As the dog days of the NFL summer approach, we at Last Word On Sports introduce our “All-Franchise” teams for each of the league’s 32 clubs. For this series, our football writers have composed all-time rosters compiled with the greatest players in each franchise’s history at each position along with their time and accomplishments with the team. From offense to defense to special teams, each unit is displayed on a first-team, “starter” basis only.
The offensive lineup is comprised of one quarterback, one running back, three wide receivers, one tight end and five offensive linemen. Though “fullback” was omitted due to its scarcity in modern-day football, players who played that position may be placed as the running back because of their significant contributions to their respective franchise’s ground game. The defense will have the familiar four defensive back look (two cornerbacks, two safeties), but the front seven, whether 4-3 or 3-4, will be arranged in the alignment that the team traditionally runs and/or was historically successful in. Finally, the special teams will have a kicker, a punter and a return man responsible for bringing back kickoffs and punts.
Today, we present the All-Franchise team for the Green Bay Packers.
Kicking off this All-Franchise team is perhaps the most influential man in Packers history. In just seven years with the team, Vince Lombardi cemented his legacy as one of the NFL’s greatest coaches. Known for his strong brass and ability to relate to his players, Lombardi is still recognized as one of the best leaders no matter the sport. After starting his professional career as an assistant coach with the New York Giants, Lombardi took over for a Packers team that won just a single game in 1958. There was star power but they lacked cohesion. It took Lombardi’s professionalism and vigor to whip that team into the game’s first true dynasty.
Lombardi made an instant impact in Green Bay. The Packers finished 7-5 and Lombardi won his first of two Coach of the Year honors. In his second season with the Pack, the team made the NFL Championship but lost a close game to the Philadelphia Eagles. After the disappointing result, Lombardi told his team they would never lose another championship. He kept his promise, winning the next two championships and three straight from 1965-1967. Among his most impressive victories were the 1967 NFL Championship Game, or Ice Bowl, as well as Super Bowls I and II. Lombardi did spend one more year coaching the Washington Redskins but will always be remembered as a Packer. His teams never had a losing season and he finished his coaching career with an overall record of 105-35-6 with just the one playoff loss.
Lombardi was one of a kind. His players were well-disciplined and put through rigorous practices, though I bet most of them are still thankful for the time they spent with the legendary coach. Off the field, Lombardi was very religious, held his family close, and dipped his toes into politics and social liberties. He was known for seeing his players as “Packer Green” regardless of their race. He was an accepting man, especially for the time. Lombardi will always be revered for sticking up for his players and coaches and still reigns supreme in the hearts of football fans no matter their team affiliation.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (2005-Present)
The Packers are in an enviable position when it comes to the team’s history of great quarterbacks. Three players each have a strong case for best passer in Packers history. Bart Starr was the original and ultimate winner, carrying coach Lombardi’s offense to five league championships. What Brett Favre did for the team and state of Wisconsin cannot be understated, and his franchise records will be tough for any future Packer quarterback to reach. Now there’s Rodgers. He doesn’t have the pedigree of Starr or the numbers of Favre yet Rodgers will end up as the best Packer quarterback of all time.
The debate between these three could carry on forever, but Rodgers is the one player that could have played in any era or on just about any team and contended for a title. Rodgers couldn’t have entered a better situation than to learn behind Favre for three seasons, but he also never looked back once taking the reins. Rodgers captured a championship in his third year as the starter and received the first of his two MVP honors the following season. That 2011 team was the most potent offense in team history. Rodgers has been voted to six Pro Bowls and three All-Pros in 10 years as a starter.
Rodgers efficiency and natural skill makes him the choice here. He holds the NFL record for career passer rating with 103.8 and has better than a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Rodgers isn’t only a proven passer but has also rushed for over 2,600 yards and 25 touchdowns. He is the most athletic quarterback in franchise history and has an unfeasible ability to escape pressure and make plays with his legs. Rodgers has had some issues with durability during his career and has just the one Super Bowl appearance but he could retire today as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. With the trajectory of the passing game and medical practices of today’s NFL, Rodgers should continue to rack up huge numbers and contend for championships for another seven to 10 years.
Running Back: Jim Taylor (1958-1966)
The top candidates for best running back in Packers history both resided in the same backfield. Halfback Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor played together for nine years and should still be considered the best backfield duo in NFL history. Taylor gets the nod here as the only player to pick up more rushing yards than Jim Brown in a single season and because Hornung played a variety of other roles on the team. Taylor was a second-round pick in the 1958 NFL Draft but didn’t play much until Lombardi took over the following year. He was invited to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls in 1960 and won his first championship the following year. Taylor was voted the Most Valuable Player in 1962 when Hornung went down to injury. He led the league in both rushing and scoring. Taylor’s tough and powerful running style was perfect for Lombardi’s run-centered offense. He won Super Bowl I with the Packers and is still remembered as one of the greatest running backs of his era.
Wide Receiver: Don Hutson (1935-1945)
This one is easy. Perhaps the greatest Packer of all-time, Don Hutson revolutionized the wide receiver position. He was the best receiver in the league his entire career and possibly the best pass-catcher until the great Jerry Rice. Many of Hutson’s records from the 1930s remained until Rice came along in the 80s. Hutson was the NFL’s leader in touchdown receptions in nine of his 10 seasons, led the league in receptions eight times, and in yards seven of those years. He was a two-time league MVP, eight-time All-Pro, and three-time world champion. Hutson’s legacy is cemented in the NFL Hall of Fame and his was the first number retired by the Packers organization. Not only that, but he was also one of the league’s best safeties and led the league in interceptions in 1940?
Wide Receiver: James Lofton (1978-1986)
James Lofton was perhaps the best receiver of the 1980s. He was invited to the Pro Bowl seven times while with the Packers and was a first or second-team All-Pro in four consecutive seasons from 1980-1983. Lofton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 despite the Packers making the playoffs just one time during his tenure with the team. These were not great times for the Packers yet Lofton continued to shine. He was the team’s all-time leading receiver with 9,656 yards when he left the team and continued to have success over his next seven years in the league.
Fan favorite Donald Driver was in consideration here as he is the Packers all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards but that was more due to his longevity with the team. Sterling Sharpe‘s only obstacle from becoming the franchise’s best receiver was his health. Sharpe only played seven years for the Packers before a neck injury shortened his career, but he showed enough in that time to be recognized as one of the team’s greatest receiving threats. Sharpe averaged 85 catches, nearly 1,200 yards, and over nine touchdowns over his career. He is one of only three players to record the receiving triple crown since the 1960s as he led the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in 1992. He was a Pro Bowler five times in seven seasons and a first-team All-Pro three times. Sharpe might never be a Hall of Famer but was still one of the best receivers in the game his entire career and an all-time Packer.
I know many fans would probably hope to see Mark Chmura or Bubba Franks in this slot, but Paul Coffman was the best and most complete tight end in franchise history. The three-time Pro-Bowler spent eight seasons with the Packers in the late seventies and early eighties and racked up over 4,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was one of the better tight ends in the league most of his career and was one of Lynn Dickey‘s premier targets. He caught 11 touchdown passes on the 1983 team that set franchise marks for most points scored in a single season (until the 2011 team surpassed those marks). Coffman is one of the more underrated Packers but deserves this spot on the All-Franchise team.
Left Tackle: Cal Hubbard (1929-1933, 1935)
Cal Hubbard was an early two-way player for Curly Lambeau‘s Packers. He originally signed on with the Giants in 1927 but missed the small-town life. Hubbard actually threatened to retire if he wasn’t traded to Green Bay. He made the right choice as he got his wish and won the next three league championships with the Packers. He originally played linebacker but Lambeau switched Hubbard to offensive and defensive tackle. Hubbard was an All-Pro four times, is a member of the Hall of Fame, and is widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackles in history.
Fred Thurston is probably the most unheralded member of the offensive line that orchestrated Lombardi’s offenses of the 1960s. He was the key cog in the legendary “Lombardi Sweep” as the pulling guard responsible for rounding the corner and engaging defenders downfield. Thurston was a six-time NFL champion and was on the team that won Super Bowls I and II. He was voted first-team All-Pro in 1961 and was granted three other second-team honors. Thurston was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame but is still a major snub from the league’s honors.
Center: Jim Ringo (1953-1963)
Jim Ringo played 10 years with the Packers before finishing his career with the Eagles. He was voted to an incredible 10 Pro Bowls and seven straight first-team All-Pros. He is a member of both the Packers and Eagles Hall of Fame and won two championships while in Green Bay. Ringo was undersized coming out of college but utilized exceptional quickness and technique to wall off defenders in the run game. Not bad for a seventh-round draft pick.
Right Guard: Jerry Kramer (1958-1968)
Jerry Kramer‘s long wait for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is finally over. The 11-year Packer earned his bust after being one of the premier guards of the 1960s. He paired with Thurston to power the Packers’ dominant run game that carried the team to five NFL Championships and the first two Super Bowls. Most remember Kramer as the lineman that paved the way for Starr in the Ice Bowl. The cold-blooded quarterback made the call to go for the sneak, but it was Kramer’s relentless push that got Starr into the end zone. In addition to this iconic Packers moment, Kramer was voted to three Pro Bowls and was awarded five first-team All-Pro honors.
Right Tackle: Forrest Gregg (1956, 1958-1970)
Of all the great linemen that played for the Packers in the early years of the NFL, none are more legendary than Forrest Gregg. The player and coach won five championships, three Super Bowl victories (two with Green Bay), was a nine-time Pro Bowler, and made an All-Pro team in nine straight seasons. Perhaps the largest and most telling accolade he ever received was when Lombardi declared that Gregg was the finest player he had ever coached. He anchored the right side of the line for Lombardi for years and is regarded as one of the top three tackles in NFL history to this day.
Defense (4-3 Alignment)
Defensive End: Reggie White (1993-1998)
Reggie White only spent six of his 15 seasons with the Green and Gold but makes a strong case as the greatest player in team history. He spent the first half of his career playing for the USFL’s Memphis Showboats before establishing himself as one of the league’s premier defensive players with the Eagles. White entered the underutilized free agent market with a resume consisting of six Pro Bowls to match six All-Pros and a Defensive Player of the Year award. General manager Ron Wolf will always be revered for aggressively pursuing White and coercing him to join the Packers.
The ordained Evangelist was known as the Minister of Defense. White was a wrecking ball on the field and an incredible man off it. Constantly revered by his coaches and teammates, White retired as the all-time leader in sacks with 198. He was both a fan and player favorite and passed away far too soon. He was enshrined into Canton shortly after and had his number retired by the Eagles, Packers, and his college, the University of Tennessee. Number 92 was one of the game’s greatest overall players and the Packers were lucky to have him on their 1996 championship team.
Defensive Tackle: Henry Jordan (1959-1969)
The first of Lombardi’s defensive players listed here is the seven-time All-Pro Henry Jordan. The Cleveland Browns drafted Jordan but traded him to the Packers after two years with the team. Jordan played gruff and tenacious on the field yet stood just 6’2” and 250 pounds. His 10-year stint with the team covered five NFL Championships and the first two Super Bowl victories. He was a very outspoken individual but fun to be around. Jordan once was bold enough to claim Lombardi treated all his players the same-“like dogs”.
Defensive Tackle: Gilbert Brown (1993-1999, 2001-2003)
The 350-pound defensive tackle known as “The Gravedigger” was an integral piece of the Packers D-line in the 90s and early 2000s. Lined up next to White for five years surely helped, but Gilbert Brown was a force in his own right. He was an immovable man that dominated the run game while White wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He started the second-most playoff games in team history behind Favre.
Mike Daniels (2012-Present) deserves an honorable mention here as the face of the defense today. Daniels has already tallied 207 total tackles and 27 sacks in his six seasons with the team. Another productive year or two as a quick and aggressive wrecking ball and Daniels could take over the top spot as the team’s all-time best defensive tackle.
Defensive End: Willie Davis (1960-1969)
Willie Davis played next to Jordan during his 10-year run with the Packers. Everyone thinks of Deacon Jones as the league’s first great defensive end but Davis was nearly as productive. He was voted first or second-team All-Pro in six straight seasons to go along with five consecutive Pro Bowls. He became a Hall of Famer in 1981 as a seven-time world champion. Sacks weren’t officially recorded until 1982, but Davis declared he never had a season with less than ten and finished one season with 25, which would be an NFL record still standing today.
Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews (2009-Present)
A stalwart of the modern Packers, Clay Matthews has been viewed as the team’s defensive leader throughout the Rodgers era. Matthews was an integral piece of the 2010 championship squad and made the key defensive play of the game when he forced a Rashard Mendenhall fumble in the fourth quarter. He was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in just his second season. Matthews has easily been the team’s best pass-rusher since he was drafted in the first round in 2009. He has collected six Pro Bowl nominations and has been voted to three All-Pro teams. Matthews has one year remaining on his current contract and has collected 80 sacks, six picks, and 14 forced fumbles over his nine years with the organization thus far.
Inside Linebacker: Ray Nitschke (1958-1972)
It’s no surprise Lombardi’s Packers are still regarded as one of the league’s most dominant dynasties due to the massive amount of talent on those teams. The leader of Lombardi’s defense for 15 seasons was the gruesome and tenacious linebacker, Ray Nitschke. A seven-time first or second-team All-Pro, Nitschke was inexplicably only voted to one Pro Bowl. He was a feared presence in the middle of the Packers defense for years who played with equal physicality and finesse. He is probably the toughest man to ever play for the Pack as he once had a pole driven through his helmet during a practice incident and kept on playing.
Outside Linebacker: Dave Robinson (1963-1972)
Dave Robinson entered the NFL as a defensive end, but a crowded line that already included Davis and Jordan led to a switch to outside linebacker. He carried those defensive line instincts over to the linebacker spot but made his most prominent impact in pass defense. Robinson is included here due to his 21 career interceptions as a Packer. He tied for the team lead in 1966 with five picks and averaged over two per season for his career. He was voted to four straight All-Pro teams and Pro Bowls in three of four years. Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
Herb Adderley won the first two Super Bowls with the Packers before playing in two more with the Dallas Cowboys. He was one of the game’s earliest premier cornerbacks and was an impressive playmaker in coverage. An injury forced Adderley into action on a Thanksgiving day game against the Detroit Lions, and he made the first of his 39 interceptions with the Pack. He turned seven of those picks into touchdowns, a mark that was only broken by the next player on this list. Adderley was on six championship teams yet always kept his career with the Packers in the highest regard.
Charles Woodson had received his fair share of accolades by the time he settled in Green Bay. He won the Heisman Trophy in his final year of college before winning Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Oakland Raiders. After injuries bogged Woodson down in Oakland, he left for the Packers in free agency before the 2006 season. Those that thought Woodson had lost a step were sorely mistaken as he led the league with eight picks in his first season with the Packers.
Woodson was aggressive and instinctual as a leader for the Packers defense, recording 38 interceptions and forcing 15 fumbles in his seven years in Green Bay. He lined up all over the field, making plays on the perimeter, rushing the quarterback from the slot, and eventually playing a center-fielder role. Woodson was the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year and helped the Packers return to the Super Bowl in 2010. He has a strong case to enter the Hall of Fame as a member of two different organizations, but Woodson’s time and impact with the Packers will be what he is remembered for.
Another member of the Packers Hall of Fame who hopes to one day be enshrined in Canton, LeRoy Butler was one of the best defensive backs of the 90s. Butler doesn’t receive enough credit for modernizing the safety position as a player that can play physical near the line without sacrificing coverage ability on the back end. Butler recorded 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks in his 12-year career with the Packers. He was both a four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro and anchored the secondary on that number one defense that won Super Bowl XXXI. Even with all these accolades, Butler’s legacy was forever cemented in Packer lore for leaping into the arms of fans in the end zone after scoring a defensive touchdown in 1993. Quickly named the Lambeau Leap, the play is still mentioned almost every home game today.
With Adderly manning one cornerback position, Willie Wood was able to patrol the deep middle of the field during the Packers dynasty in the 60s. With seven All-Pro honors to go along with eight Pro Bowls, Wood is yet another vaunted Lombardi Packer in the Hall of Fame. He recorded 48 picks in 12 years, including a league-leading nine in 1962. Wood was also the team’s primary punt returner during his time in Green Bay, leading the league in return yardage more than once and adding two touchdowns. He also still holds the record today for most consecutive starts as an NFL safety.
This was truly a two-man race between Mason Crosby and Ryan Longwell, as both are the only kickers in franchise history that have made over 80 percent of their field goal attempts. Crosby gets the nod here as the most tenured kicker in Packers history. The fact that Longwell ended his career with the Minnesota Vikings doesn’t help his cause. Crosby recently passed Longwell as the Packers all-time scorer and has a stronger leg than Longwell ever did. He has been a model of consistency apart from a very rough 2012 season and continues to be one of the game’s premier kickers.
Tim Masthay was never a household name outside of Green Bay and didn’t receive overwhelming respect from Packer fans either. He was never voted to a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team but did set the franchise records (at the time) for gross and net punting averages in 2011. Masthay proved to be a serviceable player for six years in Green Bay at a fraction of the cost of other punters around the league.
There may have been players that posted better numbers than Desmond Howard or were more than just primarily a return man, but he still remains the only specialist to ever win a Super Bowl MVP award. The fact that Favre didn’t win MVP of his only Super Bowl victory should tell you just how impressive Howard’s short tenure in Green Bay was. He only had one prominent season for the Packers after signing a one-year deal as a free agent in 1996 but responded with an NFL record 875 punt return yards and three scores en route to an All-Pro nomination. He played a small role after rejoining the team in 1999 but didn’t match his heights from the ’96 season.
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