The 2020 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Could Add Another Green Bay Packer or More

hall of fame packer logo 2

Although it has to get final approval from it’s board in early August, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is definitely considering expanding it’s Centennial Class of 2020 as part of the NFL’s 100th-anniversary celebration.

Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker made the announcement earlier this month.

“It is extremely elite company, and it’s not the Hall of very, very good. It’s the Hall of Fame, and so it should be difficult to make it,” Baker said. “But there’s a lot of guys through the years (who deserve to be honored but have not). We have several guys who are on all-decade teams who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. And, so, this is an opportunity with the Centennial coming up. And what we’ve looked at potentially and has been approved, at least in concept, by our operating board, but we’re going to have to go through the full board, is that potentially we would have 20 Hall of Famers enshrined for the year 2020.

“Normally, (like) this year, we have eight. So, this would be quite a few guys (added). But it would be the five normal modern-era players elected from 15 finalists, and then 10 seniors, three contributors — like Gil (Brandt) — and two (coaches). But again, I want to stress that that’s got to be something that’s passed by our board at its meeting on Friday, Aug. 2.”

Most observers expect this proposal to pass.

So what does this mean from the perspective of the Green Bay Packers? To me, that means that the team has a chance to add even more members of the organization among the best of the best in Canton. Currently, the Packers have 25 individuals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a hallowed place. I was there in 2018 when Jerry Kramer finally received his rightful enshrinement in Canton. A number of members of Packer Nation were in Canton that weekend, including Glenn Aveni, who is filming a documentary about Jerry, while I am working on a book about No. 64.

Bob and Jerry at JK's party.

In 2020, Kramer has a chance to be joined by others who played in the town where the Fox River runs through it.

Adding 10 seniors in 2020 was spawned by the proposal of Rick Gosselin, who is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Hall of Fame. Actually, Gosselin wanted even more seniors added, due the backlog of deserving seniors who have fallen through the cracks through the years, but 10 is certainly better than just two or one per year, which has been the process recently.

Gosselin carries a big voice among Hall of Fame voters and when I told him that I would be writing a series of articles about former players from the Packers who I believe belong in Canton, Gosselin made a point of making sure I wrote about three of them.

Those players are Boyd Dowler, Ron Kramer and Gale Gillingham.

I also know that Gosselin is high on Lavvie Dilweg and Bobby Dillon.

I have also written about Packer seniors like Fuzzy Thurston and Don Chandler. Plus there are also former Packer players like Cecil Isbell and Verne Lewellen.

But with only 10 spots available among the group of seniors, I still think the Packers have an excellent chance of getting a least one player inducted, perhaps even two.

As Baker noted in his comments and as Gosselin has written about, there are a number of all-decade players not in Canton. You can also break that down even further, as there are nine first-team, all-decade players through the year 2000 that are not in the Hall of Fame.

Gosselin writes about seven of those players here.

One of those players is Dilweg, who was given that designation in the 1920s when he played under head coach Curly Lambeau, who incidentally also received that same honor as a player that decade.

Another is LeRoy Butler, who was First-Team, All-Decade in the 1990s, but is not considered a senior as of yet. If Butler is part of the Class of 2020, he would go in as a modern-era player.

In terms of getting some seniors in for the Packers in 2020, I believe the best bet after Dilweg is Dowler. No. 86 was also All-Decade in the 1960s (Second-Team), but in addition to that, Boyd was also one of 45 players on the NFL 50th anniversary team. Only Dowler and [Ron] Kramer have not been given busts in Canton from that 50th anniversary team.

Kramer would probably have been All-Decade in the 1960s had the team had more than one tight end.

Plus, Gillingham almost certainly would have been All-Decade at guard in the 1970s had not head coach Dan Devine ridiculously moved No. 68 to defensive tackle in which Gillingham suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the 1972 campaign. Most experts felt that Gillingham was the best right guard in the NFL when Devine made that colossal coaching blunder.

The Packers also have a chance to add another member of their organization into the Hall via the contributor category. To me, Jack Vainisi would be an excellent choice.

Vainisi was the super scout of the Packers from 1950 through 1960. In those years, Vainisi helped to select seven players for the Packers who would eventually get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Those players are Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer.

That number could go up to eight if Dowler is part of the Class of 2020.

Lavvie Dilweg(2)

Lavvie Dilweg and Boyd Dowler.

Bottom line, it was the scouting expertise of Vainisi which laid the foundation for the Packers to win five NFL titles (including the first two Super Bowls) in seven years under head coach Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.

I have always been an optimistic person. Add to that, I’m very passionate and persistent regarding my beliefs, especially when talking about former players on the Packers who deserve a bust in Canton.

That was my credo about getting Kramer into the Pro Football Hall of Fame going back almost 30 years ago. I first met Jerry in 1991 when he was at a golfing event prior to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa.

I showed Jerry a letter that I had written to Packer Report about why No. 64 deserved to be in Canton. Jerry was touched. Little did I know that I would actually be writing for Packer Report myself about a decade later at the beginning of my writing career. Since then, I have penned countless articles about why Kramer deserved a bust in Canton.

Then it really happened in 2018.

The biggest breakthroughs from my perspective of getting Kramer his rightful place in the Hall of Fame came from three different areas.

One was getting inside the process by developing a relationship with Gosselin. It was then when I learned how extremely difficult it was to get deserving seniors into Canton. The backlog of seniors who should already be in the Hall is a very difficult task to solve. Why? There are currently over 60 position players who were named on an all-decade team who still don’t have a bust in Canton.

That includes both Dilweg and Dowler.

I was also able to have a nice conversation with Baker about a year before Kramer was enshrined. I learned some very valuable insight from the President of the Hall of Fame during our chat.

Finally, I was also able to talk with Bart Starr Jr. about whether or not his father endorsed Kramer about getting a bust in Canton. I learned that there was no doubt that Bart Sr. wholeheartedly was an advocate for Kramer’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bob and Rick Gosselin

Bob Fox and Rick Gosselin. (Daniel Kramer photo)

And then that special moment came. The day of the enshrinement I went to party thrown by the Packers to honor Kramer. One of the first people I ran into was Gosselin. Rick asked me, “So, what are you going to do now?”

I told Gosselin that there were more deserving Packers who belong in Canton and that I was going to get behind them as well. I told Rick to expect more calls and notes from me over the next year. Which is exactly what has happened.

The optimist part of me tells me that the Packers could get two seniors in as part of the Class of 2020. I believe that Dilweg and Dowler are those two seniors. Dilweg has the better chance if only one Packer senior is named in 2020, but Dowler is also a strong possibility in my opinion.

That means the fight for Gillingham, [Ron] Kramer and the other players to get into Canton will have to continue on past 2020.

In terms of Vainisi and Butler, I’m sort of on the fence (50/50) with them in 2020. Now don’t get me wrong, both will eventually get into the Hall, but it may not be in the centennial year of the NFL.

The bottom line is the Packers have an excellent chance of having some representation in Canton for the 2020 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Green Bay Packers: Catching Up with No. 33, Jim Grabowski

Jim Grabowski vs. the Eagles

Jim Grabowski had some nice karma going for him when he played fullback for the University of Illinois from 1963 through 1965. Grabowski created some of the good fortune himself, due to his fabulous play with the Fighting Illini.

In 1963 as a sophomore, Grabowski rushed for 616 yards and seven touchdowns, plus capped a nice season by being named the 1964 Rose Bowl MVP, as Illinois beat Washington 17-7.

In 1964 and 1965, the Chicago native was named Associated Press All-American in both seasons, as he rushed for a combined 2,262 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Chicago Taft High School alumnus also caught 15 passes in his career at Illinois for 144 yards.

Grabowski finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1965.

Because of his exploits, Grabowski, who wore No. 31 at Illinois, now is in the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

That set things up quite nicely for Grabowski, as the NFL and AFL were still battling for the rights of the best college football talent before the two leagues finally merged in 1966.

Grabowski was drafted first overall in the AFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, who were about to start their expansion season.  Grabowski was also picked ninth overall in the first round of the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.

Grabowski explained to me how it felt to be in that enviable position.

“Yes, that was the last year of the competition between the two leagues,” Grabowski said. “It was wonderful for those players who were drafted then. Up until that time, everyone was sort of an indentured servant of the NFL.

“So I had an attorney who was my agent and our strategy was that we had to listen to both offers. Miami was a brand new team. For a little bit of trivia, the very first draft choice of the Miami Dolphins was me.

“But being drafted by the Packers was certainly a factor in their favor. I grew up in Chicago as a Bear fan and I was always aware of the Green Bay Packers. Plus on top of that, they had Vince Lombardi, the god of gods as head coach. That certainly weighed heavy in my decision.”

Grabowski told me how his contract was finalized with the Packers.

“The Packers sent a plane down to negotiate the contract with my agent and myself,” Grabowski said. ” The Packers wanted to fly us to Green Bay. As a kid then, I didn’t realize all this stuff about the best place to negotiate was on your home turf, not theirs.

“So they brought us up there and you have to remember I’m a 21 year-old kid who had not been around much and was happy to play for anything I could get. But my agent really insisted that we play this out. So he told me that no matter what Lombardi said, to not say anything except that we will get back to you.

“Well, we walk into Lombardi’s office and you see all these trophies, championships and pictures around the room. I remember walking into the office and it seemed like the biggest office that I had ever seen. We didn’t sit at his desk, we sat at what looked like a boardroom table. It was pretty impressive.

“So my agent told Lombardi that Miami offered us a wonderful contract. Coach Lombardi went right to the chase. He gave us a number and he said that only provision with that number was that he couldn’t give us anymore than anyone else.

“So he looked at me and said, ‘Son, what do you think?’ I couldn’t help but nod my head yes.”

Lombardi was going through another set of high-priced negotiations with halfback Donny Anderson of Texas Tech, who the Packers had drafted in the first round of the 1965 NFL draft as a future draft pick, which was allowed in those days.

The Packers were battling the Houston Oilers of the AFL for Anderson’s services.

In the end, Lombardi was able to snare both Grabowski and Anderson and the duo was known as the “Gold Dust Twins” because of the contracts they had signed.

Grabowski and Anderson replace Hornung and Taylor

The big deals that Grabowski and Anderson signed did not sit well with one player on the Packers. That would be fullback Jim Taylor. While Anderson received help and guidance from veterans Paul Hornung  and Elijah Pitts, Taylor did not do the same with Grabowski.

“Jimmy was a real competitor,” Grabowski said. “And he was ticked off about the contracts that were signed by Donny and I. And I understood that. Paul was more magnanimous with Donny and Elijah was one of the best guys on that team, as he was very helpful. Jimmy and I had very few words together.”

I know from talking with Jerry Kramer that he really enjoyed his time with Grabowski and Anderson and had no ill will about the contracts that had signed. As Jerry told me once, “Donny and Jim were at the right place at the right time when they came out of college.”

Another veteran on the Packers, Henry Jordan, said this to Grabowski. “I don’t give a crap how much money you make. If you help put a few more dollars in my pocket, I’m with you!”

In his rookie season with the Packers, Grabowski did not get a lot of playing time, as he rushed 127 yards on 29 carries (a 4.4  yards-per-carry average). The game in which Grabowski first received significant playing time was against the expansion Atlanta Falcons at County Stadium in Milwaukee. I happened to be in attendance at that game.

Grabowski led the Packers in rushing that day with 52 yards on just seven carries, as the Packers blew out the Falcons 56-3. It was after that game that Taylor told the media that he was playing out his option with the Packers. That announcement did not sit well with Lombardi.

The most memorable run that Grabowski had as a rookie occurred versus the Minnesota Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium. No. 33 bounced off two groups of tacklers as he scampered 36 yards for a score. All told, Grabowski rushed for 61 yards on just seven carries in the game which was won by the Pack 28-16.

Grabowski also had a big play in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl versus the Dallas Cowboys. He was assisted on that big play by Green Bay’s other No. 1 pick in the 1966 NFL draft, guard Gale Gillingham, who was the 13th pick of the first round by the Pack.

After the Packers had grabbed a 7-0 lead after scoring on the opening drive that championship game, on the ensuing kickoff, Gillingham forced a fumble by Mel Renfro, which was recovered by Grabowski and returned 18 yards for another touchdown.

Grabowski recalled that moment.

“Yes, I always got a lot of crap from Gilly because he was in on that tackle,” Grabowski said. “He told me, ‘I caused the fumble and you get the glory.’ I was at the right place at the right time. Plus in that game, the difference in the game was one touchdown.

“I was thrilled. I would like to say that it was a real athletic play, but the fumble came right into my hands and what else could I do?”

Jim Grabowski picks up fumble in 1966 NFL title game

The Packers won that title game 34-27, which set up a match up the first Super Bowl, when the Packers played the Kansas City Chiefs at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Packers took over the game in the second half and both Grabowski and Anderson got into the game late. Anderson rushed for 30 yards, while Grabowski ran for two, as the Packers won 35-10.

In 1967, both Taylor and Hornung were gone. The new starting backfield for the Packers that season was Grabowski at fullback and Pitts at halfback.

Grabowski got off to a great start that year, both running and catching the football. Against the Bears in Week 2, Grabowski ran for 111 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown, plus caught three passes for 26 more yards.

Grabowski remembered that game well.

“That was a real grinding game,” Grabowski said. “I had a couple carries that were called back. I ended up carrying the ball 36 times overall. I was pretty beat up after that.”

In Week 8, the Packers played the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium. No. 33 was having a great year, as he was third in the NFL in rushing at the time. At that point, Grabowski had 448 yards rushing and had two TDs, plus had caught 12 passes for 171 yards and another score.

But Grabowski and the Packers were struck a cruel blow in the game, as No. 33 went out with a knee injury, while Pitts was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The injury to Grabowski’s knee was a cartilage issue and he kept rehabbing and working to get back on the field. In fact, Grabowski was able to play in Week 11 against the Bears at Wrigley Field, as he rushed for 18 yards on four carries.

But that would be his last appearance for the Packers that season, even with his efforts to get back on the field. In fact, Grabowski was supposed to start the “Ice Bowl” game at fullback, before he re-injured the knee in pre-game workouts.

Grabowski recalled that moment.

“Yes, I was slated to start,” Grabowski said. “When I had the cartilage injury back then, and I can’t speak for what happens with an injury like that today, but then it just popped and tore everything up and the knee swelled up. So you tried to ice it up and take it easy. I hadn’t done much prior to the “Ice Bowl” for a few weeks, but I was able to practice that week. But before the game I was warming up and I was making a cut on a pass and the knee went out and I was done.”

A lot of people don’t realize that even with the injuries to Grabowski and Pitts that season, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967, as Anderson and Travis Williams filled in at halfback and Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein filled in at fullback.

Mercein was a huge factor in the “Ice Bowl”, as he was responsible for 34 of the 68 yards made on that game-winning, epic drive that the Packers made to win the game 21-17.

Mercein told me in one of our conversations that one of his proudest moments came after the game when Grabowski told him that he couldn’t have played any better at FB than Mercein did that day.

With the victory over the Cowboys, the Packers now had won their third straight NFL title and were about to win their second straight Super Bowl, as the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

In 1968, Grabowski was once again the starting FB for the Packers and he led the team in rushing with 518 yards and also had three rushing TDs. No. 33 also had 18 catches for 210 yards and another score.

That touchdown catch came in the last game of the season, as the Packers played the Bears and Grabowski’s old teammate at Illinois, Dick Butkus. Going into the game, the Packers were 5-7-1 and were out of playoff contention behind head coach Phil Bengtson, who had taken over for Lombardi that year, as Vince was GM only.

Chicago was 7-6 going into the game and a victory would give da Bears the NFL Central title. But after a Zeke Bratkowski injury, Don Horn came into the game at quarterback for the Packers and had a big game. No. 13 threw for 187 yards and two scores and had a passer rating of 142.4 in the game, as the Packers won 28-27.

One of those TD passes was to Grabowski for 67 yards.

Needless to say, Butkus wasn’t too happy when he shook hands with his old buddy Grabowski after the game.

Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski

The knee injury that Grabowski had suffered in 1967 continued to plague him throughout the rest of his NFL career. In 1969 and 1970 combined, Grabowski rushed for 471 yards and two scores, but people weren’t aware of all the health trauma that the 6’2″, 220-pound fullback was going through.

“What most people don’t know is that in the 1968 offseason that I had a staph infection and was in the hospital for over two weeks,” Grabowski said. “The recuperative part after that took several months. I lost thirty pounds. As I look back at it, the staph infection was a very serious thing and I could have died from it.

“I don’t really talk about this too much. Then the next year the staph infection returned. I was fighting a number of setbacks with my knee over the years. You get injured, then an infection and then another infection. I’m fortunate that I made it through all that.”

In 1971, Grabowski was in training camp with the Packers under new head coach Dan Devine.

Grabowski vividly remembers what happened next.

“I went through about six or seven weeks of camp under Devine and then I was extremely happy to get out of there,” Grabowski said. “Not because of anything to do with the players or the Packers, but I believe I’m in the majority of the people who I have talked to subsequent to those years about playing for Devine.

“Just when we broke up camp, Devine didn’t have the nerve to call me into his office. He cut me, but he made Red Cochran tell me. That’s how brave he was! I told Red that I couldn’t believe that Devine didn’t have the nerve to face me one on one.  I lost all respect for him then.”

Grabowski played with his hometown Bears in 1971 and rushed for 149 yards before he retired.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to continue to play after I was cut by the Packers, as I was basically running on one leg,” Grabowski said. “I was happy to play for the Bears. If you could have told a kid from Chicago that he was going to go on and play for the University of Illinois, then the Packers and end up playing for the Bears, you would say what a dream!”

After he retired from the NFL, Grabowski became a color commentator for Illinois football games and remained in that role for 26 years years before retiring in 2007.

I asked Grabowski what he was up to now.

“I’ve been retired for a number of years now,” Grabowski said. “An old friend of mine, Tom Boerwinkle, who was a center on the Chicago Bulls some years back, retired before I did and I asked Tom what it was like. And he said, ‘I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but I’m busy.’

“That has kind of been my motto. I have grandkids and I watch them do every sport that they are involved in. My wife and I stay busy. Spending time with friends and family and all that. We do a lot of traveling. We’re going to Alaska next month. We’ve been to a lot of places. I’m enjoying the fourth quarter.”

Finally, with the recent passing of Bart Starr, I had to ask Grabowski to share his thoughts about his old teammate.

“With Bart and I, it was like a general and a second lieutenant,” Grabowski said. “He was like Dwight D. Eisenhower and I was a guy with one bar on his helmet. He was the ultimate gentleman. Even in tough circumstances, he was going to treat you with kindness.

“He has always been like that. I felt a real loss when he passed. I knew he was sick and I had not talked with him since he first became sick, as I didn’t want to intrude upon his privacy. But I felt a real loss when I heard he was gone. He was the heart of the Packers. He was what it was all about.

“Thinking about him right now I’m sad that he in no longer with us. There was only one of those guys!”

Green Bay Packers: Catching Up With Carroll Dale

Carroll Dale vs. the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl

In the offseason preceding the 1965 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers made two very important acquisitions. Head coach Vince Lombardi, who was also the general manager of the team, first traded a draft pick to the New York Giants for kicker/punter Don Chandler and then also dealt linebacker Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Both Chandler and Dale were key contributors for the Packers from 1965 through 1967, when the team won three straight NFL championships, plus the first two Super Bowl games.

Dale recalled the moment he heard about the trade, as he talked with me earlier this week.

“I was working in Bristol, Tennessee for a sporting goods company,” Dale said. “I happened to be in a small town called Galax, Virginia staying at a motel. The local coach knew what motel I was staying in called me and said that my picture was in the Roanoke paper. I asked why. He said, ‘You’ve been traded to the Green Bay Packers.’

Dale knew that his fortunes were about to change, as the Rams had never had a winning season in the five years that he had played with Los Angeles, plus was 2-7-1 versus the Packers in that time.

“We were in the same conference as the Packers when I was with the Rams,” Dale said. “We played them twice a year and were very familiar with them. I was aware that the Packers had won the NFL championship in 1961 and 1962.”

With the Packers, Dale saw a couple of familiar faces who had gotten to know while he was with the Rams.

“It just so happened that (quarterback) Zeke Bratkowski and (offensive ends coach) Tom Fears had both preceded me to Green Bay,” Dale said. “I’m sure that they put in a good word for me with Coach Lombardi.

“It was like Christmas for me when I heard the news that I was traded. I grew up in a small town and with Green Bay being the smallest town in the league, it was right down my alley.

“But because the Packers were winners and a contenders is really what counted most. I was thrilled with the opportunity.”

Dale started his NFL career in 1960 with the Rams, after being drafted out of Virginia Tech, where he was an All-American receiver and where the school has retired his No. 84 number.

From 1960 through 1964, Dale, who went 6’2″ and 200 pounds when he played, caught 149 passes for 2,663 yards (a 17.9 yards per catch average) and 17 touchdowns for the Rams.

Lombardi made the trade to acquire Dale because wide receiver Max McGee was aging and also to give quarterback Bart Starr a deep threat in the passing game.

“You know, back then in the league, when a receiver got to be 33 or 34, your career was close to being over because of your legs,” Dale said. “That was kind of the thinking until guys like Jerry Rice proved them wrong.

“The thinking was that Max had hit that age, plus the Packers had also drafted Bob Long in 1964. So in ’65, because Boyd (6’5″, 225) and Max (6’3”, 220) were bigger guys and better blockers, they played X end or split end, while Bob and I played flanker. Still, we all knew each other’s assignments in case someone got hurt.

“In terms of starting, I pulled a muscle in the front of my leg in an exhibition game. It wasn’t as bad as a hamstring pull, but you really couldn’t stride. So for a game or two I didn’t start. But then we played Detroit that year, and either Boyd or Max was hurt and I was healthy then, so I played at X end.

“I had one of my better games while I was in Green Bay against the Lions and caught a 77-yard touchdown or something and made some key blocks. So after the game on the plane ride to Green Bay,  Coach Lombardi came up to me and told me I had my starting job back. I pretty much started at flanker the rest of my career in Green Bay.”

Lombardi and Dale celebrate after beating Colts in 1966

The 1965 season was a turning point for the Packers in terms of getting back to championship-style play. It certainly was for right guard Jerry Kramer, who was trying to come back after missing most of the 1964 season due to intestinal issues.

Kramer had nine medical procedures to resolve the situation, which included removing 16 inches of Kramer’s colon due to a boyhood accident in which a number of large slivers were in his intestine for 11 years.

But thanks to hard work and the assistance of Chandler during training camp, Kramer earned his starting job back at right guard, which happened ironically in the same Detroit game in which Dale got his job back.

The ’65 season started out well enough for the Packers, as they won their first six games of the season. But in the middle of the season, the offense sputtered, as the team scored just 36 points in four games.

But thanks to the fabulous defense by the Packers, the team went 2-2 in those four games. Still, when it was all said and done, the Packers were ranked 12th in total offense for the year. Fortunately, the defense was ranked 3rd, which is a big reason why the Packers finished 10-3-1 and tied the Baltimore Colts for the Western Conference crown.

For the first time since 1959, fullback Jim Taylor did not run for over 1,000 yards. Starr spread the ball around in the passing game, as Dowler led the team with 44 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, while Dale added 20 receptions for 382 yards and two scores.

Dale came up big in the postseason however. In the Western Conference title game at Lambeau Field versus the Colts, No. 84 had three catches for 63 yards, one which set up the game-winning field goal by Chandler in OT, as the Packers won 13-10.

Dale caught all three passes from Bratkowski, as Starr injured his ribs on the very first play from scrimmage trying to make a tackle after Don Shinnick recovered a fumble by tight end Bill Anderson and scored a touchdown.

I also talked to Bratkowski this week and he gave me his thoughts on Dale.

“I knew Carroll when I was with the Rams,” Bratkowski said. “I knew the quality receiver that he was, as well the quality of person he was.  He was the leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He helped to bring the speakers in.

“Carroll was a hard working, smart football player. He was very humble. Carroll was not selfish at all. He also loved to hunt. He and I would go hunting west of town to hunt grouse on Mondays.

“I can’t say enough positive things about him because he was such a great team player.”

Carroll Dale II

In the 1965 NFL title game also at Lambeau Field versus the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns, Starr was able to return and once again Dale came up big.

Dale caught two passes for 60 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown. Dowler also caught five passes for 59 yards, but it was the Green Bay ground game that dominated the contest.

Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung combined for 201 yards toting the rock and No. 5 scored the last touchdown of the game as the Packers won their third NFL title under Lombardi 23-12.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Dowler this week and he talked about the arrival of Dale from the Rams prior to the ’65 season.

“When Carroll came over, I think everybody figured that he came into replace Max,” Dowler said. “Max was pretty old at the time. But Max played pretty good for a long, long time. But when Carroll came in, he got most of the playing time over Max.

“But later in the ’65 season, Coach Lombardi wanted to get Max in the game because we weren’t getting a lot of production from Marvin [Fleming]. And that’s no knock on Marvin, because he was a wonderful blocker, but not much of a receiving threat.

“So what Coach Lombardi did was put me at the tight end position, because I used to run plays from the next week’s opposing team at practice and I would be John Mackey from the Colts or Mike Ditka from the Bears.

“Coach Lombardi asked me late in the year if I wanted to play the tight end position on passing plays so we could put Max in my old spot outside. I told him that I would love it. The very first time we tried that maneuver against the Colts, I caught a third down pass for a first down and then later a touchdown pass from the tight end position. We did that quite often for the next four years at times, but it isn’t talked about a lot.”

Dowler then talked about what Dale brought to the team as a receiver.

“Max and I were kind of the same type of guy,” Dowler said. “We were big and maybe a little stronger and maneuverable over the middle of the field.  Carroll was outstanding running full speed down the field and looking back for the ball.  I believe Carroll’s average yards per catch is close to 20 yards a catch. Maybe 19.8.”

Dowler has a magnificent memory, as Dale’s yards per catch average is actually 19.72 yards per catch, which is best in the history of the Packers. That tells you a lot with receivers like Don Hutson and James Lofton also playing with the Packers during their Pro Football Hall of Fame careers.

Dowler continued.

“Carroll gave us more of a long ball threat than Max and I,” Dowler said. “Carroll was special. He ran under the ball and was natural at finding the football on deep passes. He had a natural and smooth stride when he ran.”

In 1966, Dale led the Packer receivers in catches with 37 for 876 yards (23.7 average) and seven touchdowns. Starr was also the NFL MVP that year, as the passing game became a bigger emphasis on offense for the Packers, as the team finished 12-2.

Later that year, when the Packers made it to the NFL championship game again versus the Dallas Cowboys at the Cotton  Bowl, Dale showed off the deep threat attributes that Dowler was talking about, when he caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Starr as the Packers won 34-27.

After the victory over the Cowboys, the Packers would be facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Packers won 35-10, as Starr was the game’s MVP and it was McGee who had the huge game at receiver taking over for an injured Dowler.

While No. 85 had seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, Dale also chipped in with four catches for 59 yards. Dale also had a touchdown pass taken off the board after a phantom illegal motion penalty was called.

Carroll Dale in Super Bowl I

“Yes, the TD was for 60-plus yards and was fairly early in the game,” Dale said. “They called motion, but when we looked at the film, we couldn’t see anyone who moved. Maybe they were trying to keep the game close.”

In 1967, the Packers did what had never been done before or never been done since. That is win three straight NFL titles in the playoff era which started in 1933.

But what a difficult ride it was. The ’67 Packers were a team without Taylor and Hornung for the first time. Plus, the guys who replaced them, fullback Jim Grabowski and halfback Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the season in the same game against Baltimore midway through the season.

Starr was also nicked up at the beginning of the year, as Bratkowski had to start at QB in both the fourth and fifth games of the season.

In addition to that, the Packers had two heartbreaking losses on the road to both the Colts and the Rams in the final seconds of those games.

Still, the Packers persevered. Two weeks after losing to the Rams in Los Angeles, the Packers met the Rams again in Milwaukee for the Western Conference title. After a bit of a slow start, Green Bay dominated, as the final score was 28-7.

Dale caught a postseason touchdown pass for the third consecutive year, as he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Starr, plus almost had another as he was tackled just short of the end zone on a 48-yard pass reception. All in all, Dale had six catches for 109 yards and a score in the game.

Eight days later came the “Ice Bowl” game versus the Cowboys at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

The game came down to an epic drive by the Packers, as they had to drive 68 yards in 4:50 across a frozen field which resembled an ice skating rink trailing 17-14.

The Packers got off to a quick start in the game, as they went ahead on two Starr touchdown passes to Dowler. But a 14-0 lead was turned into a 17-14 deficit after a Dan Reeves option pass to Lance Rentzel on the first play of the 4th quarter.

But the Packers were able to put together the signature drive of the Lombardi era, as Starr was able to sneak behind a classic block by Kramer on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to score the game-winning touchdown.

In the game, Dale had three catches for 44 yards.

The Packers then went on to win Super Bowl II 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Starr was once again MVP of the game. Dowler had two catches for 71 yards and a score, while Dale had four receptions for 43 yards.

McGee wasn’t quite as dynamic in Super Bowl II as he was in Super Bowl I, but he did make a fabulous 35-yard catch on a play-action pass from Starr.

Which was apropos for the Packers under Lombardi. On countless occasions, Starr completed big passing plays on third and short when the defense was expecting a run from the Green Bay vaunted running game.

Dale explained.

“Coach Lombardi had a philosophy of taking what the defense gave us,” Dale said. “If the defense loaded up the box on a third and short, Bart had a knack for taking advantage of that with a play-action pass for big yardage or even a touchdown.

“If you look at our games, we took what they gave us. I might have a game where I catch five or six passes and score a couple of touchdowns and they might double cover me the next week. And under Lombardi, you never threw to a double covered receiver, otherwise Coach would go nuts.

“That was our philosophy. Just take a look at Super Bowl I or the “Ice Bowl”, you see Bart call the play-action 36 post play and it almost always worked. That was a great play. It just held everybody for a second when they saw the blocking coming.”

Carroll Dale in the Ice Bowl

After the 1967 season, McGee retired and Dale went on to be named to three straight Pro Bowl squads from 1968 through 1970.

Dale stayed on with the Packers through the 1972 season, when Green Bay won the NFC Central title under head coach and general manager Dan Devine. Dale was one of three starters remaining from the Lombardi era teams, along with center Ken Bowman and outside linebacker Dave Robinson. There was also middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, but he was a backup to Jim Carter.

Dale talked about that ’72 team.

“Well, at least we got into the playoffs,” Dale said. “And as I mentioned earlier, Coach Lombardi would always take what they gave you, but that wasn’t the case under Coach Devine when we played the Washington Redskins in the playoffs.

“We went into Washington with a game plan that never changed. They put eight in the box and even though we had two great running backs, the ground game never got going. Eight people can outplay six or seven. I tried to get them to change things up, but nothing changed.”

I also heard from some very good sources that Bart Starr, who was the quarterbacks coach under Devine, also tried to get Devine to change things up and pass more. But it never happened and the Packers lost 16-3, as the Redskins completely shut down the Green Bay running attack.

Devine told Dale that he wanted him to return to the Packers in 1973 and continue to be a veteran leader, but Dale was ultimately cut from the team by Devine and was soon picked up by Bud Grant and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings went on to Super Bowl VIII, but lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-7.

Dale retired after the 1973 season and what a career he had. Overall, with the Rams, Packers and Vikings, Dale had 438 receptions for 8,277 yards (18.9 average) and 52 touchdowns. In Green Bay alone, Dale had 275 catches for 5,422 yards (19.7 average) and 35 TDs.

Because of his great production on the field, Dale was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1979.

The honors didn’t end there either for Dale. He is also in Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Looking back on the legacy he has left behind, especially about his time in Green Bay, Dale is certainly thankful.

“Well, it was a great time for me in Green Bay,” Dale said. “It was like having your first car or first bicycle. Winning that first championship in ’65 after all the losing in Los Angeles was fantastic.

“Just being part of that team was just awesome. And also to win three NFL championships in a row was really something. The memories of my time in Green Bay are truly unforgettable!”

Green Bay Packers: Why Gale Gillingham Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Gale Gillingham II

The Green Bay Packers were very fortunate to have two of the best guards in the NFL from 1959 through 1966 when left guard Fuzzy Thurston and right guard Jerry Kramer were a dominant blocking duo.

Especially on the signature play of the Packers and their head coach Vince Lombardi, the power sweep.

Both Kramer and Thurston were honored due to their outstanding play. Back in the day when No. 64 and No. 63 played, awards were given out by a number of media outlets. This included The Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and The New York Daily News (NY).

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro at right guard in 1960 (AP), 1962 (AP, NEA and UPI), 1963 (AP, NEA, UPI and NY), 1966 (AP, UPI, FW and NY) and 1967 (AP, UPI and NY), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1961 (NY) and 1968 (AP).

Thurston was first-team All-Pro at left guard in both 1961 (AP, UPI, NEA and NY) and 1962 (UPI), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1963 (UPI), 1964 (NY) and 1966 (NY).

That’s a combined 12 All-Pro honors. Seven for Kramer and five for Thurston.

But even with the award-winning play, Kramer only went to three Pro Bowls, while Thurston never went to a single one. That seems quite odd and perplexing to me.

Kramer was also honored by being put on the 1960s All-Decade team, plus was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team (the only guard on the first team).

That all led to Kramer being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

The Packers were also very fortunate that they had another talented guard available to take Thurston’s place when No. 63 injured a knee in training camp in 1967.

That player was Gale Gillingham, who was a second-year player out of the University of Minnesota. Gillingham, along with fullback Jim Grabowski, were taken in the first round of the 1966 NFL draft.

Those two rookies played a big role in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl when the Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys. After the Packers had grabbed a 7-0 lead after scoring on the opening drive, on the ensuing kickoff, Gillingham forced a fumble by Mel Renfro, which was recovered by Grabowski and returned 18 yards for another touchdown.

After Thurston’s knee injury in training camp in 1967, Kramer soon learned that he was not going to be the fastest offensive lineman on the Packers any more.

“After we did some sprints for awhile, I told Forrest Gregg to forget about trying to beat Gilly,” Kramer said. “The kid could really move, plus he was strong as an ox.”

It was soon apparent that Gillingham was not going to relinquish the left guard spot that was held by Thurston for so many years.

Did Thurston sulk about that situation? Hell no.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer said. “He coached Gilly. They sat together in every film session. Fuzzy gave him the benefit of everything he had learned about the defensive tackle that Gilly would be facing that given week.

“Fuzzy told Gilly what he liked to do against that tackle and told Gilly that he should think about doing the same thing. Basically, Fuzzy was Gilly’s personal coach.”

Gilly had a nice season in 1967, as the Packers won their third straight NFL championship, plus won their second straight Super Bowl as well.

That team overcame a lot to become champions. The Packers did not have either fullback Jim Taylor or halfback Paul Hornung in in 1967. Add to that, their replacements, Grabowski and Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the year due to injuries midway through the season.

Even with that, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967. The play of No. 68 certainly helped that situation.

The 1967 season was also the last year Vince Lombardi coached the Packers.

Gilly blocks Dick Butkus

It was also the last time Gillingham would play for a head coach in Green Bay  with a winning record.

Gilly played eight more years in Green Bay, and only twice did he play on a winning team. That happened in 1969 (8-6) and 1972 (10-4). No. 68 missed most of the 1972 season because of a knee injury. More on that scenario later in the story.

While all that losing was going on, Gillingham still played at an elite level. Just like the era when Kramer and Thurston played in, there were multiple media outlets in which awards were given to positional players in the NFL.

Gilly racked in a lot of hardware from those outlets.

Gillingham was named first-team All-Pro in 1969 (AP and NEA), 1970 (AP and NEA), 1971 (NEA), 1973 (Pro Football Writers) and 1974 (NEA).

Gilly was also named second-team in 1968 (NEA and UPI), 1969 (Hall of Fame, NY and UPI), 1970 (Pro Football Writers) and 1971 (Pro Football Writers).

If you add those numbers up, that’s five first-team All-Pro designations for Gillingham, as well as four second-team All-Pro honors. That’s a total of nine.

There should have been more. You may have noticed that Gilly did not get any awards after the 1972 season, which was No. 68’s second under Dan Devine.

Gillingham was considered one of the best right guards in the NFL going into the 1972 season. He had been named All-Pro four straight years, plus had gone to three straight Pro Bowls (went to five overall).

It was at this point that Devine made one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever in the head coaching history of the Packers. He decided to move Gillingham to defensive tackle. Huh?

Now Gillingham had played some defensive tackle at the University of Minnesota, but he was also a truly elite right guard in the NFL at the time of Devine’s decision. That determination by Devine made no sense to me. Then and now.

Plus, just two games into the season, No. 68 hurt his knee and was lost for the season.

I talked to Kramer about Devine’s decision to move Gilly to defense. No 64. was pretty blunt in his assessment.

“That was stupid,” Kramer said. “That really was a stupid move. That’s the only thing I can say about that. It just boggles your mind taking a kid of that caliber and quality and then move him to a whole new position. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Plus, there is this. That season the Packers were lead by second-year quarterback Scott Hunter. Because of that, the team would have to to depend on the running game to be successful on offense.

John Brockington and MacArthur Lane combined for almost 2,000 years rushing that season, but just imagine their amount of success with Gillingham at right guard. In fact, the Packers were ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing in 1972. If Gilly was playing right guard as he should have been, I could see the Packers being in the top five in rushing, maybe even top three.

Devine came to his senses in 1973 and put Gillingham back at right guard, where he again accumulated awards.

But the losing and the coaching decisions began to wear on Gillingham.

Gillingham talked about that situation in an article written by Martin Hendricks of Packer Plus in August of 2011.

“I had no faith in the line coach and didn’t fit into the system,” Gillingham said. said. “I wanted to be traded.”

No. 68 was talking about the 1975 season in which he sat out the season due to differences with offensive line coach Leon McLaughlin.

Plus, there was the losing.

“The losing killed me,” said Gillingham. “I was burned out and beat up both mentally and physically.”

Tragically, just a few months after the article in Packer Plus was written, Gillingham died of a heart attack at his home in Minnesota while lifting weights. Gilly was just 67 years-old.

Gillingham was inducted in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1982.

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I believe Gillingham belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Had not Devine moved Gilly to defense in 1972, I’m sure Gilly would have put together another All-Pro season at right guard.

He also could have experienced winning again first hand, not to mention leading a dominant ground game.

I also believe that Gilly would have had a very good chance to be on the 1970s All-Decade team at guard had he been able to play there in 1972.

Being a member of an All-Decade team usually leads to a bust in Canton in most cases.

Rick Gosselin, who is a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and who also heads the Seniors Selection Committee, sent a note to me a couple weeks back about who to include in my series of articles about other worthy individuals on the Packers who deserve placement in Canton.

Gosselin told me to make sure that Ron Kramer, Boyd Dowler and Gillingham were included in my articles.

Gosselin has put forward an amnesty proposal to David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) to implement on the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

The proposal calls for at least 10 deserving seniors to be inducted on the centennial of the league. Based on my recent discussion with Gosselin, it sounds like he will be able to get 10 seniors in.

That would be awesome news!

As would hearing that Gale Gillingham would be among those ten great NFL players who will finally get their due in Canton.

Green Bay Packers: Remembering Travis Williams, aka ‘The Roadrunner’

Travis Williams Kickoff Return TD vs. Rams in LA

I was reading a story today by Rick Gosselin of the Talk of Fame Sports Network in which he names his all-time NFL special teams unit.

Now nobody studies NFL special teams units like Gosselin does. Since 1980, Gosselin has studied and ranked all the special teams units in the NFL. That has gone on now for 38 years and his rankings are must-read material.

Back in 1980, Gosselin was covering the Kansas City Chiefs. The special teams coach of the Chiefs then was Frank Gansz. It was by talking with Gansz that Gosselin learned the formula about how to rank special teams units.

Before I read the story on his all-time team, I was wondering if Travis Williams of the Green Bay Packers and later the Los Angeles Rams was on Gosselin’s 53-man unit. It turns out that he wasn’t, as the returners which Gosselin has on his team are certainly worthy of getting that honor.

The three kickoff returners Gosselin has on his team are Gale Sayers, Josh Cribbs and Mel Gray. The three punt returners are Devin Hester, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and Rick Upchurch.

Everyone of those players were consistently very good at returning kicks throughout their NFL careers, as opposed to Williams, who made a name for himself in 1967, which also happened to be his rookie year in the NFL.

In that season, Williams returned 18 kickoffs for 739 yards, which averages out to 41.1 yards-per-return, which is still a NFL record. No. 23 returned four of those 18 kicks for touchdowns and almost had a fifth against the Chicago Bears.

Travis Wiliams

Williams was never able to replicate that performance again on a consistent basis, but he did score again on returns on two occasions for the Packers in 1969, when he returned a punt for 83 yards and another kickoff for 96 yards.

Also, in 1971 when he was a member of the Rams, Williams returned another kickoff for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Besides flashing outstanding ability as a kick returner, Williams also showed that he could be a game-changer when he played running back.

Never was that more true than in the 1967 Western Conference title game, when the Packers played the Rams at Milwaukee County Stadium. The “Roadrunner” was the star of the game for the Packers.

No. 23 didn’t return a kickoff for a score, but he did rush for two touchdowns and had 88 yards rushing.

Right guard Jerry Kramer talked to me about that first TD run by Williams.

“I remember blocking on Merlin [Olsen] very vividly on one play,” Kramer said. “It’s still crystal clear in my mind. Travis is going outside right on the play. And I’m blocking on Merlin and I’m trying to get outside position on him. And he’s starting to move and I’m chasing him.

“All of a sudden, I see Travis about even with us, but near the sideline and I knew that he was gone.”

Gone he was, as Williams scampered 46 yards for a score.

The 1967 season was a special one for the Packers, as the team won it’s third straight NFL championship under head coach Vince Lombardi. That feat has never been duplicated either. That season was also the last year the Packers were coached by Lombardi.

The Packers also won their second straight Super Bowl that season, which was an outstanding feat based on all the injuries the team had that season.

In 1966, quarterback Bart Starr was the NFL MVP. But for the first part of the 1967 season, Starr was affected by a number of injuries which forced him to miss two games.

In addition to that, when the season started, the Packers no longer had halfback Paul Hornung or fullback Jim Taylor as starters in the backfield. That combination was considered to be the best in the NFL for several seasons.

Hornung was claimed by the expansion New Orleans Saints when Lombardi had put him on the Green Bay expansion list. No. 5 never played with the Saints however, as he was forced to retire due to a neck/shoulder injury.

Taylor did play for the Saints that season, as he played out his option in the 1966 season and signed with the Saints in 1967.

With Hornung and Taylor no longer available, Lombardi made Elijah Pitts his starting halfback and Jim Grabowski his starting fullback. Both were having solid seasons when in Week 8 of the 1967 season against the Baltimore Colts, both Pitts and Grabowski were lost for the season with injuries.

Lombardi then added fullback Chuck Mercein to the team via waivers and Green Bay now had a one-two punch at both halfback and fullback throughout the rest of the 1967 season.

Donny Anderson and Williams shared time at halfback, while Mercein and Ben Wilson shared duties at fullback.

The result? The Packers finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967.

Travis Williams in the Ice Bowl

When the postseason came around, Lombardi utilized all of his backs, depending on the opponents.

Against the Rams, Lombardi primarily played Williams at halfback and Mercein at fullback. Against the Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl”, Anderson played primarily at halfback, while Mercein received most of the playing time at fullback.

But in Super Bowl II versus the Oakland Raiders, Anderson again was in most of the time at halfback, while Wilson got the start at fullback that game and led the Packers in rushing that day with 65 yards.

In 1967, Williams was part of a rookie class, which included Bob Hyland and Don Horn. I wrote a piece about that class a little over a year ago.

Williams first showed his kickoff return prowess in Week 7 of the 1967 season, when he returned a kick for 93 yards and a score against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

At the time of that kickoff return, the Packers were trailing the Cardinals 23-17 in the fourth quarter. The Packers ended up winning that game 31-23.

Two weeks later against the Cleveland Browns at Milwaukee County Stadium, Williams really put himself on the NFL map. Williams returned two kickoffs for touchdowns that day in the first quarter. The first was 87 yards and the second one was 85 yards. If that wasn’t enough, the “Roadrunner” rushed for 43 yards in just four carries in the game.

Williams returned his fourth kickoff return for a touchdown against the Rams in Week 13 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for 104 yards.

As a running back in the 1967 regular season, Williams rushed for 188 yards (5.4 yards-per-carry average) and one score, while he caught five passes for 80 yards (16 yard average) and another score.

In the postseason, Williams rushed for 137 yards (4.6 average) and had two touchdowns (both against the Rams).

As it was, Williams only showed glimpses of what he did in 1967 throughout the rest of his career in Green Bay and in the NFL.

In 1968, Williams only had a 21.4 average in returning kicks (no touchdowns) and only rushed for 63 yards the entire season.

In 1969, Williams appeared to have bounced back in fine fashion, as he had two return touchdowns and also rushed for 536 yards (4.2 average) and four scores. No. 23 also caught 27 passes for 275 yards and three more touchdowns.

But in 1970, Williams again regressed, as he had just 276 yards rushing (3.7 average) and one touchdown, plus caught just 12 passes, one of which was a score.

In 1971, new head coach and general manager Dan Devine traded Williams to the Rams, where “The Roadrunner” had his last season in the NFL because of a knee injury.

Sadly, Williams died at the young age of 45 in 1991 of heart failure after a long illness. Williams had dealt with homelessness, poverty and alcohol for a number of years leading up to his death.

Williams had battled depression due to the deaths of his wife, mother and sister in 1985.

It was a tragic end to the life of Williams, who had been the brightest of lights for the Packers in the glorious season of 1967.

It was in that season when the “Roadrunner” set a kickoff return record which has yet to be broken. That didn’t get Williams on Gosselin’s all-time NFL special teams unit, but I certainly believe that Williams deserves honorable mention for his kick returning skills.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Gale Gillingham

gilly-leading-the-way-in-super-bowl

Left guard Gale Gillingham (No. 68) leads the way for Donny Anderson (No. 44) in Super Bowl II vs. the Oakland Raiders.

From 1959 through 1966, the Green Bay Packers had the best set of guards in the NFL with right guard Jerry Kramer and left guard Fuzzy Thurston leading the way.

Kramer was drafted by the Packers in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft, while Thurston was acquired in one of the first trades head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi ever made in 1959.

The duo of Kramer and Thurston became a very effective combination, especially blocking on the the signature play of the Packers…the power sweep.

Kramer and Thurston were recognized for their outstanding play as well.

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro in 1960 by The Associated Press. Thurston received that same honor in 1961 plus was named first-team All-Pro by UPI (United Press International) and NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association).

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro by AP, UPI and NEA in 1962, while Thurston was named first-team All-Pro by UPI and was also named second-team by AP that season.

In 1963, Kramer was named first-team All-Pro by AP, UPI, NEA and NY (New York Daily News), while Thurston was named second-team All-Pro by UPI.

In 1964, Kramer missed most of the season with an intestinal ailment which saw him undergo nine medical procedures before the situation was finally resolved.  Meanwhile, Thurston was named second-team All-Pro by NY.

In 1965, Kramer was able to get back in the starting lineup lineup after a few games after arduous rehab, while Thurston was also fighting some injury issues that year. Neither player was recognized for their play that season.

In 1966, Kramer was once again named first-team All-Pro by AP, UPI, NY and FW (Pro Football Writers Association), while Thurston was named second-team All-Pro by NY.

During that time, the Packers won four NFL titles and the very first Super Bowl.

Thurston loved to tell anyone who would listen, “There are two good reasons the Packers are world champions. Jerry Kramer is one of them, and you’re looking at the other one.”

But in 1967, Thurston hurt his knee in a scrimmage early in training camp and was replaced by a strapping young guard by the name of Gale Gillingham. The former Minnesota Gopher was in his second year with the Packers that season after being drafted in the first round of the 1966 NFL draft.

I talked with Kramer recently and he talked to me about Thurston and how he worked with Gillingham.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer said. “He coached Gilly. They sat together in every film session. Fuzzy gave him the benefit of everything he had learned about the defensive tackle that Gilly would be facing that given week.

“Fuzzy told Gilly what he liked to do against that tackle and told Gilly that he should think about doing the same thing. Basically, Fuzzy was Gilly’s personal coach.”

In the 1967 season, Kramer was named first-team All-Pro by AP, UPI and NY. Gillingham had taken over for Thurston and never looked back, as the Packers won their third straight NFL title, along with their second straight Super Bowl win.

gilly-blocks-dick-butkus

Gale Gillingham blocks Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears.

Kramer talked about how Gillingham fit in for the Packers that season.

“I really enjoyed Gilly,” Kramer said. “He was a good kid. He was a hard-working kid. He was not a smart ass and he listened to you. He was respectful and really was a wonderful kid.

“Gilly was also a hell of a ballplayer with great size and speed. I remember Forrest [Gregg] and I would always win our offensive line sprints all the time until Gilly became a starter. We just couldn’t beat Gilly in our races, even when we tried to cheat a little bit.

“Finally, Forrest looked at me one day and said, ‘We might as well give up Jerry. We ain’t going to beat him.’

By 1968, Thurston had retired and Kramer and Gillingham were the tandem at guard for the Packers. The Packers had a disappointing season, finishing 6-7-1, but Kramer was named second-team All-Pro by AP, while Gillingham was named second-team All-Pro by UPI and NEA.

After the 1968 season, Kramer had retired and Gillingham moved over to right guard. No. 68 became one of the best players at his position for the next several years.

In 1969 and 1970, Gillingham was named first-team All-Pro by both AP and NEA.

In 1971, Gillingham was named first-team All-Pro by NEA, which was also the first season that Dan Devine was the head coach of the Packers.

Speaking of Devine, a few months ago I wrote a story about his miscalculations at the quarterback position during his tenure in Green Bay.

As bad as those decisions were at quarterback by Devine, the worst decision he ever made was moving Gillingham to defensive tackle for the 1972 season.

It made very little sense. Yes, Gillingham had played a little defensive tackle in college for Minnesota, but at the time Devine made the move, Gilly was probably the best right guard in the NFL.

And because the team was lead by second-year quarterback Scott Hunter in 1972, the team would have to to depend on the running game to be successful on offense. John Brockington and MacArthur Lane combined for almost 2,000 years rushing that season, but just imagine their amount of success with Gillingham at right guard.

Instead, Gillingham injured his knee early in the ’72 season playing defensive tackle and would miss the rest of the campaign that year.

Kramer talked about that decision by Devine.

“That was stupid,” Kramer said. “That really was a stupid move. That’s the only thing I can say about that. It just boggles your mind taking a kid of that caliber and quality and then move him to a whole new position. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

By 1973, Devine’s thought-process became much clearer and he moved Gillingham back to right guard. Gillingham was named second-team All-Pro by FW that season and in 1974 was named first-team All-Pro by NEA.

Also in ’74, Gillingham was named to play in the Pro Bowl, which was the fifth time he had been named to that squad.

In 1975, which was Bart Starr’s first year as head coach of the Packers, Gillingham sat out the season, as he didn’t want to play under offensive line coach Leon McLaughlin.

Gillingham talked about that situation in an article written by Martin Hendricks of Packer Plus in August of 2011.

“I had no faith in the line coach and didn’t fit into the system,” Gillingham said. said. “I wanted to be traded.”

Gillingham did return to play in 1976 under McLaughlin and Starr, but after a 5-9 season, No. 68 decided that he was done playing football in the NFL and he retired.

The losses finally caught up with Gillingham. From 1968 through 1976, the Packers were just 54-67-5 with just two winning seasons.

“The losing killed me,” said Gillingham. “I was burned out and beat up both mentally and physically.”

Tragically, just a few months after the article by Hendricks was written, Gillingham died of a heart attack at his home in Minnesota while lifting weights. Gillingham was just 67 years-old.

Gillingham was inducted in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1982.

Anyone who has ever read my stories over the past decade or so, know that I have been a huge proponent of Kramer getting his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The same holds true about Gillingham.

Had Devine not made that colossal mistake of moving Gillingham to defensive tackle in 1972, there is no doubt that Gillingham would have received more All-Pro honors that season at guard and he may have eventually been named All-Decade in the 1970s at right guard.

Kramer received that same honor in the 1960s, plus in 1969 was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kramer is the only member of that prestigious team not in Canton.

Vincen And Jerry III

Gale Gillingham looks on in the background as Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg hoist head coach Vince Lombardi after winning Super Bowl II.

Kramer talked about what made Gillingham such a great offensive guard.

“He was a bright kid,” Kramer said. “He would listen. He would also learn quickly when you taught him something. Gilly had no arrogance about him and he wasn’t afraid to learn. He had the drive, the emotion, the push, the need, the want, the fire and the whole thing there.

“He had great size, strength and speed. Gilly had all the components. Plus, he was willing to learn, which made him an even better player. Gilly was also a very polite kid.

“Gilly fit in with Fuzzy and I like we were three brothers. We looked after him and he looked after us and it was just a wonderful relationship. There was an admiration and love for him, just like he was family.

“That kind of thing permeated on our team under Coach Lombardi with the players. You had that respect and love for the players because they would perform when it counted. Players like Gilly definitely made a positive impact on our team and he certainly played well when it was crunch time.”

Green Bay Packers: Dan Devine’s Quarterback Miscalculations

Dan Devine

When it comes to having great quarterbacks, Packer Nation has been pretty spoiled. Since 1992 up until today, the Packers have been led under center primarily by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

Starting in 1992, Favre had 160 wins over 16 seasons, with 96 of those wins occurring at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).

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

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

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

The big prize was the victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

Favre also had his No. 4 jersey retired by the Packers, plus was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

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

Rodgers has a 80-39 record as a starting quarterback and has led the Packers to four NFC North crowns.

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

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

Rodgers is also the highest rated passer in the history of the NFL with a 104.1 mark.

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

Then there was the Bart Starr era. In the 1960s under head coach Vince Lombardi, Starr led the Packers to five NFL titles in seven years, which includes the first two Super Bowls.

Starr was NFL MVP in 1966, plus was also the MVP in both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

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

No. 15 also had his jersey retired by the Packers and was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Bart, Brett and Aaron

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

So was the uneven play at the quarterback position. Nothing illustrated that more than the play at quarterback during the Dan Devine era from 1971 through 1974.

Devine became head coach and general manager of the Packers in January of 1971. That was about three weeks after Phil Bengtson resigned from both positions.

Devine had three quarterbacks on the roster at the time he was hired. One was Starr, who was physically a shadow of his former self due to a shoulder injury. Plus, there was also Don Horn, who had played very well for the most part when given the chance to play from 1967 through 1970.

In addition to Starr and Horn, there was Frank Patrick, who only played sparingly.

Horn looked to be the quarterback of the future under Devine. Horn had been 4-2 as a starter in 1969 and 1970. No. 13 was remembered most for the performances he had versus the Chicago Bears in the last game of the 1968 season at Wrigley Field in relief of Zeke Bratkowski and also the game he had against the St. Louis Cardinals in the last game of the 1969 season at Lambeau Field.

In the game against the Bears in 1968, the Packers were already eliminated from the NFL Central Division race and had a 5-7-1 record going into the game. Da Bears, on the other hand, were 7-6, and a win would give them the NFL Central title.

Bratkowski started the game but was injured and Horn came into the game as a surprise backup, as Billy Stevens was also an option. Horn had just gotten out of the Army 10 days earlier and he had missed most of the season up to that point due to his stint with Uncle Sam.

When the game was over, the Packers had beaten the Bears 28-27. Horn ended up throwing for 187 yards, plus had two touchdown passes without throwing a pick. Horn’s quarterback rating for that game was 142.4.

Don Horn

Then came the 1969 season. Horn started five games that year, with the Packers winning four of those games. The capper was the final game against the Cardinals.

That game was also the day the Packers honored Willie Davis, as No. 87 had announced that he was retiring after the season.

The Packers whipped the Cardinals in that game, 45-28. Horn had a fantastic performance, as he threw for 410 yards and also threw five touchdown passes. At the time, Horn was the first quarterback of the Packers to ever throw for more than 400 passing yards.

1970 was not a particularly good year for Horn or the Packers, which led to Bengtson’s resignation and the hiring of Devine.

Horn told me about a conversation he had with Devine about a week before the 1971 NFL draft.  Horn told Devine that he was happy in Green Bay and wanted to get his contract situation resolved and was looking forward to working with the former Missouri head coach. Devine seemed pleased with the discussion and told Horn he would fly him into Green Bay after the draft to get a new contract done.

But on the morning of the draft, Horn received a phone call from Devine. In a very short conversation to the best of Horn’s recollection, Devine said this, “Don, this is Coach Devine. I’m just calling you to let you know that I just traded you to the Denver Broncos. Good luck.”

That was the end of Horn’s career in Green Bay. And that also started the merry-go-round of quarterbacks under Devine in Green Bay.

In the 1971 NFL draft, Devine did draft quarterback Scott Hunter of Alabama in the sixth round. Although Hunter had broken a number of Joe Namath’s passing records at Alabama, he had also suffered a shoulder injury which hindered his development in the NFL.

To bolster his depth at the quarterback position, Devine also traded a third-round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings to get back Bratkowski. That would be the first of five trades Devine would make to get another quarterback in his tenure in Green Bay.

In the 1971 season, when the Packers went 4-8-2, the cumulative passer rating of the Packers was 48.4. Bratkowski led the way with an 80. 7 mark, as he threw four touchdown passes versus three picks for 298 yards. Bratkowski started only one game due to injury that year.

Hunter was next with a 46.1 rating, as he threw seven touchdown passed versus 17 interceptions for 1,210 yard in 10 starts.

In three starts, it was quite apparent that Starr was playing hurt with his shoulder woes. No. 15 had a passer rating of 45.2, as he didn’t throw one touchdown pass, but did toss three picks for a total of 286 yards.

After the 1971 season, both Starr and Bratkowski retired, so Devine needed to add to the quarterback depth chart. With his second first-round pick (overall pick No. 11) of the 1972 NFL draft, Devine selected Green Bay native and former Nebraska star Jerry Tagge.

Although the Packers won the 1972 NFC Central Division with a 10-4 record, the success was mostly due to a great running attack led by John Brockington and MacArthur Lane, plus a very solid and opportunistic defense.

The quarterback play improved slightly, as the Packers had a cumulative 58.6 passer rating, as Starr was Devine’s quarterback coach for the 1972 season only. Hunter started all 14 games and threw six touchdown passes versus nine picks for 1,252 yards and a passer rating of 55.5.

Tagge had limited playing time, as he completed just 10-of-29 passes for 154 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions.

After the Packers were beaten by the Washington Redskins 16-3 in the 1972 postseason, when Washington dared the Packers to throw the ball, Devine decided that more change was coming to the quarterback position.

Packers-Redskins Playoff game in 1972

That was when Devine made his second trade to acquire another quarterback in the offseason. Devine trade two second-round picks to the Miami Dolphins for Jim Del Gaizo.

The Packers struggled to 5-7-2 record in 1973 and the bad quarterback play was a big reason why. As a team, the Packers had a passer rating of 46.9.

Tagge had five starts at quarterback and had a passer rating of 53.2. No. 17 threw two touchdown passes versus seven interceptions for 720 yards.

Hunter had six starts and had a quarterback rating of 46.8. No. 16 also threw just two touchdown passes versus four picks for 442 yards.

Then there was Del Gaizo. The former Dolphin also threw just two touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 318 yards. That led to an abysmal passer rating of 30.9.

After the lack of production at quarterback for his entire tenure in Green Bay, one could sense that Devine started to panic, especially when one looks at the trades he made to find a quarterback who could lead the Packers in 1974.

First, he traded Hunter to the Buffalo Bills. Then he traded a fifth-round pick to the Dallas Cowboys for Jack Concannon. But Devine wasn’t done just yet.

He also traded a third-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Dean Carlson. Finally Devine made a trade that will live on in Green Bay infamy. He traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks and one third-round pick for aging veteran John Hadl of the Los Angeles Rams.

So, what did those trades do for the Packers in 1974? Not much. The Packers finished 6-8 and once again the passer rating for the team was horrid, as it was 47.6.

Hadl started six games after he was acquired after the midway point of the ’74 season. Hadl threw three touchdown passes versus eight picks for 1,072 yards. That adds up to a 54.0 passer rating.

In 1975, after Devine has resigned to become the head coach at Notre Dame and had been replaced by Starr as head coach and general manager, Hadl was even worse. No. 21 threw six touchdown passes versus a whopping 21 picks for 2,095 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 52.8.

Meanwhile, the ridiculous trade made by Devine to get Hadl, not only set the Packers back in 1974, but also the first two years of the Starr regime in the draft.

John Hadl

Besides Hadl’s sorry performance in 1974, Tagge was even worse in six starts, if you can believe that. Tagge threw just one touchdown pass versus 10 interceptions for 709 yards and a 36.0 passer rating.

Concannon also started a couple of games in 1974, as he threw one touchdown pass versus three picks for 381 yards and a 57.7 passer rating.

All told, Devine just didn’t have the eye for quarterback talent in Green Bay. First, he traded a guy who had some real talent in Horn without even giving him a chance.

Devine also drafted Hunter and Tagge. Both were given ample opportunities to succeed, but never did.

But it was the five trades that Devine made to acquire other quarterbacks which really set the Green Bay franchise back. In trading for Bratkowski, Del Gaizo, Concannon, Carlson and Hadl, Devine gave up two first-round picks, four second-round picks, three third-round picks and a fifth-round pick.

Together those five quarterbacks contributed 10 touchdown passes and 20 picks when they played under Devine. They were also 4-8 as starters.

Bottom line, the great play by Starr, Favre and Rodgers during their time in Green Bay has been a real delight to Packer Nation.

But the opposite held true in the Devine era in Green Bay, when it seemed like a never-ending Twilight Zone episode was on from 1971-1974 at the quarterback position.

The Postseason History Between the Packers and Redskins

On late Sunday afternoon, the 10-6 Green Bay Packers will take on the 9-7 and NFC East champion Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in a NFC Wild Card game.

The meeting between the two teams will be the third time the teams have met in the postseason.

Before I get into the two previous matchups between the Packers and Redskins, I wanted to point out some interesting connections between the two teams.

The Packers play their games at Lambeau Field. The stadium is located on Lombardi Avenue.

Why is that? Because Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi are the two most famous and successful coaches in the history of the Packers.

Between the two of them, the Packers won 11 NFL titles.

Both coaches also moved on to become the head coach of the Redskins after their tenures in Green Bay.

Lambeau initially joined the Chicago Cardinals after leaving the Packers in 1950, but after two years in Chicago, Lambeau became head coach of the Redskins in 1952.

In two seasons there, the Redskins went 10-13-1 under Lambeau.

After Lombardi relinquished his head coaching duties in Green Bay in 1968, he stayed on as general manager for one year.

But in 1969, Lombardi was hired by the Redskins to be Executive Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach. Lombardi was also given a stock interest in the team.

Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in 1969, which was Washington’s first winning record in 14 years.

Tragically, Lombardi passed away in 1970 because of colon cancer at the age of 57.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi

In addition to those connections, there is also Green Bay’s current team President and CEO, Mark Murphy. Murphy has held that position since late 2007, when he took over the reins from Bob Harlan.

Murphy has presided over an organization which has gone 89-49-1 and gone to the postseason seven straight years. Included in that run was the Vince Lombardi Trophy the team brought back to Green Bay after winning Super Bowl XLV.

As a player in the NFL, Murphy had an eight-year career with the Redskins playing safety. During that period, Washington won Super Bowl XVII.

In 1983, Murphy led the NFL with nine interceptions and was a consensus All-Pro, as well as getting selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

In terms of their postseason meetings, the Packers and Redskins first met in the 1936 NFL title game.

That game was the very first postseason game the Packers ever played in. Green Bay had already won three NFL titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931, but that was when the NFL awarded the championship by league standing.

In 1933, the NFL went to a playoff system to determine the league champion.

The Packers were 10-1-1 in 1936, which was tops in the Western Division.

The Redskins won the Eastern Division with a 7-5 record. The team was also based in Boston that season.

Owner George Preston Marshall was not happy with the support the team was receiving in Boston. Because of that, Marshall decided to host the NFL title game in New York at the Polo Grounds, instead of Fenway Park.

In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins to Washington.

The title game in the Big Apple drew 29,545 fans.

The Packers won the contest 21-6, mostly because of the passing of Arnie Herber. The Packers had twice as many passing yards in the game, compared to the Redskins.

The Packers had led the NFL in passing offense in 1936.

Herber hit Don Hutson with a 48-yard touchdown pass in the first three minutes of the game. Hutson finished with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Johnny (Blood) McNally also caught two passes for 55 yards. One was a 52-yard reception which set up a touchdown. Herber ended up throwing two touchdown passes.

Clark Hinkle led the Packers in rushing with 58 yards on 16 carries.

The game was marred by a number of turnovers. The Packers forced five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception), while the Redskins forced five themselves (three fumbles and two interceptions).

The bottom line is the Packers had their fourth NFL title with the win and their first via the playoff format.

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was in 1972, which was five years after the Lombardi-era had ended in Green Bay.

Lombardi had added five more NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls) to the Green Bay trophy cabinet, along with the six titles Lambeau had won.

The Packers struggled after Lombardi had turned over the coaching duties to Phil Bengtson in 1968. In the three years that Bengtson coached the Packers, the team was 20-21-1.

After Bengtson resigned, the Packers brought in Dan Devine, who had been a successful college coach at Missouri. In Devine’s first year in Green Bay, the Packers were 4-8-2.

But the Packers rebounded in 1972 under Devine and ended up winning the NFC Central division with a 10-4 record.

The Packers were led by their defense, which was ranked second in the NFL in total defense. That included being eighth in passing defense and second in rushing defense.

The only remaining defensive starter from the 1967 title team in Green Bay was linebacker Dave Robinson. In addition, Ray Nitschke was also on the ’72 team, but was a backup to middle linebacker Jim Carter.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers had two players from the ’67 team who were still starters in ’72. They were center Ken Bowman and wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Speaking of the offense, it was a completely different story compared to the defense. The Packers were ranked 22nd in total offense. Remember that the NFL was just a 26-member league at the time.

Green Bay was ranked seventh in rushing offense, as the team averaged over 150 yard per game on the ground. The two primary reasons were the performances of John Brockington and MacArthur Lane.

Brockington ran for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns, while Lane rushed for 821 yards and three touchdowns.

The passing game really struggled however. Bart Starr had retired after the 1971 season. Starr was brought on to be the quarterbacks coach for the 1972 season.

That being said, there wasn’t a lot that Starr could have done to help the quarterback situation that season. It’s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t if you know what I mean.

Starr was forced to work with second-year quarterback Scott Hunter, who had suffered a shoulder injury while he was playing for Alabama, the same place Starr had played college football.

That shoulder injury severely affected the way Hunter could throw the football once he got to the NFL. The Packers also drafted Green Bay native Jerry Tagge of Nebraska in the first round of the 1972 NFL draft, but Tagge was very raw in terms of his throwing skills.

That is what Starr had to work with in 1972. The Packers ended up throwing for just over 100 yards per game that season.

Hunter started all 14 games for the Packers that season and he threw just six touchdown passes versus nine interceptions for 1,252 yards. The passer rating for Hunter that season was 55.5.

Coincidentally, the Packers and Redskins met in the regular season in 1972, when they met in Week 11 at RFK Stadium in Washington. The Redskins won that game 21-16.

The Packers led in that game 14-13 in the fourth quarter, before the Redskins came back to win.

Lane rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in the game, while Brockington gained 42 yards.

Hunter and Tagge split the duties at quarterback in the game, as between the two of them, they completed five-of-19 passes for just 66 yards and an interception.

At the end of the season, the Packers won the NFC Central, while the 11-3 Redskins had won the NFC East.

That set up another game at RFK Stadium in the playoffs.

The Redskins knew from their previous meeting with the Packers that they had nothing to fear from the Green Bay passing game, so they stacked up a five-man defensive line to stop the rushing attack of the Packers.

The head coach of the Redskins then was George Allen, who took over the team in 1971. Allen was always known for his coaching prowess on the defensive side of the ball.

That five-man front was a success in stopping the running game of the Packers, as the team had just 78 yards rushing that day, which included just nine yards by Brockington in 13 carries.

Hunter did throw for 150 yards in the game, but he also threw a key interception.

In the end, the Redskins won the game 16-3.

After beating the Packers, the Redskins defeated the the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, before falling to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.

It’s somewhat hard to believe that the game on Sunday will be just the third postseason game that the Packers and Redskins have played.

The Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Redskins joined the league in 1932.

In addition to that, the two teams have only met 32 times in the regular season as well, with the Packers having the edge 18-13-1.

As I noted in my most recent story about the declining stats of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2015, the Packers have a real chance to kick-start their almost comatose offense versus the Redskins.

Washington is ranked 28th in total defense. The Redskins are also ranked just 25th in passing defense and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks and have a passer rating of 96.1.

Washington also struggles in stopping the run. The Redskins are just 26th in rushing defense and have given up an average of over 122 yards per game on the ground.

The Redskins have also allowed opposing running backs to average 4.8 yards per carry.

We shall see if Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and the rest of the offense of the Packers can take advantage of that situation.

If they do, then they would have most likely won the rubber match in this postseason series between the Packers and Redskins, which first started 80 years ago.