Green Bay Packers: Jerry Kramer and the 1958 NFL Draft Class

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It’s night and day when one compares the current form of the NFL draft with all the glitz and glamour to the NFL draft of 1958. Two completely different animals. The draft of today is now shown live on two cable networks, ESPN and NFL Network.

It all started when ESPN first started showing the draft live in 1980. The draft has become a monster now with various magazines, web sites and programming by entities like ESPN and NFL Network giving their takes on the college prospects and doing ever-changing mock drafts.

The NFL draft first became part of the league in 1936. There have been many variations to how the draft has been developed to the point of where has evolved today.

The last few years, we have seen the draft run on three consecutive days, with the first round on one night, the second and third rounds the next night and then the fourth through seventh rounds held on the third day.

This year, the 2017 NFL draft will take place in Philadelphia and will start on April 27 and last through April 29.

Speaking of the 2017 NFL draft, I did my initial mock draft for the Packers last week.

The NFL journey for Jerry Kramer started on December 2, 1957, when he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 1958 NFL draft.

The draft was much different then, as the NFL staggered the draft on two different dates, with the first part of the draft (Rounds 1-4) being in early December and the last part of the draft (rounds 5-30) being in late January.

Yes, you read that right. There were 30 rounds back then. But on December 2, 1957, Kramer became a Packer, as did three other very talented football players. In the first round, the Packers selected Dan Currie. In the second round, the Packers selected Jim Taylor. In the third round, they selected Ray Nitschke, and In the fourth round Kramer.

All four of those players had excellent careers in the NFL, with two of them (Taylor and Nitschke) getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Kramer should also be in Canton and until he is, there will be a credibility issue there.

Currie was All-Pro three times and was selected to one Pro Bowl. A knee injury really hurt the effectiveness of Currie later in his career, both with the Packers and the Los Angeles Rams.

Taylor was named All-Pro six times and to the Pro Bowl five times. Taylor led the team in rushing seven times and led the NFL in rushing in 1962. He probably would have led the league a few more times if not for the presence of the great Jim Brown in his era.

The bruising fullback also had five seasons of 1,000 yards or more, and he gained more than 100 yards in a game 26 times.

Nitschke was the face of the defense in the Vince Lombardi era. He also played in an era that had some excellent middle linebackers like Dick Butkus, Sam Huff, Bill George and Joe Schmidt.

Nitschke was named All-Pro six times and was named to only one Pro Bowl squad for some ridiculous reason. Nitschke was also MVP of the 1962 NFL Championship game against the New York Giants, as he deflected one pass for an interception and recovered two fumbles.

Kramer was first-team All-Pro five times, was also named second-team All-Pro twice and was additionally named to three Pro Bowl teams. No. 64 was also on the All-Decade team of the 1960s. Finally, Kramer was named to the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team. Kramer is the only member of that first team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Kramer also kicked three fields goals in the windy (40 mph gusts) and chilly conditions at Yankee Stadium in the 1962 NFL Championship game. Those three field goals were the difference in the game, as the Packers beat the Giants 16-7.

Kramer is most famous for his block in the 1967 NFL Championship game, better known as the “Ice Bowl.”

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With 13 seconds remaining in the game and the Packers trailing 17-14 to the Dallas Cowboys, Kramer got great leverage with his block on DT Jethro Pugh, and QB Bart Starr happily followed his right guard into NFL immortality by scoring the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

So, how did Kramer find out he was drafted by the Packers in 1958? “I was in class at the University of Idaho when I was drafted,” Kramer said. “I came out of class and Wayne Walker, who was my classmate and who was also drafted by the Detroit Lions, told me I was drafted by Green Bay.”

In 1958, the GM of the Packers was Verne Lewellen. However, the man who was really responsible about scouting college prospects was Jack Vainisi. Vainisi was a talent scout for the Packers from 1950-1960.

In those 10 years, Vainisi picked six players for the Packers who would eventually be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Vainisi also played a prominent role in bringing Vince Lombardi to the Packers. It was Vainisi who called Lombardi to interview for the head coaching job in Green Bay.

Sadly, Vainisi died of a heart attack in 1960 at the young age of 33, just prior the championship run of the Lombardi-era Packers.

In 1958, there was no such thing as an NFL Scouting Combine. So who did NFL clubs get information on the various college prospects?

“You were sent a questionnaire by teams,” Kramer said. “How big are you? How fast are you? What are your military obligations and so forth. Then, you never really heard back from the teams.”

As Kramer was heading to play in the East-West Shrine game, he was contacted by a Canadian Football League official who told Kramer not to sign until they could talk. Kramer still signed with the Packers, although for a very meager amount by today’s standards.

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“I signed with the Packers for a $250 bonus,” Kramer said. “I spent that money with Walker the weekend of the East-West Shrine game in San Francisco. But actually the $250 turned out not to be a bonus. When I got to Green Bay I found out that the $250 was an advance on the $8,000 contract I had signed.”

The journey to Green Bay was pretty interesting. “I was playing in the College All-Star game in Chicago,” Kramer said. “Up to that point I had never worked out with the Packers or had ever heard from them. Almost zero communications. The Packers sent somebody down from Green Bay to drive us back there from Chicago. There was Taylor, Currie, Nitschke, Dick Christy, Neil Habig and myself from the draft class who got a ride back to Green Bay.”

Once in Green Bay, Kramer almost played himself off the squad. “When we got to Green Bay, the head coach was Scooter McLean,” Kramer said. “I had a very dim view of making the team. John Sandusky, who was my line coach at the College All-Star game, told me I probably wouldn’t make the Packers. John had played the prior year with Green Bay.

“John told me that the Packers had five guards on the roster. He told me I could play in the NFL, but probably not with the Packers. And so I went to training camp and basically played like I was waiting to get traded. Looking over the fence at practice and having a good time.

“Finally Scooter called me to his office one day and asked, ‘What in the hell is the matter with you? One day you look great and then the next day you are looking over the fence and checking the scenery. What the hell is going on?’

“I told Scooter that I was waiting to be traded. Scooter said ‘What?’ I told him what the coach at the All-Star game had told me. Scooter told me that I wasn’t drafted to get traded and that I was going to start the next preseason game against the Washington Redskins. About 10 days later the Packers traded a couple of guards to the New York Giants.

“It finally came down to the final cut between Ken Gray (another rookie) and myself. And the Packers kept me, although Ken later played with the Cardinals and became a Pro Bowl player.”

The 1958 draft class to me is the best draft class ever drafted by the Packers. In fact, NFL Network had the 1958 class of the Packers rated as the fourth-best draft class of all-time.

Yes, the 1958 draft class of the Packers was very, very good. Just imagine how highly rated this class would be when Kramer finally receives the recognition he so richly deserves—an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The draft today is much different than the draft of 1958. That being said, I’m sure Ted Thompson would be absolutely thrilled to draft players of the caliber of the 1958 draft class of the Packers this upcoming April. Thompson actually has had a pretty good track record drafting players overall.

But the draft class of 1958 was the best ever selected by the Packers. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

The Many Pro Football Hall of Fame Endorsements for Jerry Kramer

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Over the past week, a couple of Pro Football Hall of Fame members have spoken out on behalf of wide receiver Terrell Owens and his rightful enshrinement in Canton. One was former Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Lofton, as well as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young.

There is no denying that Owens put up some monster statistics in his career in the NFL, but he has also been labeled a bad teammate, as well as a player who never helped lead his team to a NFL title.

That is probably why there has been push back on his induction the past couple of years.

Compare that to Jerry Kramer. Now it’s hard to compare a position player to a lineman, but Kramer truly was a great player, not only in the regular season, but also under the bright lights of the postseason, when his Packers under head coach Vince Lombardi, won five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer played a leading role in the victories in three of those championship games, which were the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL title games.

When Kramer was done playing in the NFL after the 1968 season, he was recognized for his great play, as he was named to the 1960s All-Decade team, plus was also named to the very prestigious NFL 50th anniversary team, as he was the only guard on the first team.

Even with all that, Kramer still awaits his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And unlike Owens, Kramer was the epitome of being a great teammate.

While Owens has received a few endorsements from current Pro Football Hall of Fame members, Kramer has received several from players he played with and against from his era who now have busts in Canton.

Here are some just some of those testimonials that Kramer has received.

“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.

“Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”Merlin Olsen HOF 1982

“Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame, and quite frankly, I thought he was already inducted.”Frank Gifford HOF 1977

“Jerry Kramer is a fine man and a great football player. He is the type of player and person I feel strongly should also be numbered among the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.”Bob Lilly HOF 1980

“Jerry Kramer should have been in the Pro Hall of Fame many years ago.”Doug Atkins HOF 1982

“I support the nomination of Jerry Kramer as an inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jerry Kramer was a great football player and very deserving of this honor.”Alan Page HOF 1988

“When I think about all of the players not in the HOF, the one that mystifies me the most is Jerry Kramer. I don’t understand why he hasn’t, as yet been selected. In an NFL interview, Hall of Fame Vice President Joe Horrigan stated that Jerry accounts for about one-fourth of his mail on a daily basis.

“When you think of the Packers of the 60’s, you remember Lombardi at the blackboard describing the seal of the sweep. Getting that seal was the job of the guards and Jerry was the best at that particular skill. It was his agility and his speed to get out there and make that block that really made the Packer sweep effective.”Bob St. Claire HOF 1990

“It’s difficult for me to understand why Jerry has not been inducted by now. Considering the offensive linemen already enshrined, Jerry should certainly have a place.”Joe Schmidt HOF 1973

“I was truly shocked that Jerry was not a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. I know personally that there was no one better at his position.”Gino Marchetti HOF 1972

“We who played with him in Pro Bowls and against him in our careers, vote 100% for Jerry to join us in the Hall of Fame where he belongs.”John Mackey HOF 1992

“To the Senior Selection Committee: this is to remind you of Jerry Kramer and to put in a good word on his behalf.” – Raymond Berry HOF 1973

“I firmly believe that Jerry Kramer deserves to be in the Hall.” – Mel Renfro HOF 1996

“Jerry Kramer is a Hall of Famer. The Packers would not have been the greatest team in history, if they would not have had Jerry.” – Mike Ditka HOF 1988 

“A lot of folks deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of fame, none more so than Jerry Kramer.”Chris Hanburger HOF 2011

“You have my vote for Jerry for this upcoming class.”Jim Otto HOF 1980

“He was the best in football when I started playing Professionally, and it was his example that I emulated. He belongs with us so let us make his senior candidacy a reality.” Tom Mack HOF 1999

“I think players that somehow had a big impact on the game deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Jerry belongs there for what he did.” – Dave Wilcox HOF 2000

“I am recommending Jerry Kramer as a candidate for membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jerry’s stats and awards speaks volumes. He was a very fine player.”Lem Barney HOF 1992

“I have played against Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers on numerous occasions. I am highly recommending him for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”Chuck Bednarik HOF 1967

“His stats alone do not reveal the respect or dominance Jerry produced as an NFL lineman. Jerry is exactly the representation the HOF embodies.”Tommy McDonald HOF 1998

“Jerry truly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I respectfully request your consideration for a guy who has earned every right to be in Canton.”Willie Davis HOF 1981

“When you think of Hall of Fame guards, very few come to mind. But when I think of great guards, I think of Jerry Kramer.

“When you look at Green Bay’s success in the 1960’s, you can’t mention Vince Lombardi, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Jimmy Taylor, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood and Forrest Gregg and leave out Jerry Kramer. He is the perfect prototype of right guard.

“Jerry Kramer was on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team at guard and every member of that team is in the Hall except him. That is just unbelievable!

“To conclude my opinion on how the Hall of Fame is keeping Jerry Kramer locked out, I will have to quote Vince Lombardi once more…

“What the hell is going on out here?!”Paul Hornung HOF 1986

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You can see all of these testimonials and many more in this great book put together by Randy Simon.

The bottom line is Jerry Kramer was the best of the best in the NFL as a right guard with the Packers in the 1960s.

That is why he was honored and put on the 1960s All-Decade team, as well as the NFL 50th anniversary team.

And that’s also why he has all these great endorsements from his peers who have already made it into Canton.

I’ll leave you with one final endorsement for Kramer. This comes from Jack Youngblood (HOF 2001) of the Los Angeles Rams, who was a teammate of Merlin Olsen, who many consider the best defensive tackle in NFL history (14 Pro Bowls and nine first-team All-Pro honors).

“If any man has been overlooked for induction, Jerry Kramer is the one. My teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen said: Good Lord, he should be in the Hall. I couldn’t have said it better.

Initial 7-Round 2017 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

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In terms of the 2017 NFL draft, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl) have been played. As did the other bowl games which were played, as some players didn’t get an opportunity to play in an all-star game.

Those games gave us a chance to look at a number of prospects for the upcoming draft in April.

The actual 2017 NFL draft will take place in Philadelphia and will start on April 27 and last through April 29. Before then, there are still a couple more steps in which prospects can help themselves in terms of improving their draft stock.

The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis starts on February 28 and lasts until March 6. After that, we will have the various pro days for the players in the draft to try and impress the scouts, coaches and front office-types who will be in attendance.

I will be doing four mock drafts (including this initial one) before the actual draft.I will focus my mock drafts on the Green Bay Packers. I’ve had a pretty decent track record predicting some of the players that Ted Thompson has actually selected in the draft over the years.

Last year in my final mock draft, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford in the draft.

In my final mock draft in 2015, like a blind squirrel which finds an acorn, I was right about the Packers selecting both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan.

Bottom line, I’ve been doing this exercise for over a decade now and it’s been a lot of fun for me and I hope the same holds true for you.

I’ve become a real student of the NFL draft over the years and it’s very nice to have built an association like I’ve established with NFL scout Chris Landry.

Landry is one of the best in the business and his insight and knowledge really help me out, as I look at the prospects that I feel would be good fits for the Packers. I’m also happy to say that I contribute some stories to his fine website on a regular basis.

My latest story on his site was about Jerry Kramer, but I have done a number of stories which have been cataloged on his site over the past several months.

You can be certain that there will be a number of draft stories of mine which will be added over the next number of weeks.

Getting back to the Packers, the team has primarily been built on a draft and develop basis since head coach Mike McCarthy and Thompson joined forces in 2006.

In 11 seasons since that partnership took place, the Packers have had 114-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances, four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

It’s rare that Thompson dips his toes into “pure” free agency, when he picks up a veteran NFL player who has had decent success with another team or teams in the NFL. Instead, Thompson depends much more on the draft and signing “street” free agents or undrafted rookie free agents.

But when Thompson has signed a free agent player like Ryan Pickett, or signed players who were recently released by the previous teams like Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders), Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) and Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams), the results have been pretty good.

I see Thompson as being more active in free agency this year, but the draft will still be his main focus.

After the release of cornerback Sam Shields and running back James Starks this week, the Packers reportedly will have close to $43 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap. This is based on what the Packers gained by releasing Shields and Starks and a salary cap that’s projected to rise about $13 million this year.

Thompson is truly a scout at heart. The week of the NFC title game when the Packers played the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, Thompson was here in the Tampa Bay region scouting players at the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg.

The Monday after the Packers lost to the Falcons in the NFC title game, Thompson was in Mobile, Alabama scouting players at the Senior Bowl.

In the 2017 NFL draft, the Packers have a selection in each of the seven rounds, plus are expected to get a compensatory pick, most likely in the fifth round, according to Over The Cap.

What position will the Packers focus on in the draft and in free agency? Well, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com talked with a trusted source of his with the Packers. Pauline’s source said: “Corners, lots of them.

So, without any further adieu, let’s take a look at the first mock draft. As you will see, I did select a couple of cornerbacks, but not as early as the Packers did in 2015, when they selected Demarious Randall and Rollins with their first two picks in that draft.

My approach to this draft was to improve not only the secondary, but to improve the overall defense, starting with the Front 7.

Round One: Linebacker T.J. Watt (Wisconsin)

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Height: 6’5″

Weight: 243 pounds

One big reason why the secondary of the Wisconsin Badgers had such an outstanding year in 2016 (except for the second half vs. Penn State in the B1G title game), was the play of the Front 7 of the Badgers.

Nobody was more prevalent in that regard than T.J. Watt. No. 42 had 63 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks in 2016, which garnered him second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Watt can play outside or inside in the 3-4 scheme used by Dom Capers. I expect Watt to be used on the outside more often than not, just like he was with the Badgers. I expect the Packers to re-sign Nick Perry, who along with a healthier Clay Matthews, will be able to assist Watt in putting pass pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

I also think there is a chance that the Packers will re-sign Julius Peppers, but only at their price, plus Green Bay also likes the upside of Kyler Fackrell, who was a rookie in 2016.

Watt has an exceptional motor and like Perry, plays the run extremely well.

This is what Landry said about Watt after he declared for the 2017 NFL draft:

“The younger brother of J.J. Watt had a terrific 2016 campaign, notching 11.5 sacks and defending the run very well. He can play an array of positions, so his versatility is his real value.”

Round 2: Defensive Lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama)

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Height: 6’3″

Weight: 312 pounds

The Packers played the run better in 2016 better than they did in 2015, especially early in the season. Still, there were times when the run defense of the Packers was just gashed. Letroy Guion was solid in the first part of the season, but at times looked like he was in the witness protection program in the second half of the year.

That’s why it would be prudent to draft someone like Dalvin Tomlinson of Alabama. Tomlinson knows how to play the leverage game in the trenches, as he was a three-time heavyweight wrestling champion in high school.

That serves him well playing on the defensive line, as he is almost impossible to move off the point. As a senior for the Crimson Tide, Tomlinson had  62 tackles, 5.5 tackles for losses and three sacks.

Head coach Nick Saban used Tomlinson on both the inside and outside in the multiple-look defenses that Alabama uses.

The Packers like versatility as well, and Tomlinson would fit in nicely with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark to form a talented trio for the Pack on the defensive front.

This is what Landry said about Tomlinson at the Senior Bowl:

“Tomlinson surprised me. He plays with great pad level, leverage and quickness. He flashed power and won out during a number of one-on-ones.”

Round 3: Inside Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (Northwestern)

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Height: 6’1″

Weight: 245 pounds

Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez have been fairly solid at inside linebacker for the Packers. Ryan improved in his second year with the team in 2016, while Martinez had a great training camp and was having a decent rookie year when he suffered a knee injury that hampered him down the stretch of the 2016 season.

That being said, neither Ryan or Martinez bring that wow-factor taking down an opposing player with a resounding hit. The Packers haven’t had that in an inside linebacker since they had Desmond Bishop lining up at the position.

That’s why the addition of Anthony Walker Jr. of Northwestern is something that the Packers should consider. The former Wildcat certainly has that wow-factor and he most definitely brings a physical presence.

In 2015, Walker had 122 tackles with 16.5 of them for a loss, as he was named a first-team All-Big Ten and third-team AP All-American that season.

In 2016, Walker had 109 tackles with 10 of them for a loss, as he was named second-team All-Big Ten.

Walker played well in 2016, but was exceptional in 2015. Why the difference?  Many scouts believe Walker added too much weight his junior year and is better off playing at around 230 to 235 pounds like he was his sophomore year.

That would also help his coverage skills, which were not bad at Northwestern, as he had 16 passes defensed in his career as a Wildcat.

This is what Landry said about Walker prior to the Pinstripe Bowl:

“LB Anthony Walker Jr. was a returning All-American and played up to that reputation with 98 tackles, including 58 unassisted. The Northwestern junior also collected two sacks, recovered two fumbles and had a team-high 10 tackles for loss. He’s now fourth on the career tackle-for-loss list with 39.5.”

Round 4: Cornerback Fabian Moreau (UCLA)

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Height: 6’0″

Weight: 194 pounds

It goes without question, that the Packers have to improve their play at cornerback by utilizing both free agency and the draft. The course I expect Thompson to follow in free agency, is to sign a player who has recently been cut by his former team due to salary cap reasons.

But in terms of the draft, the Packers are catching a break in 2017, as the cornerback position is one of the deeper ones in this draft. That’s why they can select the best player on their board early in the draft and still get a talented cornerback later on.

Case in point is Fabian Moreau of UCLA. Just prior to the 2015 season, head coach Jim Mora, Jr. said that Moraeu was a first-round talent. Unfortunately for Moreau, he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot early in the season which ended his year.

But in 2016, Moreau bounced back, as he had 10 pass breakups and two interceptions, as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Before his foot injury, Moreau flashed his talent as a Bruin, as he was second-team All-Pac-12 in 2014, with 53 tackles, three for loss, one interception and eight passes defensed.

In 2013, Moraeu was also named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Similar to Sam Shields, he started out on offense in college, as Moreau was a running back initially, but switched to defense.

This is what Landry said about Moreau at the East-West Shrine game practices:

“UCLA CB Fabian Moreau has excellent size and athleticism and had a solid week in pass coverage. He has quick feet and he’s a fluid athlete. He was very aware in zone coverage. I thought he really helped himself with his performance during the week.”

Round 5: Cornerback Marquez White (Florida State)

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Height: 6’0″

Weight: 185 pounds

Like Quinten Rollins did at Miami of Ohio, Marquez White of Florida State was also was a two-sport star, as he played basketball for the Seminoles in 2013-2014 for six games.

White quickly realized that football was his best sport, even though he was primarily a special teams player in 2013 and 2014.

White became a starter in 2015, as he had 25 tackles, two for a loss, one interception, and two pass breakups In 2016, White had two picks and four pass breakups, as he earned honorable mention All-ACC from the league media.

Like Moreau, White has the height one likes at the cornerback position, but does need to bulk up a bit.

This is what Landry said about White at a Senior Bowl practice:

“White held on a little too long in press coverage but otherwise had a stellar day. He showed quick feet, good change of direction and flipped his hips nicely while displaying an understanding of how to use the sideline to his advantage and maintaining tight coverage.”

Round 5 (compensatory): Running Back Joe Williams (Utah)

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Height: 5’11”

Weight: 205 pounds

There were a lot of impressive performances during the East-West Shrine game week, but no one impressed me more than running back Joe Williams of Utah. Williams is part of a running back class that is also exceptionally deep in 2017.

That’s why you could still get a quality back like Williams in the fifth round of the upcoming draft. Williams had a phenomenal back half of the 2016 season for the Utes in 2016. This was after a slow start to the season and the thought of retiring from football.

But starting in the seventh game of the season for Utah, when the Utes played Oregon State, Williams went on a run that would have put him in the Heisman discussion had this performance been year round.

In six games to end the season, with opponents like Washington and Colorado on the Pac-12 schedule, Williams rushed for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns. Then in the the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana, Williams rushed for 222 yards and another score, plus caught a pass for 56 more yards.

I expect the Packers to re-sign Eddie Lacy to pair with Ty Montgomery at running back. That being said, a talented player like Williams will push for playing time, especially on third down.

This is what Landry said about Williams during the East-West Shrine game practices:

“Utah RB Joe Williams has an outstanding burst and he was a little bit thicker than I anticipated. He is going to be a mismatch in the passing game as he gains more experience. He looks like an ideal change-of-pace back at the next level.”

Round 6: Wide Receiver/Punt Returner Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech)

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Height: 5’8″

Weight: 177 pounds

One of the biggest issues for the receivers of the Packers over the past couple of years is their ability (or lack thereof) to separate themselves from their defenders. One player who can help them in that regard, as well a being an option in the punt return game is Trent Taylor of Louisiana Tech.

Taylor has been called by some scouts as a poor man’s Wes Welker. Taylor doesn’t have the prototypical size you normally want at wide receiver, but he is extremely quick and effective.

In four years at Louisiana Tech, Taylor had a whopping 327 catches for 4,179 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Taylor was named second-team All-Conference USA selection in 2014 and was first-team All-Conference USA in both 2015 and 2016.

Taylor also returned 58 punts for 482 yards in his time with La Tech.

Taylor would be best used in the slot for the Packers, but no matter where he would line up, he has the quickness to get off his defender in a hurry and make some very nice YAC (yards after catch).

This is what Landry said about Taylor prior to the Senior Bowl:

“Taylor wins with his ability to work in and out of tight areas, as well as find space in zone coverages. Barring too much contact, Taylor is a sure-handed receiver who can be trusted to haul in short catches and bring the ball past the sticks. He has explosive second-step burst after catch, and showed great separation after interior receptions to finish big play opportunities.”

Round 7: Center/Guard Chase Roullier (Wyoming)

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Height: 6’4″

Weight: 315 pounds

The Packers will most likely be looking for a center/guard in the 2017 draft, as I don’t expect the Packers to re-sign JC Tretter, plus the Packers want to solidify the depth at guard, even if the team re-signs T.J. Lang, which I expect the team to do.

The team can help themselves in both areas by drafting Chase Roullier of Wyoming. Roullier played both center and guard at Wyoming his freshman year and then moved to left guard for the next two seasons, as he was named honorable mention All-Mountain West in 2014 and second-team All-Mountain West in 2015.

In 2016, Roullier returned to the center position and was named first-team All-Mountain West, protecting quarterback Josh Allen and blocking for star running back Brian Hill.

This is what Landry said about Roullier at the East-West Shrine game practices:

“Chase Roullier, OL, Wyoming is much bigger than I thought from what I saw on tape. He’s handling pass protection really well. And he’s opened some eyes this week.”

Jerry Kramer Talks About Don Chandler

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Super Bowl LI will be played on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston. It’s hard to believe this will be the 51st Super Bowl.

The Green Bay Packers played in the first two Super Bowls and have played in five overall.

Guess who the all-time leading scorer for the Packers is in their Super Bowl play over the years? That would be kicker Don Chandler who scored 20 points in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

No. 34 kicked four field goals and eight extra points in those two games and still is the record-holder for points scored by a player on the Packers in team Super Bowl history.

Chandler first came to the Packers in 1965, as Vince Lombardi was trying to improve the kicking situation with the team. Lombardi traded a draft choice to the New York Giants for Chandler, who at that time was both a placekicker and a punter.

Chandler was drafted out of the University of Florida by the G-Men in 1956. He was strictly a punter his first six years with the Giants and then became both a punter and placekicker from 1962 through 1964 with New York.

Chandler played in six NFL title games when he played with the Giants, but only won one championship, which happened in 1956. The offensive coordinator for the Giants in 1956 was none other than Lombardi.

Chandler led the NFL in scoring in 1963 with 105 points. The placekicker for the Packers finished fourth in the league that year with 91 points. That player’s name was Jerry Kramer.

Kramer kicked that year for the Packers for two reasons. One, No. 64 had done a great job kicking for the Pack in 1962 when the regular placekicker hurt his knee. That player was Paul Hornung, who also was the team’s starting halfback.

Kramer hit nine-of-11 field goals in ’62, plus kicked three more against Chandler and the Giants at frigid and very windy (40 mph gusts) Yankee Stadium, when the Packers beat the G-Men 16-7. The 10 points that Kramer scored that day was the difference in the game.

In 1963, Hornung was suspended for gambling. That made Kramer the full-time placekicker, besides being the team’s starting right guard. Kramer had an excellent year for the Packers in ’63, not only in kicking, but by being named to the Pro Bowl for the second time and was also named first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career because of his play on the offensive line.

Kramer did falter a bit with his accuracy late in the ’63 season, so when Hornung came back to the team in 1964, he was once again the placekicker. The “Golden Boy” had a dreadful year that season kicking the ball, as he made only 12-of-38 field goals.

Kramer was not available to help out in the kicking game or in any part of the game, as 1964 was the year when Kramer started having some severe intestinal issues. Those issues cost Kramer almost the entire season, as he was in and out of hospitals during that time. Kramer ended up going through nine medical procedures before his medical situation was resolved.

That was a big reason why Lombardi traded for Chandler in 1965. He needed a kicker and a punter who would be steady for the team, just like Chandler had been for the Giants for the past three years.

It was a different story for Kramer going into the 1965 season with the Packers. No. 64’s career was definitely at the crossroads.

Kramer explained that to me awhile back.

“I reported to camp at around 220 pounds,” Kramer said. “I nine operations that offseason, which involved removing 16 inches of my colon because of a bunch of slivers that were in there for 11 years.

“So when I went to talk with Coach Lombardi about playing, he said, ‘Jerry, we can’t count on you this year. I just want you to go home  and we’ll take care of your salary and your hospital bills.’

“I told Lombardi that I really wanted to play. I knew that I had already missed most of the ’64 season and if I missed the ’65 season, I would probably never get a chance to play again.

“I told Lombardi that I would not go home and that I wanted to play. We went back and forth about this for about 35 or 40 minutes. Finally Lombardi says, ‘Okay, I’m going to put you with the defense.’

“I said, great. I always wanted to play defense anyway.”

Kramer soon found out that his task of getting in football shape would be very difficult.

“We always used to take three laps around the field to start practice. I ran a half of a lap and my lungs seized up. I just couldn’t breathe or get any air.  Don Chandler came up to me and asked, ‘What’s wrong, pal?’

“I told Don that I can’t breathe. Don told me that, ‘Between the two of us, we would do what one of the players does in terms of an exercise. If you can only do a half of a lap, I’ll do the other two and half laps.’

“So Don worked out besides me for the next month and we did just that. If the team did 50 sit ups and I could only do 10, Don would do the other 40. If the team did 50 side-saddle hops and I could only do 15, Don would do the other 35.

“So Don kept me in the game and kept me from being embarrassed. That kept me from feeling like a jerk in front of a bunch of world-class athletes. So by doing that procedure with Don, I gradually was able to do more and after a month I was able to do all of the exercises.

“I gained about 15 pounds.  I knew that the colostomy was reattached, the hernia was fixed and the intestines were okay. It was just going through the reconditioning which was so difficult.

“Without Don, I really doubt that I could have made it through that camp. So all the books, all the Super Bowls and all the great things that happened to me after that was because of my teammate.”

After a few games, Kramer had once again become the starting right guard for the Packers. Chandler, meanwhile, was 17-out-of-26 in field goals and led the team in scoring with 88 points, plus had 42.9 punting average, which included a 90-yard punt.

Chandler, who was also a running back in college with the Gators, also scampered 27 yards on a fake punt run.

It was during the 1965 Western Division Championship Game between the Packers and Baltimore Colts at Lambeau Field when Chandler was part of one of the more controversial plays in NFL history.

The Packers were down 10-7 late in the game when backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski led the Packers from their own 28 to the Baltimore 15, before kicker Don Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal.

Bratkowski was in the game because Bart Starr had injured his ribs trying to tackle linebacker Don Shinnick after he recovered a Bill Anderson fumble on the very first scrimmage play of the game.

Starr tried to tackle Shinnick near the end zone, as the linebacker scored to put the Colts up early 7-0.

On Chandler’s late game-tying field goal, the referees said the kick was good. Meanwhile the Colts were complaining to anyone who would listen that the kick was definitely no good and wide right.

That kick led the NFL to raise the height of the goal posts the following season.

There has been quite a debate on whether that kick was good or not, but one person was sure that it was good. That would be Bratkowski.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski told me a few months ago. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

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In overtime, Chandler hit a 25-yard field goal. This time, there was absolutely no doubt about the kick, and the Packers were 13-10 overtime winners.

The next week, the Packers hosted the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns at Lambeau. Both Chandler and Kramer starred in the game.

Chandler kicked three field goals and two extra points, while Kramer, along with Fuzzy Thurston and the rest of the offensive line, opened huge holes for Hornung (105 yards rushing and a score) and fullback Jim Taylor (96 yards rushing) to run through.

The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and  Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders so the Packers gained big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone, as the Packers defeated the Browns 23-12 to win the 1965 NFL title.

In 1966, Kramer had an outstanding season, as it was named first-team All-Pro for the fourth time. Chandler struggled a bit with his field goal accuracy, but still led the team in scoring with 77 points.

Chandler also had a 40.9 punting average and once again broke off a long run on a fake punt, when he rambled down the field for 33 yards on that run.

The Packers as a team were exceptional in ’66, as the team went 12-2, with the two losses by a combined four points. The Pack went on to beat the Cowboys 34-27 in the 1966 NFL title game and two weeks later beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I.

Before the 1967 season, the Packers had a couple of major changes to their roster. Taylor played out his option in 1966 and joined the expansion New Orleans Saints in ’67. Plus, Lombardi put Hornung on the expansion list for the Saints to select and sure enough, they selected No. 5.

Hornung ended up retiring before he joined the Saints because of a pinched nerve issue with his shoulder.

There would be changes for Kramer and Chandler as well. Taylor had been Kramer’s roommate since their rookie year in 1958, so that meant he would be getting a new roomy.

The new roommate ended up being Chandler. Chandler also would only have one job to do in ’67 as the placekicker for the team, as Donny Anderson became the punter for the Pack that season.

Kramer talked about being Chandler’s roommate when we spoke recently.

“We clicked right away as friends,” Kramer said. “Don was a sweet man. A kind man. He had a lot of empathy. He was just a really nice man. Don proved that with all the help he gave me in training camp in ’65 when I was coming back from the intestinal issues when I missed most of the ’64 season.

“We became really good friends. We played golf together and had kicking duels. We had lunch together and we would have a kicking contest to see who would buy the chili that day.

“It was really a good relationship. We eventually got into business together when we developed apartments in Tulsa, Don’s hometown. I had an apartment in Tulsa and I was down there a lot.

“I got to know the family and the kids, the whole group. So it became a real strong friendship.”

The 1967 season was a special season for Kramer, Chandler, Lombardi and the entire Green Bay organization.

That was the year that Kramer, with help from author Dick Schaap, wrote Instant Replay.

I wrote about that book in another story I put out last summer. Here is part of what I wrote:

I do it every summer around training camp. I get out the book Instant Replay and read it. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. It’s been a ritual for me. Why? The book is that good.

In 1967, when Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was 31 years old, he kept a diary of the season. Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that classic contest.

From training camp, through the Ice Bowl victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of the team’s legendary leader, head coach Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

The Packers did something that no other team has ever done in the modern era in the NFL in 1967. That is, winning a third straight NFL title, which included the team’s second straight win in the Super Bowl.

It was an epic season with deep valleys and high mountain tops.

Hornung and Taylor were gone. Starr was injured early in the year. The Packers lost both starting running backs, halfback Elijah Pitts and fullback Jim Grabowski, for the season in the same game.

There were the gut-wrenching last-second losses vs. the Colts and the Los Angeles Rams on the road.

But then there was the uplifting triumph over the Rams in the Western Conference Championship Game at Milwaukee County Stadium, when the Packers throttled the Rams 28-7.

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The following week was the legendary “Ice Bowl” game and a third-straight NFL title.

Two weeks later, the Packers won their second straight Super Bowl game, when Chandler scored 15 points in the 33-14 win by Green Bay over the Oakland Raiders.

Both Kramer and Chandler had great seasons. Kramer was once again named first-team All-Pro, plus was named to the Pro Bowl squad, while Chandler was 19-of-29 in field goals for the Packers and led the team in scoring with 96 points. Chandler was also named to his first Pro Bowl squad.

Chandler retired after that 1967 season, but he left behind a great NFL résumé.

In his 12-year career, Chandler played in nine NFL title games, winning four. Chandler ended up scoring 530 points in his career (261 with the Packers). No. 34 also had a career average of 43.5 yards per punt and punted for 28,678 yards.

Like Kramer, Chandler was also clutch with the way he performed in the postseason. In his entire career with the Giants and Packers, Chandler made 10-of 15 field goals, while in Green Bay alone, he was nine-of-12 in that statistic.

Chandler’s name will be forever linked to another outstanding achievement that Kramer also accomplished. That was being named to the 1960s All-Decade team as the team’s punter, while No. 64 received the same honor at guard.

Also on that team were a number of teammates that Chandler and Kramer had in their careers, the list included split end Del Shofner of the Giants, as well as flanker Boyd Dowler, offensive tackle Forrest Gregg, center Jim Ringo, quarterback Starr, halfback Hornung, fullback Taylor, defensive end Willie Davis, line backer Ray Nitschke, linebacker Dave Robinson, cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood of the Packers.

Sadly, Chandler passed away at the age of 76 in 2011.

Bottom line, Chandler was an outstanding player in the kicking game, whether it was as a placekicker or a punter.

But better yet, he had something else going for him as well, as Kramer explained to me.

“Don was the epitome of being a great teammate,” Kramer said. “But he was more than that for me. Don was truly a great friend.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jerry is Rooting for Jerry

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On Saturday February 4, the day before Super Bowl LI in Houston, we will find out who the Pro Football Hall of Fame will name to their Class of 2017.

One of the people who might get named to the upcoming class is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones. Jones is one of two contributor nominees for the Class of 2017. One person who will be rooting for Jones to get a bust in Canton is former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer.

Kramer himself should have been inducted decades ago into the Hall of Fame and until that situation is rectified, there will always be a credibility issue at that venue.

That being said, I talked to Kramer recently and he told me about a brief meeting he had with Jones in Dallas in the early 1990s that he still regrets.

Kramer was at a function in Dallas when the Packers were playing the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, which the Packers did for three straight years (1993-1995) in Big D.

Anyway, apparently Jones saw Kramer and went to him to say hello and Kramer just kept walking.

Kramer explained how his mindset was working then.

“I had a couple interviews last week where I said some nice things about Jerry,” Kramer said. “I said I thought Jerry was a great owner and has done some great things for the NFL since he has owned the Cowboys.

“I was explaining my ignorance and attitude at that point in time in those interviews. Trying to explain that I was still competing and still fighting against the Cowboys instead of behaving myself like I should have.”

Kramer had reason to be in the competing mode, as he played in two of the most famous NFL title games in NFL history versus the Cowboys in 1966 and 1967.

The 1967 game was especially legendary, as it is better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. It was in this game in which Kramer executed the most famous block in NFL history.

The game was played under brutal conditions, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero. If you added the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game.

The situation came down to this: just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and the Packers trailing the Cowboys 17-14.

Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with coach Vince Lombardi on the sideline, Starr decided to keep the ball due to the slippery conditions near the goal line.

That play selection was called earlier in the week when the team was studying the defensive tendencies of the Cowboys. Kramer actually suggested the play to Lombardi.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

Starr followed Kramer’s classic block on Pugh (who was high just as Kramer expected) and No. 15 happily tumbled into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

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Those memories stayed strong in the mind of Kramer as he visited Dallas in the 1990s while the Packers took on the Cowboys for the right to move on in the playoffs.

Still, in retrospect, Kramer wishes that he would have been more receptive to Jones in their brief encounter.

Jones has a couple of things in common with Kramer. Besides being named Jerry, Jones also played guard at the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks won the national title in 1964.

Not only did Jones play guard, but he was also a co-captain and was named All-Southwest Conference because of his play.

While it’s not known for sure, I would wager a bet that one of the players Jones looked up to in the NFL while he was playing guard in college was Kramer. After all, Kramer was considered the best right guard in the NFL at the time and ended up on the All-Decade team of the 1960s, not to mention the NFL 50th anniversary team.

While Arkansas and Jones won the national title in ’64, Green Bay and Kramer won five NFL titles in the 1960s, which included the first two Super Bowls.

And it was the Cowboys under head coach Tom Landry who the Packers under head coach Vince Lombardi defeated in the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games to get to those first two Super Bowls.

Landry, who had coached the Cowboys from their infancy in 1960, was fired by Jones shortly after he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and replaced by Jimmy Johnson, who was a teammate of Jones on that national championship team at Arkansas in 1964.

Landry had taken the Cowboys to five Super Bowls and had won two of them. Landry also led the Boys to 270 wins (regular season and postseason), which is currently the third-best mark in the history of the NFL.

Although the firing of Landry was not very popular in Dallas at the time, two straight Super Bowl wins under Johnson after the 1992 (Super Bowl XXVII) and 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) seasons deflected the anger in Cowboy Nation.

Two years later, the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, this time under head coach Barry Switzer.

The Cowboys have not been back to a Super Bowl in over 20 years, but Jones has become one of the most powerful owners in the NFL.

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One of his greatest endeavors was getting a new spacious and luxurious home for the Cowboys, which is now called AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The stadium, which was built in 2009, is also called “Jerry World” by some. Back in 2009, it was called Cowboys Stadium, and it was at that venue that the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31- 25.

The Wisconsin Badgers also just won the 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic at that same stadium, when they defeated the then unbeaten Western Michigan Broncos 24-16 on January 2.

“Jerry is a hustler,” Kramer said. “He’s always been a hustler. He’s got that method and that way about him. He’s always talking about his team. To me, that’s sensational. It’s nice to have a love affair like that. It’s nice to have something that is so interesting and important for you to enjoy. Jerry is blessed to have that football team. The Cowboys have been a wonderful thing for him and he’s been a wonderful thing for the Cowboys.

“Bottom line, I’m pulling for Jerry to get into the Hall. I mean, he’s named Jerry and he also played guard. But he’s also good for the NFL, whether you are a Cowboys fan or not.”

Green Bay Packers: Offseason Priorities

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When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was just phenomenal in the 2010 postseason run which led the hoisting of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

In that run of four games that postseason, Rodgers threw nine touchdown passes versus just two interceptions for 1,094 yards. That added up to a 109.8 passer rating, as well as No. 12 becoming the MVP in the Super Bowl.

In the 2016 postseason, Rodgers and the Packers came close to getting to another Super Bowl, but didn’t quite make it. You certainly can’t blame Rodgers for the Packers not getting to Super Bowl LI.

In fact, the stats of Rodgers this postseason are almost identical to what he did in the 2010 postseason.

In the 2016 postseason, Rodgers once again threw nine touchdown passes versus just two picks for 1,004 yards. The passer rating ended up being 103.8.

Rodgers put up those stats in three games in the 2016 postseason, as opposed to four games in the 2010 postseason.

It’s pretty easy to surmise that the play of Rodgers was not the reason why Green Bay isn’t playing in Super Bowl LI.

The reason why is pretty obvious. It’s the inconsistent and mediocre play of the defense for the Packers.

When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the team went into that postseason with the No. 5 rated defense in the league.

The defense played like it that postseason as well. The Packers had 11 sacks, eight interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) and four recovered fumbles in four games.

When you add that performance and that of Rodgers and the offense of the Packers, one can see why the team won Super Bowl XLV.

The 2010 season was the last time the Packers have had a top five defense. As a matter of fact, the Packers have not even had a top 10 defense since then either.

In his career, Rodgers has a 9-7 record in the postseason. Why the seven losses? Is it because of his performance in crunch time? No. In 16 playoff games, Rodgers has thrown 36 touchdown passes versus just 10 interceptions for 4,458 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 99.4.

Those numbers might get a quarterback a NFL MVP award in a particular season.

In the seven losses the Packers have had with Rodgers at quarterback in the postseason, the offense has averaged 26 points a game.  That’s not too shabby. When a team averages 26 points a game in the NFL postseason, the odds should be pretty strong that a victory should be in order.

Not so with the Packers in those seven games. Why? The defense has given up an average of 36 points per game in those losses.

Something has to change this offseason. That means either a coaching change or a concept change in getting talent for the defense. Perhaps even both.

If you saw head coach Mike McCarthy’s postgame press conference after the Packers were beaten 44-21 in the NFC title game by the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, one could see he was not happy at all with the performance by his defense.

McCarthy has been very loyal to his assistant coaches over the 11 years he has been head coach, but he has also made some key changes to his staff as well when he deemed it necessary.

It might be a necessity to move on from defensive coordinator Dom Capers. In his first two years in Green Bay, Capers had top five defenses playing under him. In 2009, the defense was ranked No. 2, while in 2010 was ranked No. 5 in total defense.

But nothing close to that has happened in his tenure in the six years since. Starting in 2011, the defense of the Packers has ranked 32nd, 11th, 25th, 15th, 15th and 22nd.

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This past postseason reflects why the defense needs to get rebooted in 2017. In three games, the Packers had four sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. In the NFC title game, the Packers were shut out in all three categories.

Yes, I know there were multiple injuries this season on defense. But that is where quality depth would come in handy if a certain general manager changed his course of talent additions to the team just slightly.

Yes, I’m talking about Ted Thompson. Thompson’s draft and develop method for acquiring talent has been outstanding for the most part in the tenure in which he and McCarthy have piloted the ship of the Packers.

In 11 seasons, the Packers have had 114-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances, four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

A lot of franchises would be thrilled to have a track record like that.

But when you peel back the onion and take a closer look, there are some obvious issues. McCarthy is 10-8 in the postseason as a head coach. But with just a little luck, the record of McCarthy in the postseason could be favorably compared to Bill Belichick.

McCarthy has lost four games in the postseason in overtime, plus lost another one on a last second field goal. His 10-8 record might be 13-5 or better with another Lombardi Trophy or two in the Packers Hall of Fame with some fortunate bounces.

Belichick more times than not gets those fortunate bounces in his postseason wins. In Belichick’s four Super Bowl wins, the victories have been by a combined 13 points.

Bottom line, it’s the defense which is the primary culprit as to why the Packers have had to go home early at times in the postseason in the Thompson/McCarthy era.

So to me, you have two choices. Either you make a coaching change (or at least a philosophy change) or you rectify the way you add talent to the defense. Again, maybe you do both.

Let’s say that McCarthy decides to stay with the status quo and keep Capers as his defensive coordinator. In that case, all of the burden to improve the defense will be put on Thompson, if indeed he stays on as general manager, which may not be a given.

Thompson will have some very difficult decisions to make regarding maintaining, adding and subtracting talent to the defense.

The first thing I would do if I were Thompson, is to look at the great success I have had in adding talent for the team in free agency.

In 2006, Thompson added defensive tackle Ryan Pickett via free agency and then also added cornerback Charles Woodson to the team after he became a free agent after his release by the Raiders.

Both players had excellent tenures in Green Bay, as Pickett was very solid in his run-stopping ability in eight seasons, while Woodson was just tremendous in his time in Green Bay.

In his seven-year career with the Packers, Woodson put together a brilliant resume.  Woodson picked off 38 passes, including nine for touchdowns.  Woodson also forced 15 fumbles, recovering six more.  Woodson had 11.5 sacks to boot.

Add to that: Woodson was named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  No. 21 was also named to four Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.

After the signings of Pickett and Woodson, Thompson basically went into the sleep mode in terms of signing free agents for a number of years. Thompson still signed “street” free agents (like Erik Walden) and undrafted rookie free agents (like Sam Shields), but rarely looked at NFL veterans who had solid careers in the league or at least showed flashes.

In 2012, Thompson signed defensive tackle Anthony Hargrave and center Jeff Saturday in free agency, but neither made big splashes in Green Bay. Hargrave didn’t even make the final roster, while Saturday ended up losing his starting job at center late in the 2012 season to Evan Dietrich-Smith.

In 2014, Thompson made another excellent free agent signing when brought in defensive end/linebacker Julius Peppers after he was cut by the Chicago Bears.

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Even though he was 34 years-old at the time of his signing, Peppers put together three nice years in Titletown, as he had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and also had two interceptions which  were both returned for touchdowns.

Peppers has also earned his money in the postseason, as he has had 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in three years.

Thompson also really helped the offense by adding tight end Jared Cook via free agency after he was released by the Rams prior to the 2016 season.

So, what should Thompson do this offseason to try and add some defensive talent to the Packers? Definitely utilize free agency, without a doubt.

The Packers are in decent shape currently regarding the salary cap, as the team is 10th in the NFL in terms of cap space available ($9.4 million). The team can add another $9 million approximately after the team releases cornerback Shields due to his concussion issues.

In terms of current players on the Packers who will be unrestricted free agents, I would bring back a number of them, both on offense and defense.

Right now there will be 11 UFAs on the Packers once free agency starts. They are Peppers, Cook, running back Eddie Lacy, running back Christine Michael, guard T. J. Lang, outside linebacker Nick Perry, outside linebacker Datone Jones, longsnapper Brett Goode, offensive lineman Don Barclay, offensive lineman JC Tretter and defensive back Micah Hyde.

On offense, I would certainly re-sign Cook, as his presence was a major reason why the offense clicked after he came back from an ankle injury starting in Week 11.

I would also bring back Lacy with a one-year deal, which will more or less be a prove it to me deal.

Lang also deserves to be rewarded for all he has done on the offensive line through the years, which not only includes great play on the field, but also playing hurt.

I would bring Barclay back, but only at the minimum salary. Mostly because of his versatility to play all the positions on the offensive line.

Goode also has proven to be one of the very best longsnappers in the NFL, so I would bring him back at a minimum salary, just like Barclay.

On defense, re-signing Perry would be my priority. No. 53 was the best player on the defense for almost all of the 2016 season.

I would also bring back Hyde because of all the versatility he can provide in the defensive backfield.

If Peppers wants to come back, I would offer a one-year deal which would amount to about half of what No. 56 currently makes, which would put him at approximately $4 million a year. That would be very fair, especially if Peppers has limited playing time.

My friend Pete Dougherty of USA Network-Wisconsin wrote a piece today about the 11 UFAs the Packers will have.

Dougherty agrees with me on a number of the players I would re-sign, but he wouldn’t bring back Peppers, plus he would re-do the contracts of both Clay Matthews ($11.1 million) and Randall Cobb ($9.5 million). Dougherty brings up an excellent point, as Matthews and Cobb will have the second-and third-highest salaries on the Green Bay roster in 2017.

Time will tell what will occur with both Matthews and Cobb, as injuries have definitely been a major reason why both have not performed up to the level of their pay-grade, but the release of Shields will definitely help to bump up the cap space for the team.

In terms of acquiring players from other NFL teams via free agency, I’m sure Thompson will first focus on players who will get released by their current NFL teams (usually due to cap reasons), looking mostly at defensive players. Again, that is route he took in acquiring Woodson, Peppers and Cook.

Those additions worked out pretty good.

If Thompson wants to look at a “pure” free agent who can help his defense, the No. 1 player I would look at is cornerback Stephon Gilmore of the Buffalo Bills, who was recently named to the AFC Pro Bowl team.

Gilmore is just 26 years-old and already has 14 interceptions on his resume in his five-year career in the NFL. The 6’0″, 190-pound Gilmore, who played his college ball at South Carolina, ran a 4.38 in the 40 at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

I’m sure Cook, who is also a former Gamecock, would put in a good word about coming to Green Bay to Gilmore.

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In the 2017 NFL draft, I would advise Thompson to use the strategy he used in the 2009 draft. That is, trading up to get a player who can definitely help his defense, especially if it’s an elite cornerback or pass-rusher.

In the 2009 draft, the Packers traded back into the first round of the draft to acquire linebacker Clay Matthews with the 26th pick of that particular draft. It cost the team a second-round pick and two third-round picks, but the trade-up tuned out to be a great move by Thompson.

Matthews has been hampered by injuries at times as I mentioned earlier, but he still has had an excellent career in Green Bay, as he has 72.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, six picks (two for touchdowns) and also has been named to six Pro Bowl teams.

Like Peppers, Matthews has also excelled in the postseason, as he has 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Bottom line, something has to change this year with the defense. Either with the coaching philosophy or the means of adding talent to the squad.

Just look at how Albert Einstein defined insanity. It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That is what the Packers have been doing since 2011 trying to improve their defense.

And that’s also a major reason why the Packers have not been in another Super Bowl since the 2010 postseason.

A Scout’s Take on the Packers vs. Falcons NFC Championship Matchup

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When the 12-6 Green Bay Packers take on the 12-5 Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome, many are expecting a shootout type of game.

You can put NFL scout Chris Landry into that crowd. I concur with Landry and the others who see a track meet taking place in Atlanta. It might come down to who doesn’t stub their toe heading to the finish line in terms of which team will represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI in Houston on February 5.

Sportsbook.com has the over/under number in the game set at 61 currently. That is unheard of. That being said, a number of us see the over as the probable outcome of this game.

Why is that? There are a number of reasons.

First, let’s take a look at the two quarterbacks in this game.

Both Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Matt Ryan have put together fabulous seasons in 2016.

Rodgers threw 40 touchdowns passes (led the NFL) versus just seven interceptions for 4,428 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.2.

Ryan threw 38 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 4,944 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 117.1.

Those are NFL MVP type of years for both quarterbacks. Earlier this week, Ryan was given that honor by the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA). The Associated Press honor will be announced the night before Super Bowl LI.

Not only have both quarterbacks had fantastic seasons overall, but both played outstanding down the stretch as well.

It’s been well-publicized that Rodgers thought that the Packers could run the table after a 4-6 start to the season. Rodgers put his money where he mouth was in those final six games of the year.

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In those six games, Rodgers threw 15 touchdown passes without a pick for 1,667 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 121.0.

Not only did the Packers win all six games, but they also won the NFC North title and the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Ryan also played well in those final six games of the season. Ryan threw 14 touchdown passes versus two interceptions for 1,697 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 121.5.

The Falcons were 5-1 in those six games and ended up as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs as they finished 11-5 and were champs of the NFC South.

Both quarterbacks have stayed on a roll in the postseason as well.

In two games, Rodgers has thrown six touchdown passes versus one pick for 717 yards. That is a cumulative passer rating of 110.9.

In one game, Ryan has thrown three touchdown passes without a pick for 338 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 125.7.

In terms of Rodgers, it’s becoming difficult to come up with the proper way to describe the play of No. 12 over the past eight weeks. Superlative is just one description that comes to mind.

Rodgers creates big plays out of the pocket better than anyone in the history of the NFL. Landry had this to say about Rodgers last week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show  before the divisional round game against the Dallas Cowboys.

“They [the Packers] have the most talented quarterback in the league. No one, I mean no one, throws the ball outside the pocket better than Aaron Rodgers, ever, in the history of the game. Better than [Fran] Tarkenton. Better than anybody.

“It’s uncanny, and we talk about getting your feet under you and squared away [as a quarterback], this guy does things with his body in unsound ways that just puts it in spots that are unbelievable. He can extend plays as well as he can with his protection.”

Again, Landry said that before the game against the Cowboys. Boy, was Landry spot on in his analysis. Just look at the play Rodgers made with just 12 seconds to go on his own 32 in a third and 20 situation and the score tied 31-31.

Rodgers rolled to his left by design, moved up a bit before he threw, spotted tight end Jared Cook running through the zone and delivered a pass across his body on a dime for 36 yards, as Cook toe-tapped the sideline before going out of bounds.

The result? A first down with three seconds to go. Kicker Mason Crosby took care of the rest with a game-winning 51-yard field goal which put the Pack into the NFC title game.

When looking at Rodgers and Ryan, we also need to look at how they performed earlier this year in Week 8, when the Packers and Falcons faced each other again at the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without a pick for 246 yards. His quarterback rating in the game was 125.5.  Plus, those numbers occurred without Randall Cobb, Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery in the lineup.

No. 12 also added 60 yards rushing.

Ryan meanwhile, threw three touchdown passes without an interception for 288 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 129.5. This occurred without running back Tevin Coleman in the lineup.

The Falcons won the game 33-32 in shootout fashion.

Historically, Rodgers likes playing against the Falcons and Ryan likes playing against the Packers.

In five regular season games versus Atlanta, Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 1,626 yards. That adds up to a 118.0 passer rating.

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In six regular season games against the Packers, Ryan has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus five interceptions for 1,427 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 99.7.

The only time Rodgers and Ryan met each other in the postseason was the in the NFC divisional round in 2010 also at the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers had a whopping 136.8 passer rating in the game.

No. 12 also did not throw a pick, plus rushed for another touchdown.

Ryan did not have his best game that night in Georgia. No. 2 threw for 186 yards and a touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions to Tramon Williams, one of which was returned for a pick-six by No. 38.

Ryan also lost a fumble in the game.

The result? A resounding 48-21 victory by the No. 6 seeded Packers over the No. 1 seeded Falcons.

So, what will happen Sunday afternoon when the Packers take on the Falcons in the NFC title game at the Georgia Dome?

Rodgers will be facing the 28th-ranked pass defense of the Falcons, while Ryan will be facing the 31st-ranked pass defense of the Packers.

Landry appeared Wednesday again on Duemig’s show on 620 WDAE and had this to say about the high over/under number.

“I think it’s inviting,” Landry said. “There is always a chance that getting a running game going against these defenses could keep the point total down a little, but I expect it to be in the high-30 to 40 point game (per team) and may have a three to six point (differential) game.”

Landry then discussed the overall matchup.

“I do think that Atlanta is more of a complete team,” Landry said. “I think their pass-rush is better. Not great, but better. It’s just whether you can you do a better job of getting Aaron Rodgers to release the ball quicker. That’s going to be the whole key.

“They (the Falcons) are at home. They have a better running game. They have backs that can run it and can work the short passing game. They have more ways to beat you, where as with Green Bay, it’s Aaron Rodgers…it’s all Aaron Rodgers. Which is pretty good thing to have by the way!

“Listen, I think it’s going to be a great game. I do think it’s going to come down to this. What defense can create a turnover or steal an extra possession for their offense? Guess what, that’s going to be golden if you can do that.

“Making a big play on special teams. Not giving up key points or getting a shorter field. All of those things are pivotal.”

On his website, Landry ventured a prediction regarding the game.

Both quarterbacks are playing as well as any passers have heading into the final couple games of a season, but Ryan has a healthier crew and home-field advantage.

OUR PICK: Falcons, 35-31.

I see a similar score, but I see the Packers being the winner and advancing to Super Bowl LI.

Why? Because I simply believe Rodgers will make more big plays than Ryan.

The History Between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons

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In my last story, I wrote about the inaugural game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons which was played in 1966.

The Packers won that game 56-3 versus the expansion Falcons at Milwaukee County Stadium. I was among the 48,623 folks who attended the game that October 23.

All told, the Packers and Falcons have played each other 28 times in the regular season, with Green Bay holding a 15-13 edge over Atlanta.

In the postseason, the two teams have met three times, and all have occurred over the past 21 years. The Packers lead that series two games to one.

The fourth postseason game will occur this Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome, as the Packers and Falcons will meet in the 2016 NFC title game.

In the regular series history between the two teams, the Packers and Falcons played each other seven consecutive years to start, beginning in the expansion year of the Dirty Birds in 1966.

The Packers won the first five games of the series before Atlanta finally beat Green Bay 28-21 in 1971 at Fulton County Stadium.

The Packers and Falcons have had some very memorable games over the years and most of those have occurred in the last 20 years or so.

But in 1983, the offense of the Packers was truly outstanding. 1983 was the year when the Packers beat the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins 48-47 at Lambeau Field on Monday night football.

Yes, the offense of the Packers was very potent in 1983, but so too was the very porous defense the team had then.

That led to another memorable game between the Packers and Falcons at Fulton County Stadium that year on November 27.

Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Unfortunately, Dickey also threw three picks, the last of which was returned for a score in the 47-41 loss by the Pack in overtime.

Meanwhile, the Packers allowed a little-known quarterback by the name of Mike Moroski to throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

The next really memorable regular season game between the Packers and Falcons occurred on December 18, 1994 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

The game was memorable for a number of reasons. For one, the game was the last Green Bay game ever played in Milwaukee, as the Packers decided to play all eight home games each season at Lambeau Field starting in 1995.

Up until then, the Packers had played five home games at Lambeau and three at County Stadium when there was a 16-game schedule.

In a 14-game schedule starting from 1961 through 1977, the Packers played four home games in Green Bay and three in Milwaukee.

The Packers first started playing games in Milwaukee starting in 1933 and that association lasted through this game versus the Falcons in 1994.

On this December day in Milwaukee, the Packers were fighting for their playoff lives. A victory would clinch the team a Wild Card spot, but it didn’t look good with just seconds remaining in the game and the Packers down 17-14.

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The Packers had no timeouts and were at the nine-yard line of the Falcons with a third down and two situation with 21 second left. Quarterback Brett Favre was told not to run in that situation by head coach Mike Holmgren during their final timeout, because time would run out if he was tackled in the field of play.

So, what did Favre do? He ran of course. No. 4 first went back to pass and then broke to the right and headed up field and dove into the end zone for the game-winning score as the Packers won 21-17 and clinched a playoff spot.

The Packers and Falcons played another very unforgettable game at Lambeau Field on opening day of the 2002 season. The Packers ended up winning 37-34 in overtime, as Favre threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Michael Vick of the Falcons threw for 209 yards and a score, plus rushed for 72 yards and another score.

Vick and the Falcons would get the last laugh at Lambeau later that postseason. More on that later.

Since Aaron Rodgers has become the starting quarterback of the Packers and Matt Ryan has done the same with the Falcons, the two teams have played in a number of memorable games.

In the five games that Rodgers and Ryan have faced each other in the regular season season, the Falcons have won three of those contests. But in all three wins by the Falcons during that period, the deciding margin was by three points or less each time.

Rodgers seems to love playing against Atlanta. In those five regular season games, Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 1,626 yards. That adds up to a 118.0 passer rating.

Conversely, Ryan also likes to play against the Pack. In six regular season games against the Packers, Ryan has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus five interceptions for 1,427 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 99.7.

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Plus, while Rodgers was out in 2013 with a broken clavicle, the Packers were led by backup quarterback Matt Flynn versus Ryan in a very memorable 22-21 win by the Packers at Lambeau Field that kept alive the NFC North title hopes for the Pack that year.

Before we talk about the postseason history of the two teams, let’s take a look at the Week 8 matchup between Rodgers and Ryan this year, when Atlanta won 33-32 at the Georgia Dome.

Both Rodgers and Ryan were simply outstanding in the game, which may be exactly what we see this Sunday in the NFC title game, also at the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without a pick for 246 yards. His quarterback rating in the game was 125.5.  Plus, those numbers occurred without Randall Cobb, Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery in the lineup.

No. 12 also added 60 yards rushing.

Ryan meanwhile, threw three touchdown passes without an interception for 288 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 129.5.

The very first postseason game between the Packers and Falcons occurred in the 1995 postseason at Lambeau Field on New Year’s Eve.

The Falcons started fast, as quarterback Jeff George threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Eric Metcalf. Metcalf would later have have another not so great moment in another postseason game between the two teams.

But the Packers roared back by outscoring the Falcons 28-3 through the end of the third quarter. Favre threw two touchdown passes, while rookie Antonio Freeman returned a punt 76 yards for another score during that period.

Favre threw a third touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to running back Dorsey Levens, as the Packers went on to win 37-20.

But the next time the Falcons played at Lambeau in the postseason, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience for Packer Nation.

Up until that 2002 postseason game played on January 4, 2003, the Packers had never lost a home playoff game in the state of Wisconsin, as they were a perfect 13-0.

The Packers were beat up going into the game with injuries and quickly fell behind 24-0. Special teams didn’t help as the Falcons blocked a Josh Bidwell punt for a touchdown, plus Metcalf, who by that time was a Packer, muffed an Atlanta punt which led to another touchdown.

When it was all said and done, the Packers were throttled by Vick and the Falcons 27-7 in a very ugly loss.

The next postseason game between the Packers and Falcons would pit Rodgers and Ryan against each other in a 2010 divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome.

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That very memorable game may have been the greatest game ever played by Rodgers (both in the regular season and postseason). Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers had a whopping 136.8 passer rating in the game.

No. 12 also did not throw a pick, plus rushed for another touchdown.

Ryan did not have his best game that night in Georgia. No. 2 threw for 186 yards and a touchdown, plus tossed two interceptions to Tramon Williams, one of which was returned for a pick-six by No. 38.

Ryan also lost a fumble in the game.

The result? A resounding 48-21 victory by the No. 6 seeded Packers over the No. 1 seeded Falcons.

Time will tell what will occur this Sunday afternoon in the NFC title game, a game which will be the last game ever played in the Georgia Dome.

I will be doing a scouting report on the game later this week, but I do expect both Rodgers and Ryan to play well.

That being said, whoever plays the best in the matchup between Rodgers and Ryan will most likely be the quarterback who will lead his team to Houston for Super Bowl LI.

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons: Their First Game in 1966

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The Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons have played each other 28 times in the regular season and three times in the postseason since the two teams first met in 1966.

The Packers lead the regular season series 15-13 and also have a 2-1 edge in the postseason.

I’ll be doing a story later this week about the history between the two teams, as the Packers and Falcons will be meeting this Sunday in the NFC title game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the right to play in Super Bowl LI.

I’ll also be doing a scouting report piece on the big game, as well as another story comparing Aaron Rodgers versus Matt Ryan and how they have fared against each other, both in the regular season and the postseason.

But this story is about the first time the two teams met in 1966.

1966 was an expansion year in the NFL and it was the first year of existence for the Falcons.

I happened to be in attendance at Milwaukee County Stadium when the two teams first met on October 23, 1966.

The Falcons of 1966 had quite a connection to the Packers. For one thing, the head coach of the Falcons was Norb Hecker, who had been a long-time assistant under Vince Lombardi in Green Bay from 1959 through 1965.

The Falcons also had a number of former Packers on their 1966 roster, which included quarterback Dennis Claridge, running back Junior Coffey, guard Dan Grimm, wide receiver Gary Barnes and wide receiver Alex Hawkins.

All five of those players had been drafted by the Packers, but Hawkins never played a down for the Packers, while Claridge, Coffey and Barnes received very limited playing time.

Grimm started a number of games for the Packers at right guard in 1964 and 1965, while Jerry Kramer was out due to intestinal issues which needed nine medical procedures to resolve.

The Packers showed little mercy on the Falcons that sunny day in Milwaukee, as Green Bay won 56-3.

Quarterback Bart Starr only played part of the game in the blowout, but his eight completions went for 220 yards (27.5 yards per completion average), plus he also threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Carroll Dale. Starr’s passer rating for that game was a whopping 131.1.

Backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski also threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Max McGee.

Fullback Jim Taylor rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown in the game, but the thing I remember the most about the game was the first real appearance of the season by the two highly-paid rookie running backs of the Packers, Jim Grabowski and Donny Anderson.

Grabowski and Anderson were known as the “Gold Dust Twins” because of the rookie contracts each player signed in 1966.

Before the 1966 season, the NFL and AFL were battling each other in terms of signing college prospects, as well as attempting to sign players from other teams in each league.

That led to the merger of the two opposing leagues, as well as the creation of the Super Bowl.

But before the merger, the two leagues would bid against each other for college prospects and that led to Anderson receiving a reported $600,000 contract, while Grabowski reportedly received a $200,000 contract.

Anderson (Texas Tech) had been the No. 1 pick of the Packers in 1965 as a future pick. That aspect of the college draft was allowed in the NFL at the time, even if the prospect still had a year left in college (like Anderson did), while Grabowski (Illinois) was one of two first-round picks for the Packers in 1966, along with guard Gale Gillingham.

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Those contracts led Taylor to play out his option after the 1966 season and then to sign with the expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967.

In fact, Taylor announced that intention of playing out his option to a reporter in the locker room after the game against the Falcons at County Stadium.

That did not sit well with Lombardi, as he and Taylor hardly spoke the rest of the 1966 season.

Taylor’s long-time running mate, halfback Paul Hornung, didn’t play in the game against the Falcons, as he was dealing with a pinched nerve issue in his shoulder which hampered him during the 1966 season.

The 1966 season was also the last year for Hornung in Green Bay, as he was first selected by the Saints in the expansion draft in 1967, but soon retired to his shoulder injury.

Grabowski had lead the team in rushing against the Falcons that October day, as he rushed for 52 yards on just seven carries. Anderson rushed for a touchdown in the game, plus returned a punt for 77 yards and another score.

I also recall how stifling the defense of the Packers was that day, as it seemed like quarterback Randy Johnson was under pass-pressure all day long. In fact, Atlanta quarterbacks were sacked eight times during the game, as Claridge also played in relief of Johnson.

The Packers picked off four passes in the game, including two interceptions which were returned for touchdowns. The first was by Herb Adderley on a 68-yard return, while the second was by Doug Hart on a 40-yard return for a score.

Ironically, Hecker was the defensive backs coach for the Packers under Lombardi in Green Bay.

The Falcons did win three games in their expansion year of 1966 and finished 3-11 under Hecker.

The Packers were a dominating 12-2 that season, as their two losses were by a combined four points. Green Bay went on to win their second straight NFL title that year, as well as winning the very first Super Bowl.

A Scout’s Take on the Packers vs. Cowboys NFC Divisional Round Matchup

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When the No. 4 seeded Green Bay Packers take on the No. 1 seeded Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday afternoon in the NFC divisional round, it will be the eighth postseason meeting between the two iconic teams.

That ties the Cowboys with the New York Giants as the two opponents the Packers have played the most in their postseason history.

It all started on January 1, 1967, when the Packers defeated the Cowboys 34-27 in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl. Dallas came very close to forcing overtime as the Cowboys were at the 2-yard line of the Packers and had a first and goal situation in the final moments of the game.

But on fourth down, quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys, who was facing heavy pressure from linebacker Dave Robinson of the Packers as he rolled to his right, had his pass in the end zone intercepted by safety Tom Brown with 28 seconds to go, as the Packers escaped with a victory.

Green Bay went on to win Super Bowl I two weeks later on January 15, when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

Coincidentally, when the Packers and Cowboys meet this Sunday afternoon, it will be on the 50th anniversary of the very first Super Bowl.

The two teams met again in the 1967 NFL title game on December 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field, which is better known as the legendary “Ice Bowl” game.

The Packers were down 17-14 to the Cowboys with just 4:50 remaining in the game. It was extremely cold, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero. The offense of the Packers had to trudge 68 yards across a truly frozen tundra to win the game.

It came down to this: just 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with head coach Vince Lombardi, Starr decided to keep the ball because of the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line.

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Starr followed right guard Jerry Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh, and he found a hole behind No. 64 to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown, as the Packers won 21-17.

Two weeks later the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II.

The next time the Packers and Cowboys met in the postseason would be in the 1982 postseason, when they played in a NFC second-round playoff game at Texas Stadium on January 16, 1983.

The Packers rolled up 466 total yards in the game, but quarterback Lynn Dickey also threw three interceptions (all made by Dennis Thurman), one of which was a pick-six, as the Cowboys won 37-26.

This game set a trend in the postseason series between the two teams, as the Packers would lose three more games at Texas Stadium to the Cowboys in the 1990s.

The first occurred in the 1993 postseason in a NFC divisional round game on January 16, 1994. Led by three touchdown passes by quarterback Troy Aikman, the Cowboys beat the Packers 27-17. Brett Favre also threw for 331 yards for Green Bay and had two touchdown passes, but it wasn’t enough to beat Dallas.

The Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XXVII two weeks later by beating the Buffalo Bills 30-13.

The Packers and Cowboys met again the very next year in another NFC divisional game on January 8, 1995 at Texas Stadium, but Dallas got off to a quick start and never looked back, as the Boys won 35-9. Aikman threw for 337 yards and had one touchdown pass in the game.

The two teams met again a year later, but this time the stakes were higher, as it was the NFC title game, played on January 14, 1996.

The Packers led 27-24 in the fourth quarter, but two Emmitt Smith touchdowns in the fourth frame led to a 38-27 victory by Dallas over Green Bay. Smith rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns, while Favre threw three touchdown passes for the Packers.

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The Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XXX two weeks later as they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.

The last time the Packers and Cowboys met in the playoffs was in the 2014 postseason, when Dallas traveled to Lambeau Field. This game had plenty of controversy. The Cowboys were faced with a fourth-and-two at the Green Bay 32-yard line trailing 26-21 with just under five minutes left in the game, when quarterback Tony Romo connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant on a 31-yard pass play to place the ball at the 1-yard line of the Packers.

The play was initially ruled a catch, but after head coach Mike McCarthy of the Packers challenged the play, the pass was ruled incomplete since the replay official deemed that Bryant did not maintain possession when he hit the ground.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in the Green Bay win.

In the seven games that the Packers and Cowboys have played in the postseason, four times the winner of the game went on to win the Super Bowl.

Although the Packers never fared well at Texas Stadium in the postseason, Green Bay has found the new home venue of the Cowboys to their liking.

The Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV at the stadium, when it was then called Cowboys Stadium. Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the game and was named MVP.

The Packers also played at AT&T Stadium versus the Cowboys in the 2013 regular season, when backup quarterback Matt Flynn engineered a stellar comeback against Dallas, as the Packers overcame a 26-3 halftime deficit and shocked the Cowboys 37-36 in a thrilling victory.

The Cowboys became the No. 1 seed in the 2016 NFC playoffs mostly because of the play of two rookies. The rookies are quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

One of those two players will definitely be named the 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year and both are in the discussion for the 2016 NFL MVP award.

In leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the NFC East title, Prescott threw 23 touchdown passes versus just four interceptions for 3,637 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.9. Prescott also rushed for 282 yards and six more scores.

Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards and he also scored 15 touchdowns. The rookie also caught 32 passes for 363 yards and another score.

Speaking of MVP candidates, Rodgers of the Packers is certainly one. After the Packers stumbled to a 4-6 start in the 2016 regular season, Rodgers led the Packers to six straight wins and the NFC North crown.

Rodgers had another stellar season, as he threw 40 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,428 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.2. Rodgers also ran for 369 yards and had four rushing touchdowns.

In the last seven games of the season, Rodgers threw 18 touchdown passes without throwing a pick for 1,788 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 120.1.

In addition to that, Rodgers was simply marvelous in the 38-13 victory over the Giants at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card playoff game last Sunday, as he threw four touchdown passes without a pick for 362 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 125.2.

The game this Sunday looks to be another classic confrontation between these two storied franchises in the NFL. I wanted to make sure that I was able to get an opinion on the game from one of the very best in his business, NFL scout Chris Landry.

I was able to speak with Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show this past Wednesday.

Before Landry gave his take on the game, Duemig interjected and asked me how the Packers would be able to overcome the loss of Nelson. That was an excellent question, at least based on how sorely the team missed Nelson in 2015 when he tore his ACL in the preseason and then how Rodgers and the offense of the Packers struggled at times in the passing game throughout the season without No. 87.

I answered by saying that the Packers would be better off because of the play of Adams, who in my opinion had a breakthrough year in 2016 (75-997-12) and who now would be the No. 1 receiving option on a number of NFL teams.

Coincidentally, Rodgers was asked a similar question at his locker on Wednesday after noon.

“We’re doing a lot of different things than we were last year, a lot of things better,” Rodgers said. “I think our offensive line is playing better. Our scheme has advanced, and we’re getting more contributions from the tight end at this point, and Richard [Rodgers] and Jared [Cook] are making plays for us, and I think we’re a little deeper at receiver now with the emergence of Geronimo [Allison]. Davante [Adams] is a legit receiver in this league, and obviously Randall Cobb, who is established as well.”

It’s also important to know that the 38 points the Packers put on the Giants last week came after Nelson left the game with the rib injury. Rodgers was on fire from late in the second quarter on, as he threw for 362 yards  and four touchdowns.

Adams had eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown, while Cobb had five catches for 116 yards and three scores.

Landry then weighed in with his analysis of the game.

“Well, I felt going into last week, that Green Bay would win last week and Green Bay would also beat Dallas this week,” Landry said. “I felt that is was going to be Atlanta hosting Green Bay in the NFC championship game. That was the way I felt before the playoffs started.

“I would feel a little more comfortable with that, had Jordy Nelson didn’t get injured. That’s a big factor. This game to me is pretty simple. If it gets into a shootout, Green Bay is going to win it.

“They [the Packers] have the most talented quarterback in the league. No one, I mean no one, throws the ball outside the pocket better than Aaron Rodgers, ever, in the history of the game. Better than [Fran] Tarkenton. Better than anybody.

“It’s uncanny, and we talk about getting your feet under you and squared away [as a quarterback], this guy does things with his body in unsound ways that just puts it in spots that are unbelievable. He can extend plays as well as he can with his protection.

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“Last week the Giants lost a corner early, I get that, but they still had great cover ability. But you just can’t cover when this guy can run around and scramble. So if it’s a shootout, Green Bay wins.

“But it comes down to this. Dallas wants to make it a short game. To use a basketball analogy, a half court game. They want to run the football. So if they can run the football and keep Green Bay’s defense on the field, and obviously keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, than that’s a big advantage for Dallas.

“To me, it’s look at the style of the game, the flow of the game. It’s two different styles. You have one team which clearly excels one way, while the other in another way. To me, it’s real simple how you deal with that.

“If Dallas can control the football, protect it and not turn it over, and they can keep Green Bay off the field, than it’s a huge advantage and a great chance of shorten it and make it simple. Not succumb to any of the pressure and all that.

“But if they get into a matchup where it’s a shootout, I’m telling you, Green Bay, Atlanta, whoever Dallas plays, they [the Cowboys] will not win a shootout type of game. Because their defense will get exposed. They haven’t been exposed, because Dallas has been able to control the football on the offensive side.

“It’s going to be interesting to see. I like Green Bay’s chances. I liked them better with a healthy Jordy Nelson, but I still think their chances are pretty good. But again, the style is the key as to who is going to win. The style will determine [the winner].”

When the Packers hosted the Cowboys in Week 6 at Lambeau Field, the Packers had the No. 1 run defense in the NFL going into the game. But you wouldn’t have known it, based on the way Elliott ran that day. Elliott rushed for 157 yards that day (a 5.61 average) and just kept gashing the Green Bay Front 7.

I asked Landry how he thought defensive coordinator Dom Capers would try and stop the run in this game.

“Well, they have to load the front, there’s no question,” Landry said. “They are going to play some more Bear fronts. I think that they are going to be very aggressive bringing in an extra guy in the box. Particularly on early downs. Force them into the air and that’s where Dallas will have to make plays.

“I think if Dallas is going to have success throwing the football, as they can, it will be because they [the Packers] will have removed the safety out of the middle of the field. And they are going to have one on one on the outside, outside of the hashes. Plus they will be able to work the middle of the field to [Jason] Witten.

“Again, the run game will dictate it. There can be big plays by Dallas in the passing game, but that will be because the Packers are overplaying for the run. You have to stop the run. If you don’t stop the run, you have no shot. And if you can, you have to hope that maybe you can create enough pressure and force enough bad throws where you can make enough plays on the back end.

“You just can’t let them [the Cowboys] get into a rhythm in the running game. You are going to have to switch things up a little bit. But again, you are going to have to crowd the front most of the day.”

Bottom line, the game between the Packers and Cowboys looks to be a classic battle between two teams who will attempt to try and impose their will versus their opponent.

Which ever team accomplishes that goal will be playing in the 2016 NFC title game.