Packers vs. Bears: Green Bay Can Jump Ahead in the Series for the First Time in 85 Years

Packers-Bears Helmets

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have been playing against each other since 1921 when the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association. Since the two teams have been battling each other, in a series which goes back almost 100 years, the teams are tied with 93 wins apiece, with six ties.

Just to show you how even this series has been, the Packers have scored 3,300 points in 192 games, while the Bears have scored 3,284.

When the Packers beat da Bears 30-27 last December at Soldier Field, Green Bay was able to even the series between the two clubs for the first time since 1933.

And with a win on Thursday night at Lambeau Field vs. Chicago, the Packers can hold an edge in the series for the first time since 1932, when they held an 11-10-4 mark over the Bears.

That’s 85 long years ago, folks. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was just elected to his first of four terms as President of the United States that year.

In terms of where each stands in NFL lore, the Packers have been in the NFL since 1921 and have won 13 NFL titles and four Super Bowls.

The Bears have been in the NFL since 1920 and have won nine NFL titles and one Super Bowl.

No team in NFL history has won more NFL championships than either the Packers or Bears.

Just looking back on the history between the two teams, it all started with George Halas (with the then Chicago Staleys) and Curly Lambeau. Each were founding members of their respective clubs, not to mention also being the head coach.

From 1921 through 1949, when the Packers and Lambeau took on the Bears and Halas, Green Bay went 18-32-4 in the regular season versus Chicago and also 0-1 in the postseason.

During that period, the Packers and Bears were considered the cream of the crop in the NFL, as Green Bay won six NFL titles, while Chicago won five.

When Vince Lombardi was the head coach and general manager of the Packers from 1959 through 1967, Green Bay won 13 of 18 games against Halas and the Bears. The Packers also won five NFL titles and two Super Bowls during that time, while the Bears won the 1963 NFL title.

The quarterback for the Packers in the Lombardi years was Bart Starr. No. 15 was 12-2 versus Chicago in that period.

Bart vs. da Bears

Jerry Kramer told me a great story about the game when Starr showed the Packers that he was truly the quarterback to lead the team under Lombardi. And the game was against the Bears.

“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.”

In terms of the overall series, the Packers fell behind the Bears mostly because of their play in three decades…the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. The Packers were just 39-79-2 in the ’50s, 57-82-5 in the ’70s and 65-84-3 in the ’80s.

The Bears really dominated the series when Mike Ditka was head coach of the Bears from 1982 through 1992, as the Bears won 13 of 18 games. Da Bears won Super Bowl XXV during that period.

The Packers have been able to tie the series with the Bears over the past quarter century thanks to the quarterback play of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have won two Super Bowls in that time, one with Favre leading the team (Super Bowl XXXI) and one with Rodgers leading the team (Super Bowl XLV).

Mike Holmgren was the head coach of the Packers when the team won Super Bowl XXXI, while current head coach Mike McCarthy was on the sideline when the Pack won Super Bowl XLV.

Favre was 22-10 versus the Bears in his career in Green Bay, while Rodgers has been even better than that. No. 12 is 14-4 against Chicago (plus is 1-0 in the NFC title game).

Rodgers has been magnificent for the most part when he plays the Bears. In the 18 regular season games he has played versus Chicago, No. 12 has thrown 38 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,417 yards.

Rodgers celebrates at Soldier Field

That adds up to a stellar career passer rating against the Bears of 105.7.

So far in three games in the 2017 NFL season, Rodgers has thrown six touchdown passes versus three interceptions for 967 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 93.1, which would be great for just about any other QB in the NFL, but not Rodgers.

Why? That mark is 10 points less than his career passer rating of 103.8, which just happens to be the best rating in NFL history.

But when it comes to playing the Bears, Rodgers always seems to be on his A game. Yes, there will be some issues with a very banged up offensive line playing in front of No. 12 on Thursday night.

But if history is a blueprint for the future, expect a big night for Rodgers on Thursday. The frosting on the cake would be a Green Bay victory which would put the Packers ahead in the series with the Bears for the first time since 1932.

That would be two years before Starr was born. 37 years before Favre was born. And 51 years before Rodgers was born.

Together, the three greatest quarterbacks in the history of the Packers have gone 48-16 versus the Bears.

A win on Thursday night would take that mark to 49-16 and Rodgers would improve his individual record to 15-4.

Expect that to happen.

Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson Has Changed His Modus Operandi in 2017

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy

Going into the 2017 NFL season, general manager Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers had built up a very solid track record in terms of doing his job. Especially since he hired head coach Mike McCarthy in 2006, a year after Thompson took over control of the front office.

Since that partnership took place, the Packers have had 115-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances (including eight straight currently), four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

For the most part during his tenure as GM, Thompson has utilized a a draft-and-develop program under the guidance of McCarthy and his coaching staff.

The Packers also were a team that retained a lot of their own core free agents and the team almost never cut a draft pick in the season they were selected.

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

When Thompson does sign a veteran free agent, he usually goes the route of signing a player who was released by his former team. Examples are defensive back Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders) in 2006, defensive lineman/linebacker Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) in 2014 and tight end Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams) last year.

Every one of those three examples turned out great for Thompson and the Packers, especially Woodson and Peppers.

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.

In addition to that, Woodson was also named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Plus, Woodson was named to four Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.

Peppers had a great three-year run with the Packers as well. Peppers had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions, which were both returned for touchdowns. The Packers were in the NFC championship game in two of the three years Peppers was a Packer.

Cook was also a good signing, even though his stay in Green Bay was only one year. Cook suffered an ankle injury early in the 2016 season, but once he returned to action in late November, the offense of the Packers became a force with his addition.

Also, in three games in the postseason, Cook had 18 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, as the Packers advanced to the NFC title game.

Thompson likes signing players who were released by their former teams because they won’t have an impact on the compensatory picks a team will receive in the NFL draft the following season.

Signing a free agent who wasn’t released by his team does factor into the compensatory picks equation. An example of signing a player like that was in 2006, when the Packers signed defensive lineman Ryan Pickett (St. Louis Rams), who had a nice eight-year run in Green Bay.

But things changed a bit for Thompson and the Packers in 2017. For one thing, the Packers lost a number of their own free agents. The list included Peppers, Cook, guard T.J. Lang, running back Eddie Lacy, offensive lineman JC Tretter, defensive back Micah Hyde and defensive lineman/linebacker Datone Jones.

The Packers also released Sam Shields, their top cornerback, due to concussion issues.

Thompson used both the draft and free agency to offset those losses. In free agency, Thompson shocked the football world by signing free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett after negotiations with Cook broke down.

The Packers signed Bennett to a three-year deal that will figure into the compensatory formula because he was hadn’t been released by the New England Patriots at the time of his signing.

But that signing will definitely be offset with all the losses the Packers had in free agency.

After signing Bennett, Thompson kept adding veteran players who were released by their former teams. This list included tight end Lance Kendricks (Los Angeles Rams), cornerback Davon House (Jacksonville Jaguars), Ricky Jean Francois (Washington Redskins and recently released by Green Bay), guard Jahri Evans (New Orleans Saints), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (San Francisco 49ers) and defensive lineman Quinton Dial (San Francisco 49ers).

That free agent group is by far the largest assortment of players that Thompson has ever signed in his tenure as GM with the Packers.

Bennett, House and Evans will all be starters, while Kendricks, Brooks and Dial figure to get more than ample playing time during the season.

In addition to the free agent news, the Packers also released three of their ten draft picks from 2017, which is almost unheard of under Thompson’s watch. Two of the three released players (wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey and offensive lineman Kofi Amichia) were signed to the practice squad however.

What does this all mean? It appears that Thompson realizes that the Packers have been knocking on the door of getting to the Super Bowl in two out of the last three years with teams which have been among the youngest in the NFL.

In 2017, he has added more of a veteran presence to the squad, which will hopefully help out at crunch time.

Aaron Rodgers and Martellus Bennett

Add to that, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 34 in December, and although No. 12 is still playing at an elite level, the Packers need to surround Rodgers with as many still-effective veterans on both offense and defense.

Thompson has tried to help that cause going into the 2017 season.

It’s still very early in the 2017 season, but the 17-9 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the season opener at Lambeau Field was a very positive start to the season.

In fact, Bennett made the game-clinching catch for 26 yards late in the game which allowed Rodgers to use the kneel down to run out the clock. No. 80 was also a very effective blocker during the game.

The Packers will need that type of performance by Bennett and the other veteran newcomers to the team throughout the course of the season and postseason. If so, the Packers will have a chance to do what Bennett did after Super Bowl LI when he was with the Patriots.

That is, hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis after Super Bowl LII.

A Scout’s Take on Undrafted Rookie WR Michael Clark of the Green Bay Packers (Practice Squad)

Michael Clark

If you attended the training camp of the Green Bay Packers this summer, you saw that one player certainly made a name for himself. I’m talking about undrafted wide receiver Michael Clark, who played his college football at Marshall.

Clark had a number of plays in camp that reminded some people of another NFL wide receiver out of Marshall…Randy Moss. Clark sometimes looked like a man among boys with some of his acrobatic catches, which highlighted his size and jumping ability.

Clark also had four catches this preseason for 34 yards and a touchdown.

But seeing that wide receiver is one of the deepest positions on the Packers, and also that the Packers selected two wide receivers in the 2017 draft, the odds of Clark making the final 53-man roster were somewhat slim.

In the end, Clark did not make the final roster, but he did find a spot on the 10-man practice squad. And if history is a blueprint for the future, things could get interesting for Clark and the Packers down the road.

Case in point, look at wide receiver Geronimo Allison. The former Fighting Illini star had a great training camp with the Packers in 2016, as he was also undrafted, but Allison missed out on getting on the 53-man roster.

But the Packers were able to keep Allison on their practice squad and then elevated him to the roster in late October last season. Allison then had 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season, plus had five receptions for 65 yards in the postseason.

Allison will be serving a one-game suspension in Week 1 of the 2017 season, but has established himself as the fourth wide receiver in the pecking order of the Packers, behind Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.

Allison and Clark have a couple of things in common. One is size. Allison goes 6’3″, 202 pounds, while Clark is even bigger, as he’s 6’6″, 217 pounds.

Both players are from the Tampa Bay area. Allison is from Tampa, while Clark is from St. Petersburg.

I wanted to get a good read on Clark, who only played one year of college football, by talking to NFL scout Chris Landry.

I had an opportunity to talk with Landry about Clark last week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, as we also talked about the Packers signing outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

I mentioned to Landry that Clark had shown real athleticism in training camp with his size and leaping ability, but still was a bit raw, due to his lack of experience, as he also played some college basketball. I also asked what type of future Clark has in the NFL.

“Well, you described him [Clark],” Landry said. “He’s very lanky. He can elevate. He’s got very good natural hands that can catch out of frame. Very raw as a route-runner.

“But he’s is certainly a guy who is going to make it and be a big slot and can play X. He’s really a good physical specimen with some ability.”

Clark now gets to practice and keep learning under the guidance of his wide receivers coach Luke Getsy, along with getting some tutelage from the veteran receivers on the team.

Clark and fifth-round draft pick DeAngelo Yancey were the only wide receivers that made the practice squad, as both seventh-round draft pick Malachi Dupre and Max McCaffrey did not.

McCaffrey had an exception training camp as well, and he ended up signing with the New Orleans Saints to join their practice squad.

Meanwhile, Clark has a great opportunity to shine in Green Bay down the road. He has the natural athleticism and size to be a force in the passing game, but needs to continue to get better in running routes and learning the nuances of playing wide receiver in the NFL.

Time will tell what will happen down the road with Clark and his future with the Packers, but this past training camp tells us that Clark can be a real weapon at some point fairly soon.