As defensive coordinator in Miami for four years he turned out consistent top 6 defensive units and never had one ranked lower than tenth. During a brief stint as interim head coach he took over a 1-8 team and won 3 of the last seven, including one over Super Bowl champion New England, and hoped to become the next head coach of the Dolphins. But Miami hired Nick Saban instead and Bates moved on to Green Bay.

    Bates' hire was hailed as the best defensive coaching move by the Packers since the hiring of Fritz Shurmur 12 years earlier. And he brought with him from Miami two of his line assistants Bob Sanders and Robert Nunn to further bolster the staff and help in the implementation of his system.

    The Packers still had a core of good defensive players: Aaron Kampman, Grady Jackson, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Nick Barnett, Al Harris. And hope was still alive that the two highly drafted young corners Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas might still progress. Three relatively unheralded young linemen were also getting more notice. Corey Williams had been a 6th round selection in the '04 draft and Cullen Jenkins an undrafted free agent in '03 while another big body Colin Cole was claimed on waivers as an undrafted free agent in '04.


    The team lost their leading interceptor of the 2000's when safety Darren Sharper left as a free agent for Minnesota. The Packers drafted two safeties to fill the void, taking Nick Collins in the second round and Marviel Underwood in the fourth.

    Ted Thompson used 6 picks in that year's draft for defensive players. LB Brady Poppinga was taken with a second fourth round pick. CB Mike Hawkins in the 5th. DE Mike Montgomery in the 6th. And a small but very fast lb/db "tweener" Kurt Campbell in the 7th.

    In a late preseason trade the Packers sent cb Chris Johnson to the Rams for former first round lb Robert Thomas.

    The Packers also cleaned out some of the "dead wood" that had been piling up on the defense. They had already cut their losses with Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds the year before and, after paying out a $1.25 million injury settlement, cut loose Clete Hunt.

    Jim Bates was a minor miracle worker with the Packers' defense in 2005. The unit rose from 25th to 7th in the league rankings and led in pass defense. However modifying some of the progress was the team ranking 23rd against the run and managing only 10 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. They did produce 34 qb sacks and despite giving up hefty yardage on the ground did yield only 7 rushing td's.

    However, the offense came apart that year. The offensive line was decimated by free agency losses, as the club found itself in a tight salary cap bind from Sherman's GM years and giving out big contracts to the likes of Joe Johnson and Cletidus Hunt. A plague of injuries wiped out the runningback and receiving corps. Brett Favre tried to "gunsling" his way through the crisis and ended up pitching 29 interceptions and barely reaching 20 td passes.

    The Packers went 4-12, their first losing season in 15 years and tying the club record for most losses in a season. It was the first and only losing season they ever had under Mike Sherman's coaching but it was enough for Ted Thompson to fire him the day after the season ended.

    Bates coveted the Packers' head coaching job and had some considerable support from the fan base as a candidate during the search which followed. Thompson did interview him for the job, but more to be thorough and fair and as a courtesy in hopes of getting him to stay on as defensive coordinator under a new regime.

    The top two candidates were soon narrowed to Sean Payton, assistant and protege of Bill Parcells in Dallas, and Mike McCarthy, at the time offensive coordinator of the 49ers. McCarthy, of course, became TT's choice.

    The Packers wanted Bates to stay on with the defense but miffed about being passed over for the head job he decided to move on.


    End of Part 6.

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2015
  17. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Vonnie Holliday http://www.toledoblade.com/image/2002/09/23/800x_b1_cCM_z/Lions-notebook-Veteran-Favre-outduels-rookie.jpg

    "KGB" http://www.sikids.com/sites/default/files/multimedia/photo_gallery/1004/nfl.draft.bargains/images/kabeer-gbaja-biamila-001240298.jpg

    Darren Sharper http://cmsimg.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=U0&Date=20140118&Category=PKR0101&ArtNo=140118009&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Former-Packers-safety-Sharper-arrested-suspicion-rape

    Keith McKenzie http://98saints.tripod.com/images/9805.jpg

    The One Year Packer Russell Maryland http://www.paulbrunner.net/images/Sports Cards/2001 Playoff Honors Honor Roll Autographs UH-12 Russell Maryland Front.jpg

    Aaron Kampman http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Aaron-Kampman-feels-nostaglic-in-Green-Bay/a96a3982-3315-4c9a-aeac-0d5d035bdd75

    Tyrone Williams http://media.jrn.com/images/1996williams.jpg

    Mike McKenzie https://packerperspective.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/mike-mckenzie.jpg

    Al Harris http://www.espnmilwaukee.com/upload/AlSeattle.jpg

    Grady Jackson http://www.packers.com/assets/images/imported/GB/photos/clubimages/2014/05-May/temp140524-jackson-grady-9--nfl_mezz_1280_1024.JPG

    Nate Wayne http://cache4.asset-cache.net/gc/1474548-linebacker-nate-wayne-of-the-green-bay-packers-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=OCUJ5gVf7YdJQI2Xhkc2QGcbH5lKDEhMOAPyrJGKQM4D4LZgbjiKmne8gd6aw86kRJtg77oxI7aiObcxkv1UKA%3D%3D

    Nick Barnett http://www.billsgab.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Barnett.jpg

    Na'il Diggs http://cache1.asset-cache.net/gc/1750191-linebacker-nail-diggs-of-the-green-bay-packers-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=OCUJ5gVf7YdJQI2Xhkc2QNWwjovTKrkPCm0Orj1Wy%2FoscENHjQIZTULIPLSFLmlE%2BoS6cYXtf4Lnvx%2BwKuscdw%3D%3D

    Hannibal Navies http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I00005Gw39bM.IEM/s/870/870/04-Wk16-Packers-Vikings-101.jpg

    Cletidus Hunt http://www.packertime.com/roadtrips/2002/081002/photos/1-51.jpg

    The Big Bust Joe Johnson http://www.packertime.com/roadtrips/2002/042402/photos/1-72.jpg

    Al Harris' interception wins Seattle playoff game http://www.packers.com/media-center /videos/Al-Harris-playoff-pick-six-vs-Seahawks/581ce6dd-c0c4-46b6-8e94-37cb4a7a32d0

    "4th & 26" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ78ky2yaig

    Randy Moss' "Moon over Lambeau" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dmqGg6Ccvw

    "One that got away:" Hunter Hillenmeyer http://www.jbabcock.net/2003/030828ten/images/hill0828.jpg

    Jim Bates http://img.spokeo.com/public/900-600/jim_bates_2005_11_27.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
  18. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 7.

    Mike McCarthy was not especially well known to the fans or much of the media at the time of his hire and there were some expressions of concern when he was first announced as the new head coach of the Packers. The first impressions were that he had been quarterbacks coach on Ray Rhodes' staff in 1999, the season the Packers' run of playoff appearances had ended and had been fired when Rhodes and the entire staff were let go afterward. And at the time of his hire he was offensive coordinator in San Francisco; whose unit had ranked last in the league in 2005.

    But McCarthy had been an assistant coach in the NFL for 13 years by the time of his hire in Green Bay. He had been schooled by one of the winningest head coaches in league history Marty Schottenheimer. And he had moved up on the coaching radars in four very good years as offensive coordinator in New Orleans.


    But despite hiring an offensive minded head coach the Packers appeared to be moving in the direction of establishing more of a defensive identity in 2006. Looking at the prospect of having their fourth defensive coordinator in as many seasons they retained and promoted Bob Sanders, defensive ends coach, to the coordinator's position to succeed Jim Bates. Sanders had worked with Bates for 5 years in Miami before coming with him to Green Bay so the unit would have a basic continuity with the system that had been introduced the year before.

    In free agency Ted Thompson had signed two veteran NFLers who were former first round draft picks of their earlier teams: big dt Ryan Pickett from the Rams and all-pro cornerback Charles Woodson from the Raiders. At the time both were considered no better than "second tier" free agent prospects and were considered "aged." Especially Woodson, who was a former Heisman Trophy winner and already had Hall of Fame credentials but didn't receiver an offer from any other team but the Packers.

    Their additions allowed the Packers to part ways with Grady Jackson and first round draft bust Ahmad Carroll.

    With their first round draft pick and 5th overall in the draft the Packers landed lb A.J. Hawk of Ohio St. http://www.footballsfuture.com/2006/prospects/aj_hawk.html .

    Half of the Packers' draft class that year (6 of 12) were defensive players. They also added another premiere Big Ten lb Abdul Hodge of Iowa in the third round, cb-kr Will Blackmon in the 4th, another big dt Johnny Jolly and safety Tyrone Culver in the 6th and de Dave Tollefson in the 7th.

    The Packers had drafted s Nick Collins in the second round the previous year. Second safety Mark Roman left in free agency after two unimpressive seasons and to replace him the Packers added free agent veteran Marquand Manuel. They also picked up an undrafted free agent Atari Bigby and claimed on waivers a rookie Charlie Peprah from the Giants.


    Another move that would turn out to be a steal in '06 was signing undrafted free agent cb Tramon Williams.

    Woodson, Hawk and Pickett would be core members of the defense for most of the following decade. Collins would quickly become one of the league's elite safeties; until his career was cut short by a neck injury in 2011. Williams would matriculate into a long term starting corner after backing up and then replacing Al Harris when Harris was injured in 2010. (to be continued)


    McCarthy and the team went through some initial growing pains in their first season together. The Packers started 4-8 before going on a four game win streak at the end of the schedule to finish 8-8 and just miss a wild card playoff berth on the tiebreaker with the Giants.


    In the final 3 games of the season the defense held the Lions to 9 points, shut out the Vikings offense, and generated 6 turnovers in holding the Super Bowl bound Bears to 7 pts in the season finale at Soldier Field.

    The defense finished the year ranked 12th in the league; 13th vs the run and 17th against the pass. They produced 46 quarterback sacks and 33 turnovers, including 23 interceptions.

    Aaron Kampman had a career high 15.5 sacks while Corey Williams and Cullen Jenkins combined almost evenly for another 13.5. In his rookie season A.J. Hawk made 82 tackles, with 37 assists, intercepted 2 passes and recovered 2 fumbles and registered 3.5 sacks. He was also credited with 7 passes defensed. Charles Woodson led the team with 8 interceptions and defensed another 20. He also forced 3 fumbles, recovering another. He made 48 tackles with 11 assists.

    The strong finish had fans more hopeful about 2007 but the team went into that year with many question marks and concerns, most on the offensive side. Brett Favre was 38 and speculations about whether and when he might retire were by now an annual affair. The Packers themselves had helped fuel the speculation by pouncing on opportunity in the 2005 draft and taking Aaron Rodgers after he unexpectedly fell to them at #24 in the first round. But with most of the league's career passing records within his reach Favre announced his intention to continue to play earlier than in preceding years.

    The team, though, was without an established feature back with the free agency departure of Ahman Green to Houston. The o-line continued to be a work in progress. And there was doubt about the Packers' receiving corps,despite having Donald Driver and a rising young Greg Jennings. Rumors swirled that the Packers might trade for old hated nemesis Randy Moss from the Raiders and Favre lobbied hard for such a deal to be done.

    The Packers, or at least much of the fan base, had their fingers crossed that rb Marshawn Lynch would still be on the board for them at #16 of the first round of the draft but Buffalo took him at #12. So, for the fifth time in 8 years, the Packers selected a defensive player with their first round pick: dt Justin Harrell of Tennessee. Who would, as is well known, become one of the club's all time biggest draft busts.


    The Harrell bust was more damaging to the Packers because of the alternative prospects they passed on in this draft, which had a ripple effect on future drafting decisions. DE/lb Anthony Spencer, ot Joe Staley, cb Leon Hall, te Greg Olsen were just four of the others still on the board at #16.

    In 2007, however, the Packers were deep on their line. They had veterans Aaron Kampman, Ryan Pickett, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and ascending power players Corey Williams and Cullen Jenkins. Behind them were two big young tackles Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole. A rangy de Mike Montgomery, an end/lb 'tweener' Jason Hunter and a new addition Daniel Muir filled out the area.

    Linebackers A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga had a season of working together as a unit under their belts. With one of 3 6th round picks the Packers got Desmond Bishop.

    The secondary was becoming one of the most talented in team history. Corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris and safety Nick Collins were joined by s Atari Bigby in the starting group. Young Tramon Williams became the nickel back. In the third round of that year's draft the Packers added a big safety Aaron Rouse.

    Reserve linebackers Tracy White and Korey Hall and defensive back Jarrett Bush were on their way to becoming core special teams players.

    Brett Favre raised eyebrows and drew some derision when he said during the preseason that the Packers that year had more good football players on the team than any other he had been with but the season would soon bear him out as they produced one of the greatest seasons in club history. They won their first four games and 10 of 11; tying the 1962 Lombardi championship team for the best start thru 11 games in franchise history. They also matched that team and the '96-'97 Super Bowl teams for most wins in a season with their final 13-3 record.The only blemish on the record was getting swept by the Bears.


    Most of the attention and recall of that '07 team is on the offensive side. The renaissance to the late career of Brett Favre, the emergence of Ryan Grant in the run game, and a surprisingly efficient showing by the receiving corps and offensive line put the Pack back in the league's elite categories again. But the performance and role of the defense that season cannot be underestimated or overlooked.

    The unit ranked just outside the league's top ten at #11; 12th against the pass and 14th against the run. While sacks (36) and turnovers (26) were modest and down from the previous year the D rose dramatically in scoring defense, allowing only 18.2ppg- 6th best in the league- and was a real stopping defense allowing a third down conversion rate of only 33%, third best in the NFL.

    Aaron Kampman led the team with 12 sacks. Nick Barnett had 102 tackles, Atari Bigby topped the club with 5 INT's. Kampman and cb Al Harris were selected to the Pro Bowl.


    The Packers returned to the playoffs after a two year absence and for the first time since 1997 earned a first round bye as the NFC number two seed. In the divisional playoff at Lambeau they met their old coach Mike Holmgren and Seattle once again in a postseason match. Two early fumbles by Ryan Grant gave the Seahawks a pair of short field touchdowns but once the offense settled down and the defense settled in the game was no contest.

    The defense held Seattle, with rb Shaun Alexander, to just 28 rushing yards and 200 total yards for the game. They limited the Seahawks to only two field goals over the final 49 minutes of the game. Seattle was one for four on third conversions and also stopped on a fourth down attempt.


    Advancing to the NFC Championship game for the first time in a decade the Packers won home field advantage for the game when the Giants beat top seed Dallas in their divisional round playoff. The wild card Giants were a team that would start an NFC habit, though, of getting hot at the right time for the playoffs and their visit to Lambeau turned out bitter for the Packers.(to be continued.)


    The 2008 offseason, as every fan knows, was dominated by the Brett Favre retirement/unretirement fiasco and his eventual trade to the Jets; after he tried to get to Minnesota to "stick it" to the Packers, or at least Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. And the transition to Aaron Rodgers as quarterback. Those stories are recent and well enough known not to require elaboration again here.

    Overshadowed by the quarterback controversy/ change on the defensive side, though, was the free agency status of an important member dt Corey Williams. The 2004 6th round draft pick had developed into one of the Packers most impactful linemen and was a valued prospect on the free agent market. His contract demands, though, were higher than the Packers evaluated him or than their sal-cap allowed. Ted Thompson franchise tagged him then traded him to Cleveland for a second round draft pick. (Which was used on qb Brian Brohm.)

    The Packers still expected top '07 draft pick Justin Harrel to come on and had big young Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole, plus could move Cullen Jenkins inside on passing downs. But as things would work out Harrel didn't show, Jenkins, Jolly and Cole all suffered major injuries and spent much of the '08 season out of action. Time would also catch up with de Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. He had been reduced to a pass rushing specialist since 2006 as his ability against the run was becoming a liability. The Packers would release him midway through the '08 season; after he had become Green Bay's all-time qb sacks leader during his 9 years with the club. Daniel Muir, a useful part of the Packers' 07 line rotation, also left for the Colts in free agency.


    Ted Thompson did little to add to the defense in '08. Only 2 of 8 selections were on that side and neither did anything for the Packers. TT picked cb Pat Lee in the second round and lighweight de Jeremy Thompson in the fourth. Though in free agency he did sign a veteran lb Brandon Chillar from St.Louis.


    As the Packers crumbled on the front the back end began to lose players as well. Safety Atari Bigby, a promising young prospect the previous year was out for half the season. And the roof fell in after mlb Nick Barnett was lost for the second half of the season to a knee injury.

    Less than a year after coming within an overtime field goal of going to the Super Bowl the Packers in 2008 would have their second double-digit losing season in four years. But it wouldn't be the fault of the team's new starting quarterback. Aaron Rodgers had a fine first starting season; a harbinger of greater things to come. The offense ranked 8th in the league in overall and passing offense and 5th in scoring.

    The defense and special teams, though, were another matter. The Packers dropped to 20th in yards and 22nd in points allowed and were a terrible 26th against the run. The Packers lost 7 games by four points or less, two in overtime, and in at least 6 had the lead or were even within the final 3 minutes of the fourth quarter but failed to make stops or plays.

    One small peculiarity in the otherwise dismal 6-10 season was the tying of the team record by returning 6 interceptions for touchdowns during the year; equaling the feat of the 1966 world championship club. And Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Al Harris were all selected to the Pro Bowl.

    The fire for the team's defensive slide fell on dc Bob Sanders.


    Soon after the season ended Mike McCarthy fired the entire defensive staff, except for linebackers & assistant head coach Winston Moss, and announced he was converting the Packers to a 3-4 defense in 2009.


    End of Part 7.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  19. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Charles Woodson https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIM1B4BV7DIA.6j7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByN2RnbHFoBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDMw--?p=Charles+Woodson%2C+Packers&vid=832d4063dc6881eb8cb4ea1a5fe59dc4&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DWN.S0kkAKAPW44izl3GgIF%252big%26pid%3D15.1%26h%3D142%26w%3D300%26c%3D7%26rs%3D1&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DmuCghBazvnU&tit=Charles+Woodson+Tribute+%7C+Green+Bay+Packers+Career+Highlights&c=2&h=142&w=300&l=661&sigr=11b873gg0&sigt=11ts7172n&sigi=12me7427e&age=1427978110&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Av&fr=sfp&tt=b

    Ryan Pickett http://media.jrn.com/images/660*597/b9997653z.1_20130917213322_000_gog2habh.1-1.jpg

    A.J. Hawk http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/52/6c/8d/526c8d28e11838d545a114ac4cbca218.jpg

    Nick Collins https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIDPzoBVNTQANTv7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByZWc0dGJtBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDMQ--?p=nick+collins+highlights&vid=abe0591d2abed4369987441d2c3c3827&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts4.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DWN.WPgL28RscbwzZDJMYGTDPg%26pid%3D15.1%26h%3D140%26w%3D300%26c%3D7%26rs%3D1&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D5_YCIRV2C7Y&tit=Nick+Collins+Tribute+|+Career+Highlights&c=0&h=140&w=300&l=564&sigr=11bomu01g&sigt=118l74ddc&sigi=12kgdvft0&age=1426298976&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Av&fr=sfp&tt=b

    Corey Williams http://www2.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/J+Hawk+Corey+Williams+Seattle+Seahawks+v+Green+A8IooNNLozQl.jpg

    Cullen Jenkins http://img.spokeo.com/public/900-600/cullen_jenkins_2008_01_20.jpg

    Tramon Williams http://cmsimg.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=U0&Date=20140106&Category=PKR0101&ArtNo=140106022&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Williams-Capers-good-needs-more-veterans

    "The Claymaker" Clay Matthews https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A2KLqIQA1IBVWREApkT6w8QF;_ylc=X1MDOTY3ODEzMDYEX3IDMgRiY2sDNmxvZm8yZGFvMWwwMCUyNmIlM0QzJTI2cyUzRGZpBGZyAwRncHJpZANHak1ZYXl1cFR5Ll9HZHFoWWtVcUpBBG10ZXN0aWQDbnVsbARuX3N1Z2cDMTAEb3JpZ2luA3ZpZGVvLnNlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzYEcHFzdHIDQ2xheSBNYXR0aGV3cwRwcXN0cmwDMTMEcXN0cmwDMjQEcXVlcnkDY2xheSBtYXR0aGV3cyBoaWdobGlnaHRzBHRfc3RtcAMxNDM0NTA2MjQ5BHZ0ZXN0aWQDbnVsbA--?gprid=GjMYayupTy._GdqhYkUqJA&pvid=p8JLPDk4LjFFF75w7T4JUghyOTcuOQAAAAAC5uYW&fr2=sa-gp-video.search.yahoo.com&p=clay+matthews+highlights&ei=UTF-8&iscqry=&fr=sfp#id=20&vid=d4bd4cb0a7fc5cef6b8877cf1e5d43f5&action=view

    Brady Poppinga http://prod.static.packers.clubs.nfl.com/assets/images/fan-zone/wallpaper-2009-games/091222_01_1024x768.jpg

    Johnny Jolly http://i.smimg.net/13/44/johnny-jolly-green-bay-packers.jpg

    L-R Colin Cole, Mike Montgomery, Aaron Kampman http://cmsimg.greenbaypressgazette....20081207&Category=PKR01&ArtNo=81207048&Ref=AR

    Atari Bigby http://media.jrn.com/images/650*565/mjs-packers28-14-ofx-spt-wood-packers28.jpg

    Charlie Peprah http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Charlie+Peprah+Divisional+Playoffs+New+York+Af8qpPISRBQl.jpg

    Desmond Bishop http://prod.static.49ers.clubs.nfl.com//assets/images/imported/SF/121614-DesmondBishop-TB.jpg

    A #1 bust Justin Harrell http://packersinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/harrell-down.jpg

    Packers' defense 2009-2010 https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIVls4VV5wQAKX_7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTExMWRvOTBtBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVklEUFJEBGdwb3MDMQ--?p=Packers+defense+in+2009-2010&vid=9de0b520ebf0106c4ca7ab4fea41fe4c&turl=http://ts4.mm.bing.net/th?id=WN.l41lhk1a%2bKEhzVYKcW0spw&pid=15.1&h=360&w=480&c=7&rs=1&rurl=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI6sV6QLU6U&tit=Packer+Defense+2009-2010&c=0&h=360&w=480&l=221&sigr=11bsdqaf5&sigt=10o08rhvv&sigi=12ms0siie&age=1295156681&fr2=p:s,v:v&fr=sfp&tt=b

    Tramon Williams intercepts Mike Vick in playoff win over Eagles https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIHPmIpVkDUA5r_7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwdW5xZjJmBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDQjAxNDAEZ3BvcwMx?p=Tramon+Williams+intercepts+Michael+Vick+in+playoff&vid=8324fbfc0aca9ee172d9e93c623a1b9c&turl=http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=WN.HJ0K%2fOgpl%2fcZT32x9Xj%2fnQ&pid=15.1&h=168&w=300&c=7&rs=1&rurl=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt130x903Po&tit=Tramon+Williams+Interception+off+Michael+Vick+NFC+Wildcard+Game+1/09/2011+[HD]&c=0&h=168&w=300&l=17&sigr=11bvbgkdq&sigt=12eliqvrc&sigi=12qpvd9ng&age=1294620386&fr2=p:s,v:v&fr=sfp&tt=b

    Tramon Williams INT return breaks open playoff win over Atlanta http://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2011/1/15/1937858/tramon-williams-interception-touchdown-packers-falcons-video

    B.J. Raji interception return for td in NFC title game vs. Bears https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqITGmopV.CgATM77w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwN3Jvb25lBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDQjAxNDAEZ3BvcwMz?p=B.J.+Raji+interception+return+vs+Bears&vid=64245e5deec4ede034a8d71d03de5bec&turl=http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=WN.QkkTsQX9DVyFL4gjD307tg&pid=15.1&h=225&w=300&c=7&rs=1&rurl=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQFN5n7IYLw&tit=B.J.+Raji+Interception,+Touchdown,+and+Celebration&c=2&h=225&w=300&l=19&sigr=11blj9kg4&sigt=11i0hl2bu&sigi=12kg77mit&age=1296144000&fr2=p:s,v:v&fr=sfp&tt=b

    Dom Capers http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/fef23e7fad741e9f9ee45258cebb97a0c78c7f7a/c=0-0-3251-4335&r=537&c=0-0-534-712/local/-/media/PackersNews/2014/11/28/B9315306892Z.1_20141128225607_000+GRU9936FB.1-0.jpg

    Kevin Greene "It is time" in Super Bowl XLV. https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIOhZodVSVcAI__7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByYXI3cnIwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDNA--?p=Kevin+Greene+and+Clay+Matthews+in+Super+Bowl+XXV&vid=47101ec84c13f5dcc45e7f72667405d2&turl=http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=WN.h0IWkJWE6pc2aq3vq538dA&pid=15.1&h=168&w=300&c=7&rs=1&rurl=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQSXPZd63Es&tit=Clay+Matthews+Forced+Fumble+-+IT+IS+TIME!+Super+Bowl+45+-+February+6,+2011&c=3&h=168&w=300&l=56&sigr=11b80f4mh&sigt=12aqdkiqc&sigi=12k30uf8j&age=1414215951&fr2=p:s,v:v&fr=sfp&tt=b

    Sam Shields http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Sam-Shields-is-one-of-the-Packers-core-players/486f6112-a8e9-45ac-b63c-46690a11b2e5
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
  20. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 8:

    Mike McCarthy's switch of the Packers to a 3-4 defense was the second time in club history that a head coach had made such a move in the midst of his coaching tenure. Bart Starr had done it in 1980 and the Packers played the scheme for the next 14 years, through 4 different coaching regimes.


    The first task in implementing the new scheme was rebuilding the defensive coaching staff. After considering several prominent NFL defensive coaches for the coordinator position the Packers landed probably the best man for the job considering the circumstances Dom Capers.

    Capers was considered something of a father of NFL 3-4 defense. He had gained notice for his work of introducing it in Pittsburgh in the early '90's and that defense, continued under assistant Dick LeBeau, went on to become the gold standard of defense in the league for years afterward. He had also had experience building an entire team. He had been the first head coach of two expansion franchises Carolina and Houston.


    Filling out the staff the Packers hired recent Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac as defensive line coach and made a couple of in-house promotions of Joe Whitt, Jr. as cornerbacks coach and Scott McGurley as defensive quality control assistant. Two of the more intriquing hires after Capers were Darren Perry as safeties coach and Kevin Green as outside linebackers coach. Both Perry and Greene had played in Capers' and later LeBeau's 3-4 system.


    As they did in the 1980 conversion the Packers used two first round picks in the draft to address the crucial nose tackle and linebacker positions. With their first pick at #9 they took big dt B.J. Raji, projecting him to fill the nose tackle. Ted Thompson then traded the Packers' second and two third round picks to New England for the Patriots' first round at #26 and landed Southern California de Clay Matthews. Matthews, a late bloomer, was considered undersized for defensive end in an NFL 4-3 but an ideal prototype for outside rush linebacker in the 3-4.

    With his final picks in the sixth and seventh rounds TT added de Jarius Wynn, cb Brandon Underwood and lb Brad Jones.


    In a free agency move they brought in a safety who had played in Pittsburgh's 3-4 Anthony Smith. Smith wouldn't make the final cut and would become a tag along on IR in the Super Bowl season the next year.

    For the most part, though, the Packers expected their current personnel to make the adjustments to the new scheme. Ryan Pickett could play the nose and end positions, in alternation with Raji. Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly were big body ends like Capers preferred in his system.

    The secondary was little impacted by the change, except perhaps for opening more roles for Charles Woodson and safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby.

    A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett would fill the inside linebacker spots.

    The one player for whom the change was most dramatic was Pro Bowl end Aaron Kampman. The Packers moved the all pro to outside linebacker. "Kampy" would play the position to his best, but uncomfortably, in '09. The change, though, would factor into his decision to leave the Packers in free agency to return to 4-3 end with Jacksonville in 2010.



    The Packers would make the new defense work better and faster than most anticipated in 2009. The unit posted its highest defensive rankings since the Super Bowl teams of the 1990's. They produced the NFL's second ranked defense, behind the Jets, and were Number One in the NFC. They ranked first against the run, 5th against the pass and were 7th in scoring allowing 18.6 ppg.

    Although they managed only a modest 37 qb sacks they were ball hawks; snaring 30 INT's and recovering 12 opponent fumbles.

    Clay Matthews had a sensational first season. He led the team with 10 sacks and 45.5 pressures, recovered 3 fumbles, returned one for a touchdown, registered 36 tackles and 12 assists. He became the first Packers' rookie to go to the Pro Bowl in his first season since James Lofton in 1978 and was voted the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    Top draft pick B.J. Raji was more underwhelming. He was dogged by injuries in preseason and missed several games with injury during the year. He alternated at end and nose tackle and wound up with only 1 sack, 19 tackles and 6 assists.


    Charles Woodson was the league's defensive player of the year. He had 9 interceptions, forced 4 fumbles and recovered one, got 2 qb sacks, made 66 tackles and another 8 assists.

    Nick Barnett led the team in tackles with 82 plus 23 assists, followed by A.J. Hawk with 67 and 22. Nick Collins made 6 interceptions with Atari Bigby and Tramon Williams registering 4 each.

    The Aaron Kampman experiement, though, did not work out so well. He played only 9 games before suffering a season ending injury. In his one year at olb Kampy made only 3.5 sacks and 42 tackles and assists.

    With the defense in top form and the offense, led by ascending qb Aaron Rodgers, the third highest scoring in the league the Packers returned to the playoffs with a strong 11-5 season. The only shadow on the year was that they failed to recapture the NFC North title, thanks to their old qb Brett Favre.

    For the second year in a row Favre pulled another of his retirement/unretirement stunts and joined up with Minnesota; with whom he had been angling to join for over a year to "stick it" to the Packers - or at least to Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy.

    With Favre playing for them the Vikings defeated the Packers twice during the season and beat them out for the division title. In two games against "ol' #4" the Packer defense was hapless to stop him. The ex-Packer hit them for over 500 passing yards, 7 td's and put 68 points on the board against his old club. The Packer defense couldn't lay a glove on him getting no sacks and no interceptions off the NFL's career interception leader.

    Favre wasn't the only elite veteran quarterback to give the Packers defense problems. Ben Roethlisberger lit them up for 503 yds in a shoot-out loss at Pittsburgh. And in the Wild Card playoff in Arizona Kurt Warner shelled them for 5 td's and 379 yds.

    Defense went by the boards for both teams in that game, as the Packers and Cardinals combined for an NFL playoff record 96 points and 1,024 yds. The difference was the Packers got only 1 sack and an inconsequential fumble recovery while the Arizona defense got 5 sacks on Aaron Rodgers and 3 turnovers, which they cashed in for 20 pts. Including the game winner on the first play of overtime when they blitzed Rodgers and forced a fumble which was returned to the td while the entire officiating crew missed a blatant face mask penalty which caused the fumble in the first place.


    In 2010 the Packers did, of course, win the franchise's 13th NFL world championship but didn't take an easy route to getting it done. They were inconsistent much of the season and plagued by an epidemic of injuries that eventually put 15 players, including at least 9 starters, on their IR.


    Lost on the defense for all or major portions of the season were cb Al Harris, linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga, and s Atari Bigby. Two prime draft picks who were counted on to make a contribution in their first year s Morgan Burnett and de Mike Neal were hurt before they could even get started. Additionally Aaron Kampman left in free agency and de Johnny Jolly got in trouble for controlled substance violations, which would put him out of football for the next three years.

    Fortunately the Packers had or found the players to step up and step in to fill these voids. Two young ascending vets cb Tramon Williams and lb Desmond Bishop moved early on into starting roles with the team. Williams led the club with 6 INT's for the season and Bishop was second on the team with 75 tackles and 28 assists. He also had 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and his 32 yd. interception return for a td off Brett Favre was the differential score in a crucial midseason win over the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

    A pair of undrafted rookies cb Sam Shields and lb Frank Zombo became timely playmakers and 3 players added via the waiver wire provided depth and a number of critical contributions to the success of the team; linebackers Erik Walden and Robert Francois and de Howard Green.

    Safety Charlie Peprah, in his second tour with the Pack filled in ably when Bigby and Burnett both went down. And 7th round draft pick de C.J. Wilson showed promise for the line.

    The core of the defense avoided the injury bug for the most part. And with Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Nick Collins, Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk, B.J. Raji the Packers fielded a top five defensive unit for the 2010 season.

    They had the #2 scoring defense in the league, allowing only 15 ppg and were ranked 5th against the pass. They improved their quarterback sacks significantly tallying 47, though turnovers were slightly down with 24 INT's and 10 fumble recoveries. The unit did score 4 td's on turnovers.

    They were only 18th on their run defense ranking, allowing opponents a 4.7 ypc average.

    Clay Matthews had another sensational season; leading the team with 13.5 sacks, combining for 59 tackles and assists, intercepting a pass and forcing 2 fumbles, defensing 4 passes and scoring a td.

    B.J. Raji showed more like the player who was the club's top draft pick the year before. He started all 16 games and produced 6.5 sacks, 39 tackles and assists and even defensed 3 passes.

    Charles Woodson dropped off dramatically on his INT total with just 2 picks but led the team with 76 tackles 16 assists, forced 5 fumbles, defensed 5 more passes, and registered a pair of qb sacks.

    Nick Collins with 4 INT's, 12 passes defensed, 70 tackles, A.J. Hawk with 72 tackles, 39 assists and 4 turnovers, and Cullen Jenkins with 7 sacks were among the other defenders with notable seasons.

    Matthews, Woodson and Collins were named All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl but did not play in the game because they were involved in preparation for the Super Bowl.


    With two games remaining on the schedule the Packers were sitting at 8-6 and on the outside of the playoff circle looking in. They needed to win their final two against the Giants and Bears to get a wild card berth. They would at that point start, carrying over into 2011, a club record and NFL historic 19 game winning streak.

    In the season finale at Lambeau the Packers wrestled their way past the Bears 10-3 to get the NFC's sixth and final "seed." Chicago had already clinched the NFC North title and number two seed in the playoffs but played this game to win. Their defense bottled up the Packers offense but the Packers defense was even better. Although they allowed 110 yds. rushing they held the Bears to 227 total yards, sacked qb Jay Cutler 6 times and picked him twice. Erik Walden had 2 sacks and Nick Collins intercepted at the Packer 11 yd line in the final 20 seconds to seal the win.


    The Packers march through the playoffs that season was the greatest in club history; considering all the circumstances. No previous Packers world championship team had to play and win 3 straight road playoff games to bring the title to Titletown. And, though it's become overlooked in seasons since, the defense was foundational to that run.

    In the Wild Card playoff at Philadelphia, scene of previous Packers playoff heartbreak, the Packers held off the Eagles as Tramon Williams intercepted a Michael Vick pass in the end zone with 36 seconds remaining and Philly on an apparent game winning drive.


    Aaron Rodgers' virtually flawless performance in the Packers' upset of the NFC top seed Falcons in Atlanta overshadowed all else in the Pack's Divisional round win. But the defense allowed the Falcons only 194 total yards and registered 5 qb sacks and forced 4 turnovers in the game. Tramon Williams 70 yd. pick six just before halftime broke a close game open and set the Packers' rout in motion.


    The NFC Championship game at Soldier Field brought the league's two oldest rivals together for the third time that season and for the second time in their long history in a playoff game. The Packers and Bears had split their season meetings, each winning on their own court. Chicago had beaten Green Bay out for the NFC North title.

    The Bears defense was tough on the Packers' offense. After scoring two first half td's the offense was shut out for the final 44 minutes of the game. Chicago forced Green Bay into 8 punts and got a rare two interception game off Aaron Rodgers.

    The Packers defense, though, did the Bears one better. Holding them to 83 yds. rushing and netting 3 turnovers the Packer D forced Chicago into 9 punts, including their first 5 possession in a row. The Bears were only 1 of 13 on third down conversions. Jay Cutler managed only 6 completions in 14 attempts before being forced out of the game with a knee injury.

    The differential score in the game was B.J. Raji's 18 yd pick six return off back-up Caleb Hanie in the fourth quarter. That staked the Packers to a 21-7 lead but Hanie, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yds. hit the Packers for a long td pass to make it a one score game with plenty of time remaining. Sam Shields sealed the victory with an interception at the Packers' 12 yd line with 37 seconds remaining.


    Super Bowl XLV, played at the new $2.3 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas pitted the Packers, the club with the most NFL world championships, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise with the most Super Bowl wins and appearances. It was the Packers' fifth appearance in the Super Bowl but their first in 13 years. The Steelers were two years removed from winning a Super Bowl and were an experienced and confident bunch. The Packers, though, more than matched their confidence and determination.

    The Packers hit the Steelers with a flurry of opening punches that opened up a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. Perhaps the biggest was Nick Collins' 37 yd. interception and return for a td in the first quarter that ultimately proved to be the differential margin in the game.

    The defense, though, took a big hit when Charles Woodson was forced from the game in the second period with a fractured collar bone. But as they had done all season guys stepped up and stepped in to carry on with the mission. Jarrett Bush, subbing for Woodson, picked off a pass in the second quarter that stopped a Pittsburgh drive and the Packer offense converted into another td.

    The Steelers, though, didn't fold. Their famed defense shut down the Packers offense for much of the remainder of the game but every time Pittsburgh seemed on the verge of switching the momentum of the game in their favor the Packer defense made a stopping or turning play.

    In the third period rookie Frank Zombo got the Packers' only sack of the game on qb Ben Roethlisberger to stop a drive and force the Steelers into a 52 yd field goal attempt, which was no good.

    The biggest play came early in the fourth, with the Packers lead down to 21-17 and the Steelers driving to the Green Bay 33. Clay Matthews forced and Desmond Bishop recovered a fumble by rb Rashard Mendenhall. The offense cashed it in with Aaron Rodgers' third td pass of the game to Greg Jennings.

    In the final two minutes, with the Packers leading 31-25, the Steelers had their last chance with the ball. Two years before against the Cardinals in the Super Bowl Ben Roethlisberger had led them on a game winning score in the final seconds under similar circumstances. This time the Packers would allow him no heroics. They secured the Packers' 13th world championship and 4th Super Bowl win - their first in 14 years- by forcing Pittsburgh into 3 straight incomplete passes to take over on down and run out the final 49 seconds.

    The Packer defense in Super Bowl XLV ended 7 of 12 Steelers' possessions in punts, turnovers or on downs.


    End of Part 8.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
  21. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
    Part 9.

    Since Super Bowl XLV the Packers defense has taken a very different trajectory, as evidenced by their league defensive rankings of the past four seasons:

    2011- 32nd (14th against the run, 32nd against the pass) 22.4 ppg (19th in scoring defense.)
    2012- 11th (10th against the pass,17th against the run) 21 ppg (11th)
    2013- 25th (24th against the run, 25th against the pass) 26.8 ppg (24th)
    2014- 15th (10th against the pass, 23rd against the run) 21.8 ppg (13th)

    Average yds. per pass attempt: 2011-7.2 (30th), 2012- 5.7 (7th), 2013- 6.8 (25th), 2014-6.0 (8th).
    Average yds, per rush attempt: 2011- 4.7 (26th), 2012-4.5 (25th), 2013- 4.6 (29th), 2014- 4.3 (20th).
    Touchdown passes allowed: 29 (2011), 24(2012),30(2013), 26(2014).
    Rushing td's allowed: 10(2011), 12 (2012), 16(2013), 11 (2014).

    Interceptions: 31 (2011), 18 (2012), 11 (2013), 18 (2014)
    Sacks: 29 (2011), 46 (2012), 44(2013), 41 (2014).

    Turnovers and defensive td's: 2011- 38/5, 2012- 24/2, 2013-22/2, 2014- 27/4.

    The Packers have continued to win and reach the playoffs every year, winning four straight NFC North titles, but they have won only 2 of 6 playoff games during this time, including two more losses at Lambeau in postseason, and haven't made a return to the Super Bowl. Until last season they hadn't even gotten as deep in the postseason as the conference championship game. While it would be both unfair and inaccurate to say the defense has been solely to blame for that record it has been and remains the critical issue to the balance of team success.

    After flirting with an undefeated season and starting 13-0 the 2011 Packers became the first NFL club to go 15-1 in the regular season and become a "one and done" in the playoffs as they lost at home to the wild card Giants. In that game the Packers defense allowed 420 yds. and 37 points. Eli Manning completed 21 of 33 for 330 yds and 3 td's. Receiver Hakeem Nicks gained 165 on 7 catches and had touchdowns on plays of 66 and 37 yds.

    The following year at San Francisco the Packers gave up 579 yds. to the 49ers, 323 rushing yds., 181 by qb Colin Kaepernick and 45 points in another divisional round loss.

    They gave a better account of themselves in the next season's Wild Card meeting at Lambeau but still allowed 167 rushing yds. and 381 total yds. And they failed to make a stop or saving play on the Niners final 75 yd. 12 play 5 minute drive that ended in their game winning field goal in the closing seconds.

    In last January's NFC Championship game loss at Seattle the defense cancelled out a 5 turnover/5 sack game that had the Seahawks offense shut out for 58 minutes when they failed to hold on two stands late in the final two minutes and the overtime period.

    Of course, the offense being uncharacteristically off-kilter, conservative or turnover prone and several major gaffes by special teams have also been a big part of the blend of those playoff defeats as well.Still, the 2010 defense managed to step up and pull its weight in crunch time under similar circumstances and historially other world championship Packers teams have had defenses that saved the day when the other legs of the team stool were in a struggle.

    The defense had an extended period to show itself in 2013 when the offense wasn't around to carry it after Aaron Rodgers' fractured collarbone sidelined him for 8 games.In 5 of those games the Packer defense allowed over 400 yds., including 561 at Detroit, and over 330 in the other three. The Packers lost 5 and tied one during that stretch.

    Much of the fire for the Packers' defensive drop-off has been leveled at coordinator Dom Capers. "Fire Capers" threads are common on fan boards and grist for talk radio rants and some members of the media have questioned Mike McCarthy's commitment to Capers and his scheme.


    The coaching certainly can be held accountable for game plans, scheme and player deployment, play calling and the team's poor fundamentals in tackling and recurrent communication and assignment breakdowns. But the larger issue is personnel. The Packers simply lost too many good players from the Super Bowl team and haven't had a good record of finding effective replacements.

    The career ending injuries sustained by s Nick Collins (2011) and lb Desmond Bishop (2012) and the free agency departure of de Cullen Jenkins right after the Super Bowl win created vacancies on the defense the club has been struggling to fill ever since. Johnny Jolly wasted his career on his addiction problem and resulting legal troubles and incarceration. Other prospects from 2010 who were hoped and expected to continue to progress and produce didn't: Defensive ends C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn, linebackers Erik Walden and Frank Zombo, s Charlie Peprah. And time marched on Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Tramon Williams.


    GM Ted Thompson has come under some complaint as well for his free agency and draft decisions and moves - or lack thereof- for the defense. Sticking to his philosophy of building through the draft TT went 8 years without making any notable free agent signings for the team until the additions last year of Julius Peppers and LeTroy Guion. Though in TT's defense it is debatable at best whether signing more name free agents commanding big contracts would have turned the defense around or not left the Packers in a sal-cap bind.

    Thompson has not been lacking in effort for defense in his recent drafts. The Packers' first round picks have gone for defensive players in each of the last 3 years and of 39 picks since 2011 TT has devoted 19- 48.7%- to defense. The return on those investments hasn't been good, though. Over a third of the Packers' defensive draft picks since 2011 aren't even with the team any longer.Only two out of the University of Iowa - de Mike Daniels (4th round, 2012) and db Micah Hyde (5a,2013) - have been any real impact players for the club. The rest are still, hopefully and at best, "works in progress."



    The Packers haven't gotten first round results with first round picks lb Nick Perry (2012) and de Datone Jones (2013.) While both have flashed potential they haven't been consistent and both have been injury prone. Jones will start the 2015 season on a one game suspension for an offseason pot bust.

    The Packers sustained another major draft bust in 2012 second round pick de Jerel Worthy. The Packers traded two picks to move up in the draft to get Worthy, a dominating defensive lineman in college at Michigan St. Though questioned at times about his consistency and motivation. Worthy showed promise but injured his knee at the end of the season at Minnesota's Metrodome and his career quickly spiraled down and out afterward.

    Thompson came in for criticism in 2013 when he didn't add a safety in free agency or the draft when that position was in a situation of desperate need. And he raised some eyebrows again this year when he took two defensive backs and a wr/kr before getting around to picking an inside linebacker in the fourth round of the draft. In fairness reaching for a position of need and getting a player who doesn't fill it doesn't accomplish anything either.

    After trying undrafted free agent M.D. Jennings at safety for two seasons TT did get HaHa Clinton-Dix with last year's first round pick. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1892034-why-the-green-bay-packers-must-replace-md-jennings-with-sean-richardson



    (to be continued.)
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  22. Packerlifer

    Packerlifer Cheesehead

    Sep 4, 2008
  23. Joe Nor Cal Packer

    Joe Nor Cal Packer Cheesehead

    Feb 24, 2014
    Very nice history here thank you. Even in the modern NFL, where it's much harder for defenses, superior Ds will beat superior Os the majority of the time in money games. I love the O the Packers have put together, but if the D doesn't step up in a big way out of the gate, it could be a 14 win season with no SB ring. History proves it. All of the GB SB teams had great defenses. I know there's a lot of denial on this forum but if a #1 O is playing a #1 D in the SB, the smart money is always on the D. End of story.
    • Like Like x 1
  24. Raptorman

    Raptorman Vikings fan since 1966.

    Aug 31, 2006
    It's not just Green Bay that had great defense in the Super Bowl. It is almost impossible to win without a good defense. In the last 20 years, the teams that won the Super Bowl and the defensive scoring rank for the season.

    Brady had defense's ranked 6, 1, 2 and 8.
    Rodgers, Packers were ranked 2nd.
    Wilson 1.
    Big Ben, 1 and 3.
    Elway, 6 and 8.
    Favre, 1
    Ravens were 1 and 12.
    Eli, well Eli had 17 and 25, When the Giants got the playoffs, the defense stepped up and held the other teams to 14 points per game.
    Brees defense was 20.
    Payton Manning his was 23. Same as Eli, when the Colts made it, the defense stepped up and held the other teams to 6, 8, 34 and 17 points.

    So having a good QB is good, but it won't necessarily win you the big game.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  25. captainWIMM

    captainWIMM Cheesehead

    Jul 23, 2012
    Just because you continue to ignore the facts I've posted several times in response to your claim that defenses win championships doesn't mean they aren't true.
    • Winner Winner x 1

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