Starr, Favre and Rodgers Have Been Instrumental in the Packers Series Lead vs. the Bears

Bart, Brett and Aaron(1)

Before Brett Favre arrived in Green Bay in 1992, the series between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, which first started in 1921, was lopsided.

The Bears held a commanding 79-58-6 series lead over the Packers going into the 1992 season.

That was the record then, even with Vince Lombardi as head coach of the Packers, when he was going up against George Halas from 1959 through 1967. During his tenure, Lombardi’s Packers were 13-5 versus “Papa Bear” and da Bears.

The Packers also won five NFL championships under Lombardi, which included the first two Super Bowls. Halas and his Bears also won a NFL title in that era, as Chicago won it all in 1963.

The Lombardi era certainly helped the Packers to gain some ground in the series against the Bears.

The MVP of Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II was Bart Starr. Starr had some great moments against the Bears and was 12-3 against Chicago with Lombardi as his head coach. In all, No. 15 was 15-5 in his career versus da Bears as a starter.

And it was against the Bears that Starr showed Lombardi and his teammates in 1960 (when Starr was splitting time with Lamar McHan at QB) that he was the man to lead them to greatness at quarterback.

Jerry Kramer related that story to me in one of our many conversations.

“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.”

Bart vs. da Bears

In all, Starr was also the NFL MVP in 1966, plus was 94-57-6 as a starting quarterback with the Packers. In addition to that, No. 15 was an amazing 9-1 in the postseason, which included five NFL championships (including three titles in a row) and victories in the first two Super Bowls.

Still, before the arrival of Favre, the Packers chances of ever catching the Bears in their series seemed very remote. But in 16 years in Green Bay, Favre had a 22-10 record against Chicago.

Overall, Favre had a fantastic career in Green Bay, as he 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, plus Green Bay won the NFC Central/North seven times.

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.

And like it was with Starr, the Packers were regulars in the postseason under Favre, as the Packers went there 11 times under Favre.

The biggest prize of them all was the victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

Favre’s most memorable win against the Bears had to be on Halloween night at Soldier Field in 1994. That was the night that the Bears were retiring the jerseys of both Dick Butkus (No.51) and Gale Sayers (No. 40), plus both Green Bay and Chicago were wearing their throwback jerseys.

It was a scary night weather-wise, as the temperature was in the low 40s on a very windy and rainy night. It was raining sideways for awhile as a matter of fact. Favre didn’t have his best night throwing in those conditions, even with his strong arm, but he did throw for 82 yards and one touchdown, without throwing a pick.

It was Favre’s legs that made the difference in the game though, as he rushed for 58 yards on just two carries, including a memorable 36-yard touchdown scamper. The Packers as a team ran for 223 yards, which was very Lombardi-like.

But in his career, Favre always seemed to throw well against Chicago. In 1995, playing with a heavily-wrapped ankle, Favre threw five touchdown passes against the Bears in a 35-28 win at Lambeau Field.

In 1993 at Soldier Field, Favre threw for 402 yards, which was the first and only time he threw for 400 yards in his Green Bay career. It was also at Soldier Field in 1995, when Favre completed a 99-yard touchdown pass to Robert Brooks in a 27-24 victory.

Brett vs. da Bears

Aaron Rodgers took over for Favre in 2008 and he has truly been a Bear-killer, as he has a 16-4 record against Chicago in the regular season, plus beat da Bears at Soldier Field in the 2010 NFC title game.

The numbers that Rodgers has put up against Chicago have just been amazing. In 20 regular season games against the Bears, Rodgers has thrown 45 touchdown passes versus just nine interceptions for 4,882 yards. That adds up to a very robust passer rating of 108.3.

The first game of the 2018 season against Chicago on Sunday night at Lambeau Field added more to his legend against the Monsters of the Midway. In that game, Rodgers suffered a knee sprain that saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

But No. 12 returned in the second half, basically playing on one leg. And what a performance he put on! The Packers were down 20-3 , when Rodgers brought the Packers back.

Rodgers threw three touchdown passes without a pick in a stirring comeback as the Packers won 24-23.

As great as that game was for Rodgers, he has beaten the Bears in even more dramatic fashion.

Like in the season finale in 2013 at Soldier Field, when the winner of that game would be NFC North champs.

Rodgers had missed seven games due that year to a broken collarbone, which ironically occurred when the Packers played the Bears at Lambeau Field in Week 9.

In that game, Rodgers appeared to be a bit rusty due to his layoff, but No. 12 still threw for 315 yards with two touchdown passes versus two picks.

But the second touchdown he threw in that game was one that will live on in Green Bay lore. With 46 seconds to go in the game and with the Packers trailing the Bears 28-27, Rodgers and the Packers faced a fourth-and-8 scenario.

In the moment of truth, Rodgers first avoided being sacked by Julius Peppers by sprinting to his left and getting a chip-block by fullback John Kuhn. Rodgers then delivered a 48-yard touchdown pass on the move to wide receiver Randall Cobb, as the Packers won 33-28.

Rodgers to Cobb in 2013 vs. da Bears

In his career, Rodgers has followed in Favre’s footsteps quite well, as he is on his way to breaking some of the tremendous records that No. 4 set in Green Bay.

Rodgers is 98-55-1 as a starter, plus has thrown 336 touchdown passes versus just 79 picks for 42,202 yards. No QB in NFL history has ever thrown for a 4-1 ratio for TD passes vs. picks like Rodgers has. Add to that, Rodgers is the highest rated passer in NFL history, with a 103.4 mark.

Rodgers has also won the NFL MVP award twice (2011 and 2014).

And like Starr and Favre, Rodgers has led his team to the playoffs several times, as he has done it nine times, including eight seasons in a row.

In fact, like Starr did twice, Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, as the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25.

Rodgers can perhaps make it to the postseason for the 10th time this year, but the Packers will need to win their last three games of the year, starting with Sunday’s game against the Bears.

The Packers will also need some good fortune to get in if they do that, but the odds have gotten better as of late.

The Packers need the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins to lose one of their last three games to pass all three of those teams in the Wild Card race. That has a decent chance of happening, perhaps even this weekend.

The Eagles have to go out to Los Angeles to play the Rams, while the Panthers will host the New Orleans Saints and finally the Redskins have to travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.

If those three teams lose just one game, then the Packers would need one more set of odd circumstances to occur. They need the Minnesota Vikings to lose two out of their last three games.

The Vikings have lost three out of their last four games, with their lone victory coming against the Packers in Minneapolis. So, you just never know.

But all of that will be a moot point, unless the Packers can take care of the Bears.

The good news is that the Green Bay offense looked much more in rhythm last Sunday under new head coach Joe Philbin than it did under Mike McCarthy most of this season.

That needs to happen again this Sunday at Soldier Field, plus the defense and special teams need to do their jobs as well.

Bottom line, based on the track record of Rodgers against Chicago, I wouldn’t bet against No. 12 in pulling off another dramatic win.

What If the Green Bay Packers Had Not Hired Vince Lombardi?

Vince meeting Dominic to become the new head coach of the Packers

Vince Lombardi is greeted by the President of the Green Bay Packers, Dominic Olejniczak.

With the somewhat abrupt firing of head coach Mike McCarthy after his Green Bay Packers suffered a bad 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, I started to think about the some of the coaching hires that the Packers had made in the past, as Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst will now have to find another head coach.

I started specifically thinking about the coaching hires that brought NFL championships to Green Bay.

When Ron Wolf was brought in by Bob Harlan in 1991, he had total control and full authority as general manager to hire the next head coach after he had fired Lindy Infante after the ’91 season.

Initially, Wolf wanted to bring in Bill Parcells to be the head coach of the Packers, but because Parcells was going to have open-heart surgery, it was decided that the time was not right for that hire.

Wolf ended up hiring Mike Holmgren, who was definitely the hot NFL assistant coach prospect of his day because of his fine work with the San Francisco 49ers, as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

Holmgren had a great seven-year tenure with the Packers as head coach, which was helped by the fact that Wolf had traded away a first-round pick to get Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons.

In those seven years, the Packers were 75-37 in the regular season, made the playoffs six times, won three NFC Central titles, won two NFC championships and also Super Bowl XXXI.

Overall, Holmgren was 9-5 in the postseason.

Favre also won three consecutive NFL MVP awards under Holmgren from 1995 through 1997.

In 2006, after general manager Ted Thompson fired head coach Mike Sherman, he conducted several interviews with head coach candidates, including current NFL coaches Sean Payton and Ron Rivera, before finally settling on McCarthy.

Like Holmgren, McCarthy had a great run in Green Bay as head coach, both with Favre (for two years) and Aaron Rodgers as his quarterbacks.

In 12-plus seasons, McCarthy’s teams had a 125-77-2 record in the regular season. His teams made the playoff nine times, won six NFC North titles, played in four NFC title games and won Super Bowl XLV.

Overall, McCarthy was 10-8 in the postseason.

This brings me to the hiring of Vince Lombardi in 1959 by the Packers. David Maraniss wrote about the hiring process that the Packers went through that year in his fantastic book, When Pride Still Mattered.

The bottom line is that hiring Lombardi almost didn’t happen.

While the 1958 regular season was still ongoing and with Scooter McLean’s Packers having a 1-8-1 record, the first part of the 1959 NFL draft was held. In those days, the draft was staggered, with the early rounds done in late November or early December and the later rounds done in mid-to-late January.

This was done from 1956 through 1959. The draft was 30 rounds in those days.

There was speculation that the Packers were interested in bringing in Forest Evashevski, who had been very successful as the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

From 1952 through 1958, the Hawkeyes under Evashevski were 39-22-4 and had won two Big Ten titles and two Rose Bowls. And in 1958, the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) voted Iowa as the national champion.

The quarterback for that Iowa team was Randy Duncan. And guess who the Packers selected in the first round of the 1959 NFL draft as the first overall selection? You guessed it. It was Duncan. That really stoked up the talk that “Evy” was going to be the next head coach of the Packers.

But there was another fellow who was very interested in becoming the Packers new head coach. And this fellow knew all about the Packers, as he was one of the founders of the team and was their first head coach. Yes, I’m talking about Curly Lambeau.

Lambeau coached the Packers from 1921 to 1949, as the team won 209 games (a .656 winning percentage) and six NFL championships.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi on the cover of the Green Packers Packers Yearbook in 1965.

The newest Packer player to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jerry Kramer, saw Lambeau late in the 1958 season when the rumors about who might be the next coach of the Packers were really swirling.

“Before we played the Rams in Los Angeles in 1958 on the last game of the season, a bunch of us went out to dinner at the Rams Horn restaurant, which was owned by Don Paul, who used to play linebacker for the Rams,” Kramer said. “Our group included Paul [Hornung], Max [McGee] and Jimmy [Taylor].

“We noticed that Curly Lambeau was also at the restaurant. By then, the word have been circulating that Scooter McLean would soon be without a job as our head coach. So when Curly sat at our table, we asked him if he was interested in coming back to the Packers and being our next head coach. Curly said, ‘Hell yes!’ So we all figured that would end up happening.”

In fact, three days after the Packers lost to the Rams 34-20 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, McLean submitted his resignation to the Packers.

Soon after McLean’s resignation, as Maraniss noted in his book, Lambeau sent a wire to the Packers promoting himself to become general manager of the team, which would likely include also becoming head coach as well. At least based on what he told Kramer and the other Green Bay players in Los Angeles.

Lambeau even flew into Green Bay and met with Dominic Olejniczak, who was the president of the Packers board of directors.

But Lambeau had burnt too many bridges with the Packers executive committee, as I wrote about Lambeau’s time in Green Bay.

For instance, Lambeau ticked off members of the executive committee by purchasing the Rockwood Lodge north of Green Bay for $25,000 for the Packers to practice at from 1946 to 1949.

There were also a number of people who were not that enamored with Lambeau anyway, as he spent his offseasons in California. The word in Green Bay was that “Lambeau’s gone Hollywood”, especially among committee members.

Plus Lambeau’s teams weren’t exactly playing well either at the end of his tenure in Green Bay. The Packers went 3-9 in 1948 and then 2-10 in 1949.

Then after the Rockwood Lodge burned down on January 24, 1950, Lambeau resigned a week later to coach the Chicago Cardinals (later the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phoenix Cardinals and now the Arizona Cardinals).

The Cardinals were considered a very talented team when Lambeau arrived there. The Cardinals had won the NFL championship in 1947 and had played in the NFL title game in 1948, and next to the Chicago Bears, were clearly the next-biggest rival to the Packers at the time.

The only thing that could have made his departure worse, was if Lambeau had gone to the Bears to be their head coach.

The shining light of the Packers in the 1950s was super scout Jack Vainisi. That decade was the worst in Green Bay history, as the Packers were 32-74-2 heading into the 1959 season.

Still, Vainisi accumulated some fantastic talent for the Packers in the NFL draft, as he selected seven players who would eventually be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Vainisi also led the charge in getting Lombardi to come to Green Bay. He talked to coaches like Red Blaik, George Halas, Paul Brown and Sid Gillman, who all heartily endorsed Lombardi.

Vince and Jack

Vince Lombardi talks with Jack Vainisi.

It was Vainisi who convinced the Packers board of directors that Lombardi was the man they needed to hire.

And that’s what they did. The board named Lombardi not only head coach, but also general manager.

Lombardi had a .754 winning percentage in the regular season as head coach of the Packers, as the team had an 89-29-4 record over nine years.

But in the postseason, the Packers really shined under Lombardi, as the team went 9-1, as the team won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Would Evashevski or Lambeau had the same success? I mean, both were very successful coaches.

The answer is highly unlikely.

There is a reason why the Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi.

He was not only a great coach, but a great teacher, a great motivator and a great man.

Kramer said it best to me once.

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

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

“Those things are still helping me today.”