Greatness in Green Bay: Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers

Bart, Brett and Aaron(1)

Thanksgiving night will be a very special time for the Green Bay Packers and their fans with the Chicago Bears coming to Lambeau Field.

It will be special for a number of reasons.

For one thing, the game will be the first Thanksgiving game in Green Bay since 1923, when the Hammond Pros came to Bellevue Park. The Packers won that Turkey Day game 23-0.

Also, if the 7-3 Packers beat the 4-6 Bears on Thursday night, the all-time series between the two teams will be even for the first time since 1933.

Yes, you heard that right, 1933. That would be 82 years ago. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just started his first term as President of the United States back then.

The Packers and da Bears have been playing each other in the NFL since 1921. Chicago holds a 92-91-6 edge in the regular season while the teams are 1-1 in the postseason.

In addition to that, the Packers are going to be honoring Brett Favre Thursday night. Favre will have his retired No. 4 formally unveiled on the facade at the legendary stadium.

On hand for that event will be former Packers great Bart Starr.

That means three legendary quarterbacks will be at Lambeau Field Thursday night for the Packers. Starr and Favre of course, plus Aaron Rodgers will be playing that night versus the Bears.

In a story by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodgers said was looking forward to seeing both Starr and Favre at the game.

Rodgers talked about how great it will be to see Starr.

“You know Bart’s been such a great encouragement to me since I was drafted here, and I really have appreciated all of our conversations over the years with him and his lovely wife,” Rodgers said. “He was kind of enough to do my charity event a few years ago and I was able to do another charity event with him.

“It’s tough to follow him speaking because he’s had such incredible stories, whether he’s talking about Super Bowls or NFL championships or the Ice Bowl. It’s always fun being around him but he’s such a positive, encouraging person – it’ll be great to see him.”

Rodgers talked about the energy and fun that Favre exhibited when the two of them played together from 2005-2007.

“He brings a lot of energy to practice, enthusiasm,” Rodgers said. “He loved the game, loved being around it, especially loved playing on Sundays, and always brought great energy to the field. But he was a prankster as well. You know, he was part of putting my helmet on the table and everybody sign it and I had to go down to practice, with, you know, everybody had signed it, including myself on my own helmet.

“But then once they had, I realized, ‘That’s, you know, that’s got Favre’s and some other guys autographs – don’t wipe it off.’ I tried to get (equipment manager) Red Batty not to wipe off those autographs. But you know, you just kind of had to watch yourself sometimes around him because they’re always trying to incite some pranks, so you had to be careful.”

Rodgers also said any bad feelings between the two are long forgotten.

“It does feel like a long time ago,” Rodgers said. “I think it’s been a good proper healing process for everybody. Kind of starting with us on stage at the (NFL) Honors, getting to share some laughs together, and just going from there.

“It’s the right thing to do and it will be exciting for him and Packer fans in a couple days, and great to see him into the Hall of Fame next offseason.”

Starr, Favre and Rodgers have played a huge role in the storied history of the Packers.

Since they became a member of American Professional Football Association (later the NFL) in 1921, the Packers have won 13 NFL championships and four Super Bowls.

The Packers won six NFL titles under founder and head coach Curly Lambeau from 1929 through 1944.

After Lambeau and the Packers parted ways in 1950, the Packers really struggled until the hiring of head coach Vince Lombardi in 1959.

One of the people who gave a strong endorsement for Lombardi to the Packers was the founder and head coach of the Bears, George Halas.

In the 1960s under Lombardi, Starr led the Packers to five NFL titles in seven years, which includes the first two Super Bowls.

Starr was NFL MVP in 1966.

Starr was also the MVP in both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

The former Alabama Crimson Tide star was 94-57-6 as a starting quarterback with the Packers and was an amazing 9-1 in the postseason.

No. 15 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

The wins and postseason appearances were hard to find between the Starr era and the one that began in 1992 with the arrival of Favre.

Favre was acquired via a trade from the Atlanta Falcons by general manager Ron Wolf. The deal cost the Packers a first-round draft pick.

But the trade turned out to be well worth it, as Favre became a tremendous quarterback under the tutelage of head coach Mike Holmgren.

Favre had 160 wins over 16 seasons, with 96 of those wins occurring at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).

The former Southern Miss gunslinger also started 253 straight games (275 including the postseason) for the Pack in his career in Green Bay.

Favre also threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was a Packer and also won three straight NFL MVP awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

The Packers went to the postseason 11 times under Favre and won the NFC Central/North seven times.

The big prize was the victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

Rodgers took the reins at quarterback in 2008 after Favre and the Packers had a messy divorce. No. 12 has kept the winning ways of his predecessor intact.

Rodgers has a 77-36 record as a starting quarterback and has led the Packers to four straight NFC North crowns.

Rodgers has also led the Packers to six straight appearances in the postseason.

Like Favre, Rodgers has won multiple NFL MVP awards, as he won the honor in 2011 and 2014.

Rodgers also led the Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XLV, when he was named MVP of that game.

The former California Golden Bear also has the highest passer-rating in the history of the NFL with a 105.6 mark.

It’s very apropos that the Packers are playing the Bears this Thanksgiving night. Not only because of the history between the two teams, but also because of the great success Starr, Favre and Rodgers have had versus Chicago.

In his career, Starr was 15-5 against the Bears.

Earlier this summer, Jerry Kramer told me a story about Starr when the Packers were facing the Bears early in the Lombardi era.

“We were playing the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. “Bill George was their middle linebacker at the time. On a deep pass attempt, George thought he would try to intimidate Bart.

“Bill took about a five-yard run and he gave Bart a forearm right in the mouth. George timed it perfectly and put Bart right on his behind. He also cut Bart badly, from his lip all the way to his nose. After that, George said, ‘That ought to take care of you Starr, you pu**y.’ Bart snapped right back at George and said, ‘F— you, Bill George, we’re coming after you.’

“My jaw dropped after that exchange, as I was shocked. Meanwhile Bart was bleeding profusely. I told Bart that he better go to the sideline and get sewn up. Bart replied, ‘Shut up and get in the huddle.’

“Bart took us down the field in seven or eight plays and we scored. That series of plays really solidified Bart as our leader and we never looked back.”

Favre and Rodgers have also had a great deal of success against da Bears.

Favre was 22-10 versus Chicago in his career in Green Bay, while Rodgers has been even better than that. No. 12 is 12-3 against the Monsters of the Midway (plus 1-0 in the NFC title game).

In those 15 games against the Bears, Rodgers has thrown 34 touchdown passes versus just eight picks for 3,637 yards. That adds up to a very robust 111.6 passer rating.

In the 24 years that Favre and Rodgers have played against the Bears, the two have combined to have a 34-13 record versus Chicago.

The Packers have won 11 NFC Central/North titles during that time, plus have won two Super Bowls, while da Bears have won four NFC Central/North titles and lost a Super Bowl.

Bottom line, having Starr, Favre and Rodgers at Lambeau Field at the same time will be an unforgettable event. Especially knowing the health issues that Starr has been battling.

In September of 2014, Starr suffered a heart attack, two strokes and four seizures.

Earlier this fall, Ian O’Connor of ESPN wrote a heartwarming story about Starr and the nice progress he has been making with his health.

As O’Connor writes in his story, the ultimate goal for Starr is to be at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night.

Packer Nation, that epic event is just one day away.

The 2013 Draft Class of the Packers Comes Up Big vs. the Vikings

In their 30-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers received a lot of help from members of their 2013 draft class.

The number one pick in that draft class was Datone Jones. I wrote for Bleacher Report at the time, and I had the Packers selecting Jones in the first round in my final mock draft.

Going into the 2015 season, Jones had shown a lot of potential when he was healthy, but he had underachieved overall in two years with the Packers.

The 6’4″, 285-pound defensive end had only had five sacks in those two years.

In the first half of this season, the Packers used him exclusively when the team went to a dime scheme on defense. As time went on, the former UCLA Bruin showed that he deserved more playing time due to his stellar play.

The Packers have recently put Jones on the field when the team runs it’s nickel scheme as well. The nickel scheme is the one the Packers use most often on defense.

On Sunday versus the Vikings, Jones showed the coaching staff that they had made the right decision in playing him more often.

Jones had two of the six sacks that the Packers had it the game. Both came at crucial times. For the season thus far, Jones now has three sacks, six tackles-for-a-loss and two passed deflected.

The second pick of the Packers in the 2013 NFL draft was Eddie Lacy. I had my eyes on Lacy before the draft as well that year. In an earlier mock draft that I did for Bleacher Report, I had the Packers taking Lacy in the first round.

No running backs were chosen in the first round that year by any team in the NFL. But in the second round, the big names were starting to come off the board.

The Packers actually traded back six spots in that round, but were still able to select Lacy.

Up until this year, Lacy’s career in Green Bay had gotten off to a fabulous start.

In his rookie year in 2013, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. No. 27 also caught 35 passes for 257 yards. That performance was why Lacy was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. Lacy was also named to the Pro Bowl.

In 2014, Lacy was outstanding again. He rushed for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Lacy also had 42 receptions for 427 yards and four more scores.

But before the game against the Vikings, Lacy had struggled in 2015. Between ankle, groin, weight and fumbling problems, the former Alabama star seemed to be a shadow of his former self.

Before the contest against Minnesota, Lacy had rushed for just 308 yards and had just two touchdowns.

But against the Vikings, the old Eddie was back in town, as Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries, which a 4.5 average.

This is the time of year when Lacy has really excelled in running the football for the Packers, at least based on what he did in 2013 and 2014.

In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.

After Sunday’s performance, Lacy looks to be on track to be very productive again as this season goes into the stretch run.

In the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, the Packers had three selections and they used two of those picks on offensive linemen.

The first pick was used on offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. The former Colorado Buffalo became the starter at left tackle for the Packers his rookie year and has never missed a start there in 42 games.

Bakhtiari has struggled this season at times because of a knee injury and has been called for holding a number of times, including a couple of times on Sunday.

No. 69 did not exactly have a great game against the Vikings, but the guy is a gamer who just keeps battling no matter what.

Speaking of injuries, the Packers lost starting center Corey Linsley to an ankle injury early in the game on Sunday. Linsley was replaced by the second offensive linemen the Packers took in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, JC Tretter.

The former Cornell star played about as well as a backup could play at the center position. It was like nothing had changed.

No. 73 missed basically all of his rookie year in 2013 because of a ankle injury, but was slated to be the starting center in 2014 before he suffered a knee injury in a preseason game.

That opened the door for Linsley to become the starting center and he has never given up that job. Up until Sunday, Tretter has just filled in as a backup at both guard and tackle.

Defensive back Micah Hyde was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the Packers. Hyde has played in 42 games since he was drafted, with 22 starts, both as a cornerback or as a safety.

The former Iowa Hawkeye has also excelled on special teams, both as a returner (three punt returns for touchdowns) and on coverage units.

No. 33 left the game on Sunday fairly early after he was beaten by tight end Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings on a 47-yard touchdown pass. Hyde hurt his hip trying to tackle Rudolph.

In the sixth round of the 2013 draft, the Packers drafted linebacker Nate Palmer.

In his rookie season, the former Illinois State star started two games at outside linebacker, and played in eight games overall.

In 2014, Palmer spent the entire season on injured reserve due to a knee injury.

This season, after a switch to inside linebacker, Palmer received an opportunity to start after starting ILB Sam Barrington was place on injured reserve because of a foot injury.

Barrington was also a member of the 2013 draft class who was taken in the seventh round out of South Florida.

Palmer has been up and down with his performance this year as a starter, but after he was benched in the game against the Carolina Panthers a couple of weeks ago, his play has gotten much better.

Against the Vikings, Palmer was in on four tackles and had one sack. For the season, Palmer has 39 tackles and 17 assists.

Bottom line, the Packers won a huge game against the Vikings on Sunday.

The draft class of 2013 played a big part in that victory.

Jerry Kramer Talks About the 1965 Green Bay Packers

Jerry in the '65 title game

In looking back on the history of the Green Bay Packers, there are a lot of similarities between the 1965 team and the 2015 team.

Let’s look at how these two teams are alike. Both teams started 6-0. Both teams went into a three-game funk after their undefeated start of the season. Both teams struggled offensively, both on the ground and in the air. Both teams had the Minnesota Vikings on their schedule in the 10th game of the season, with the game being played in Minneapolis.

If we take a closer look at the 1965 team under head coach Vince Lombardi, one can see that the season was filled with peaks and valleys.

After the team went 6-0 to start the season, the Packers scored only 23 points in their next three games. The team was fortunate to only lose two of those three games, as the Packers won their game against the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 6-3.

For the season, the Packers were ranked 12th in total offense. Remember that the NFL was a 14-team league back in 1965. The Packers were ranked 10th in rushing offense and just 11th in passing offense.

Fullback Jim Taylor rushed for less than 1,000 yards (734) for the first time since 1959. Halfback Paul Hornung had an up and down year and had some injury issues.

Quarterback Bart Starr did not miss a start all season, but had to leave games due to injuries on a couple of occasions.

Going into training camp in 1965, right guard Jerry Kramer just wanted a chance to play. Kramer had missed almost the entire 1964 season due to intestinal issues.

I talked to Kramer on Friday and he told me about meeting with Lombardi before training camp that season.

“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?’

Chandler kick to beat Colts

“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.”

The 1965 campaign started out very well for the Packers, just like the 2015 season did for the current team in Green Bay. The team started out 6-0 and the second win of the season was against the arch rival  Baltimore Colts in Milwaukee.

The Colts had won the Western Conference the year before in the NFL and it would be the first of three games that the Packers and Colts would face each other in 1965.

Kramer talked about how he worked himself into the lineup early in that season.

“That year, I played in couple of games and then was sat down a couple of games. A kid by the name of Danny Grimm took my spot when I wasn’t playing. We had a tradition there at the time about helping out the guy who played your position.

“When Fuzzy lost his job in 1967, he helped out and coached Gilly [Gale Gillingham]. Doug Hart did the same thing with Bob Jeter. I tried to do the same thing with Danny Grimm, but he told me he didn’t need any help.

Jerry blocking Alex

“While I was out in ’64, Grimm played against Alex Karras when Alex had two pulled groin muscles. Danny didn’t know that. He told me and everyone else who would listen that he had Karras figured out and he wasn’t so tough.

“Well, Alex read what Grimm had been saying and he wasn’t happy about it. So the next time they met, which was the first half of the game in ’65, Alex tore Grimm’s helmet off one time and knocked him into the quarterback countless other times. He just had his way with the kid.

“After one of those violent encounters, Alex yelled to Grimm and said, ‘How do you like those moves ass-face?’

The Packers were down 21-3 at halftime of that game when Kramer was inserted back into the starting lineup. The Packers scored 28 unanswered points in the second half and won 31-21.

The right guard job was Kramer’s for good after that.

When the Packers went through the three-game stretch when the team only scored 23 points overall, Lombardi was beside himself with anger over the way the team was performing.

On one occasion while the team was watching film during that period, Lombardi picked up a metal folding chair and held it over tight end Marv Fleming’s head.

Kramer recounted that story.

“Coach said, ‘Marvin, I get so frustrated with you.  I could just brain you!’

Kramer continued talking about the frustration level of Lombardi at that time.

“I don’t think Coach knew quite what to do,” Kramer said. “Our running game was sputtering. But he kept us working and grinding away to get better in all phases and it started clicking for us after awhile.”

In the game against the Vikings in Minneapolis after the tough three-game stretch, the Packers won in convincing fashion, 38-13.

Paul Hornung vs. the Colts

The Packers lost the next week against the Rams, but had perhaps their best game of the season against the Colts in Baltimore the second-to last game of the year.

Hornung had 181 total yards and scored five touchdowns in the 42-27 win by the Packers. Starr threw three touchdown passes. Taylor chipped in with 105 total yards.

The Packers tied the 49ers 24-24 on the road at Kezar Stadium in the last game of the year, which set up a playoff game versus the Colts at Lambeau Field to see who would become the Western Conference champs.

The game did not start out well for the Packers, as tight end Bill Anderson fumbled the ball after catching a pass from Starr just 21 seconds into the game and linebacker Don Shinnick returned the fumble 25 yards for a score.

Starr injured his ribs on the play trying to tackle Shinnick and was forced to leave the game. The Colts had issues at quarterback as well, as halfback Tom Matte had to play the position in the game, as neither Johnny Unitas or his backup Gary Cuozzo could play.

Jerry helping Bart

The Packers fell behind 10-0 at halftime.  Behind backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski, the Packers closed to within 10-7 at the end of the third period.

Toward the end of the game, one of the most controversial plays in NFL history took place. The Packers got within field goal range with just 1:58 left in the game and Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal.

The referees ruled that the kick was good, although Baltimore loyalists claim the kick sailed wide right. Chandler’s kick flew high above the upright, which triggered the NFL to extend the goal posts’ height the following season.

It led to a sudden death overtime period. The Colts had a chance to win it first, but Lou Michaels missed a 47-yard field goal. Finally, Chandler nailed a no-doubt 25-yard field goal to win the game 13-10 for the Packers.

That meant the Packers would be playing in their first NFL title game in three years, this time against the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

Although the running game of the Packers had struggled almost the entire year, the Packers could not be stopped on this snowy and muddy day on the frozen tundra.

Green Bay rushed for 204 yards behind Taylor and  Hornung, as the Pack won 23-12. 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.

Paul, Jerry and Fuzzy

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.

Bottom line, although it was an immense struggle at times, that 1965 Green Bay team looked within themselves and found the intestinal fortitude it took to get the job done and win the NFL championship.

Time will tell if the 2015 version of the Packers can do the same thing.

The Relationship Between JFK and Vince Lombardi Led to Titletown

JFK in rocking chair

The date on Sunday will be November 22. That’s a date which will forever be ingrained in the minds for anyone who was around on that day in 1963.

That was the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on a sunny Friday afternoon.

Sunday will be the 52nd anniversary of that tragic event.

I can remember precisely where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated on that dark day in American history. I was in the first grade at Corpus Christi grade school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our teacher sent us all home after lunch after the word came out that Kennedy had indeed been assassinated.

I remember huddling around the television that day and entire weekend with my family as events unfolded. Like so many, I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby on national television on Sunday morning, November 24.

Even though the President had been assassinated, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle made the worst decision he ever made running the league and he always regretted it. Rozelle decided that all NFL games would be played that Sunday.

That decision did not sit well with head coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers.

In one of my many conversations with Jerry Kramer, the legendary right guard of the Packers recounted that situation.

“I remember coming out of the locker room when I heard the news that the President was shot,” Kramer said. “I had a sinking feeling down in my gut. I admired him and thought he was a wonderful President. He was cool, classy, bright and just had a lot of things going for him.

“I felt really bad at that moment, like most Americans did, whether you were for him or not. It was kind of surreal. Coach Lombardi didn’t use any motivation or didn’t have any excitement about the upcoming game. It was like, ‘We got to do this.’

“Coach Lombardi was not happy and he didn’t hide the fact that he wasn’t happy. He felt like we shouldn’t be playing that game. We had enough pride to do our job and do what we had to do on the field (the Packers beat the 49ers 28-10 in Milwaukee). Everyone played with a heavy heart.”

Lombardi had become friends with Kennedy over the years and was a supporter of his in the 1960 Presidential election.

Kennedy had always been a football fan his entire life and the Packers were the dominant team in the NFL during his short Presidency.

Kennedy sent a nice telegram to Lombardi and the Packers after they won the 1961 NFL title as a matter of fact.

JFK telegram to the Pack

That dominance began when the Packers won their first NFL title under Lombardi in 1961.

Green Bay had come close to winning it all in 1960, but in the NFL Championship Game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, the Packers narrowly fell to the Eagles 17-13, even though the Pack had dominated the game statistically.

The game ended when fullback Jim Taylor was tackled on the 10-yard line of the Eagles after snaring a pass from quarterback Bart Starr.

But Green Bay was ripe for a NFL title in 1961 and the Packers and the community knew it.

After losing to the Detroit Lions on the opening weekend of the season 17-13, the Packers rolled to six straight dominating wins.

Here were the scores:

Packers 30, 49ers 10

Packers 24, Bears 0

Packers 45, Colts7

Packers 49, Browns17

Packers 33, Vikings7

Packers 28, Vikings 10

Then something happened in October. Because of the increased escalation of the Cold War and the building of the wall in Berlin by the Soviets, the Department of Defense had activated thousands of military reservists and national guardsmen for duty.

That activation included a couple dozen players from the NFL, and three very important players from the Packers.

The players were Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke and Boyd Dowler. As noted in David Maraniss’ book When Pride Still Mattered, Lombardi was very upset by this situation. Lombardi thought that the Packers were hit harder than anyone in the NFL because of the scenario.

Paul Hornung, former halfback fo rthe Green Bay Packers, is seen in an Army uniform, Jan. 17, 1962, at Fort Riley, Kansas. (AP Photo)

It would be one thing to miss a game or two in the regular season if one couldn’t get a weekend pass, but it would be very critical to the Packers chances of winning had anyone of the three Packers missed the NFL championship game, especially Hornung.

This is when the relationship between Lombardi and Kennedy helped make Hornung available for the title game.

Initially, Hornung was not granted access to go back to the Packers for the championship game. That would have been a HUGE blow as No. 5 was the NFL MVP in 1961.

Lombardi was obviously concerned about that situation, so he placed a call to JFK to see if the President would get Hornung a pass to join the team for the big game. Sure enough, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame was given a pass to play in the game.

“Paul Hornung isn’t going to win the war on Sunday, but the football fans of this country deserve the two best teams on the field that day,” Kennedy told Lombardi a few days before the championship game against the Giants.

The Packers battered the Giants 37-0 in that game, and Hornung scored 19 points in that game just by himself.

Titletown was born that year. That was also the first year a title game was ever played in Green Bay.

Lombardi and his Packers brought four more NFL championships to Green Bay (including two more championship games in Green Bay), as well as the first two Super Bowl wins. But 1961 was the start of it all.

And the alliance of Kennedy and Lombardi played a big part in making the name Titletown stick.

A Scout’s Take on the Recent Play of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Offense

Rodgers getting hit..jpg

There has been a lot of speculation recently as to what’s the problem as of late with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense of the  Green Bay Packers.

I wrote about that very subject earlier this week.

As did Rob Demovsky of, who listed five reasons why Rodgers is struggling. Reason No. 5 brought out the ire of actress Olivia Munn, who is the girlfriend of Rodgers.

Why? Because Demovsky wrote that Rodgers could be having off-the-field issues in his personal life.

Munn responded to Demovsky via Twitter.

Playing it fast & loose w/the journalism @RobDemovsky,” Munn said. “Your professional skills are lacking… you must be having personal problems at home.”

I did not list personal issues as to a reason why Rodgers and the offense of the Packers have struggled the past three games in my article.

I did however, bring up the fact that Rodgers has taken a lot of sacks and hits over the past three games and that I believed No. 12 was playing with some physical ailments.

On Wednesday, Rodgers was listed as limited in practice with a right shoulder injury.

Week 11 Injury Report

This wouldn’t be the first time Rodgers has injured his shoulder while playing quarterback for the Pack.

I was at the 2008 game between the Packers and the Tampa Bay Bucs at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, when Rodgers was forced to leave the game with a right shoulder injury.

Although Rodgers could not finish that particular game, he didn’t miss any more playing time the rest of the 2008 season.

In my recent story, I thought the biggest reason that Rodgers and the offense of the Packers is struggling is due to the play of the offensive line. Both in pass protection and in run-blocking.

On Wednesday, I wanted to get an opinion regarding this situation from NFL scout Chris Landry, who was on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

I have talked to Landry many times over the years and have used his insight and expertise in a number of stories.

Earlier this season, in another story I wrote, Landry talked about how phenomenal Rodgers was playing.

“He’s the best right now that I’ve ever seen in all aspects of quarterback play,” Landry said after Rodgers performance in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. “I mean, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t do well. The cerebral part is where he has just become right on the level of the best.

“Can you imagine a guy with a gun for an arm and can throw every route? He is the most accurate, and has been for awhile, throwing on the move. [John] Elway could throw across his body where the coverage wasn’t.

“This guy [Rodgers] can throw it at any arm angle into the smallest spots. It’s just incredible. It’s like hitting fall-away jumpers all the time. This guy is just really innate. His anticipation skills are phenomenal. And the ability to extend the play.

Rodgers vs. the Chiefs

“It doesn’t matter if a lineman is injured or a lineman missed a block, he’ll still extend it and he has the tremendous ability to adjust. Okay, like this broke down, so we are going to do this. He’s got all sorts of built-in options.

“He’s running the whole offense from under center, behind center and even post-snap. It’s a work of art. I have so much fun watching the coaching tape of him, as it’s truly an art form. It’s like watching Ben Hogan hit a golf ball. You just sit there mesmerized in a rocking chair and watch it flow so naturally.”

That was then and this (three-game losing streak) is now.

The passer rating for Rodgers in the last three games has been 69.7, 96.6 and 83.6. That’s a cumulative rating of 83.3.

That’s also over 22 points lower than Rodgers career passer rating of 105.8.

Something is wrong.

I wanted to get Landry’s take on how Rodgers and the offense of the Packers has struggled the past three weeks. Before I even had a chance to talk to him about that scenario, Duemig asked Landry about it to open the show.

Landry gave Duemig quite an answer.

“You know, it’s a few things,” Landry said. “But it really stems from this. In the early part of the season, they were running the football fairly well.

“They’re not playing well up front. They are not running the football well. Against Denver, they were really exposed. And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have time to make plays.

“The receivers are having a hard time getting off press-coverage. So, they are really out of sorts on offense. And it starts from up front. And if they can’t run the football any better, they are going to have a hard time because they are struggling to hold up under pressure.

Broncos sacking Rodgers.jpg

“Listen, Aaron can extend plays, but guys aren’t getting open and making plays for him. And he’s starting to miss things and see things and it’s just not working.

“They’ve got to settle down and it’s got to start with from up front. I’ve kind of looked at it and thought maybe it’s time that Mike [McCarthy] looks at play-calling again.

“Listen, they miss Jordy Nelson. But it’s not all about Jordy Nelson. They were a little more effective in the first few games where didn’t have him in either, and Mike’s not ready to do that yet (call plays again).

“But they are going to have to start scheming people (receivers) open a little bit. Really, it’s a long-winded answer, but really it’s the offensive line which is the biggest culprit.

“If they can’t run the football any better, they are going to be in trouble. Listen, they’ve got a shot, because they’ve got Aaron Rodgers. They’ve got the ability to make some plays, but at this point it really is an issue up front.

“They have to figure that out, because I do think they are a team which is potentially dangerous. But right now, they are only dangerous to themselves.”

I totally agree with Landry and said so in the story I wrote earlier this week.

It’s not just one player on the offensive line who has had problems, as it seems like all the players have struggled at one time or another.

Yes, I know the line has had some injury issues, especially at the tackle position, but that’s life in the NFL.

What’s most shocking to me is the subpar play that the Packers are getting at times from the middle of their offensive line, principally the last three games.

The Packers have a fairly talented offensive line. Last year, this same offensive line of left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Josh Sitton, center Corey Linsley, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, helped make the offense of the Packers one of the very best in football.

In 2014, the Packers led the NFL in scoring with 486 points. The Packers were sixth in total offense, eighth in passing offense and 11th in rushing offense.

This year, through nine games, it’s been much different. The Packers are 12th in the NFL in scoring. Green Bay is also 21st in total offense. That includes being 22nd in passing offense and 16th in rushing offense.

It’s an old adage, but it’s true. Football games are won or lost in the trenches.

The offensive line has been out performed in the last three games and the team lost every one of those games.

But it’s not all on the back of the offensive line. Receivers on the Packers have to fight to get open more often and then catch the ball when it’s thrown in their direction.

There have been way too many drops as of late, as well as some off-target throws by Rodgers.

The play of the running backs need to improve as well, especially with Eddie Lacy. The best thing that could happen to the offense of the Packers is to see the return of the old No. 27.

Eddie Lacy

This is the time of year when Lacy has always excelled. In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.

Bottom line, all phases of the offense of the 6-3 Packers need to improve very quickly, especially with the 7-2, NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings on tap for a game this Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.

That being said, the biggest improvement has to come from the offensive line of the Packers.

They must win the battle in the trenches on Sunday if the team expects to win and regain a place at the top of the NFC North.

Green Bay Packers: What is Wrong with Aaron Rodgers?

If one was just a casual fan of the NFL, that person would look at the statistics that quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has put up so far after nine games in the 2015 season and say they are excellent.

I mean, No. 12 has thrown 21 touchdown passes compared to just three picks for 2,270 yards. Rodgers also has a sparkling passer rating of 103.4.

What’s there not to like? A lot. Especially if you look at what Rodgers has done prior to this season from 2008-2014.

Rodgers was peppered with questions from the media about whether or not he is healthy on Sunday after the 18-16 loss to the Detroit Lions yesterday at Lambeau Field.

“Yes,” is the simple response Rodgers gave.

But if one looks at the tape from the last three games, you can see Rodgers wincing on certain occasions after taking a vicious hit from a pass-rusher.

In the past three games, Rodgers has been sacked 11 times and hit a lot more often than that.

Head coach Mike McCarthy gave a bit of different response about how Rodgers is feeling physically when he talked with the media.

“I don’t feel good about it,” McCarthy said of the physical punishment Rodgers has been taking in the past three games. “No one feels good about it. I’m sure he doesn’t feel very good.”

Yes, those last three games. The Packers were 6-0 before the past three games. Now the Pack is 6-3.

It’s one thing to lose to undefeated teams like the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers on the road, but when you lose to a 1-7 Detroit team at Lambeau Field, that really sets off an alarm button.

By the way, the passer rating for Rodgers in the last three games has been 69.7, 96.6 and 83.6. That’s a cumulative rating of 83.3.

That’s also over 22 points lower than Rodgers career passer rating of 105.8.

Something is amiss.

Rodgers was asked whether he is okay with current play-calling done by associate head coach Tom Clements.

“I think it’s been really good,” Rodgers said about working with Clements. “I think it’s been a good flow during the week, we’ve had good preparation. Tom’s in every meeting and there’s not a time where I say something about something I like or dislike in the plan that he’s not within an earshot to hear.”

No. 12 was asked if McCarthy should become more involved with the offensive play-calling.

“I think the way things are going are just fine,” Rodgers said.

When McCarthy was asked whether or not he should involved in play-calling again, the coach wasn’t sure that was the answer.

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think the game of football is ever that simple. The way you play it is about the simplistic nature you go about fundamentals and so forth.

“But I’m looking at the amount of time and energy that’s put into the process of preparing for each and every game in the season. I like the way our staff works and I like the way they work with our players.”

That may all be true, but the plain fact is that even before the past three games, the offense just has not been very efficient in 2015. The last three games have just put an exclamation mark on the issue.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers in the stat-line of Rodgers so far in 2015 and explain why they really need to be looked at closely.

First, the physical pounding. Rodgers has been sacked 22 times in nine games, which is eighth in the NFL in that statistic. Why so many sacks?

For one thing, Rodgers does have a tendency to hold the ball for too long, which explains some sacks. But the main reason for the sacks has been the sub-par play of the offensive line this season.

It hasn’t just been the rushers off the edge causing all the issues.  It’s come from pressure up the middle of the offensive line as well.

Rodgers has completed 63.3 percent of his passes so far in 2015. That seems like a healthy number, but it isn’t. At least not for Rodgers. Going into 2015, Rodgers had completed 65.8 percent of his passes in his career.

That two percent differential doesn’t seem like much, but in a season when around 500 passes are attempted, that leads to around 20 more incomplete passes. And some of those incomplete passes can occur at key times of the game.

If you saw the game against the Lions on Sunday, you saw Rodgers throw a number of passes that were off-target to open receivers.

Again, something is amiss.

The average completion of Rodgers is just 7.3 yards. That’s 25th in the NFL. Rodgers has thrown for just 2,270 yards. That’s just 14th in the league.

Why is that?

The main reason occurred on August 23 when Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in a preseason game at Heinz Field versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Nelson has always been the deep threat for Rodgers over the past seven years. It’s hard to replace a weapon like Nelson, who had a 15.3 yards-per-catch average in his career in the NFL.

It’s also hard to replace a guy who had 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, which is exactly what No. 87 did in 2014.

That injury put a lot of pressure on the other receivers for the Packers to produce. If that pressure wasn’t enough, the other receivers have been playing with injury issues themselves.

Randall Cobb is still dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason. James Jones, who re-joined the Packers as a free agent shortly after Nelson’s injury,  has been slowed somewhat with hamstring issues.

Davante Adams has been dealing with ankle issues since the second game of the season. Rookie Ty Montgomery has missed the last three games due to a knee injury.

Against the Lions, the Packers gave Jared Abbrederis some reps at wide receiver and the second-year player from Wisconsin had a decent game with four receptions for 57 yards.

But as luck would have it, Abbrederis was forced out of the game with a rib injury after a 32-yard reception.

The Packers also have Jeff Janis on the depth chart at wide receiver, and even though he has the same size and speed that Nelson has, the coaching staff doesn’t feel comfortable giving No. 83 a lot of reps.

Janis has been very good on special teams, however.

As a group, the receivers have had issues going up against press-coverage and getting open at times. That leads to more time in the pocket for Rodgers as he looks for the next options in his progression.

More time in the pocket leads to more hits and more sacks.

One thing that always helps a passing game is a good running game. And right now the running game of the Packers has been way too inconsistent.

Eddie Lacy is a shadow of his former self compared to 2013 and 2014. No. 27 has struggled all season long with ankle, groin and weight issues.

In both his rookie season and last year, the colder the weather got, the more Lacy would excel.

In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.

But Lacy can’t seem to get untracked in 2015. Plus, he’s had issues holding on to the football.

James Starks has done a better job than Lacy at running back overall this season, but in the game he started against the Lions, No. 44 was held to just 42 yards in 15 carries. That’s a less-than-mediocre 2.8 yard average.

Once again, the offensive line has to be held accountable somewhat. Yes, I know that they have also been nicked up with injuries. But overall, the pass protection that Rodgers has received has not been good enough, nor has the run-blocking been where it was the last two seasons.

So, the response to what is wrong Rodgers is actually a myriad of answers. It’s a combination of things.

The play of the offensive line absolutely has to get better. Both in the passing game and the running game.

Whether McCarthy gets involved or not, the Packers have to put together better offensive game plans. The offense can’t start out like a snail every game like it has the past three games.

The receiving corp needs to get healthier. If all hands are available, like with Cobb, Adams, Jones, Montgomery and Abbrederis, I believe the Packers can better utilize their four-wide set, plus use someone like Montgomery or Cobb out of the backfield.

That leads to faster pass plays like slants, quick outs and quick curls.

The continued use of tight end Justin Perillo must continue. Perillo caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown on Sunday versus the Lions. Perillo looks like he can find a way to get open, while Richard Rodgers has struggled doing that recently.

In terms of the health of Aaron Rodgers, I’m sure he’s got some physical problems. But who doesn’t in the NFL this time of year.

In my opinion, the performance of Rodgers would certainly look similar to what we have seen over the past seven years with him, if those surrounding him on offense played better.

And so far in 2015, most of those players in the huddle with Rodgers on offense have not played up to expectations.

The offensive scheme has also been unsteady. I don’t care what it takes, but a coach’s job, no matter the sport, is to design a scheme to help the players succeed.

That has not happened with regularity over the course of the 2015 season, especially over the past three games.

The same holds true with the performance of the Green Bay defense as well.

Special teams was the one area of the team that had played consistently well over the course of the season so far, but even with some nice plays versus the Lions (like the onside kick recovery), the team also laid a couple of big eggs.

Like the 104-yard kickoff return the Packers gave up which set up a touchdown. Or with the game-winning 52-yard field goal attempt, which was shanked by Mason Crosby.

Bottom line, these are situations which have to be fixed right away. Why?

Well, thanks to the three consecutive losses by the Packers, the team now has to travel to Minneapolis to play the 7-2 and NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings next Sunday afternoon.

A loss to the Vikings would in essence put the Packers three games (two games in the loss column and also the tie-breaker) behind Minnesota in the race for the NFC North title.

In the past, Rodgers has always played well against the Vikings. No. 12 is 10-4 in his career versus the Vikes in the regular season. Rodgers has thrown 31 touchdown passes versus just four picks for 3,490 yards.

That adds up to a spectacular passer rating of 119.0.

If Rodgers plays anything like that on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, the Packers will almost certainly win.

But Rodgers is going to need help to succeed against the Vikings.

Help from not only his teammates, but help from his coaches as well.

The Lions Look to be the Elixir for the Woes of the Packers

Let’s face facts here folks. The Green Bay Packers did not play very well in the past two games versus the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers on the road.

The Packers were outscored in those two games by a 67-40 margin.

The Packers went into those two games undefeated and are now 6-2. The reasons are many.

The biggest reason comes from an old adage about the game of football. That is, games are won or lost in the trenches.

Never has that axiom been more true if you watched the last two games that Packers have played in.

Against both the Broncos and the Panthers, both the offensive and defensive lines of Packers struggled mightily.

That may be the biggest reason why the Packers lost both of those games, although there were a myriad of other factors as to why the Packers performed so badly at times in both contests.

Factors like having key injuries in the secondary, having zero pass pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, having multiple blown assignments and having poor tackling technique.

The last two games have dropped the Packers into a virtual tie with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.

In addition to that, the Packers find themselves near the bottom of the league in terms of team statistics on both offense and defense.

The Packers are now ranked 25th in the NFL in total offense and 23rd in total defense.

Looking at those rankings, the Packers have to feel fortunate to be 6-2.

So what can cure the ills of the Packers? An appearance by the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field this Sunday will sure help.

The 1-7 Lions are a trainwreck right now. Not only are they playing bad on the field, but that putrid performance has cost a number of people their jobs already this season.

One of those people was offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the grandson of Vince Lombardi.

The Lions also fired general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand .

Head coach Jim Caldwell still has his job, but he has to feel like the sharks are circling underneath him on the plank.

The Lions have scored 149 points and have given up 245. Detroit is ranked 26th in total offense and 26th in total defense.

Did I also mention that the Lions haven’t won a game in Wisconsin since 1991?

When the Packers meet the Lions, good things usually happen for Green Bay. The Packers lead the all-time series 95-67-7. The Packers are also 2-0 in the postseason against the Lions.

One of the reasons that the Packers have been so dominant at home versus the Lions is the play of their quarterbacks since 1992.

Brett Favre was 16-0 against the Lions in Wisconsin. Favre and the Packers won the first three games at old Milwaukee County Stadium and then all the rest at Lambeau Field, after the Packers started playing exclusively there in 1995.

No. 4 put up some terrific numbers versus Detroit at home. In 16 games, Favre threw 26 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 3,682 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 96.6.

Aaron Rodgers has carried on that torch. No. 12 is 6-0 against the Lions at Lambeau Field. In those six games, No. 12 has thrown 11 touchdown passes versus just 3 picks for 1,520 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 113.1.

In the one game that neither Favre or Rodgers started at quarterback over the last 23 games against the Lions at home, it was Matt Flynn who had a brilliant performance.

In the last game of the 2011 season, Flynn started instead of Rodgers, as No. 12 was being rested before the start of the postseason. All Flynn did was throw six touchdown passes versus one interception for 480 yards. That adds up to a 136.4 passer rating.

Going into the game on Sunday, Rodgers is having another fine season, even with some issues on offense. The receiving corp of the Packers has been hit hard with injuries and the running game has been very inconsistent.

Add to that, the offensive line has not played up to it’s potential this season and has been less than mediocre the last two weeks.

Even with all that, Rodgers has thrown 19 touchdown passes versus just three picks for 1,937 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 108.2.

Still, Rodgers is only averaging 242 yards passing a game. The average completion so far this season is just 7.7 yards.

The season-ending knee injury to wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the preseason is a big reason why. No. 87 has been the deep threat for Rodgers in the past and the Packers are still looking for someone to fill that role this season.

The rest of the receivers have also been dealing with injuries.

Randall Cobb is still dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason. James Jones has been slowed somewhat with hamstring issues.

Davante Adams has been dealing with ankle issues since the second game of the season. Rookie Ty Montgomery has missed the last two games due to a knee injury.

Against the Panthers, the Packers also gave some limited reps to second-year receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis.

The passing game obviously needs to get better, but the running game is also in a funk.

James Starks has played well and will get the start this week against the Lions, but the performance of Eddie Lacy has been both puzzling and troubling so far in 2015.

Will Lacy get his mojo back this year? That’s hard to say. But in both his rookie season in 2013 and last season, Lacy was a stud once the weather started getting colder.

In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.

The Packers need both Starks and Lacy to be effective to help the passing game get better.

That takes us to the offensive line. The line play has got to improve, both in the running game and the passing game.

Both Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari has struggled at tackle at times. The center of the line, namely left guard Josh Sitton and center Corey Linsley have both been too inconsistent so far this season.

In terms of the defense, the secondary needs to get healthier and communicate better. The defensive line needs to penetrate more and help keep the blockers off the linebackers.

The play of the linebackers, except for Clay Matthews, has been far too uneven. In the Carolina game, Jake Ryan showed me enough to warrant an opportunity to start at inside linebacker next to Matthews.

You might recall that the defense became much better last season after the coaching staff made some changes to the middle of the defense.

Bottom line, the Packers are about to start a four-game swing against NFC North opponents. These are the games that the Packers have to win if they expect to win their fifth straight NFC North title.

This all starts on Sunday when the Lions come into Lambeau Field.

If history is a blueprint for the future, the Packers should see their fortunes improve against Detroit.

A win is vital for the Packers this Sunday, but so is showing vast improvement in the problem areas that Green Bay has exhibited the past couple of games and throughout the season.

Green Bay Packers: Remembering Wayne Simmons

This is a huge weekend for the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers are currently ranked first in the nation in the current college football playoff rankings.

The Tigers are going to host the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, who are currently 16th in that same playoff ranking.

The Tigers and Seminoles have played in some classic games in the past. One of them occurred in 1989, when linebacker Wayne Simmons intercepted a pass and ran it back 73 yards for a touchdown, as the Tigers beat the Noles 34-23.

Simmons and the Tigers were even better in 1990, as they had the top-ranked defense in the entire country.

That defensive unit was outstanding, as there were 11 players on that defense who later played multiple years in the NFL.

1990 Clemson D

That unit included NFL alumni such as cornerback Dexter Davis (No. 9), defensive lineman Brentson Buckner (No. 89), cornerback Jerome Henderson (No. 36), linebacker John Johnson (No. 12), linebacker Levon Kirkland (No. 44), linebacker Ed McDaniel (No. 93), defensive lineman Chester McGlockton (No. 91),  safety Robert O’Neal (No. 15), linebacker Ashley Sheppard (No. 96), safety James Trapp (No. 27) and Simmons (No. 49).

By the way, that is Simmons holding the rope of the live tiger in front of the players from that defensive unit in the photo above.

In the middle of that photo, standing right in front of the massive McGlockton is safety Ty Mouzon, who wore No. 47.

Mouzon was part of the same recruiting class with Simmons and he became close friends with the Hilton Head, South Carolina native .

Mouzon was a high-school All-American out of Dunedin High School in Florida, where he played safety and running back.

I became good friends with Mouzon while we both worked at Xerox and we have remained friends ever since.

I had a chance to talk with Mouzon on Thursday and he gave me some insight about Simmons, who the Green Bay Packers drafted in the first round of the 1993 NFL draft with the 15th overall pick.

Mouzon talked about the day Simmons was drafted. Simmons had been told that he was going to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. A representative of the Cowboys was present at the apartment of Simmons on draft day, which also included a small gathering of close friends.

“Wayne got the call from Green Bay saying that they were drafting him,” Mouzon said. “Wayne yells out, ‘I’m going to Green Bay! I’m going to Green Bay! I’m going to Green Bay! Hey, isn’t it cold as shit there?’

“Once he realized that he was truly a Green Bay Packer, Simmons had a word for the representative of the Cowboys,” Mouzon said. “So Wayne says, ‘Mr. Dallas man, you have to leave. I play for the Packers!’

And play he did. Simmons arrived in Green Bay the same year that Reggie White was signed as an unrestricted free agent.

The defense of the Packers was ranked 23rd in the NFL in 1992. But after the arrival of White and Simmons, the defense moved all the way up to second in the league in 1993.

By 1996, the Packers had the top-ranked defense in the NFL.

The 6’2”, 245-pound Simmons played with the Packers for four and a half years. No. 59 played in 64 games for the Pack and started 47 games at left outside linebacker.

White may have been the leader of those great defenses of the Packers back then, but Simmons was truly the “enforcer” on the unit.

No play epitomized that designation more than this play:

Simmons best year probably came in 1995, when he had 68 solo tackles and 23 assisted tackles. Simmons also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and had four sacks.

Simmons also set the tone in a divisional playoff game that postseason against the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.

On the very first play of the game for the 49ers, Simmons drilled fullback Adam Walker on a screen pass and forced a fumble. Cornerback Craig Newsome picked up the fumble and scampered 31 yards for a touchdown.

If that wasn’t enough, Simmons was throwing around tight end Brent Jones like a rag doll, as Jones tried to block him or go out in pass patterns. Simmons also had a sack in the game.

When it was all said and done, the Packers upset the Niners 27-17.

In 1996, Simmons had another very solid year. He had 66 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception for the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

The specialty of Simmons in Green Bay was to play over the tight end and to impede what ever the tight end wanted to do, whether it was run-blocking or receiving. No. 59 performed that assignment quite well.

The Packers finished 13-3 in ’96 and went on to win Super Bowl XXXI.

In 1997, the Packers brought in linebacker Seth Joyner, who was a former teammate of White’s with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Simmons started the first six games of the season at left outside linebacker before he was traded in early October to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth-round draft pick in 1998.

Joyner became the starter at left outside linebacker after the trade. To me, Joyner was an okay linebacker then, but he wasn’t the same player he was in Philadelphia when he was named to three Pro Bowl teams. I thought the drop off from Simmons to Joyner was fairly significant.

Let’s put it this way, I couldn’t see running back Terrell Davis running wild like he did in Super Bowl XXXII (157 yards and three touchdowns) on a Packer defense had it included Simmons.

Mouzon talked to me about the relationship between Simmons and White.

Wayne Simmons II

“Wayne described it as big brother, little brother,” Mouzon said.  “Wayne was surprised how much Reggie would let him get away with things. And just like with older brothers, Reggie drew the line and Wayne would cross it once in awhile.

“But he crossed it in a respectful way. Wayne sort of thought his job was to loosen Reggie up a bit.  He was always respectful of Reggie, although his language and subject matter would get colorful at times.

“In Wayne’s mind, he thought he was doing Reggie a favor in getting him loose and making Reggie laugh.

“At Wayne’s funeral, Reggie probably took it the hardest. He broke down and was really at a loss for words, although he did speak at the wake.”

Mouzon got married in March of 2002 in Clearwater. I went to his wedding and reception. I was really hoping that I would get a chance to meet and talk to Simmons, as by then Ty knew I was a big fan of the Packers and he had told me many stories about Wayne.

But Simmons didn’t make the wedding. Still, it was a great time for all and I did get a chance to speak to a number of the guys who played with Ty at Clemson, including Ed McDaniel, who I talked with for quite awhile.

It was just a few months later in August when Simmons died in a car crash in suburban Kansas City.

“At the time, Wayne was starting to withdraw, as his NFL career was over,” Mouzon said. “He had purchased a bar and was drinking a lot. He was really depressed.

“A lot of us believe that had Wayne come down to my wedding, we may have been able to help him.”

Tragically, that didn’t happen and Simmons died at the age of 32 about six months later.

Two and half years later, White also shockingly died at the age of 43, as he suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia on the day after Christmas in 2004.

Bottom line, Simmons will never be forgotten. Certainly not with his family. Nor with his close friends like Mouzon.

The memory of Simmons should resonate in Green Bay as well. Yes, Reggie White was the “face” of the defense of the Packers in the early-to-mid 90s.

But it was Simmons who was the “attitude” of those great defenses back then.

An attitude that helped to bring a Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay.

Jerry Kramer Talks About the Packers Loss to the Broncos

To be blunt, the battle of the unbeaten teams was simply a beating. The Denver Broncos thoroughly dominated the Green Bay Packers in their 29-10 win on Sunday night at Sports Authority Field.

The Broncos are now 7-0, while the Packers are now 6-1.

There is no sugar-coating about how bad the Packers looked in the game.

The Broncos had 500 total yards, while the Packers had just 140. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who seemed to be under intense pass-pressure all night long, had one of the worst games of his career, as he passed for just 77 yards.

The defense of the Packers was nothing to write home about either. The Broncos moved down the field with ease against the Pack. The Denver offense was balanced, as Peyton Manning threw for 340 yards, while the running attack gained an additional 160 yards.

The best players on the field for the Packers on Sunday night were kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay.

What does that say about the performance of the Packers?

There was one very interested observer who attended the game in Denver. That would be former Packers great Jerry Kramer.

Kramer knows how the Green Bay players are feeling after the way they were systematically taken apart by the Broncos on Sunday night.

Kramer was also part of an undefeated team in 1962 for the Packers. That team was dominated in a similar fashion by the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day that year.

That 10-0 Green Bay team was taken to the woodshed by the Lions on Turkey Day, as the Packers lost 26-14. The final score was not a true indication as to how badly the Packers played that day.

Going into that game against the Lions, the Packers had outscored their opponents by a 309-74 margin.

But in that game in 1962, nothing seemed to go right for the Packers. Green Bay had only 122 total yards in the game. Bart Starr, who led the NFL in passing that season, was sacked 10 times.

Bart sacked on Thanksgiving

Jim Taylor, the NFL MVP in 1962, was held to just 47 yards rushing.

Starr threw two interceptions, while the Packers also lost the ball three more times on fumbles.

The Packers were losing 26-0 going into the fourth quarter. Green Bay scored 14 points in the final period to make the score look more respectable.

I was able to talk with Kramer on Tuesday, and he gave me his reflections about that Thanksgiving game.

“Detroit guessed right all the time in that game,” Kramer said. “Alex [Karras] was on the move all game long. Sometimes he would line up over me. Other times he would line up in the gap, while other times he would line up over the center.

“The Lions were twisting and doing all sorts of stunts and it was like they were pulling everything out of the bag to beat us. They gambled a lot in that game and were on a mission to get the quarterback.

“They guessed correctly that day and came out and kicked our ass. That being said, it was not a normal type of game, as they took a ton of chances.”

The Lions had been looking forward to that game against the Packers, as they felt they had given away a win in Green Bay earlier in the year.

The Lions were winning 7-6 late in the game, when quarterback Milt Plum threw a pass which was intercepted by Herb Adderley. No. 26 returned the pick 40 yards, which set up the game-winning field goal by Paul Hornung.

Bottom line, the 8-2 Lions were chomping at the bit when the undefeated Packers came into Tigers Stadium on Thanksgiving Day that season.

Starr sacked again by the Lions

Even with that stunning loss, the Packers recovered and never lost another game that season.

Kramer talked about how head coach Vince Lombardi reacted after games like the one the Packers played on Thanksgiving that year.

“After a game like that one,” Kramer said, “Lombardi would say, ‘Put the films away. Let’s not look at them. That was an aberration. That wasn’t us. Just put those films away and let’s get ready for next week.’

The Packers did get ready for the next week that season, as they whipped the Los Angeles Rams 41-10 at old Milwaukee County Stadium 10 days after they lost to the Lions.

The Packers finished out the 1962 season with road wins against the San Francisco 49ers and Rams to finish with a 13-1 record.

Then in the 1962 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants at frigid and very windy Yankee Stadium, the Packers won 16-7. Kramer scored 10 points by himself (three field goals and an extra point) in the game and was awarded a game ball for his efforts.

Jerry's game ball from 1962 NFL title game

Kramer see some similarities between the 2015 Packers and some of the great teams he played on in Green Bay.

“This Packer team reminds me of my team,” Kramer said. “Because for quite awhile we would do whatever we had to do to win. We didn’t seem to get real pumped for some games and if we got behind, we would go score.

“And if we did get a couple of scores, we would kind of relax and the opponent would score. That used to drive Coach Lombardi nuts that we wouldn’t put a team away.

“This Packer team seemed to do the same thing in the weeks leading up to the Denver game.”

Kramer then talked about what he saw during the Packers-Broncos game.

“For one thing, Aaron [Rodgers] was obviously not Aaron,” Kramer said. “Peyton [Manning] seemed to be ten years younger than the way he has played recently. He had a hell of a day. He was quick and his passes were sharp. He was moving well too.

“That whole team [Denver] was emotionally charged. They were really ready for our ass. We [the Packers] came out there with an attitude of let’s see what happens. But the team never caught up to the style of play by the Broncos. The team seemed to be on their heels early in the game and they never recovered.

“The Packers were reacting instead of acting. They were trying to protect instead of going on the attack.

“The Denver defense was awesome. They were pretty good leading up to the game, but they weren’t that dominating.”

So, what to the Packers need to do in Week 9 as they get set to take on another undefeated team, the 7-0 Carolina Panthers in Charlotte?

“The Packers need to realize that this is sort of a critical moment in their season,” Kramer said. “They have to respond. They have to have an emotional interest in the outcome of the game. I mean, extreme emotion.

“The Packers have to get ready to play and they have to play their ass off. Because if they don’t, we don’t know where the hell they are going from here. I would expect that Coach McCarthy will do a little ass-chewing to get the team ready to play.

“I think this will be an interesting game to see how the Packers respond. Are they champions? Or are they pretenders? Are they going to take care of business? Was the game in Denver an aberration?

“This game is critical for the Packers and it could determine how the team plays the rest of the season.”

Kramer has been in the same boat that the current Packers are now in. That 1962 team under Vince Lombardi responded quite well after the dominating defeat they suffered on Thanksgiving Day.

That Packer team never lost another game and also won the NFL title.

We shall see how the 2015 Packers respond after a similar beat down by the Broncos.

The game against Carolina is much more important than the one that Packers played on Sunday night. The Panthers are a NFC opponent, not an AFC opponent like Denver was.

This game could help determine which team might get home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.

Kramer said it best when he said this about the Packers:

“Are they champions? Or are they pretenders?”

We will find out Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.