A Scout’s Take on the New Mexico Lobos and the Mountain West Conference

Bob Davie

When it comes to college football, I grew up in Big Ten country (Wisconsin) and now reside deep in the heart of SEC country (Florida). Needless to say, I spend a lot of the day on Saturday watching teams from those two conferences, especially the Wisconsin Badgers from the Big Ten and the Florida Gators from the SEC.

As if I didn’t get enough football from those two conferences on Saturday, I more often than not stay up late and watch teams from the Pac-12 conference as well. That was until recently.

Now I try to tune in and watch the action of teams in the Mountain West conference, most notably the New Mexico Lobos.

Why? Because one of my college buddies is the defensive coordinator of the Lobos. That would be Kevin Cosgrove, who first became a defensive coordinator back at the University of Wisconsin under head coach Barry Alvarez back in 1995.

Cosgrove’s first game as coordinator was the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl (now the Outback Bowl) in Tampa. I was there, along with a couple of other buddies, as we sat next to the coaches wives, as Wisconsin beat Duke 34-20.

After the game, my fondest memory was being at the team hotel (Westin Tampa Harbour Island) and smoking a victory cigar with a number of the coaches (including Alvarez and Cosgrove) overlooking the Hillsborough River from the balcony.

Cosgrove stayed on as defensive coordinator for the Badgers until 2003. He was part of the 1998 and 1999 Wisconsin teams that won back-to-back Big Ten titles and back-to-back Rose Bowls.

In 1998, the Badgers were ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense under Cosgrove. In 1999, they were ranked 15th in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

Cossy

After leaving Wisconsin, Cosgrove also was the defensive coordinator at Nebraska, Minnesota and Akron, before joining Bob Davie’s staff at New Mexico.

The football program under Davie is on the upswing at New Mexico, as the Lobos went to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2007.

I had a chance to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry about New Mexico and the Mountain West conference on Thursday, as he was on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

Landry also has a very informative website called LandryFootball.com. I’m pleased to say that I am now a contributor to this excellent site.

Landry first talked about an overall rundown of the Mountain West conference.

“For the folks not familiar with it [the conference], they break it into two divisions,” Landry said. “The Mountain area and the West area. The West has teams like San Diego State, Nevada, San Jose State, Fresno State, Hawaii and UNLV.

“The Mountain side is the stronger side. I will say this, I think San Diego State is the team I like the most out of the Mountain West. They’re in the West. They are really good. They have great linebackers.

“For New Mexico, I think they are pretty good. On the Mountain side, I think Boise, Air Force and the great job being done at Utah State by Matt Wells, I like them a little bit better.

“But I think New Mexico and Colorado State have a chance to be pretty good. Wyoming is still a ways away.”

Landry then focused his attention on New Mexico.

“I think they do a really good job,” Landry said. “They have a good defensive end over there in [Nik] D’Avanzo, who is a really good player. They always have some good players. Dakota Cox is a very good linebacker there.

“I’ve always wondered why consistency-wise [they haven’t won], because it’s such a beautiful place. I guess to me it’s more of a place you would retire and go play golf. Albuquerque is a beautiful city. Maybe it’s not attractive enough for kids. I think in that area recruiting-wise, they could do a real good job.

“It’s good program. They’ve done a good job. Kevin is an outstanding coach. Of course Bob Davie, former Notre Dame coach, it’s his fifth year now. They will be fun to watch.

“Relatively speaking, they’ve done a real good job in recruiting and they develop players well. I think Bob’s connections, bringing in a quality coach like Kevin over there, plus they have some experienced staff members that’s really helped them.

on November 22, 2014 in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Because normally what you get there are young, up-and-comers [coaches], but he’s [Davie] had some guys who have come in and have done a pretty good job. It’s give them some experience in recruiting and for player development.”

Landry also thinks that the Mountain West, along with the American Athletic, are the two best conferences in the country, outside of the Power 5 (Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12).

New Mexico is doing what they can to show that they can play with the big boys as well, as they have scheduled non-conference games in the future with opponents like Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and USC.

For now, the goal is to improve on last year’s 7-6 record and perhaps win the Mountain side of their conference. The Lobos finished just a game out of winning the crown last year, as they defeated good opponents like Utah State, Boise State and Air Force.

In 2016, a divisional title, along with another bowl bid, would be another big stepping stone for Davie and his football program at New Mexico.

A Scout’s Take on Aaron Rodgers and the Offense of the Green Bay Packers in 2016

Aaron vs. the Chiefs

Something was definitely amiss for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense for the Green Bay Packers in 2015. The Packers were uncharacteristically ranked just 23rd in total offense under head coach Mike McCarthy.

That was sort of an anomaly, as the Packers had been ranked in the top 10 in total offense in eight of the nine years McCarthy had coached the team prior to last season.

More shocking than that, was the fact that the Packers were ranked just 25th in passing offense. The Packers were never out of the top 10 in that category since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006.

Rodgers did not have a typical season in 2015, at least based on the high bar he had set for himself previous to last season. Before 2015, No. 12 had put together six consecutive years of having a passer rating of over 100.

In fact, if one looks at the production of Rodgers from 2009-2014, it was truly remarkable. Even in the 2013 season, when Rodgers missed seven games due to a fractured clavicle, he was on his way to another fabulous season, which would have averaged out to 30 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 4,508 yards over 16 games.

Based on that number and adding it together with the other years from 2009 through last season, Rodgers has averaged 35 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 4,364 over the six seasons going into 2015. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 108.6.

If one was just looking at the stat sheet on Rodgers in 2015, at first glance, everything would appear to be normal. Why? Because Rodgers threw 31 touchdown passes compared to just eight picks last year. That is very comparable to what No. 12 did over the previous six seasons.

But when you peel back the onion, one can see a number of declining stats.

The yards passing for the 2015 season is one red flag. Rodgers threw for just 3,821 yards last season, which is the lowest of his career, based on a full season.

In addition to that, Rodgers also only threw for an average of 239 yards per game in 2015. That is a steep decline based on the previous six seasons which averaged 279 yards per game.

The passer rating also went way down. In 2015, Rodgers passer rating was just 92.8, which is the lowest of his career since he became a starter in 2008.

Just to compare, the career passer rating for Rodgers is 104.1, which is the top mark in NFL history (based on 1,500 pass attempts).

Rodgers also averaged just 6.7 yards gained per pass attempt in 2015. Once again, that was the lowest mark of his starting career by a wide margin. Rodgers had never been below the 7.5 mark before this season.

Rodgers also averaged just 11 yards per pass completion this season, which is also a career low.

The big plays were also missing for Rodgers and the Packers on offense in 2015. No. 12 was tied for 25th in the NFL with just six completions of 40-plus yards.

There were a number of reasons for why Rodgers and the Green Bay offense struggled.

Jordy Nelson vs. the Pats

It all started when wide receiver Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in the preseason. No. 87 was the deep threat for Rodgers in the offense of the Packers and also his most trusted receiver.

Because of the injury to Nelson, the Packers re-signed James Jones to help bolster the loss of Nelson. Although Jones had a decent season for the Packers in 2015 (50-890-8), the receiving corp as a whole had a very disappointing season.

Randall Cobb struggled to make an impact as the lead receiver of the Packers most of the 2015 season, as he had 79 catches for just 829 yards and six touchdowns.

But as disappointing as those numbers are, no one has been more disappointing than second-year receiver Davante Adams. Yes, No. 17 struggled with ankle problems for a number of games. But that doesn’t excuse all the dropped passes and the lack of production.

Adams ended up with just 50 catches for 483 and one touchdown.

To be fair, the receiving corp as a whole have had injury issues. Nelson tore his ACL. Cobb hurt his shoulder in the preseason. Adams had the ankle injury. Jones had some hamstring issues.

Another key injury occurred when rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery sprained his ankle versus the San Diego Chargers in Week 6.

Montgomery was never able to return from that injury and was placed on injured reserve late in the season.

That injury turned out to be a turning point, as the Packers were 6-0 at that juncture of the season. No. 88 was just starting to find his niche in the offense of the Packers too.

The Packers used the 6’0″, 216-pound Montgomery out wide, in the slot and in the backfield. He was a useful weapon for Rodgers to have, as he created a lot of his yardage after the catch because of his running back size dimensions. That is also why he was such a good return man as well.

The Packers went 4-6 after that injury to Montgomery.

Besides the passing game issues, the running game was also inconsistent.

Eddie Lacy had the worst season of his three-year career, as he rushed for just 758 yards and three touchdowns, plus caught just 20 passes. This was after averaging 1,159 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns his first two years in the NFL. No. 27 also averaged 19 more receptions per season the two previous years.

James Starks had some nice moments in 2015, as he and Lacy were a tandem again, but he also fumbled four times while he gained 601 yards.

If you add together the inconsistent passing game and the inconsistent running game in 2015, it all adds up to bad play on the offensive line of the Packers.

The Packers were nicked up by injuries all season long on the line. No position was spared. Adding to those woes, the team was really hurt by a lack of depth at the offensive tackle position. That situation raised it’s ugly head in the regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals, when both starters, left tackle David Bakhtiari and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were out of the game.

Don Barclay

The result? Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

Going into the 2016 season, the Rodgers and the Packers will be getting Nelson and Montgomery back at wide receiver. Plus, the Packers are also exited about the showing that both third-year receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis had this past postseason. The Packers also drafted another wide receiver/kick returner in the draft, when they selected Trevor Davis of California.

The 6’1″, 189-pound Davis really opened some eyes due to his great performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.

At the combine, Davis ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash (third-best among receivers), plus leaped an outstanding 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. Davis also did an outstanding job in all of the drills, especially catching and tracking the football. When the Packers worked out Davis themselves, he was timed in the mid-4.3 range in the 40.

The Packers also added a seam-stretching tight end in free agency, when they added Jared Cook, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and Tennessee Titans. The 6’4″, 235-pound Cook ran a 4.50 40-yards dash at the 2009 combine. In his career, Cook has 73 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Packers also added some depth for the offensive tackle position, as they traded up in the second round to select Jason Spriggs of Indiana with pick No. 48. Spriggs was a four-year starter at Indiana and he started 47 times in 48 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers.

In the sixth round, the Packers selected picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford. The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.

Based on what they did in the offseason, the Packers seem to be in a much better place in terms of how effective the offense will be in 2016. Rodgers should also be able to be the same type of quarterback he was before last season.

I wanted to get an opinion about that situation from the person who runs this website, NFL scout Chris Landry. I was able to speak with Landry earlier this week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Todd Wright.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

Jerry Kramer Talks About the 1962 Green Bay Packers

Jerry after the game-winning kick in the '62 championship game

Under the leadership of head coach Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers won five NFL championships in seven years in the 1960s, which includes the first two Super Bowl games.

It’s often debated about which of those five title teams (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 & 1967) was the best. To me, the 1962 team was clearly the best.

Why? The Packers led the NFL in scoring with 415 points (29.6 per game), plus also led the league in least points allowed as the Pack only allowed 148 points (10.6 per game).

The Packers also led the NFL in total offense and rushing offense, plus in total defense and passing defense as well.

Fullback Jim Taylor was the NFL MVP for the year, as he rushed for 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Quarterback Bart Starr also led the NFL in passing.

But it was the rushing game which was the calling card of the Packers. Especially when the power sweep was utilized. The Packers averaged 175.7 yards per game on the ground, plus the team had 36 rushing touchdowns.

Phil Bengtson’s defense was also very assertive, as it led the NFL with 50 turnovers, which included 31 interceptions.

On special teams, the Packers were also solid. Willie Wood was second in the NFL in punt returns, while Herb Adderley was third in the league in kickoff returns.

The Packers were 13-1 in 1962. The team started out 10-0 before having a hiccup against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. More on that game later.

But for the most part, the Packers had their way with almost all of their opponents during the course of the season. Look at some of these scores:

Packers 34, Vikings 7

Packers 49, Bears 0

Packers 48, Vikings 21

Packers 31, 49ers 13

Packers 38, Bears 7

Packers 49, Eagles 0

Packers 41, Rams 10

The 1962 season was a very important one for right guard Jerry Kramer, as he had broken his ankle midway through the 1961 season. No. 64 didn’t get the opportunity to play for the Packers when they won their first championship game under Lombardi when the Packers beat the New York Giants 37-0 at City Stadium (later Lambeau Field).

Jerry's game-winning field goal in the '62 title game.

Kramer talked to me recently about the 1962 season and he mentioned how he felt being injured in ’61 and how he prepared for ’62.

“I really didn’t feel like I was a part of the championship team in ’61,” Kramer said. “There’s something about a team, a tight team, that once you are no longer making a contribution, you don’t feel like you are part of things.

“You still go to the meetings. You still hang out in the locker room. But you aren’t contributing. I just felt like I wasn’t part of that tight-knit group. I missed that. That’s why I was looking forward to having a great season in ’62.”

Getting over the ankle injury was the first step.

“I wasn’t told how serious my ankle injury was,” Kramer said. “But there was some concern. I separated the bones in the ankle and the doctors had to put a pin in to hold it together. I had a significant amount of pain for about 10 days due to the pressure by the washer on the bolt they put in my ankle.

“For my rehab, I tried to run a little bit. I had a buddy who played in the Canadian Football League and he and I would chase rabbits in the desert in the Boise area. We didn’t catch any, but it helped us occupy our minds while we were running for about an hour.

“When training camp opened, my ankle was still a little stiff. I found that skipping before warmups was very helpful. Skipping helped to put more pressure on the tendons and the ligaments in the ankle. I sure got quite a few interesting looks while I was doing my skipping exercise!”

Once the physical healing of his ankle was done, Kramer knew that he had to get back to playing as well or better than he had in 1960 and 1961.

In 1960, Kramer had been named first team All-Pro by AP. In 1961, even with his ankle injury which caused him to miss half the season, Kramer was still named All-Pro by the New York Daily News.

Kramer always remembered the moment which made him want to become the best guard in the NFL.

” I can’t remember exactly when Coach Lombardi turned my motor on,” Kramer said. “But it was after a real tough practice where he chewed me out unmercifully. Coach said, ‘The concentration of a college student is five minutes. In high school, it’s three minutes and in kindergarten, it’s 30 seconds. And you don’t even have that! Where does that put you?’

“Anyway, I’m sitting in the locker room after practice feeling pretty down and dejected for about 40 minutes after that scene. Most of the guys in the locker room had cleared out by then. Coach Lombardi comes in and sees me. I’ve got me chin in my hand, my elbow on my knees and I’m just staring at the floor.

“Lombardi came by and patted me on the shoulder, messed up my hair and said, ‘Son, one of these days you are going to be the best guard in football.’

“That moment told me that Lombardi believed in me and approved of me. That was all I needed to become the best player I could be.”

Kramer went on to have his best season in 1962.

Kramer was named first team All-Pro by AP, NEA and UPI, while No. 64 was also named to his first Pro Bowl squad.

Not only was Kramer exceptional playing right guard for the Packers, but he also took over the placekicking duties of the Packers during the season after halfback Paul Hornung suffered a knee injury.

For the season, Kramer scored 65 points, which included being 9-for-11 in field goal attempts.

The only blemish on the 1962 season was the 26-14 loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving in Detroit. The Lions were the top rivals of the Packers back then. Detroit ended up finishing second to the Packers in the Western Conference for three straight years from 1960 through 1962.

In the first meeting between the Packers and Lions in the ’62 season at City Stadium, the Packers had narrowly won 9-7, as quarterback Milt Plum threw a late interception to Herb Adderley which set up a game-winning Hornung field goal.

The Lions were furious after the game. Alex Karras reportedly threw his helmet at Plum’s chest after the game. Kramer could hear all types of screaming and banging in the Detroit locker room.

But on Thanksgiving, the Lions were definitely focused on winning the game.

“We were undefeated when we went into Detroit,” Kramer said. “Detroit hated our guts. One of my best pals in college, Wayne Walker, played linebacker for the Lions. He hated that the Lions could never get over the top against us to win a championship. He’s still pissed about that.

Bart getting sacked in Detroit

“Before we played the Lions on Thanksgiving, Fuzzy lost his mother about three days before the game. Fuzzy decided to play, but his heart was somewhere else. The Lions just guessed and gambled correctly all day long that game.

“They did things that they had never done before. Alex [Karras] would line up just about everywhere. Over the center, over my right shoulder and anywhere he felt like he could do some damage. Add to that, the Lions were incredibly motivated.

“They got Bart about 11 times that game. On the way home to Green Bay, Fuzzy said that all wasn’t bad, because we invented a new block called the look out block. As in, ‘Look out, Bart!’

“I don’t think we even watched film of that game afterwards, as we went down the road and continued to have success.”

The Packers won their final three games of the season to finish 13-1, which was two games better than the Lions, who finished 11-3. The Packers were the Western Conference champs for the third straight year and they would be taking on the Giants again in the 1962 NFL title game, this time at Yankee Stadium.

Kramer was still doing the placekicking for the Packers at that point, besides playing at a high level at right guard.

No. 64 remembers walking into the storied stadium in the Bronx on that championship day.

“It was really a highlight for me walking into Yankee Stadium,” Kramer said. “It was an emotional experience for me. All the great fights and the World Series games that had gone on there. You had the statues of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio in center field.

“You also looked into the crowd and saw the sophisticated sports fans who were booing your ass. Then you look across the line of scrimmage and you see [Andy] Robustelli, [Jim] Katcavage, [Sam] Huff, [Dick] Lynch and that whole group, you definitely get pumped.”

That environment definitely weighed on the mind of Kramer as the game developed.

“I remember kicking my first field goal,” Kramer said. “I kind of looked across the line of scrimmage which I normally don’t do. And I see this great defensive team and my subconscious is telling me that they are going to find out about you. You shouldn’t be on the field with these guys.

“I finally told my subconscious to shut up and I focused on keeping my head down to follow through with the kick. When I looked up the football was outside the goal post, but it went through the goal post before blowing outward.

“I remember the official raising his arms to say the field goal was good and I said, ‘What the hell is he doing!’ Bart then looked at me and said, ‘Shut up and get off the field.’

Kramer had to kick that day under very difficult conditions. It was a bitingly cold day, plus the wind was gusting up to 40 miles per hour. Plus, Kramer played the entire game at right guard as well battling in the trenches.

Kramer ended up scoring 10 points (three field goals and an extra point) in the 16-7 victory for the Packers, plus helped lead the way for fullback 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.

No. 64 also recovered a fumble by Taylor to keep a drive alive.

When the Packers were up 13-7 late in the fourth quarter, Kramer knew that he had a chance to put the game away with a 30-yard field goal.

“The wind was really blowing hard that day,”Kramer said. “The wind was blowing so hard that at halftime our benches on the sideline were blown 10 yards onto the field. That wind was really swirling that day.

Jerry after the game-winning kick in the '62 championship game. II

“The ball was being moved pretty well by the wind. On that last field goal, I aimed 10 yards outside the goal post because of the wind. At first, the kick was heading to where I aimed before the wind caught it and brought it back in and split the uprights.

“It was a great relief to me that I had guessed right, because if I missed the Giants still had a chance to win the game.

“After I made the kick, the guys were jumping on me and pounding me on the back knowing that we probably had clinched the game then. I got to feel like a running back or a quarterback for a moment or two and it was a wonderful feeling.”

After the victory by the Packers, middle linebacker Ray Nitschke was named the game’s MVP, as he had been tenacious with his tackling on defense and also recovered two fumbles.

Kramer certainly could have received that honor as well, based on the way he played that day. As it was, the coaches and the players presented No. 64 with a game ball because of the great performance he had in that year’s championship game.

Jerry's game ball from 1962 NFL title game

“It was just a wonderful experience to be in that setting that day,” Kramer said. “Yankee Stadium was one of the great sports venues in the world. And to not only be on the field in that storied place, but also to have played a big role in the victory for our team in a championship game was very rewarding.”

Brett Favre: The Road to Canton

Brett in Super Bowl XXXI

On August 6, Brett Favre will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not too many people thought that this honor would ever be bestowed on Favre, as he started his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 very inauspiciously.

After being drafted in the second round out of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s rookie season with the Dirty Birds was sort of a disaster.

Favre hardly ever played. Part of the reason was because Favre was a party animal who stayed out late and also occasionally dozed off in meetings. Add to that, Favre also missed the team photo after a late night out.

When he did get to play, Favre attempted only four passes, without a completion. Actually, Favre did complete two passes, but both were to the opposition.

During the 1991 NFL draft, Ron Wolf was personnel director for the New York Jets. Wolf was intrigued by the strong-armed Favre in college, as he led the Golden Eagles to 29 wins as a starter, which included two bowl victories. Southern Miss also upset staunch opponents like Florida State and Alabama with Favre under center.

While Wolf was scouting Favre, No. 4 helped himself by being the MVP of the East-West Shrine game. Wolf was set to take Favre in the 1991 draft for the Jets with the 34th selection in the second round, when the Atlanta Falcons took him instead with the 33rd pick.

But when Wolf became the general manager of the Packers late in the 1991 season, he kept his eye on Favre. Then in February of 1992, Wolf shocked a number of people in the NFL, when he traded a first-round pick to the Falcons for Favre. Before he made that trade, he asked one of the people on his scouting staff to evaluate Favre on film.

That person was Ted Thompson and the future general manager of the Packers endorsed making the trade.

Wolf had also just recently hired Mike Holmgren as head coach. Holmgren had done an exceptional job as quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, working with both Joe Montana and Steve Young. Wolf saw similar possibilities with Holmgren working with Favre.

The Packers already had a starting quarterback in Don Majkowski, who had been to the Pro Bowl just a couple years earlier.

The career of Favre with the Packers got off to an ominous start, when he came into the game in relief of Majkowski after the “Magic Man” severely sprained an ankle in the third game of the 1992 season versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Favre was anything but impressive when he entered the game, as he tried to lead the Packers to their first win of the season after a 0-2 start. No. 4 was having all sorts of problems initially, 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.

Brett vs. Bengals

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.

Favre started the next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers leading the Pack to another win. The Packers finished 9-7 in 1992 with Favre under center, but narrowly missed the playoffs.

The Packers finished 9-7 again in 1993, but this time the team made the postseason as a Wild Card team. The Packers shocked the Detroit Lions at the Silverdome in the last minute of the game, as Favre threw a bomb across the field to Sterling Sharpe for a 40-yard touchdown pass to win the game 28-24.

Still, Favre was too inconsistent with his play in both 1992 and 1993. In those two seasons combined, Favre threw 37 touchdown passes, but also threw 37 interceptions.

During the 1994 season, there was some talk among the offensive coaching staff of the Packers to bench Favre and to give backup Mark Brunell an opportunity as a starter.

But between the steady coaching of quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci and also Holmgren’s belief in Favre, the light suddenly turned on for No. 4 that season. Favre ended up throwing 33 touchdown passes that year, compared to just 14 picks for 3,882 yards. The Packers also made the postseason again as a Wild Card team.

Then from 1995 through 1997, Favre won three straight NFL MVP awards. Combined over those three seasons, Favre threw 112 touchdown passes versus just 42 interceptions for 12,179 yards. The Packers won three straight NFC Central titles during that time, were in three straight NFC Championship Games (winning two of them) and two Super Bowls (winning Super Bowl XXXI).

In the postseason during those three years, Favre threw 18 touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 2,090 yards. That adds up to a 99.2 passer rating.

The biggest attribute Favre had was his durability. Favre ended up starting 253 straight regular season games and 22 more in the postseason in his career with the Packers. No. 4 also had 160 wins over 16 seasons. 96 of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).

Favre also threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was a member of the Packers.

Before Favre became the starting quarterback for Green Bay 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.

When Holmgren was head coach of the Packers, Favre was 9-5 as a starter in the postseason. After Holmgren was gone however, Favre did not have the same success, as he was just 3-5.

Overall in his postseason career with the Packers, Favre threw 39 touchdown passes versus 28 picks for 5,311 yards.

Favre also didn’t have the same type of production in the regular season the rest of his Green Bay career once Holmgren exited the team to head to Seattle.

Perhaps Favre’s greatest game as a Packer came on Dec. 22, 2003. That was the day after Favre’s dad Irv passed away after suffering a heart attack. Favre still decided to play that Monday night in Oakland versus the Raiders. What Favre did that night was simply incredible and heart warming. Despite playing with a heavy heart, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdown passes in a 41-7 Green Bay victory.

Brett vs. Raiders

In 2005, Favre had the worst season of his career in Green Bay, as he threw 20 touchdown passes, compared to 29 interceptions.

Also in 2005, Thompson had become the general manager of the Packers and his first ever draft choice ended up being quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Add to that, Thompson fired head coach Mike Sherman, as the Packers finished 4-12 that season.

Thompson then hired Mike McCarthy as head coach and Favre had a much better season in 2006, as the team finished 8-8. In 2007, Favre had the best season since his MVP days, as he threw 28 touchdown passes versus 15 picks, as he led the Packers to a 13-3 mark and a spot in the NFC Championship Game versus the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.

Favre ended up throwing a costly interception in overtime though, as the G-Men beat the Pack 23-20.

A couple of months later Favre retired. After giving his career in the NFL a second thought later that summer, Favre wanted to return. But by then the Packers were committed to Rodgers as a starter. The team and Favre had a messy divorce, as No. 4 was traded to the New York Jets for a third-round pick.

Favre played for the Jets in 2008 and led the team to a 9-7 record, but missed the playoffs. Favre threw 22 touchdown passes, but also threw 22 picks. Favre then retired for a second time after the season.

In 2009, Favre did the unthinkable as far as Packer Nation was concerned. He joined the Minnesota Vikings. Not only did he join the Vikings, but he led the Vikings to a 12-4 record and the NFC North crown. Two of those 12 wins came against the Packers.

Favre also had the best year of his career, as he threw 33 touchdown passes versus just seven interceptions. He also had the best passer rating of his career with a 107.2 mark.

By like he did in 2007, Favre threw a costly pick in overtime, as the Vikings were defeated by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game.

The 2010 season was the exact opposite of the success Favre had in 2009, as he was just 5-8 as a starter and saw his consecutive starting streak end at 297 games. Favre also had the worst season of his entire NFL career, as he threw just 11 touchdown passes versus 19 picks for 2,509 yards.

Still, when one looks at the entirety of Favre’s career in the NFL, No. 4 put up some incredible numbers.

Numbers like 508 career touchdown passes versus 336 interceptions. Or 297 consecutive regular season starts. Three consecutive MVP awards as well.

Favre also had 45 game-winning drives. No. 4 was also named to 11 Pro Bowl teams and was first team All-Pro three times.

In July of 2015, Favre was even welcomed back to Green Bay for his inclusion into the Packers Hall of Fame and for having his jersey No. 4 retired, as he received several loud ovations from the crowd of over 67,000 strong at Lambeau Field.

“It was like I never left,” Favre said. “It was a great feeling.”

Brett and Bart

Favre became just the sixth Packer to have his jersey number retired, joining Don Hutson (No. 14), Tony Canadeo (No. 3), Bart Starr (No. 15), Ray Nitschke (No.66) and Reggie White (No. 92).

Favre officially had his No. 4 unveiled on the facade of Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night, with Starr on hand in a very emotional setting.

In less than a month, Favre will get the ultimate honor in the NFL when he is officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the 24th individual of the Packers to receive that honor.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Emlen Tunnell

 

Em Tunnell - Green Bay Packers

Last summer I did a series of articles about the 11 teammates of Jerry Kramer who were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the man who made that all possible…Vince Lombardi.

In the stories, Kramer gave me his reflections about those players and his legendary head coach. There is absolutely no doubt that Kramer deserves that same honor based on his great career in the NFL.

As a matter of fact, Kramer should have been inducted decades ago.

The 11 Hall of Famers who Kramer looked back on were Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood, Henry Jordan and Dave Robinson.

The one Hall of Famer who also played with Kramer  and who wasn’t in this series of articles was Emlen Tunnell. The main reason was because Tunnell spent most of his career with the New York Giants.

When Lombardi arrived in Green Bay in 1959 as head coach and general manager, he made a number of trades. The first trade was to acquire guard Fuzzy Thurston from the Baltimore Colts for linebacker Marv Matuzak.

The second trade was to acquire Tunnell from the Giants for cash. Lombardi had been with the Giants himself from 1954 through 1958 as an offensive assistant and he knew full well the talents of Tunnell at the safety position.

Emlen and VinceTunnell had started his NFL career with the G-Men in 1948, after playing at both Toledo and Iowa in college.

Tunnell immediately showed that he was a very talented defensive back, as he had seven interceptions (including one for a touchdown) his rookie year.

Throughout his career with the Giants, Tunnell was considered the very best safety in the NFL, as he was named first team All-Pro four times and was also named to the Pro Bowl eight times.

During that time, Tunnell had 74 interceptions (four of which were returned for touchdowns) and had 15 fumble recoveries as well.

Tunnell was also a very dangerous punt returner, as he led the NFL in punt returns twice, and had five returns for a touchdown. No. 45 also had a kickoff return for a score.

By the time he came to Green Bay, Tunnell had already played 11 seasons with the Giants. But when Lombardi acquired him from the Giants, Tunnell immediately became a starter at safety along side of Bobby Dillon in 1959.

Tunnell had two interceptions for the Packers that year and was named to yet another Pro Bowl.

In 1960, Tunnell started at safety once again, this time next to John Symank. Tunnell had three more interceptions, as the Packers won the Western Conference  and narrowly lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL title game, 17-13.

Also that season, Tunnell mentored free-agent rookie Willie Wood about how to play the safety position, as well as returning punts.

By 1961, Tunnell had been replaced by Wood at safety as a starter, but his lessons to Wood were well spent. Wood had five interceptions that year, plus led the NFL in punt returns, as he had a 16.1 return average and two returns for touchdowns.

On top of all that, the Packers won the 1961 NFL title, as they defeated Tunnell’s old team, the Giants, 37-0 at City Stadium (later Lambeau Field).

It was Tunnell’s second NFL title, as he had also been part of a Giants team which won the 1956 NFL championship.

Tunnell retired after the 1961 season and in 1967 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When I talked to Kramer about Tunnell, he recalled No. 45 very fondly.

“Emlen was a pretty special guy,” Kramer said. “He was a pro’s pro. He was a classy and bright guy as well. Emlen was a fierce competitor. He also helped tutor the young defensive backs like Willie Wood and Herb Adderley.”

Kramer remembered one play especially regarding Tunnell.

“We were playing the Chicago Bears one time,” Kramer said. “The Bears had a fine guard by the name of Stan Jones. The Bears ran a play, kind of like a sweep, with the guards pulling. Emlen came up to force the play, and his timing was impeccable, as he hit Jones with a forearm to the head and knocked him colder than a cucumber.”

One can see how the teaching of Tunnell impacted both Wood and Adderley, as not only were both players fabulous ball hawks, but both were also outstanding tacklers who delivered a resounding hit more times than not.

Wille Wood and Herb Adderley

Willie Wood and Herb Adderley via http://www.packernews.com

Kramer knew that Tunnell would be able to teach the younger players.

“Emlen just really understood the defensive positions,” Kramer said. “He knew where everyone should be on a given offensive formation. He was just a steadying influence.”

After he was done playing in the NFL, Tunnell later became a scout and assistant coach for the Giants.

Tunnell also was a bit of a celebrity when he joined the Packers after playing so many years in the Big Apple. Tunnell also knew many celebrities.

Kramer recalled a couple of instances.

“In San Francisco, Ella Fitzgerald was playing one night,” Kramer said. “When we went to the show, everyone knew Emlen. Everyone. He was just a social cat. Anyway, Fuzzy and I were hanging out with him watching the great show from Ella from up close. It was just wonderful.

“Then another time we were in Milwaukee one night and Ray Charles was performing in this hotel. We went in to watch him during his second session, as he had already done an early show.

“Fuzzy, myself and some other players quietly found a table near the back. Emlen saw us and he told us to follow him. Ray was sitting at the piano getting ready to start his set, while Emlen had the help get us a bunch of chairs and then put them around the piano. We were sitting six feet away from Ray having a beer while he was performing. It was a priceless moment.”

Sadly, Tunnell died at the young age of 50 in 1975 due to a heart attack.

Still, he left behind a great legacy, both on the field and off.

“Emlen was a class act,” Kramer said. He was a hell of football player, as well as being a hell of a man.”

The Stamp of Ron Wolf on the NFL

Ron Wolf

In 2015, Ron Wolf, along with Bill Polian, became the second and third general managers ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The first general manager to get that honor was Jim Finks. All three made it to Canton because of the masterful way they could evaluate talent.

Wolf started out his career in the NFL under Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders at the age of 25 in 1963, first as a scout and then as a key member of the front office of the Raiders. Wolf helped Oakland select a number of very talented players in the draft during that time, including Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum. Each of those players had key roles for the Raiders as Oakland won Super Bowl XI in 1976.

Wolf left Oakland in 1975, moving across the country to Florida to head football operations for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wolf drafted players like Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams and Ricky Bell—three players who helped lead the Bucs to the NFC title game in 1979.

Wolf was not around to see the success of the Bucs come to fruition, 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 some more talent to the team, adding players such as Marcus Allen, Howie Long and Matt Millen, as the Raiders ended up winning two more Super Bowl titles in that time frame.

Wolf then spent a year with the New York Jets front office before he was hired by Bob Harlan to run the front office in Green Bay. Wolf’s first move was to fire then head coach Lindy Infante and then hire Mike Holmgren as his new head coach.

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

The player’s name was Brett Favre. Wolf obviously made the trade, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wolf used the draft to build the Packers during his time in Green Bay, but he also used trades and free agency fairly often to get excellent talent as well. The Favre trade was certainly huge, but Wolf was also able to get nice talent in the trade market—acquiring players such as Keith Jackson, Eugene Robinson and Ahman Green—over the years.

Wolf also signed arguably the best free agent in NFL history when he signed Reggie White in 1993. Wolf used free agency quite extensively, and he also signed players such as Mike Prior, Sean Jones, Don Beebe, Santana Dotson, Desmond Howard and Andre Rison.

Wolf oversaw 10 drafts with the Packers, and although he hit on some pretty good talent in early rounds—Wayne Simmons, Aaron Taylor, Craig Newsome, Darren Sharper, Vonnie Holliday, Bubba Franks and Chad Clifton are examples—it was Wolf’s expertise in the mid-to-late rounds that brought a boatload of talent to the team.

Robert Brooks, Edgar Bennett, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, Dorsey Levens, William Henderson, Brian Williams, Antonio Freeman, Adam Timmerman, Tyrone Williams, Keith McKenzie, Mike McKenzie, Donald Driver, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Mark Tauscher are prime examples of his drafting prowess in those rounds.

All of this led to one of the greatest periods in the history of the Packers. Between 1992 and 2000, the Packers had a 92-52 record (a .639 winning percentage), won three NFC Central titles, had seven straight winning seasons, six straight playoff appearances, appeared in three consecutive NFC Championship Games (winning two of them) and were featured in two consecutive Super Bowls—winning Super Bowl XXXI.

Holmgren and Wolf

The Packers were also 60-12 at home (a .833 winning percentage) during that time.

Compare that to the period before Wolf arrived in Green Bay. From 1983-1991, the Packers were 57-85-1 (a .402 winning percentage). That includes no division titles or playoff appearances. The Packers were also 31-40-1 at home (a .438 winning percentage).

Besides all the wins that came because of Wolf’s skills in the front office, Wolf hired a number of key members to his staff, who later went on to more prominent roles.

One was Thompson, who has been the general manager of the Packers since 2005. Since Thompson hired Mike McCarthy in 2006, the team has gone 104-55-1 during that time in the regular season, plus has won five NFC North titles, made eight playoff appearances (including seven straight times currently) and also won Super Bowl XLV.

Like Thompson, Wolf also hired John Dorsey in 1992. Dorsey is currently the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1993, Wolf hired John Schneider. Schneider is currently the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. Schneider and his Hawks won Super Bowl XLVIII.

In 1994, Wolf hired both Scott McCloughan and Reggie McKenzie. McCloughan is currently the general manager of the Washington Redskins, while McKenzie is general manager of the Oakland Raiders.

And in the not too distant future, another Wolf might be making a name for himself in the NFL. That would be Eliot Wolf, Ron’s son.

The younger Wolf is now the director of football operations for the Packers after getting another promotion back in March. That promotion was the fourth for Eliot and his new position has the same title that Schneider, Dorsey and McKenzie held in Green Bay before they became NFL general managers.

When Eliot first joined the Packers in 2004 at age 22, he worked in the same department Thompson did when he was first hired. But even before then, Eliot had accumulated quite a resume.

Eliot first started working with his dad Ron unofficially at age 10, watching film. He then started working the NFL draft and has now been part of 24 consecutive drafts for the Packers. Eliot has also been to 24 consecutive NFL Scouting Combines.

In addition to that, Eliot had nine NFL scouting internships—five with the Packers, three with the Atlanta Falcons and one with the Seattle Seahawks.

Eliot basically grew up in Green Bay, as he was nine years old when his dad joined the Packers. Eliot graduated from Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay before going to Miami (Fla.) for college, where he graduated in just three-and-a-half years.

Eliot and Ron Wolf

Time will tell whether Eliot Wolf will become the next general manager for the Packers at some point, or whether that assignment will take place somewhere else.

If Eliot is anything like his father Ron, then he will go one to have a magnificent front office career in the NFL.

Yes, Ron Wolf had the innate ability to scout and acquire outstanding talent. Wolf also made excellent hires, both in the front office and also to the coaching staff of his teams for the most part.

After Holmgren left the Packers and joined the Seahawks, Wolf hired Ray Rhodes to replace him. After watching the Packers finish 8-8 under Rhodes in 1999, Wolf quickly realized that he erred in that particular hire and Mike Sherman was then hired as the new head coach in Green Bay.

Sherman didn’t take the Packers to another Super Bowl, but his teams were 57-39 during his tenure in Green Bay, which included three divisional titles and four playoff appearances.

Bottom line, Wolf brought a winning culture to every team he worked for. And winning is the name of the game in the NFL.

Which is why Ron Wolf has a bust in Canton.