From Bart to A-Rod, and regrettable points in between

Packer fans merely need to look at the historic quarterback carousel farther south on Interstate 94 — or, for that matter, last season when Aaron Rodgers was out due to his collarbone — to realize how lucky the Packers have been to have stability under center for most of five decades.

Just in case you need reinforcement, Lombardi Avenue provides it:

Nearly every year from 1957 stretching all the way into 1970, Bart Starr was Green Bay Packers football. The man coined one of the most “infamous” plays in football history with his quarterback sneak for a touchdown in the Ice Bowl. Not to mention bringing multiple championships to the Vince Lombardi era. Starr also led the Packers to wins Super Bowls I and II.

Exit Starr, and the Packers didn’t see much success over the next decade-plus, but lo-and-behold another rock at quarterback developed. Lynn Dickey was a familiar face from 1976 through 1985. Dickey had the Packers’ record for yards in a season (4,458) up until Aaron Rodgers broke it in 2011. During that 1983 season, Dickey also threw for 32 touchdowns which was tops in the NFL. …

Kiln, Miss., native Brett Favre came over in one of Ron Wolf’s greatest instinctive trades of all-time. Falcons coach Jerry Glanville once described the young gunslinger as a train wreck. Favre would go on to rewrite both the Green Bay Packers and the NFL record books.

Favre brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown with a Super Bowl XXXI victory over the New England Patriots.

Though this would be his only championship, his story was far from finished.

The “Gunslinger” would go on to be the all-time NFL record-holder for touchdowns, yards, completions, starts, wins and the one that kept us up at night, interceptions. Brett Favre was the definition of an Iron Man. When Sunday rolled around there was no doubt that #4 would be under center. The man gave his everything to the fan base, and one would hope come 2015 when he gets his place in Packers history, that will be remembered. …

How do you replace Brett Favre? You bring in perhaps the most accurate passer we have seen in history.

Insert Aaron Rodgers who took over play-calling duties in 2008 and still carries it into the 2014 season.

Rodgers took the 2010 Green Bay Packers back to the glory land and brought the Lombardi back home.

Along the way, Rodgers has become one of the most accurate, pin-point passers of all-time. Not only does Rodgers have the highest QB rating of all-time at 104.9 but it is the only current rating over 100.

Starr, who was sort of Joe Montana before Joe Montana was playing football, wins the best-Packer-quarterback title because of their five NFL championships and two Super Bowls under center. The first two titles (and their first Glory Days playoff appearance in 1960) were the Run to Daylight teams of Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung, People forget, though, that Taylor and Hornung were on their way out by the time the Super Bowl era started. The two Super Bowls were accomplished largely on Starr’s underrated arm and play-calling ability, given that the replacements for Hornung (Donny Anderson) and Taylor (Jim Grabowski) were inexperienced and, as it turns out, overrated.

Starr didn’t throw 40 passes a game, but the passes he did throw were thrown to the correct-color jersey. Starr didn’t have Favre’s arm, but the ball got where it was supposed to go. (Starr’s career interception percentage was 4.4 percent. Starr was the number one rated passer in the NFL and the American Football League in 1962, 1964 and 1966, and he was never ranked worse than eighth.)

People also forget that Starr, as nearly all quarterbacks did in those days, called all the plays. That includes his Ice Bowl quarterback sneak, which was actually designed as a fullback run. Starr suggested to Lombardi that, because of the treacherous south-end-zone footing, that he run it in himself (not bothering to tell his teammates, by the way). Given that they had failed on the first two first-and-goal plays and were out of time outs, that was going to be the final play one way or another. And Starr’s suggestion brought the last Glory Days title to the Frozen Tundra.

(This does make you wonder why Starr was not a more successful coach, given that he could clearly call successful plays. There are therefore two reasons: (1) It’s all about talent in the NFL, even in the 1970s, and (2) you cannot be the general manager and the coach and expect to succeed. Starr could have been a good coach or general manager [probably the former rather than the latter], but not both.)

Favre’s and Rodgers’ careers speak for themselves. (Lombardi Avenue could have mentioned that Favre holds a record that will never be approached, for almost-interceptions. Every game would have at least one instance where Favre would force a pass and it would hit a defender in the hands or between the numbers, and, well, the defensive player demonstrated why he played on defense.) Dickey, whose acquisition from Houston was required by general manager/coach Dan Devine’s disastrous John Hadl “Lawrence Welk” trade (five players to get Hadl, two to get rid of him), was under center for two 8–8 seasons and the Packers’ last playoff season before Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and Favre arrived, 1982. It took several seasons (including one lost to a broken leg) to get to that point, but by the early ’80s the Packers had a quality offense, which they needed because of their porous defense. Their offense was also less than awesome in part because Dickey was about as mobile as the Curly Lambeau statue now in front of Lambeau Field, and the offensive line didn’t always give him the time he needed to throw.

The success of Starr, Dickey, Favre and Rodgers makes the interregnums between them stand out. The Packers’ attempted replacements for Starr included:

  • Don Horn, Vince Lombardi’s last number one pick as general manager/coach, who did finish 1969 4–1 as a starter, which stands out as his only career highlight.
  • Scott Hunter, who did hand off effectively enough to quarterback the Packers to the NFC Central title in 1972. Unfortunately, Redskins coach George Allen figured out in the playoffs that if you stopped the run, you stopped the Packers, and they did.
  • Jim Del Gaizo, whom Devine acquired because he was deep on the early ’70s Miami Dolphins’ depth chart. (Think the Hadl trade is bad? The Packers traded two second-round picks for Del Gaizo, who was undrafted out of Syracuse.)
  • Jerry Tagge, because he was a native of Green Bay. He was also the quarterback at Nebraska when Nebraska quarterbacks didn’t throw.
  • Jack Concannon, formerly a Bears quarterback, apparently acquired because he was on the early ’70s Dallas Cowboys practice squad.
  • Hadl, a star in the AFL, who said himself about the trade, “I really didn’t believe it … I didn’t think anyone would be that desperate.”
  • David Whitehurst, who was pressed into service after Dickey’s injury.

Dickey was Starr’s last quarterback and Forrest Gregg’s first Packer quarterback. And then after two 8–8 seasons, Gregg cut Dickey, replacing him with .. Randy Wright, who was a good quarterback at Wisconsin, but who, like everyone on the previous list, was really not capable of being an NFL quarterback. (How do we know this? After the Packers cut Wright following the 1988 season, no one else picked him up, the fate of Hunter, Tagge and Whitehurst. The others were picked up by similarly horribly bad teams, demonstrating that the number one reason bad teams are bad is deficiencies in talent, and by extension the ability, or lack thereof, to evaluate talent.) Gregg could perhaps blame his predecessor, who used his 1981 number one draft pick to get Cal quarterback Rich Campbell, but then again maybe Gregg could have avoided trading his 1986 number one pick to San Diego to get defensive back-turned-sexual-offender Mossy Cade.

Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback interviews an opposing quarterback hard to root against, New Orleans’ Drew Brees:

On the greatest joy he gets from his job…

There are so many teaching elements; things that I can learn every day from this game that apply to other aspects of life—that apply to fatherhood, that apply to business, that apply to relationships. There are certain things about football that you can’t replace. You can’t replace the locker room. Every former teammate or player who I’ve ever talked to, it’s like, ‘What do you miss the most?’ They’re like, ‘I miss the locker room. I miss the guys.’ That brotherhood. That camaraderie. The atmosphere. Guys digging at one and other. Guys cracking jokes. That blood, sweat, and tears element. You’re out on the field fighting for one another. You build up this trust and confidence. This feeling that I’ve got to do it because I don’t want to let the guy next to me down. At the end of the day, that allows you to accomplish things greater than maybe you ever thought because you feel so invested. I love football. Football can only be played one way—with a certain level of intensity and focus and emotion. So I try to bring that out every time we play. …

On his legacy…

What I want people to say about me is that I was a great football player. That I cared about my teammates. I want people to say, ‘Man, I would have loved to play with that guy.’

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