Jerry Kramer Talks About Forrest Gregg

In his book “Run to Daylight”, Vince Lombardi said that “Forrest Gregg is the finest player I ever coached!”

That is indeed high praise, coming from the coach who now has his name on the Super Bowl trophy.

Gregg deserved that acclamation. In his career in the NFL, Gregg was named to nine Pro Bowl teams and was named first-team All-Pro seven times.

No. 75 also played on six NFL championship teams, five with the Green Bay Packers (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 & 1967) and one in his final year in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys (1971).

Gregg was also athletic enough to play guard when needed due to injuries, like he did in both 1961 and 1965.

Jerry Kramer played next to Gregg at right guard for his entire career in Green Bay. Kramer reflected about the play of Gregg over that time.

“Great consistency,” Kramer said. “I was on the same wavelength as Forrest. Our whole offensive line was really.

“For instance, sometimes a linebacker would look like he was about to shoot through the gap between us. I would say, ‘Forrest’, and he knew immediately I would pick up the guy. Or perhaps Forrest would say, ‘Jerry’, and he would pick up the guy instead.”

Gregg was a true technician according to Kramer.

“Forrest was a position player,” Kramer said. “He wasn’t a guy who was going to knock you down particularly. But he was always in position. He would work himself to the side that he needed to be on and he would keep the defensive player away from the action.

“I can’t recall Forrest ever making a mistake. He was just very consistent and he played at a very high-level all the time.”

That level of play put Gregg into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Jim Taylor

Right guard Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers played in the NFL for 11 years. In nine of those years, fullback Jim Taylor was his roommate.

Taylor had a great career as a member of the Packers, as he gained 8,207 yards and scored 81 touchdowns on the ground in nine seasons in Green Bay. Taylor also had 26 100-yard rushing games as a Packer, plus had five straight seasons of rushing for more than a 1,000 yards (1960-64).

No. 31 was also a threat in the passing game, as he had 187 receptions for 1,505 yards and 10 more scores.

In 1962, Taylor was also named NFL MVP, as he rushed for 1,474 yards and had 19 touchdowns.

In the postseason, Taylor was also a force. The former LSU Tiger rushed for 508 yards and had two touchdowns on the ground, plus had 19 catches for 137 yards as a receiver.

Taylor and his primary backfield companion, Paul Hornung, were considered the best blocking-back tandem in the NFL while they played together.

It all led to Taylor being enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

Kramer knew Taylor just about as well as anyone on the Packers, as he not only was his roommate, but also was a partner in a commercial diving business.

No. 64 and his teammates on the offensive line also created a lot of the running room that allowed Taylor to get good chunks of yardage.

Kramer gave me his thoughts on Taylor. “He was a romping, stomping fullback,” Kramer said. “An incredibly well-conditioned athlete. Probably the best-conditioned athlete, or one of the best in the league.

“He was a weight-lifter and a body-builder. He had a mind-set that he needed to punish the defense. Normally the defense is always trying to make guys on offense get stung with their hits, while Jimmy thought it should be the exact opposite.

“I remember us all looking at some film where Jimmy is running down the sideline and a safety had a bead on him and was going to cut him off. Jimmy decided to run right at the safety and just wails him! Coach Lombardi said, ‘What are you doing? You should run away from that guy.’ Jimmy replied, ‘You got to sting ’em coach. You have to sting ’em a little bit.’

Kramer than talked about the 1962 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants, where No. 64 scored 10 points, as he kicked as well as playing right guard in the contest. For his efforts in the 16-7 victory, Kramer earned a game ball.

“Jimmy always put out tremendous effort,” Kramer said. “Gave you everything he had. In the ’62 title game, the Giant defense beat the hell out of him. Jimmy had a great game (85 yards rushing and one touchdown), even as the Giants were piling on whenever they could or hitting after the whistle. On the plane going home, Jimmy was playing cards with us with his coat on and his hands were still trembling. But he never said anything about how bad he was hurting or complained one bit.”

Kramer also talked about how good Taylor was in negotiating his contract with Vince Lombardi, who was not just the head coach, but was the general manager of the Packers as well.

“Jimmy was a great contract negotiator,” Kramer said. “He was extremely tenacious about getting a good deal. He ended up getting one of best contracts on the team, time after time.

“One time, Jimmy wouldn’t sign the deal that was offered to him. He would go up to coach Lombardi’s office and be gone for an hour. I asked him what happened, and he just said, ‘Nothing. We just looked at each other.’ Jimmy ended up getting the deal he wanted. Jimmy was definitely one of a kind.”

Ironically, it was a contract squabble that led to Taylor leaving the Packers for the New Orleans Saints in 1967 after playing out his option in 1966.

Still, Taylor was part of four Green Bay teams which won the NFL title, plus was the leading rusher in Super Bowl I, where he ran for 53 yards and a score.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Vince Lombardi

This article will be the first of 12 stories, in which former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer will talk about Vince Lombardi, the man who coached No. 64 for 10 years, as well as the 11 former teammates of Kramer’s who have been bestowed the highest honor one can receive in the NFL.

That would be being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As I recently wrote, Kramer deserves to be in Canton as well. In fact, Jerry should have been given a bust there decades ago.

That prestigious award might well happen in 2016. I wrote about that scenario as Kramer reflected about Brett Favre, who will obviously be part of the Class of 2016 in Canton. It sure would be nice if No. 64 was there with No. 4 on the stage. The numbers add up. 64 divided by 4 equals 16. As in the Class of 2016 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But when one talks about the Packers of the Lombardi era, it all has to come back to the great coach.

From 1959 through 1967, Lombardi and his Packers were 89-24-4 in the regular season, plus won six Western Conference titles in the NFL.

But it was the postseason that the Packers really stood out under Lombardi. The team was 9-1 and won five NFL championships in seven years. That included winning three straight NFL titles from 1965-67. No team in the modern era of the NFL has ever duplicated that.

Plus, the Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Lombardi as their coach. Is it any wonder that the Super Bowl Trophy is named after him?

Kramer reflected about what Lombardi meant to the Packers, not just as football players, but also as people.

“Coach Lombardi had a tremendous impact on my life,” Kramer said. “The fundamentals that he taught us were fundamentals for life. They were about football, but also about business or anything else you wanted to achieve.

“You would use the Lombardi principles. He believed in paying the price. He believed in hard work and making sacrifices for the betterment of the team. His principles were preparation, commitment, consistency, discipline, character, pride, tenacity and perseverance.

“Those things are still helping me today.”

Kramer also talked about the point in time in which he realized that he could become a great player in the NFL.

“It was the moment when coach Lombardi patted me on the head after a very difficult practice and he told me that I would become one of the best guards in football,” Kramer said. “That statement gave me a new feeling about myself. From that point on, I really became a player. That positive reinforcement by him at that moment changed my whole career.

“It was a major turning point for me. Not only in performance, but also in effort. I really went to work at football after that. I believed coach to be an honest man, so I believed what he said. I decided then that it was up to me to prove the coach right.”

Kramer talked about the lessons he learned from his coach about life in general.

“Coach Lombardi use to share a philosophy about life with us,” Kramer said. “He said, ‘After the game is over, the stadium lights are out, the parking lot is empty, the fans have all gone home, the press has done their job and released their information, you are finally back in the quiet of your own room looking at the championship ring on the dresser. The only thing left after that was to have a standard of excellence in your life. Make sure that the world is a better place because you were in it.’

“The coach taught us to leave a positive impact on society,” Kramer said. “The world would be a much better place if we did that. That’s what I have tried to do all these years.”

Kramer then talked about Lombardi’s background which helped him achieve great success in the NFL.

“Coach Lombardi read ancient Greek and Latin, plus taught chemistry and algebra,” Kramer said. “He was a very bright man. In a lot of ways, he was more like a teacher, as opposed to a coach. He believed that he was a teacher, first and foremost. For him, teaching and coaching were one in the same.”

Yes, Vincent Thomas Lombardi was a great coach and a great teacher. But he was more than that. He was also a great man. A man who molded great football players to be sure, but more importantly than that, he molded great people.

Jerry Kramer is a testament to that.

Why Jerry Kramer Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Around the third week of August, the Senior Selection Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be naming their two senior nominees for the Class of 2016.

It’s my contention, as well as many others, that Jerry Kramer should definitely be one of those two nominees. In fact, I believe Kramer should have been inducted into Canton many, many years ago.

Why? First, when Kramer played right guard and also kicked at times for the Packers, the team won five NFL titles in seven years (including the first two Super Bowls) under head coach Vince Lombardi.

Kramer played a large role in that success, as he was a five-time AP first-team All-Pro at right guard, plus was also named to three Pro Bowls. No. 64 would have had more honors, except that he missed part of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and missed most of the 1964 season because of an intestinal illness.

In addition to that, Kramer was named to the first team for the All-Decade team in the 1960s.

The icing on the cake for Kramer was when he was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. He is the only member of that squad who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When the lights were the brightest, as in NFL championship games, Kramer really stood out.

In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Jerry doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Jerry booted three field goals on a very difficult day to kick, as some wind gusts were over 40 mph during the contest.

Kramer scored 10 points in the 16-7 victory for the Packers, plus helped lead the way for fullback Jimmy Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also score the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.

In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.

The Packers rushed for 204 yards behind Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and fellow guard Fuzzy 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.

In the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Dallas Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field, Kramer made the most famous block in the history of the NFL.

The playing surface that day was truly a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.

In the closing moments of the game, down by a score of 17-14,  the Packers had to drive 68 yards down the frozen field to either tie or win the game.

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. The Packers could have kicked a field goal at that point to tie the game at 17-17.

But coach Lombardi decided to go for the win. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short of the end zone, the game is over.

Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.

Starr thought it would be better to try to get into the end zone himself due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. He followed Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh and found a hole behind No. 64 to score the winning touchdown.

Kramer talked about why that play was even called.

“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.’

The result? The Packers had won their third straight NFL title, a feat that has never been duplicated in modern NFL history.

The signature play for the Packers under Lombardi was the power sweep. The signature moment for the Packers under Lombardi was Starr’s quarterback sneak in the “Ice Bowl.” Kramer was a huge component in both of those legendary instances.

Plus there are all the testimonials Kramer has received from several peers of his who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Randy Simon put together a great slideshow to illustrate that.

The list includes several players who played with and against Kramer in the era in which he played. The list includes Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Merlin Olsen, Bob Lilly, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Bob St. Clair, Joe Schmidt, Gino Marchetti, John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Chris Hanburger, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Lem Barney and Tommy McDonald.

The biggest endorsement Kramer ever received had to come from Olsen. No. 74 is considered by many to be the best defensive tackle in NFL history.

Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, which is the all-time NFL record shared by Bruce Matthews, the uncle of Clay Matthews of the Packers. Olsen was named AP All-Pro nine times in his career as well.

Olsen and Kramer battled each other in the trenches on many occasions, when the Rams took on the Packers.

In his endorsement of Kramer to the Hall, Olsen says:

“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.”

To me, there is absolutely no doubt that Kramer not only belongs in Canton, but he should have been able to enjoy that honor decades ago, like when teammates such as Taylor (1976), Starr (1977), Gregg (1977) and Nitschke (1978) were inducted.

Up until the time the senior nominees are announced in August, I am going to write a series of articles in which Kramer will talk about his teammates who have already been given busts in Canton, as well as the man who was responsible for all of that success. That man would be the coach who has the Super Bowl trophy named after him.

Vincent Thomas Lombardi.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Brett Favre

When Brett Favre gets inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, one of the 67,000-plus people who will be in attendance is Jerry Kramer.

Kramer was inducted into that same Hall of Fame in 1975 because of his great play for the Packers over 11 years as right guard and also at times as a kicker.

Kramer had a number of former greats join him in that particular class. Besides Kramer, there was head coach Vince Lombardi, kicker Don Chandler, tight end Ron Kramer, defensive end Willie Davis, halfback Paul Hornung, wide receiver Max McGee, defensive tackle Henry Jordan, fullback Jim Taylor and left guard Fuzzy Thurston.

Kramer has been in the Green Bay area for the past few days and I had an opportunity to speak with him about a number of subjects, including his thoughts on Favre.

The first time Kramer ever saw Favre was during a game on alumni weekend in Green Bay. The date was September 20, 1992. The Packers were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. That was the game where starting quarterback Don Majkowski severely sprained his ankle and Favre had to replace him at quarterback.

No. 4 was having all sorts of problems initially when he came into the game, as he fumbled four times. But as the game wore on, Favre got better.

The Packers were down 20-7 in the fourth quarter when Favre started to heat up. With 1:07 left in the game and the Packers down 23-17, Favre had to take his team 92 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

Favre did that in five plays, as he hit Kitrick Taylor with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the game, as the Packers won 24-23. For the game, Favre threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns.

It was the birth of a legend and Kramer was on hand to see it.

“We were in town for that game, as it was an alumni game,” Kramer said. “Brett came off the bench and led the Packers 90-plus yards for a score and won the game. It was great to see the late-game heroics by Brett and we all were thrilled the way the game ended.

“I was with Fuzzy on the sidelines watching this. We were all feeling pretty good after that touchdown, congratulating one another and then I turn around and Fuzzy is gone. I can’t find him as I’m looking up and down the sidelines.  But then I look on the field and there is Fuzzy celebrating the win at around the 25-yard line gesturing to the crowd.”

That game was just the beginning for Favre. When he finished his career in Green Bay, No. 4 basically re-wrote many of the records for the Packers in their history.

For instance, Favre started 253 straight games (275 including the postseason), plus had 160 wins over 16 seasons. 96 of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).

Favre threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was a Packer and also won three NFL MVP awards.

Before Favre became the starting quarterback for the Packers in 1992, the team had won just one division title since 1967 and had only won a single playoff game. That all changed when Favre came to town. Brett led the Packers to seven divisional titles, 11 playoff appearances and 12 postseason wins. That includes two NFC championships and one Super Bowl win.

Kramer remembers how incredible it was to watch Favre play over that time.

“Brett was like half-Starr and half-Houdini,” Kramer said. “He looked like he was trapped or caught by a defender, and then he would do one of those schoolyard passes to win the game. He always had a great competitive spirit. He just didn’t ever seem to give up. I loved that about his attitude and that reflected on his great play.

“He was also a pretty tough kid who stood in there and took some vicious shots at times. But he always bounced right back up and kept leading the team.”

Kramer also got to know Favre pretty well over the years and became good friends.

“Brett would come over and say hello during the alumni games,” Kramer said. “His dad Irv used to play guard I believe. For some reason that gave Brett a little more of an appreciation for a lineman like me. I mean, Brett always took good care of Frankie Winters and the rest of his offensive linemen.”

Kramer will always remember Super Bowl XXXI.

“I recall the Super Bowl in New Orleans with Reggie [White] parading around the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy,” Kramer said. “Brett had a great game as well. Anyway, I have about six tickets from the commissioner, so I’m with my family just sitting there. We just stayed in our seats for about an hour after the game had ended. That about the only time I’ve even thought about doing something like that.

“But I was just enjoying the victory so much and the celebration so much, that I just sat there and soaked it up.”

Kramer was not a happy camper when Favre and the Packers parted ways.

“I thought the Packers made a bad mistake by changing quarterbacks after being so close to getting to another Super Bowl,” Kramer said. “I was pretty upset with Ted Thompson for trading Brett.

“That being said, I can’t believe how good Aaron [Rodgers] has been since Brett left. I didn’t think that was possible at the time, but Aaron has turned out to be magnificent.”

No. 64 is very happy that No. 4 is coming back to Lambeau.

“I’m really pleased that Brett is coming home,” Kramer said. “Also that the folks here have opened their arms and are embracing him like they should. It’s a very happy ending.”

The Packers Hall of Fame induction for Favre will be special for obvious reasons. But so will the induction of No. 4 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

That would really become an epic event if Kramer was there to join Favre as part of the Class of 2016.

I wrote about that possibility last summer.

Favre also endorsed Kramer for a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a statement last July:

“We all know what a great honor it would be, being remembered for your career in the NFL by getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. There, the walls are adorned with the busts of some of the greatest athletes to ever take the field. However, in my opinion there’s one man whose presence there has been overdue for some time now; I’m talking about Jerry Kramer. His worthiness of a spot in this ring of honor speaks volumes; besides class and integrity his resume is very impressive. In his career with the Green Bay Packers, under the legendary Coach Vince Lombardi, as a right guard from 1958-1968, he played a pivotal role in the Packers 5 NFL Championships in only 7 years. In addition to that he was also named to the Pro Bowl 3 times, is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, a five-time First Team All-Pro selection, and a two-time Super Bowl Champion! Please help me make a stand, and show your support for NFL and Green Bay Packers great, Jerry Kramer!”

I wholeheartedly agree with Brett. I recently wrote another story about why Kramer belongs among the greats in Canton. In that story, I mention my conversations with both Rick Gosselin and Ron Borges, who are both on the Senior Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Gosselin and Borges both agree with me that Kramer should have been inducted decades ago into the Hall of Fame.

The two of them have also said that the timing has to be right for Kramer, in what could be his last chance to be among the best of the best in the NFL.

To me, the timing will never be any better than it is now. Besides going in with Favre into the Hall of Fame, the Class of 2016 will be named on the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl I. That historic game was played by Kramer and the Packers, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

You also might remember who the head coach of the Packers was at that time. That would be Vince Lombardi. You know, the gentleman who has the Super Bowl trophy named after him.

I asked Kramer how it would feel if he was indeed inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Favre.

“It would be a sensational end to the story,” Kramer said. “It would be a very happy ending like it’s going to be this weekend with Brett. It would definitely be a tremendous thrill for me.”

Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre Returns to the Scene Where He Became a Legend

I’ve been covering the Green Bay Packers for 13 years now. Besides the NFL draft stories I have written, which always seem to get a large audience, articles about Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers always seem to attract the most readers.

Why? It’s pretty simple. From 1992 through 2014, either Favre or Rodgers have started and won quite often for the Packers at quarterback, plus both played at an outstanding level.

In that time, Rodgers missed nine games in the seven years as a starter, while Favre never missed a game in 16 years.

Between the two, the Packers are a combined 233-130 over 23 seasons. Included in that span are 11 NFC Central/North titles, 17 appearances in the playoffs, two Super Bowl wins and five NFL MVP awards.

It was an appearance together by Favre and Rodgers at the 2013 NFL awards show that helped to heal the wounds of many of the Packers faithful after No. 4 had finished his stellar NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings over two seasons.

Rodgers talked about that get together with Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com in June.

“As much as on-stage at the NFL Honors I think that was important for fans and the team to publicly see us coming together, I think time is the ultimate catalyst for things coming back together,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes it just takes some time for people to move on and move past things. I was happy to be a part of that. It was fun for me to see Brett and do that little bit on stage with him.

“But this is a fun time for him, I think. He’s been obviously away from it for a few years now, and I think a lot of that stuff has healed up – I hope it has. And it’d be great to see him get his number retired, go up on the stadium façade – which is an incredible honor – with the other four legends – and obviously his Packers Hall of Fame induction. And then obviously next year, going into Canton will be great. So this is again a fun time for him, and hopefully people can look back and remember all the great memories, the streaks, the Super Bowls, the MVPs, the wins, the drama which always followed those games. It’ll be a fun time.”

Wilde was also able to talk with Favre recently. Brett talked about his feelings for Rodgers during the ugly divorce he and the Packers had in the summer of 2008 when he was traded to the New York Jets.

“Was there animosity toward Aaron Rodgers [in the summer of 2008]? No, there wasn’t,” Favre said. “I like Aaron. Aaron and I get along fine. I knew at some point he had to play. I knew he had tremendous potential. All those things have come true, and I don’t feel like, ‘Well, what about me?’

“Again, my body of work speaks for itself. I’m a different player than he is. He’s a tremendous player and a great leader, and he’s doing exactly what I thought he’d do. When people try to create a wedge either with me and a player or me and the organization, there isn’t one. Life goes on, I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But again, what I did speaks for itself.”

What Favre did in Green Bay does speak for itself.

For instance, Favre started 253 straight games (275 including the postseason) at quarterback over 16 seasons. Brett also won three NFL MVP awards. No. 4 also had 160 wins over 16 seasons. 96 of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).

Favre threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was in Green Bay. The former Southern Miss star led the Packers to seven divisional titles and 11 playoff appearances. That includes two NFC championships and one Super Bowl win.

I was writing for Packer Report while Favre played in Green Bay. I was honored when one of my stories about him made it to his official website.

Favre is the one being honored now. On Saturday night, Favre will be welcomed into the Packers Hall of Fame. Favre said he will probably wing it when he gives his speech.

“I think what I’ll probably say initially is, ‘I thought about writing something down. I thought about writing a script, but you know what? I figured I’d wing it sort of like I played, so just bear with me,'” Favre said to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “It’s only fitting.

“I don’t want to sit there and make it longer than the whole event is anyway — and it’s going to be long — but I do want to acknowledge a lot of people and just maybe tell a few funny stories, kind of keep it as lighthearted as possible. It could be 20 minutes, it could be an hour, I don’t know.”

Then later this year on Thanksgiving night versus the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, Favre will have his No. 4 retired and put on the facade of the storied stadium next to the numbers retired for Don Huston (No. 14), Tony Canadeo (No. 3), Bart Starr (No. 15), Ray Nitschke (No. 66) and Reggie White (No. 92).

Favre was not the only legend to leave Green Bay after some glorious times there.

Team founder and coach Curly Lambeau left the Packers after a heated dispute with the executive committee in 1950 to coach the Chicago Cardinals.  Lambeau coached the Packers from 1921 to 1949, winning 209 games with a .656 winning percentage and six NFL championships.

But even with that, Lambeau had issues with the executive committee of the Packers.

Lambeau’s last two teams in Green Bay were a combined 5-19.  Plus, Lambeau ticked off members of the committee by purchasing the Rockwood Lodge north of Green Bay for $25,000 for the Packers to practice at from 1946 to 1949.  The facility burned down on Jan. 24, 1950, and Lambeau resigned a week later to coach the Cardinals.

The Cardinals were considered a very talented team when Lambeau arrived there.  The Cardinals had won the NFL title in 1947, and next to the Bears, were clearly the next-biggest rival to the Packers at the time.  Needless to say, people in Green Bay were not real happy when Lambeau joined forces with the Cardinals.

Then another coaching legend arrived a few years later—Vince Lombardi.  The result of his tenure?  Five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Included in that tenure was three straight NFL titles (1965-1967), something that was never done in NFL history except once, when Lambeau did it from 1929-1931 with his Packers.

Lombardi left the Packers after the 1968 season (Lombardi was a GM-only that season) to coach the Washington Redskins.  The Packers had stopped Lombardi from leaving a couple of times before, as the New York Giants had tried to get Lombardi back to his hometown and back with his close friend and college buddy Wellington Mara, who owned the Giants.

Together, Lambeau and Lombardi brought 11 world championships to Green Bay, with Lambeau winning six titles and Lombardi five in seven years, including Super Bow I and Super Bowl II.  The Super Bowl trophy is now named the Lombardi Trophy.

Other legends have moved on from Green Bay as well, including some noteworthy players.

Reggie White played six seasons with the Packers, helping them win Super Bowl XXXI with a Super Bowl-record three sacks of the Patriots’ Drew Bledsoe.  White finished his career in Green Bay by winning the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1998.

After a year of retirement, White finished his career in 2000 with the Carolina Panthers, a team the Packers had defeated in the 1996 NFC Championship game.

There was also Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.  That tandem was the force of the Packers’ vaunted ground game in the Lombardi era from 1959 to 1966.  Taylor and Hornung won MVP awards and helped the team win four world championships.

However, in 1967, Taylor left as a free agent for the New Orleans Saints, and Hornung was claimed by the Saints in the 1967 expansion draft but never played because of a neck injury.

Other great performers have left the team in the latter portions of their careers, including Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo, Herb Adderley, James Lofton, Ahman Green and Charles Woodson.

But nothing affected the fan base more than seeing Favre play for the Vikings.

It certainly was very difficult for many fans to see Favre wearing purple.  That being said, I’m sure fans of the Bears were not too pleased when they saw Jim McMahon in a Packers uniform, either.

But Jimmy Mac was just a backup to Favre.  Favre was a starter for two years with the Vikings, including 2009, when the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings and Favre also beat the Packers and Rodgers twice that season.

But all is forgiven now.

Bottom line, legends do indeed leave Green Bay from time to time to finish their NFL careers.  Yes, the legends leave, but the warm and glorious memories of their deeds never do.

After all, the Packers do play at Lambeau Field, which is located at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.

That is the location where Favre will be this Saturday night, when he is inducted into Packers Hall of Fame because of all of the incredible moments he had as a member of the Packers over 16 seasons.

The Two Best Players in the NFL Have a Big Wisconsin Connection

The top two players in the NFL as voted by their peers in the Top 100 Players of 2015 have a big Wisconsin connection. I’m talking about defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. 

Watt is a Wisconsin native who played some great football at the state’s top school, the University of Wisconsin. Rodgers is a California native who played his college football at the University of California and was also outstanding there. But in the NFL, Rodgers has been with the Packers for 10 years (seven years as a starter), plus has been a huge supporter of the men’s basketball program at Wisconsin.

Watt and Rodgers deserve to be rated No. 1 and No. 2, as they certainly warranted that recognition for not only the seasons they had in 2014, but also because of the stellar careers that they both have had thus far in the NFL.

In 2014, Watt was named Defensive Player of the Year for good reason. No. 99 had 78 total tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 20.5 sacks (one for a safety), 60 quarterback knockdowns, 31.5 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, one interception and two defensive touchdowns.

If that wasn’t enough, the former Badger also caught three passes on offense. All of those catches were for touchdowns.

In his career, Watt already has 57 sacks in just four years. Watt also has 37 passes deflected in his time in Houston, plus has 12 forced fumbles and 11 fumble recoveries.

Watt has not missed a game in his NFL career either. The Defensive Player of the Year award in 2014 was the second time Watt received that honor, as he also won in 2012. Watt has also been named to the Pro Bowl three times (2012, 2013 and 2014) and been named first-team All-Pro three times (2012, 2013 and 2014).

Rodgers has been equally exceptional. In 2014, No. 12 won the NFL MVP award. For the season, Rodgers threw 38 touchdown passes versus just five interceptions for 4,381 yards. That adds up to a 112.2 passer rating.

Rodgers also ran for 269 yards and two more scores.

Rodgers also played hurt. In Week 8 against the Saints in New Orleans, Rodgers strained a hamstring. In Week 16 versus the Bucs in Tampa, Rodgers strained a calf muscle, which he ended up tearing a week later against Detroit at Lambeau Field.

In that game against the Lions, Rodgers had to leave the game for awhile due to the injury, but came back to lead the Packers to victory and the NFC North divisional crown.

Like Watt, Rodgers has had a fantastic career. In his time in Green Bay, Rodgers has thrown 226 touchdown passes versus just 57 picks for 28,578 yards.

No. 12 has excellent mobility and he uses that skill quite well, as he has rushed for 1,831 yards and 20 touchdowns in his NFL career.

Under his leadership, the Packers have won four NFC North titles in a row, plus won Super Bowl XLV the year before that streak started. In that Super Bowl contest, Rodgers was the game MVP, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 304 yards. In all, the Packers have played in the postseason for six consecutive years with Rodgers at quarterback.

Just to show you how good Rodgers is, all you need to do is look at the all-time NFL career passer rating leaders. Rodgers leads the way with a 106.0 rating. In fact, Rodgers is the only quarterback to have a rating over 100.

Rodgers has also been very good in the postseason. No. 12 is third on the list with a 101.0 rating, only behind Bart Starr (104.8) and Kurt Warner (102.8).

The NFL MVP award Rodgers won in 2014 was his second, as he also won in 2011. Rodgers has also been named to four Pro Bowls (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and been named first-team All-Pro twice (2011 and 2014).

Rodgers has also built up a great friendship with Sam Dekker, who was recently selected by the Houston Rockets in the NBA draft after having a great career at Wisconsin.

Dekker is a Sheboygan, Wisconsin native who was also named the West Regional Most Outstanding Player leading up to this year’s Final Four .

Rodgers was often a spectator watching the Badgers play in the NCAA tournament the past couple of seasons, as Wisconsin made it to the Final Four for two consecutive years, which included the finals this past April.

Watt has also been a big supporter of Wisconsin hoops, just like Rodgers.

Coincidentally, Dekker will play in the same city where Watt now makes a living. I’m sure Watt will show his fellow Badger around the town in Houston and get him comfortable in his new digs.

Having friends like Watt and Rodgers can only help the career of Dekker in the NBA.

When you learn from the best, you have a chance to become the best.

And Watt and Rodgers are definitely the best!

The Packers Keep Getting in the News for the Wrong Reasons

The ultimate goal of the Green Bay Packers is to win the Super Bowl. In fact, this year the oddsmakers from Bovada believe that the Packers are the favorites to win Super Bowl 50.

The last thing the team needs is to see one or more of their players get in the news for the wrong reasons.

But that was precisely what happened recently, when defensive end Datone Jones and tight end Andrew Quarless were put in that uncomfortable limelight.

On July 2, the Packers learned that Jones would be suspended for the Packers’ Sept. 13 regular-season opener versus Chicago for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

According to City of Green Bay Municipal Court records, Jones was ticketed for marijuana possession on Jan. 19. In case you were wondering, that was the day after the Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

Jones paid an $880 fine a month later.

Then on July 4, Quarless was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor of discharging a firearm in public in the South Beach area of Miami. Police say that Quarless and another man got into an argument with a group of women near a parking garage. That led Quarless to allegedly pull out his .45-caliber handgun and fire two shots into the air.

The 2015 season was going to be a big year for both Jones and Quarless before these incidents, and now it’s become even larger due to their foolish actions. Neither Jones or Quarless have ever played up to their potential in the NFL, although Quarless has come the closest.

I had my eye on Jones prior to the 2013 NFL draft. As a matter of fact, I had the Packers taking Jones in the first round in the last mock draft I did that year.

The 6’4″, 285-pound Jones had a great combine that year, as he ran a 4.8-second in the 40-yard dash and had 29 reps in the bench press. He also had a nice senior season at UCLA (62 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks), where he played in a 3-4 front, just like the Packers utilize.

The athleticism that Jones showed in college has only briefly become apparent in the NFL. Jones was having a nice training camp his rookie year before an ankle injury hindered his development.

Jones had another ankle injury in 2014. All told, Jones has had 31 tackles, five sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery in two years with the Pack.

Obviously, much more is expected out of No. 95.

Jones talked about what he can do if he’s healthy at the minicamp in mid-June.

“I felt like when I was healthy and I was at full-go, I was able to show guys this is what Datone Jones could provide. This is what he could do. This is how effective he could be,” Jones. “You’re watching a really good guy in the making, but there’s one point where I’m down, I had to regain everything.

“I’m not really worried about any of that stuff. My biggest thing is putting that behind me now and moving forward in my career to better myself. I’ve been doing so many things to help me out with yoga, pilates. All this different stuff to keep me healthy and keep me bending and keep me flexible. I’m just as strong as I was when I was a rookie or my second year. And I’m ready to go.”

When Jones made those comments, his suspension had not been announced as of yet, but surely he knew it was coming.

Jones has two years to go on his rookie contract, so he does have some time to get his career turned around.

Meanwhile, the 2015 season is a contract-year for Quarless, as he is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

It appears like the Packers are going not going to release Quarless after his arrest, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

Quarless had a great minicamp in June and was praised by quarterback Aaron Rodgers for his efforts.

“Andrew Quarless has had a great offseason,” No. 12 said. “I think he’s really, something clicked in for him at the end of last year and he’s been taking the jump.”

In his career with the Packers, the 6’4”, 252-pound Quarless has 85 receptions for 909 yards and six touchdowns. In 2014, even though he was pushed by rookie Richard Rodgers, Quarless started 11 games and had 29 catches for 323 yards and three scores.

When training camp opens later this month, the Packers will have six tight ends on the roster. Besides Quarless and Rodgers, the others competing for a job include Justin Perillo and three rookies, Kennard Backman, Mitchell Henry and Harold Spears.

Although Rodgers does not have the speed that Quarless has, No. 89 may have the best hands on the team, plus he had 20 receptions for 225 yards and two touchdowns last season as a rookie.

The bottom line is that Quarless is really going to be under the microscope now. Quarless has only himself to blame for that. No. 81 is very fortunate that the team is standing by him. Even still, Quarless has to be on double-secret probation now with the team, using an Animal House analogy.

Both Jones and Quarless have put their team in a bad spotlight. That is never a good thing. But the organization has given second chances to players before who have had off the field issues under the watch of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. Examples are Koren Robinson and Johnny Jolly.

From my standpoint, the transgression committed by Quarless is far worse than what Jones did. That is why he will be held much more accountable. And that’s the way it should be.

In either case, both players have to stay on their best behavior. Not only off the field obviously, but on the field as well.

The Keystone State Has Brought Three Great Coaches to Wisconsin

A couple of days ago I wrote a story about how two fellows from New York City made a lasting impact in the state of Wisconsin as coaches. Yes, Vince Lombardi and Al McGuire sure left their mark.

As have three gents who hailed from the state of Pennsylvania and who have also made a lasting impression as coaches in the land of the Badgers.

Speaking of the Badgers, that takes me to the first of the three coaches from the Keystone state. I’m talking about Barry Alvarez.

Alvarez is originally from Langeloth, Pennsylvania and went to Burgettstown Union High School. After high school, Alvarez played football at Nebraska under head coach Bob Devaney.

After college, Alvarez coached high school football in both Nebraska and Iowa, and the team (Mason City) he coached in Iowa won the class 4A state title in 1978.

After that, Alvarez joined the staff of Hayden Fry at Iowa and spent eight years there coaching the linebackers. In 1987, Alvarez became the defensive coordinator under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. That partnership lasted three years, as the Fighting Irish won the national title in 1988.

That led to the head coaching job at the University of Wisconsin. When Barry arrived in Madison, the football program had hit rock bottom under Don Morton, as the team went 6-27 in the three years Morton coached there.

Plus, in it’s history, the Badgers had only won one bowl game and had never won a Rose Bowl.

That all changed under Alvarez.

Alvarez put together a talented and hard working staff when he arrived at Wisconsin. Among that group was Kevin Cosgrove, who is now the defensive coordinator at New Mexico. Cosgrove was with Alvarez longer than any other assistant coach that ever coached under Alvarez at Wisconsin.

Cosgrove was also the defensive coordinator under Alvarez from 1995-2003.

Cosgrove knew that Alvarez had a vision about the direction of the program. “As with everything Barry always did, he had a plan,” said Cosgrove. “When he got that job, he pretty much knew who he was going to hire. Barry put together a strong staff, and then the first couple of years he fined tuned it, and turned it into a great staff.”

From 1990-2005, Alvarez won 118 games for the Badgers, which is 50 more than any coach in the history of Wisconsin football.

Included in that was winning the Rose Bowl for the first time ever as a program just four years into Alvarez’s tenure at Wisconsin.

“It was unbelievable,” Cosgrove said. “I mean, the program we took over wasn’t very successful. Barry never veered from his plan in building the program. We came real close to going to a bowl game in 1992,  but we lost the last game of the year. Still, we knew we had a good team coming back the following year.”

“We were fortunate enough to get to the Rose Bowl in ’93. Our goal was to win a (Big Ten) championship, go to the Rose Bowl, but to also win the Rose Bowl. We were able to accomplish all three of those things. You only get so many opportunities to do that, and we were fortunate to do it three times in the 90s.”

Yes, Barry and the Badgers won two more Big Ten championships, along with two more Rose Bowl victories in 1998 and 1999.

During the time Alvarez coached Wisconsin, the Badgers were 8-3 in bowl games overall.

Alvarez was also named Big Ten Coach of the Year twice (1993 and 1998), as well as National Coach of the Year twice (1993 and 1999).

It all led to Alvarez being elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2010.

In 2004, while he was still head coach of the Badgers, Alvarez also took over the duties as athletic director and still continues in that position.

Alvarez retired from coaching after the 2005 season.

To add even more to his legacy, Alvarez has twice coached the Badgers in bowl games since then on an interim basis as the Badgers were in the midst of a head coaching change.

In the 2013 Rose Bowl, after head coach Bret Bielema had moved on to Arkansas, Barry and the Badgers lost 20-14 to the Stanford Cardinal. But in the 2015 Outback Bowl, after Gary Andersen had left to go to Oregon State, Alvarez and the Badgers beat the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in overtime. That victory was the first bowl win for the Badgers since the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl.

As athletic director, one of the programs that Alvarez has to be proudest of is the basketball program. Which leads us to Bo Ryan, who also is originally from Pennsylvania.

William Francis “Bo” Ryan was born and raised in Chester, Pennsylvania. Ryan learned his basketball from his father Butch, who was a legendary coach in the area.

Bo was the point guard for his dad at Chester High School and led his team to a 25-1 record his senior year. Ryan also played point guard for Wilkes University, which is in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

After coaching a couple of high school basketball programs in Pennsylvania, Ryan made his way to Wisconsin, where he became an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin from 1976-1984.

That led to a head coaching job at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Ryan became a legend there. In 15 seasons at Platteville, the team was 353-76, which is a .823 winning percentage. The Pioneers also won four Division III national championships.

That led Ryan to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His hiring brought legitimacy to the basketball program of the Panthers, and the team was 30-27 in the two years Ryan coached there. Attendance for the Panthers went up by 161 percent while Ryan was there.

That job was the stepping stone for the job that Ryan currently has. That would be as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. The legend of Ryan has become enormous after what he has accomplished in Madison.

In 14 years, the Badgers under Ryan have a record of 357-125 (a .741 winning percentage). The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth place in the Big Ten in any of those years.

The Badgers also went to the NCAA tournament in each of those 14 years as well. Plus, the Badgers have also won four regular season Big Ten championships and three Big Ten tournament championships.

In the NCAA tournament, Ryan has seen his team advance to the Sweet 16 seven times, the Elite 8 three times and the Final Four twice.

In 2015, the Badgers played in the national title game, but lost to Duke.

Ryan has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year four times (2002, 2003, 2013 and 2015)

Ryan announced recently that the 2015-16 season will be his last at Wisconsin before he retires.

There is another coach from Pennsylvania who also currently leads a team in Wisconsin. That would be Mike McCarthy, who is the head coach for the Green Bay Packers.

McCarthy was raised in Greenfield, which is a suburb of Pittsburgh. McCarthy went to high school at Bishop Boyle in Homestead, Pennsylvania.

From there, McCarthy went to Baker University in Kansas where he was an all-conference tight end. After his playing career ended, McCarthy coached in the college ranks at Fort Hays State and at Pittsburgh as an assistant.

After he left Pittsburgh, McCarthy started his climb up the ranks in the NFL. He started as a quality-control assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs, before becoming the quarterbacks coach from 1995-98.

That experience led McCarthy to Green Bay, where he was the quarterbacks coach in 1999. But the entire coaching staff was fired after the season in which the team finished 8-8 under head coach Ray Rhodes.

McCarthy landed on his feet in New Orleans with the Saints, where he was offensive coordinator from 2000-04. That led to McCarthy getting the same position with the San Fransisco 49ers in 2005.

In 2006, some folks were surprised that general manager Ted Thompson selected McCarthy as his new head coach after firing Mike Sherman.

That hiring has turned out to be very prolific.

Since 2006, the Packers have a record of 94-49-1 in the regular season. That includes five NFC North titles and seven appearances in the postseason.

In the postseason, the Packers under McCarthy are 7-6 and have played in three NFC Championship Games. The Packers also won Super Bowl XLV under McCarthy.

Bottom line, Alvarez, Ryan and McCarthy made winning a habit with the teams that they coached.

Fans of the Badgers expect a championship every year in both football and basketball. That is the legacy that Alvarez and Ryan have created.

The fans of the Packers expect the same thing with McCarthy in Green Bay.

That’s says a lot about these three coaches who were originally from Pennsylvania, before they made a huge impression in the state of Wisconsin with their ability to lead their respective teams.

A New York City Bias When it Comes to Coaching Success in Wisconsin

There is something about a coach being originally from New York City that seems to bring great success coaching in the state of Wisconsin.

Let’s look at two examples about coaches who were born and raised in the Big Apple and had phenomenal success in the Badger state as coaches.

Vince Lombardi was born in Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1913. Lombardi went to college near home at Fordham University, where he was one of the Seven Blocks of Granite.

Lombardi had great success as a high school football coach at St. Cecilia in New Jersey, plus was an excellent assistant coach, both at Army and with the New York Giants. But it wasn’t until he was 45 years old that he first received an opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. That opportunity was with the Green Bay Packers in 1959.

From 1959 through 1967, Lombardi and his Packers were 89-24-4 in the regular season, plus won six Western Conference titles in the NFL.

But it was the postseason that the Packers really shined under Lombardi. The team was 9-1 and won five NFL championships in seven years. That included winning three straight NFL titles from 1965-67. No team in the modern era of the NFL has ever duplicated that.

Plus, the Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Lombardi as their coach. Is it any wonder that the Super Bowl Trophy is named after him?

Lombardi died of colon cancer in 1970, at the young age of 57.

Than there is Al McGuire. McGuire was born in Queens in 1928. McGuire played high school basketball at St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn. In college, McGuire played for St. Johns University for four years and was named captain of the team in 1951.

McGuire got his first head coaching opportunity with Belmont Abbey, where he had a 109-63 record. The success McGuire had there led him to Marquette University in Milwaukee.

From 1964 through 1977, the Warriors, as they were called then, had a 295-80 record under McGuire as head coach.

McGuire and his Warriors made 11 postseason appearances. Nine in the NCAA tournament and two in the NIT tournament.

In the NIT, the Warriors won the 1970 title, plus were runner-up in 1967.

In the NCAA tournament, Marquette made it to the Sweet 16 four times under McGuire. The Warriors were also in the Elite 8 twice and were runner-up in the 1974 national title game.

In 1977, the year in which McGuire had announced he would retire after the season, Marquette won the national title.

Overall, McGuire’s teams were 27-10 in the postseason.

Like Lombardi, cancer also took the life of McGuire, as he died from leukemia in 2001.

When Lombardi coached the Packers and McGuire coached the Warriors, one expected their teams to win.

Lombardi had a .766 winning percentage. That means that his team won three games out of four consistently over nine seasons.

McGuire had a .782 winning percentage over 13 seasons at Marquette.

Winning became a habit for the Packers under Lombardi, as well as it did for the Warriors under McGuire. Both Lombardi (1976) and McGuire (1993) were recognized for that and were inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.

Lombardi and McGuire never lost their New York accents while they coached in Wisconsin. They both rarely lost…period.

And it was the state of Wisconsin which ended up being the big winner in both cases.

In my next blog, I’ll write about three coaches who originally hailed from the state of Pennsylvania and who have also had excellent success in the land of beer, brats and cheese.