Lots of Interesting Connections Between the Packers and Raiders

Vince and Jerry II

When the 9-4 Green Bay Packers play the 6-7 Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon at O.co Coliseum, it will be the 13th meeting between the two teams.

The two teams have played 11 times in the regular season, where the Packers lead the series 6-5, and once in the Super Bowl, where the Packers won Super Bowl II.

The Packers have also won the last six games in a row. In fact, the last time the Raiders beat the Packers was almost 30 years ago, when the then Los Angeles Raiders beat the Packers 20-0 in the season opener in 1987 at Lambeau Field.

One thing is for sure, the two teams certainly have some interesting connections.

Super Bowl II was the last game Vince Lombardi ever coached for the Packers.  The Packers were up only 16-7 at halftime, when Jerry Kramer described the scene in his classic book Instant Replay.

“A few of us veterans got together— Forrest [Gregg] and ‘Ski’ [Bob Skoronski] and Henry [Jordan] and me and a few others—and we decided we’d play the last thirty minutes for the old man.  We didn’t want to let him down in his last game.”

The Packers did play the second half for the old man as Green Bay rolled to a 33-14 victory.

One of the best players on the Raiders in Super Bowl II was a defensive end by the name of Ben Davidson.  Davidson had become was of the AFL’s most feared defensive players and was an AFL All-Star from 1966-1968.  In fact, Davidson sacked Bart Starr in that particular Super Bowl.

Davidson started out his professional football career with the Packers in 1961, the first Lombardi team to win a NFL title.  Davidson was just a reserve lineman then, but he did play in every game of that season for the Packers.  The was Davidson’s one and only year in Green Bay, but at least he was able to experience a NFL championship.

The second time the Packers and the Raiders met was in September of 1972.  That was the year that the Dan Devine-coached Packers won the NFC Central crown for only the second time, and it wouldn’t be until 1995 that the Pack won the division again.

In that 1972 game, Raiders safety Jack Tatum scooped up a ball fumbled by Packer running back MacArthur Lane and raced 104 yards for a record touchdown.

It is still the all-time record in terms of fumble recovery yardage, although it was equaled by cornerback Aeneas Williams in a game against the Redskins in 2000, when he was with the Cardinals.  The Packers ended up losing that day to the Raiders, 20-14.

The next big game in terms of Packers-Raiders history was December 26, 1993 at Lambeau Field.  The Packers won that game 28-0, when the temperature was 0 degrees.  It was the third coldest game ever in Green Bay, only surpassed by the “Ice Bowl” in 1967 and the NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Giants in 2008.

But the play that makes the game memorable was the first ever Lambeau leap.

Safety LeRoy Butler forced a fumble that defensive end Reggie White recovered at the Raiders 35 yard line.  After returning the fumble 10 yards, White lateraled to Butler, who returned it the remaining 25 yards for a touchdown.  After the score, Butler jumped into the crowd in the south bleachers for the first leap, which is now a tradition.

 The opening game of 1999 at Lambeau Field was the next great moment of Packers-Raiders history. The 1999 season was Mike McCarthy’s first coaching job in Green Bay, as he was quarterbacks coach under head coach Ray Rhodes.  Playing with a thumb injury, Brett Favre brought the Packers back with a last minute drive and Green Bay won 28-24 when Favre hit tight end Jeff Thomason with a short touchdown pass.  Favre ended up having a very emotional press conference after the game.

Brett vs. Raiders in 2003

But no time was more emotional for Favre than December 22, 2003. That was the day after Favre’s father Irv had passed away after suffering a heart attack.

Favre decided to play that night in Oakland for his father, and also for the dad who coached him in high school.  What Favre did that night was simply incredible and heart warming.  Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdown passes in a 41-7 Green Bay victory.

Then there is the Ron Wolf connection.

The Packers were swimming in mediocrity before then President Bob Harlan made a bold move and hired Wolf to lead the football operations of the Packers on November 27, 1991.  Wolf’s background in the NFL proved to Harlan that he could acquire the talent needed to make the Packers a upper-echelon team in the NFL.

Wolf started out in the NFL under Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders in 1963 at age 25, first as a scout and then as a key member of the front office of the Raiders.  Wolf helped bring Oakland a number of talented players in the draft, including the aforementioned Tatum, along with Gene Upshaw, Art Shell and Ken Stabler.

All of those players had key roles for the Raiders as Oakland won Super Bowl XI in 1976.

Wolf left Oakland in 1975 and moved on to Florida to head football operations of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Wolf brought in some very talented athletes, drafting players like Lee Roy Selman, Doug Williams and Ricky Bell.  That group led the Bucs to the NFC title game in 1979.

However, Wolf was not around to see what developed that year, as he resigned from the Bucs in 1978 and returned to work with his mentor Davis.  Wolf stayed on with the Raiders until 1990.  Once again, Wolf was able to bring in talents such as Marcus Allen, Howie Long and Matt Millen, and the Raiders won two more Super Bowl titles in that time frame.

Wolf then spent a year with the New York Jets front office, before taking the reins in Green Bay.  Wolf’s first move was to fire then head coach Lindy Infante and to hire Mike Holmgren as his new head coach.

Wolf also brought on a guy to help out in the scouting department for the Packers.  The guy’s name was Ted Thompson.  One of Thompson’s first jobs was to review tape of a player the Packers were thinking about acquiring via a trade.  Thompson looked at the tape of the player and gave his endorsement to Wolf about trading for him.  The player’s name was Brett Favre.

Wolf obviously made the trade, and the rest they say is history.

Wolf used the draft to build the Packers during his time in Green Bay, but Wolf also used trades and free agency to get excellent talent as well.  The Favre trade was huge, but Wolf was also able to get excellent talent in the trade market by acquiring players like tight end Keith Jackson, safety Eugene Robinson and running back Ahman Green over the years.

Wolf also acquired perhaps the best free agent in NFL history when he signed White, the Minister of Defense in 1993.  Wolf used free agency quite often, and he also signed players such as safety Mike Prior, defensive end Sean Jones, wide receiver Don Beebe, defensive tackle Santana Dotson, wide receiver/kick returner Desmond Howard and wide receiver Andre Rison.

Ron Wolf

Wolf oversaw 10 drafts with the Packers, and although he hit on some pretty good talent in early rounds—linebacker Wayne Simmons, guard Aaron Taylor, cornerback Craig Newsome, safety Darren Sharper, defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday, tight end Bubba Franks and offensive tackle Chad Clifton—it was Wolf’s expertise in the mid-to-late round picks that brought a boatload of talent to the team.

Wide receiver Robert Brooks, running back Edgar Bennett, tight end Mark Chmura, offensive tackle Earl Dotson, running back Dorsey Levens, fullback William Henderson, linebacker Brian Williams, wide receiver Antonio Freeman, guard Adam Timmerman, cornerback Tyrone Williams, linebacker Keith McKenzie, cornerback Mike McKenzie, wide receiver Donald Driver, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and offensive tackle Mark Tauscher are prime examples of that efficiency.

All of this led to one of the greatest periods in the history of the Packers.

From 1992-2000, the Packers had a 92-52 record (a .639 winning percentage), won three NFC Central titles, seven straight winning seasons, six straight playoff appearances, participated in three consecutive NFC Championship games (winning two of them) and were also in two consecutive Super Bowls—with the Packers winning Super Bowl XXXI.

All of that great work led to Wolf being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Although there have been a couple of bumps in the road, the Packers have continued that excellence since Wolf left.

Wolf was a mentor to Thompson.  When Thompson was hired by Wolf, his first job was assistant Director of Pro Personnel in 1992.  Thompson later became Director of Pro Personnel from 1993-1996 and then as Director of Player Personnel from 1997-1999, before heading to Seattle with Holmgren to become Vice President of Football Operations.

Thompson returned to Green Bay in 2005 to become Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations.  Although Wolf was obviously his mentor, Thompson has used a different style in getting the Packers to the promised land of lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Coincidentally, the current GM of the Raiders (since 2012), Reggie McKenzie, worked under both Wolf and Thompson in Green Bay from 1994-2011.

After one year as GM, Thompson—like Wolf—also brought in a brand new head coach in Mike McCarthy, after the Mike Sherman-led Packers went 4-12 in 2005.

Unlike Wolf, Thompson uses the draft almost exclusively to build the Packers’ roster.  Rarely does Thompson dip his toes into free agency.

Thompson gets a lot of flack for his reluctance, but in 2006, he hit the jackpot when he signed Charles Woodson—who had been with the Raiders.  In the history of free agency, the Green Bay Packers have hit gold twice, once in 1993 when White was signed, and also with Woodson.

Charles Woodson vs. Raiders in 2011

In his first stint in Oakland, Woodson had OK stats, but nothing that would make you say, “wow.”  In his first eight years with the Raiders, Woodson had 17 interceptions, with two of those picks being returned for touchdowns.

Woodson also had five and a half sacks.  The former Michigan Wolverine Heisman Trophy winner also forced 14 fumbles and recovered five of them.  Woodson also went to four Pro Bowls and played in one Super Bowl, where the Raiders lost to the Buccaneers 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Then in 2006, Woodson came to Green Bay.

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

Add to that: Woodson was named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  Woodson was also named to four more Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.  Looking at those stats, I would definitely say, “wow.”

Woodson returned to Oakland in 2013 after being released by the Packers and has remained with the Raiders ever since. And he is still playing at a high level, as he has had 10 interceptions in that time, plus has forced  four more fumbles, recovered seven more (one for a touchdown) and has had three more sacks.

On Sunday he will be facing the quarterback he practiced against for seven years in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is very familiar with the region of California where the game on Sunday will be played.

This will be the second time that Rodgers will have returned to the Bay area in 2015. The Packers also played the 49ers in Santa Clara in Week 3 of this current season.

Rodgers was born and raised in the Chico, which is about 170 miles northeast of the Bay area. No. 12 played his college football at nearby Cal (Berkely) as well.

Rodgers has only started one game against the Raiders, which was during the 2011 season, when Woodson was still a member of the Packers.

Aaron vs. Raiders in 2011

The Packers won that game 46-16 at Lambeau Field. That victory gave the Packers a 13-0 start to the 2011 season. Rodgers threw for 281 yards in the game, and also tossed two touchdown passes versus one pick.

Rodgers had a 96.7 passer rating in that game.

Incidentally, Woodson had a pick in that game as well versus the Raiders.

One of the wide receivers that Rodgers threw to that day was James Jones.  Jones had two catches for 29 yards in that contest.

But from 2007-2013, Jones put up some excellent numbers in Green Bay, when he had 310 receptions for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns.

In 2014, Jones left the Packers via free agency and signed with the Raiders. Jones had played his college ball at nearby San Jose State. Last season, Jones put up solid numbers with Oakland, as he had 73 catches for 666 yards and six touchdowns.

Even with those numbers, the Raiders still released the veteran wide receiver earlier this year. Jones was then signed by the New York Giants this summer, but was cut at the end of training camp.

Because of the season-ending knee injury Jordy Nelson had suffered during the preseason, Jones re-signed with the Packers just prior to the season opener. So far in 2015, Jones has 35 receptions for 660 yards and seven touchdowns.

Jones also has a sparkling 18.9 yards-per-catch average, which leads the NFL.

You know Jones wants to show the Raiders on Sunday that he still has it. The same thing would certainly apply to Woodson, as he looks across the line of scrimmage at the Packers.

Bottom line, we shall see how both Rodgers and Woodson perform on Sunday afternoon in Oakland, but one thing is for sure, both will have busts in Canton at some point in the future because of their fantastic careers in the NFL.

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