The Postseason History Between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks

Brett in the snow vs. Seahawks

When the Green Bay Packers play host to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field in a NFC Divisional Playoff game, it will be the fourth time the teams have met in the postseason.

The Packers lead the series 2-1, as they have won both games played at Lambeau Field, while the Hawks won the game played in Seattle. More on those games later.

Green Bay also leads the regular season series by a 11-8 margin over Seattle.

The Packers and Seahawks have built up quite a rivalry recently, as this will be the sixth consecutive year that the two teams have played each other. In the five previous games, one being the 2014 NFC title game played in Seattle, the home team has won each and every time.

In the past six games between the two teams, two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL have faced off against each other. I’m talking about Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks.

When I say the best, I mean the best. Rodgers and Wilson are ranked 1-2 in the all-time NFL career passer rating statistic. In fact, they are the only two quarterbacks with a passer rating above 100. Rodgers has a passer rating of 102.4, while Wilson has a passer rating of 101.2.

In his career against Seattle in the regular season in nine games, Rodgers has a 6-3 mark. No. 12 has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just two interceptions for 1,995 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.8.

The former Cal Bear has also rushed for 89 yards a score.

In the 2014 NFC title game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Rodgers was playing with a calf injury which hampered him down the stretch in the 2014 season and in the playoffs.

Rodgers threw one touchdown pass versus two picks in the game for 178 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 55.8. One of the interceptions occurred when Rodgers saw that defensive lineman Michael Bennett appeared to be offside, which meant he had a free play and he threw a jump ball into the end zone that was picked off by Richard Sherman.

But the refs did not see it that way and the pick stood.

Rodgers was hampered not only by his calf injury, but also the way Mike McCarthy was coaching so conservatively with his play-calling. Especially late in the game, when a first down completion by Rodgers could have basically sealed away a win. But instead the Packers ran it three straight times.

Again, more on this game later.

Meanwhile, Wilson is 3-3 against the Packers. In those six games, Wilson has thrown nine touchdown passes versus six picks for 1,150 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 81.9.

In the 2014 NFC title game, Wilson really struggled until the very end. In the game, the former Wisconsin Badger threw one touchdown pass (the game-winner) versus four picks for 209 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 44.3.

Aaron and Russell

Back to the postseason series between the two teams, the first time the two teams met was in a 2003 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lambeau Field. Former Green Bay head coach Mike Holmgren was coaching the Seahawks and his team was quarterbacked by the former backup to Brett Favre in Green Bay, Matt Hasselbeck.

They would be going up against Favre and head coach Mike Sherman of the Packers, who was part of Holmgren’s last coaching staff in Green Bay in 1997.

A week after this game, in a NFC Divisional Playoff game in Philadelphia, Sherman would be remembered for not stepping on the throat of the Eagles when he had a chance and instead his team suffered a painful loss. Similar to the way McCarthy coached in the 2014 NFC title game.

But back to this game now. The Packers had won the NFC North with a 10-6 record and were fortunate to be playing in the postseason. The Minnesota Vikings and the Packers were both 9-6 heading into the last game of the season and had the Vikings won, they held the tiebreaker over the Packers and they would have been the NFC North champ.

But on the last play of the game in Arizona, as the Vikings were taking on the Cardinals, Arizona quarterback Josh McCown threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nate Poole as time expired and the Cards won.

Meanwhile the Packers whipped the Denver Broncos 31-3 at Lambeau Field, which made the Pack the kings of the NFC North in 2003.

The Seahawks had finished with a similar 10-6 record, but finished second in the NFC West behind the 12-4 St. Louis Rams.

The Seahawks led 3-0 after the first quarter before both teams got in end zone in the second quarter. First, Ryan Longwell and Josh Brown traded field goals to put the Hawks up by a 6-3 score before Favre hit tight end Bubba Franks with a 23-yard touchdown pass. Longwell then followed with another field goal and the Packers led 13-6 at halftime.

Both the Packers and Seahawks got their respective offenses going in the second half as both Favre and Hasslebeck got hot and the running game of each team also made some noise.

Favre ended up throwing for 319 yards and one touchdown without a pick and had a passer rating of 102.9. No. 4 was helped along by running back Ahman Green, who rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns. No. 30 also had five catches for 44 yards.

The Packers did not have one turnover in the game.

The Seahawks weren’t so lucky. Hasselbeck threw for 305 yards, but his accuracy was not great (25-of-45) and was also sacked twice. Hasselbeck also threw an untimely pick. More on that in a bit. The passer rating of No. 8 was just 67.4.

Running back Shaun Alexander was held to 45 yards rushing, but he scored all three of Seattle’s touchdowns, including one with just 51 seconds remaining in the game to force overtime.

When the team captains met on the field and Seattle won the toss, Hasselbeck shouted, “We want the ball and we’re gonna score.” Those words would come back to bite Matt right in the keester.

Al Harris pick-6

Why? Because with a little more than four minutes played in overtime, Hasselbeck threw a Pick-Six to cornerback Al Harris, who took the football 52-yards to the house.

The result? A 33-27 victory by the Packers over the Seahawks in OT.

The Seahawks and Packers would meet in the postseason again four years later. The setting was the same, as the game was at snowy Lambeau Field. Holmgren and Hasselbeck were back as well, while Favre had a new second-year head coach in Mike McCarthy.

The Packers finished with a 13-3 record and won the NFC North, while the Seahawks had won the NFC West with a 10-6 record.

The week before, Seattle had defeated the Washington Redskins 35-14 in the Wild Card round, while the Packers had a bye.

In this game, the Packers got off to a slow start, as Alexander scored on a short touchdown run and then Hasselbeck hit Bobby Engram with an 11-yard touchdown pass.

The Packers were quickly down 14-0.

But the Packers were almost unstoppable after that, as they scored touchdowns on six consecutive drives in the “Winter Wonderland” of Lambeau.

Favre once again played very well against his former coach in the playoffs, as he threw for 173 yards and also tossed three touchdown passes without a pick. No. 4’s passer rating in the game was a sparkling 137.6.

Greg Jennings led the way for the Packers at wide receiver, as he had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

But it was running back Ryan Grant who had the real big game, as he ran for 201 yards and scored three touchdowns.

The Packers ended up doubling the Seahawks in total yardage, by a 408 to 200 margin.

Ryan Grant vs. Seahawks

Hasselback did throw for 194 yards and a touchdown, but a lack of a running game really hurt the Hawks, as they were only able to gain 28 yards on the ground.

In the end, the Packers and the winter elements were just too much for the Seahawks, as Green Bay won the game 42-20.

When the Packers and Seahawks met in the 2014 postseason, it was for all the marbles, as the winner would be advancing to the Super Bowl. As I mentioned earlier, the game was played a CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Seahawks behind head coach Pete Carroll, the great play of Wilson and the tenacious play of the Seattle defense were the main reasons why the Hawks were the defending Super Bowl champs coming into the game.

McCarthy was the head coach for the Packers again in this game, while the NFL MVP of 2014, Rodgers, was his quarterback.

The game would go down as the most painful loss in Green Bay history, at least in my opinion.

Yes, even worse than the loss in Super Bowl XXXII to the Broncos.

Or the 1998 Wild Card loss to the San Francisco 49ers on the Terrell Owens touchdown catch in the final seconds at Candlestick Park in Holmgren’s last game as head coach of the Packers.

Or the 2003 Divisional Playoff game against the Eagles, which will be forever known as the “4th and 26” game.

Yes, this game was worse because the Packers had outplayed the Seahawks by a wide margin for about the first 56 minutes of the game.

Even at that point, Green Bay only had a 19-7 lead, which should have been much larger if not for some conservative play-calling by McCarthy and also because of mistakes by players such as defensive tackle Mike Daniels (15-yard penalty for taunting) which moved the Packers back to the Seattle 19-yard line instead of being at the 4-yard line after a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interception early in the game.

Or by linebacker Brad Jones, who the Seahawks had scouted as being vulnerable on a fake field goal attempt because of his aggressive tendency to try and block the kick. With the Packers leading 16-0 and the Seahawks doing absolutely nothing on offense, the Hawks were attempting a field goal when former Packer punter Jon Ryan, who was the holder, picked up the ball and threw to an wide open Gary Gilliam for a 19-yard touchdown, as Jones came crashing in as expected.

Also on this play, A.J. Hawk decided to go after Ryan instead of going over to cover Gilliam and the Seahawks were back in the game 16-7.

Then with the Packers driving again, Rodgers threw a pass to an open James Starks, who just missed the pass which would have resulted in a touchdown. The Packers ended up settling for a 48-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to go up 19-7.

Later in the fourth quarter, with just a little over five minutes remaining in the game, Morgan Burnett picked off Wilson at the Packers 39 and instead of running to wide open spaces for which could have resulted in perhaps a touchdown, Burnett went down at the 43-yard line after being waved down by Julius Peppers of the Packers.

In the ensuing drive, McCarthy had Eddie Lacy run the ball twice for -6 yards, plus forced the Seahawks to use two of their three timeouts. It was 3rd and 16, so McCarthy had Rodgers hand the ball off to Lacy once again for two yards and the Packers had to punt with 4:00 to go, still leading 19-7.

I know hindsight is 20-20, but I would have let the NFL MVP of 2014, Rodgers, throw at least once in the previous sequence of downs. Probably on second down when it was second and 12. Bottom line, why not trust the league MVP to finish off the game?

When the Hawks got the ball back, they finally put together their best drive of the game. Wilson threw for 46 yards in the drive, including a 26-yard pass to Marshawn Lynch, plus carried the ball twice himself for five yards, which included a 1-yard touchdown run. Steven Hauschka kicked the extra point and now Seattle trailed by 19-14, with just 2:13 remaining and just one timeout in their pocket.

Brandon Bostick flub

Everyone and their mother knew that the Seahawks would be attempting an onside kick. The short kick hopped high in the direction of tight end Brandon Bostick and wide receiver Jordy Nelson.

The plan was for Bostick to block any approaching Seattle player and let Nelson field the ball. The plan went awry, as Bostick tried to play hero and catch the ball himself. He couldn’t hang on to the ball and Chris Matthews of the Seahawks recovered and Seattle had the ball at the 50.

With Clay Matthews out with an injury, the Seahawks took advantage and between Wilson and Lynch, gained 42 yards on the ground, with Lynch scoring on a 24-yard scamper. The Seahawks now led 20-19.

And when the Hawks went for two points, Wilson, who was being harassed, threw up a prayer high in the air towards tight end Luke Wilson. Clinton-Dix was in position to bat the ball away or even intercept it, but he completely misread the pass and Wilson caught it for two points and now the Seahawks led 22-19 with 1:33 remaining in the game.

McCarthy now had no choice but to let Rodgers throw and throw he did. Two quick pass plays of 15-yards apiece to Nelson and Randall Cobb got the Packers to the Seattle 48 with 1:00 to go. Rodgers than ran for 12 yards, bad calf and all, and the Packers were on the Seattle 36 with 43 seconds remaining.

Rodgers and Lacy were not on the same page on a screen pass attempt that looked like it had great potential. In the end, a Rodgers to Nelson pass got the Packers to the 30-yard line of the Hawks and Crosby came in and calmly nailed a 48-yard field goal to tie the game at 22-22 with 19 seconds left.

The Seahawks won the toss to open overtime and faced a 3rd and 7 from their own 30. Wilson was able to somehow complete a 35-yard pass to Doug Baldwin. One play later, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown pass to win the game.

It was a perfect pass by Wilson, as Tramon Williams had good coverage. So even though he had thrown four picks and basically gave the game on the platter to the Packers, Wilson was able to pull out a victory, due to a number of key miscalculations by both coaches and players on the Packers.

Which takes to to the game on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau. I know the Seahawks have a 8-1 record on the road this year, but the Packers are also 7-1 at home and should have been 8-0.

Wilson has never won at Lambeau and in three games there, has thrown three touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 604 yards. That’s a little over 200 yards per game.

Wilson has also been sacked eight times in those three games.

But in the postseason, Wilson has been money for the most part, as his has a career passer rating of 96.0, which is eighth all time.

Rodgers is fifth all time, with a 99.4 passer rating in the postseason.

No. 1 on the list in terms of postseason passer rating is Bart Starr of the Packers, who had 104.8 mark.

One reason I see Wilson having some issues is the way the defense of the Packers is playing as of late. It’s seems like La’Darius Smith has been unblockable in the new “Z Package” scheme that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine (who was a consultant for the Seahawks in 2017) has been putting out on the field in passing situations.

Smith moves all over the place in that scheme and has had great success, not only in sacking the quarterback, but also in stopping the run. The formation basically has a four-man front and a roving linebacker.

The scheme also allows the secondary to be in a dime look, or six defensive backs.

The key to stopping Wilson is to not let him scramble and also to take advantage of the injury issues on the offensive line of the Seahawks and keep applying pressure on No. 3.

The running game has been a big strength for the Seahawks over the 2019 season, but injuries have decimated the depth chart. The Hawks have lost Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise for the season.

The Packers will see rookie Travis Homer and Lynch on Sunday. Lynch returned to the Seahawks for the last game of the season after the rash of injuries, after not playing at all earlier in 2019.

The big threat at wide receiver for the Seahawks is rookie D.K. Metcalf, who is really starting to make a name for himself in the NFL with his play recently.

Devante Adams vs. Seahawks

The offense of the Packers has not been exactly lights out recently, but with Rodgers under center and Aaron Jones and Davante Adams as his main weapons, head coach Matt LaFleur has to game plan getting the ball to both Jones and Adams early and often.

This Seattle defense looks nothing like the defenses of old that the Seahawks used to run out there. They still have very good players like linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but the D can be run on and passed on consistently.

The offensive line for the Packers looks to have all five starters for the game, including right tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion) and center Corey Linsley (back) ready to play.

The bottom line is that in the recent series between these two teams, the home team wins. In the three most recent games with Wilson under center at Lambeau, the Hawks have been outscored 82-36.

I don’t see the Packers blowing out the Seahawks by any means, but I do see them moving on to the NFC title game, either back at Lambeau to face the Vikings or at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to face the 49ers on January 19th.

 

Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers: A Historical Perspective

Bart vs. 49ers

The Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers first started playing each other in 1950, when the two teams met at old City Stadium. The Packers beat the Niners 25-21 on that late November day, with 13,196 in attendance.

1950 was the year that Curly Lambeau left Green Bay to coach the Chicago Cardinals and Gene Ronzani was the new head coach of the Pack. It was also the first year that the 49ers started play in the NFL, after four years in All-American Football Conference.

The head coach of the 49ers then was Buck Shaw. When the two teams played for the very first time, neither team was very good, as both teams finished 3-9 that season.

Throughout the years leading into the encounter on Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium when the 8-2 Packers face the 9-1 49ers, Green Bay leads the regular season series by a 32-27-1 margin.

The two teams have also met seven times in the postseason in some very memorable games. The Packers lead that series four games to three.

Back to the 1950s now. The Niners pretty much dominated the Packers that decade, at least until Vince Lombardi arrived in 1959. San Francisco won 13-of-16 games between 1950 through 1958.

The 49ers were one of the better teams in the NFL in the 1950s, while the Packers were among the worst. In fact, the Packers were just 39-79-2 in the 1950s, which is the worst decade that the team has ever had in it’s history.

But things started to change with the arrival of Lombardi in 1959. The Packers beat the 49ers twice in 1959 and during the Lombardi tenure through 1967, Green Bay was 13-3-1 versus San Francisco.

It was during that time when the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls.

One of the more memorable games during that period occurred in 1960 at Kezar Stadium on a rainy and muddy day, as the Packers won 13-0. All the points scored in that game were put on the board by Paul Hornung, as he scored on a 28-yard touchdown run, kicked an extra point, plus kicked two field goals.

The Green Bay ground game was almost unstoppable behind the pulling guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, as Hornung rushed for 86 yards, while fullback Jimmy Taylor gashed the 49ers for 161 more yards.

Fuzzy and Jerry in the Mud Bowl at Kexar in 1960

Kramer listed two San Francisco defensive tackles among the top five he ever faced in his NFL career. They were Leo Nomellini and Charlie Krueger.

In 1968, the year in which Lombardi was just general manager only and Phil Bengtson was the head coach, the Packers suffered their most painful defeat of the season against the 49ers at Kezar Stadium and the loss basically ended any postseason aspirations for the team.

The Packers had a 20-7 lead going into the fourth quarter of that game, but because of injuries to both Bart Starr and Zeke Bratkowski, the Packers were forced to turn to rookie quarterback Billy Stevens, who had to be the next man up, as Don Horn was still going through his military duties with the Army then at that point of that season.

The 49ers, behind quarterback John Brodie, roared back to score 20 unanswered points and beat the Packers 27-20, as Stevens did not even complete a pass against the 49er defense, nor the gusty winds of Kezar.

After that game and over the next decade, the series between the two teams was pretty much a push more or less, with the 49ers holding a four to three edge through the 1977 season.

However, a monumental decision that affected both franchises occurred during the 1979 NFL draft. Starr was now the head coach of the Packers, while Bill Walsh was the new head coach for the Niners.

Before the draft, both Bratkowski, who was then the quarterbacks/offensive backs coach under Starr and scout Red Cochran strongly advocated the the Packers select quarterback Joe Montana of Notre Dame in the draft if they had the opportunity.

That opportunity came in the third round of that draft, when the Packers had the 15th pick of that round and the 71st overall pick of the draft. Again, both Bratkowski and Cochran pushed for the Packers to take Montana with the pick then, but Starr (who was also GM) decided to take nose tackle Charles Johnson of Maryland with the pick.

The 49ers, who had the last pick in the third round, quickly snatched up Montana and the rest they say, is history.

In the 1980s, the Packers were 19 games under .500 and had just one postseason appearance, while it was 180 degrees different for the 49ers once they selected Montana, as they won four Super Bowls in that same decade.

The 49ers continued to be Super Bowl contenders into the 1990s, as Steve Young took the reins over from Montana starting in the 1992 season.

The man who had coached both Montana and Young as a quarterbacks coach and as an offensive coordinator in San Francisco, Mike Holmgren became the new head coach of the Packers when he was hired by general manager Ron Wolf.

Wolf made two other key acquisitions for the Packers in that period. First, Wolf traded a first round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for quarterback Brett Favre. Plus, Wolf also added defensive end Reggie White in free agency prior to the 1993 season.

That led to a great rivalry with Niners that decade, especially in the postseason. In the regular season, the teams only played four times in the decade, with the Packers winning three of those games.

That would be an apropos number, as Green Bay and San Francisco also met four times in the postseason in the 1990s, with the Packers once again winning three of those games.

In the 1995 postseason, in the NFC Divisional playoff round, the Packers upset the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers 27-17 at Candlestick Park, as Favre was phenomenal.

No. 4 threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, plus had a 132.9 passer rating in the game.

That led to another postseason game after the 1996 season, but this time the Packers had the home field advantage at muddy Lambeau Field. Favre was solid once again with a 107.4 passer rating in the game, but it was the type of day for a good ground game and the Packers rushed for 139 yards in the game.

But the real difference maker in the game was the punt returning ability of Desmond Howard, who returned two punts for 117 yards, which included a 71-yard return for  a score, as the Packers won 35-14.

Desmond Howard vs. 49ers

The Packers would go on to win Super Bowl XXXI.

In the 1997 season, the top two seeds in the NFC were the 49ers and the Packers, with the No. 1 seed being San Francisco. That meant that the Niners would host the Packers for the NFC title game at Candlestick Park.

Favre continued his solid play against the 49ers and he threw for 222 yards and a score and had a 98.1 passer rating in the game. But the ground game became a big weapon in the game for the Packers just like the previous postseason game, and halfback Dorsey Levens would rush for 114 yards and a score, as the Packers won 23-10.

However, the Packers would end up losing 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII to the Denver Broncos two weeks later.

The Packers and 49ers would play for the fourth consecutive time in the 1998 postseason, which turned out to be the last game Holmgren would coach for the Packers. Coaching the 49ers was Holmgren’s former quarterbacks coach with the Packers, Steve Mariucci.

Unlike the three previous postseason games against the 49ers, Favre did not have his “A” game, as he threw two interceptions to go with his two touchdown passes. No. 4 threw for 292 yards and had a 79.7 passer rating.

Still, that should have been enough to win, as Favre threw a late touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman to give the Packers a 27-23 lead with just 1:56 left on the clock.

In the ensuing drive, Jerry Rice fumbled the ball after a catch that by today’s replay rules would have been ruled a fumble, but back then the officials ruled that Rice was down before he fumbled.

That led to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Young to Terrell Owens with just seconds remaining in the game. Owens caught the ball in a crowd after have many other drops during the course of the game, as the 49ers won 30-27.

That game was also the last game White, the “Minister of Defense”, would ever play for the Packers.

After that game, the Packers went on to dominate the series between the two teams for over a decade.

Through 2010, the Packers won eight straight games against the Niners, including another postseason game at Lambeau Field in the 2001 postseason. Favre once again had a better than average day against San Francisco, as he threw for 269 yards and had two touchown passes versus one pick. No. 4’s passer rating for the game was 112.6, as the Packers won 25-15.

Mariucci was still the head coach of the 49ers at the time, while Mike Sherman was now the head coach of the Packers.

In his career, Favre was 8-1 against the 49ers in the regular season, while throwing 14 touchdown passes versus 10 picks for 2,246 yards.

Sherman was fired after the 2005 season and general manager Ted Thompson made the offensive coordinator of the 49ers, Mike McCarthy, his new head coach in 2006.

That set up an interesting situation for McCarthy in Green Bay. First, he had to get Favre back to the way he used to play under Holmgren, plus he had to develop Aaron Rodgers to become a starting quarterback after the Favre era ended.

What made the second part of that dynamic very interesting was that McCarthy (then offensive coordinator for the 49ers) had told Rodgers prior to the 2005 NFL draft that the 49ers were going to pick the former Cal Bear with the first pick of the draft.

That didn’t happen and Rodgers never forgot that he was shunned by the team he grew up rooting for in Chico, California. Thompson and the Packers then happily selected Rodgers with the 24th pick of the first round of that draft.

After Favre left after the 2007 season, Rodgers became the starting quarterback and faced the 49ers once in the 2009 regular season and once in the 2010 regular season. The Packers won both of those games played at Lambeau Field.

Like Favre, Rodgers has played well against the 49ers in the regular season, as he is 4-2 lifetime going into Sunday night’s game. In those six games, No. 12 has thrown 13 touchdown passes to just two picks for 1,927 yards. His passer rating sits at 105.1.

Aaron vs. the 49ers

However, in the postseason, Rodgers is 0-2 against the 49ers. That being said, Rodgers has played well enough to win for sure, but in both losses, the defense was the main cause for the defeat.

In those two games, when Green Bay was outscored by a combined 68-51 margin, Rodgers threw three touchdown passes versus one interception for 434 yards. No. 12’s passer rating was a cumulative 94.7.

But the Packers could not stop Colin Kaepernick in those two playoff games,  as he had a combined 444 yards (263 yards passing with two touchdown passes and 181 yards rushing with two scores) in the 45-31 win in the 2012 postseason game, while he also dominated the 2013 postseason game with 227 yards passing (one touchdown) and 98 yards rushing.

Since those postseason losses, the Packers and 49ers have faced each other  twice. Once in 2015 at Levi’s Stadium when the Packers won 17-3 and also last season, when Rodgers brought the Packers back in a thrilling 33-30 win at Lambeau Field.

Since 2017, the 49ers have had Kyle Shanahan as their head coach. The Niners won six out of their last seven games in 2017 to finish 6-10.

Part of the reason for the 49ers late success in the 2017 season was the acquisition of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots midway through the season.

In 2018, Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in the third game of the year and the 49ers only won four games.

Things have definitely turned around for San Francisco in 2019, with the Niners now 9-1. Garoppolo is a big reason why, as he has thrown 18 touchdown passes versus 10 interceptions for 2,478 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 97.7.

Like the 49ers, the Packers did not play up to expectations in 2017 and 2018 and had a combined 13-18-1 record. That led to the dismissal of McCarthy. General manager Brian Gutekunst, who replaced Thompson in 2018, along with President and CEO Mark Murphy, hired Matt LaFleur to become the new head coach of the Packers in January of 2019.

The hiring of LaFleur looks to be an excellent one, as the Packers are currently 8-2 heading into Sunday night’s game and lead the NFC North.

Shanahan and LaFleur have worked together in three locations in the NFL, Houston, Washington and Atlanta, so they are very familiar with each other and they run basically the same offense.

In terms of Sunday night’s game, the 49ers have the big edge in team stats. The Niners are fifth in the NFL in total offense, while the Packers are 17th. San Francisco is second in the NFL in rushing, as they average 149 yards a game on the ground. Meanwhile, the Packers are 25th in the NFL in rushing defense.

The 49ers are also second in the NFL in total defense, while the Packers are ranked near the bottom of the league at No. 28.

Based on team stats, Sunday night’s game looks to be a blowout by the Niners over the Packers.

That being said, I believe Mr. Rodgers will have a great game in his old neighborhood (even against the second-ranked passing defense in the NFL), plus I also believe the running game with both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will be effective as well.

The Packers have to protect Rodgers well, as the Niners are tied for first in the NFL with 39 sacks. Arik Armstead has eight of those sacks, while Nick Bosa has seven.

The Packers have 25 sacks, which is tied for 15th in the NFL. The Smith “brothers”, Preston and Za’Darius, have combined for 18.5 of those sacks.

I also see the Green Bay “bend but don’t break” defense making some big plays in this game.

This game could come down to kicking and the Packers appear to have the edge there. Mason Crosby is 13-of-14 in field goals this year, while Robbie Gould of the 49ers has missed the last couple of game due to a quad injury and may not play in Sunday night’s game. If not, rookie Chase McLaughlin would be the kicker. McLaughlin is 4-of-5 in field goals, but did have a huge miss in overtime against Seattle a couple weeks back.

Both the Niners and Packers have two of the better punters in the NFC, as Mitch Wishnowsky has a net average of 42.1 per punt, while J.K. Scott has a 41. 9 net average.

The game on Sunday night has “classic” written all over it, as two of the better franchises in NFL history meet. The Packers have won 13 NFL titles and four Super Bowls, while the 49ers have won five Super Bowls.

Bottom line, even though the team stats say the 49ers should win handily, I like the Packers to go out to Santa Clara and win a close game against the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions: A Historical Perspective

Jim Taylor scores vs. the Lions

The Green Bay Packers entered the NFL in 1921, while the Detroit Lions (then the Portsmouth Spartans) joined the league in 1930.

Portsmouth moved the franchise to Detroit in 1934 and became the Lions.

In their history since then, the Packers lead the series 98-72-7 in the regular season and 2-0 in the postseason. The 98 wins over the Lions by the Packers is the most that Green Bay has over any NFL opponent.

The two teams have always been in the same conference or division. When the NFL started using the division format in 1967, both teams were part of the NFL Central Division, which later became became the NFC Central in 1970 and then the NFC North in 2002.

Since the divisional play started in 1967, the Packers have won 14 divisional championships, while the Lions have won three.

In terms of NFL championships, the Packers have won 13 titles, including four Super Bowls, while the Lions have won four, with the last one coming in 1957, the year that Lambeau Field was originally built.

The Lions were a dominant NFL in the 1950s, as they won three of their NFL titles (1953, 1954 and ’57) that decade. That same decade, the Packers had the worst record that they ever had in any decade in their history, as the team went 39-79-2, which is a .331 winning percentage.

Even with all that losing, the Packers were able to build championship teams that decade, thanks to the expert drafting by Jack Vainisi. In the 1950s, Vainisi would draft seven players who would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and would help head coach Vince Lombardi win five NFL titles (including the first two Super Bowls) in the 1960s.

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

The acquisition of those players led to quite a rivalry between the two teams in the early 1960s. The Packers won the Western Conference title for three straight years from 1960 through 1962, which also led to NFL championships in ’61 and ’62.

The Lions finished second to Packers in each of those years. The 1962 season was especially memorable, as the Packers finished with a 13-1 record, while the Lions were 11-3. The Packers only loss of the season happened on Thanksgiving Day at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

But before we get to that game, we have to set up why the Lions were more than ready for the Packers on that Turkey Day.

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

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

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

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

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

Bart being harrased by the Lions in 1962

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

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

Lombardi hated playing the Lions on Thanksgiving Day each year and he ended that series in 1963. The Packers had played in that game for 13 consecutive years from 1951 through ’63. Green Bay had only won three times during that period (twice under Lombardi) and tied once in the final game in ’63.

Since then, the Packers have played eight more games in Detroit on Thanksgiving, winning five of those contests.

The next time that the Packers and Lions became really big divisional rivals was in the early 1990s. Detroit won the NFC Central in both 1991 and 1993, plus was a Wild Card team in 1994 and 1995. The Lions also made playoff appearance in 1997 and 1999.

The Packers were also very successful in the ’90s, as the team won three NFC Central titles and were in the playoffs six times overall. That included winning Super Bowl XXXI.

During that period, the Packers played the Lions twice in the postseason. One after the 1993 season at the Pontiac Silverdome and once at Lambeau Field in two very memorable games.

Mike Holmgren was the head coach of the Packers and Wayne Fontes was the head coach of the Lions.

The playoff appearance in the 1993 postseason by the Packers was their first since 1982 and only their third since the Packers won Super Bowl II.

The stars for the Packers that year were quarterback Brett Favre, wide receiver Sterling Sharpe and defensive end Reggie White.

The big star for the Lions was running back Barry Sanders, who did not disappoint in this game, as he rushed for 169 yards.

Quarterback Erik Kramer threw for 248 yards for the Lions, but was sacked four times (including twice by White) and threw two costly interceptions, including one for 101 yards and a score by safety George Teague.

The biggest threat in the Detroit passing game turned out to be wide receiver Brett Perriman, who caught 10 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown.

Favre threw for 201 yards, plus tossed three touchdown passes, compared to one pick. Sharpe caught all three of those touchdowns and had five receptions overall for 101 yards.

But none was bigger than the one No. 84 caught with the Packers trailing late in the game 24-21.

Football: NFC playoffs. Green Bay Packer

Yes, with less than a minute to go in the game, Favre threw a bomb across the field to No. 84 for a 40-yard touchdown pass to win the game 28-24.

In the 1994 postseason game between the two teams at Lambeau Field, both squads went in as Wild Card teams as the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC Central.

The defense of the Packers was magnificent that day, especially in stopping the run. Sanders who had run wild against the Packers the previous postseason, was held to -1 yard in 13 carries. That’s mind-boggling when you really think about that stat.

Quarterback Dave Kreig threw a touchdown pass to Perriman, but was also sacked four times, including twice by linebacker Bryce Paup and once each by White and Sean Jones.

Favre meanwhile, threw for 262 yards. Favre was missing Sharpe, who had suffered a career-ending neck injury late in the 1994 season. Robert Brooks became the key receiver for No. 4 and had seven catches for 88 yards.

The big offensive star for the Packers in the game was running back Edgar Bennett, who rushed for 70 yards, plus caught six passes for 31 more yards, as the Packers won 16-12.

In recent years, the Packers have done well in this rivalry up until 2017, as the Lions have won four consecutive times. Under head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers were 18-4 against the Lions from 2006 through 2016.

None was a bigger win than the “Miracle in Motown” game in 2015.

The Packers were down in that game 23-20 at Ford Field with just seconds to go in the game.

Saved by a facemask penalty against Detroit’s Devin Taylor on what would have been the final play of the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to get one more shot at a miraculous finish.

Rodgers did not disappoint either.

The Packers were on their own 39 yard line and Rodgers was going to need some time to launch a pass to the opposite end zone. That’s if he could get it there.

Rodgers was able elude the three-man rush, first going left, then scrambling to the right and then running up to launch his moon-rocket pass that soared way up into the air and traveled close to 70 yards.

Tight end Richard Rodgers of the Packers leaped up and caught the ball at it’s highest point in the end zone surrounded by several players from both teams.

The result? The 6’4″, 272-pound Rodgers had unbelievably secured a 61-yard touchdown pass to end the game, as the Packers won 27-23.

Richard Rodgers catch vs. the Lions

As I mentioned earlier, the Lions have won the last four games between the two teams, although Aaron Rodgers did not play in three of those games.

But Rodgers will be behind center when the 4-1 Packers take on the 2-1-1 Lions at Lambeau Field on Monday night.

Historically, Rodgers has fared very well versus Detroit.

No. 12 is 13-5 against the Lions in his career and has thrown 37 touchdown passes versus just six picks for 4,526 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 109.0.

Meanwhile, quarterback Matthew Stafford of the Lions is 7-10 against Green Bay. No. 9 has thrown 34 touchdown passes versus 19 interceptions for 4,921 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 89.6.

The game on Monday night will be the first time new head coach Matt LaFleur of the Packers takes on second-year coach Matt Patricia of the Lions. Detroit was 6-10 under Patricia in 2018, with two of those wins coming against Green Bay.

Both the Packers and Lions have surprised experts this season, as most thought that the NFC North would be controlled by the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. But the Packers have already beaten both da Bears and Vikings, while the Lions have yet to play anyone in the division as of yet, but did beat the Philadelphia Eagles who gave the Packers their only loss of the season.

Rodgers is having a typical season thus far for him, as he has six touchdown passes versus just one pick for 1,307 yards. That being said, his passer rating this year (93.4) is below his career passer rating of 102.8.

However, that has to be expected seeing as he is running a new offense under LaFleur, which has started to get much better the past two games.

Stafford has thrown nine touchdown passes this year, compared to just two picks for 1,122 yards. No. 9’s passer rating for the year is 102.6.

So quarterback play will be a key on Monday night. As will the play of the running backs.

The Green Bay ground game is led by Aaron Jones, who has rushed for 302 yards and has eight touchdowns. The Detroit running game is led by Kerryon Johnson, who has rushed for 251 yards and one score.

Detroit is ranked ninth offensively in the NFL, while Green Bay is ranked 25th, but is improving as of late.

The Packers are ranked 22nd defensively, but it doesn’t tell the true story. Green Bay is eighth in the NFL in points allowed (18.6) per game. The Packers are also tied for 10th in the league with 15 sacks, plus have held opposing quarterbacks to a 75.9 passer rating, as they have allowed six touchdown passes while picking off seven passes.

The weakness for Green Bay has been run defense, as they are ranked 26th in the league in that category. The Packers have allowed on average 138.2 yards per game on the ground. That can’t continue to happen if the Packers want to continue their winning ways.

The Lions are ranked 27th in the NFL in total defense, as they give up an average of 405.5 yards per game, as well as 23.8 points per game. Detroit is ranked 29th in stopping the pass and 20th in stopping the run.

I look for Rodgers to have a big night, even without wide receiver Davante Adams, who has been ruled out.

Finally, the two teams have met on Monday night three times in their history. The series is even at 1-1-1. Overall on Monday night, the Packers are 32-32-1.

I expect that Packers to go up in the series 2-1-1 and also get their 99th victory in the regular season versus the Lions.

Green Bay Packers: Jerry Kramer’s Message to Aaron Rodgers

Jerry and Aaron at Lambeau

Aaron Rodgers has been with the Green Bay Packers since 2005. That means that the 2019 season will be Rodgers’ 15th season with the team.

That mark will tie Rodgers with legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Nitschke in terms of length of service with the Packers.

The only two players who served a longer tenure with the Packers were quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre, both of whom played with the Packers for 16 years and both also have busts in Canton.

Rodgers is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Like Nitschke, Starr and Favre, he has been able to call himself a NFL champion. He also has put up mind-boggling statistics.

Rodgers has the highest passer rating in the history of the NFL with a 103.1. No. 12 has thrown 338 touchdowns passes versus just 80 interceptions for 42,944 yards in his career.

Over the time when Rodgers has been the starting quarterback of the Packers, the team went to the NFC playoffs for eight consecutive years and won five NFC North titles. Plus, Green Bay also won Super Bowl XLV, as Rodgers was the MVP of the game.

In addition to that, Rodgers has been a NFL MVP twice, has been named to seven Pro Bowl teams and has been a first-team AP All-Pro twice.

Yes, Rodgers will definitely be among the best of the best at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Just like Jerry Kramer, who finally received his rightful due in 2018 after the great 11-year career he had with the Packers.

Kramer understood how Rodgers had to feel after a recent article from Bleacher Report written by Tyler Dunne came out.

And just to give full disclosure, I worked with Dunne for a couple of years at Packer Report before he moved on to cover the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a number of years.

I also worked for Bleacher Report for three and a half years.

In the article from B/R, both Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy were certainly not put in the best light, due to some comments by ex-teammates like Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley. The piece also had some not-so-glowing remarks from some anonymous sources.

When Kramer was a player, he also saw some bad press about the Packers, as well as negative articles about his head coach. Plus, like Rodgers and McCarthy had at times, Kramer also had some fiery moments with his coach who went by the name of Vince Lombardi.

Kramer believes that Rodgers has handled the B/R article just fine.

“I think Aaron showed a lot of class in the aftermath of this article,” Kramer said. “God bless him for being angry. God bless him for caring. God bless him for busting his ass and taking people to task who weren’t always serious about the game.

“He’s a leader. That is what he is supposed to do. That’s what leaders do.”

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

In terms of how Rodgers responded to the article, he said this in an interview that was aired on ESPN Wisconsin, hosted by Jason Wilde and Mark Tauscher.

“It’s not a mystery,” Rodgers said. “This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career, talking to mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda, whether they’re advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up. What happens is the same, tired media folks picking it up and talking about it, which just emphasizes their opinion about me already.

“The crazy thing is, there’s super-slanted opinions in that piece stated as fact, and then there’s quote-unquote facts that are just outright lies.”

Rodgers also talked about some other things in the article, like when an anonymous source said that president/CEO Mark Murphy told Rodgers “don’t be the problem” on a phone call informing him Matt LaFleur was being hired as the new head coach.

“It’s ridiculous. It is 100 percent, patently false,” Rodgers said. “So it’s either he made that crap up, or what he would probably do as a writer is say, this is my source’s problem. He told me something. I talked to Mark last week, and I said, ‘Mark, did you tell somebody about the conversation?’ He goes, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ And I said, ‘Because that’s not what happened.’ And he told me, ‘Yeah, of course that’s not what happened.’ We had a great conversation like we always do.’”

Murphy also denied the account of that situation in the story. In an interview on Wednesday with Scott Emerich of WXOW-TV in La Crosse during a Packers Tailgate Tour stop, Murphy rejected the part of the story which described a impaired relationship between Rodgers and McCarthy.

“It’s all in the past, a lot of half-truths and a lot of stuff just made up,” Murphy said. “The conversation that allegedly took place between Aaron and I was completely false.

“We had a great conversation. It was very positive. We talked about Matt LaFleur and I said, ‘Aaron, I think the change is going to be great for you and the organization’ and he was very positive.”

Matt LaFleur is gretted by Mark Murphy

In his interview with Wilde and Tauscher on ESPN Wisconsin, Rodgers talked about his relationship with McCarthy.

“This idea that I had this grudge against him for years is absolutely ridiculous,” Rodgers said. “It’s just not true. I mean, where was this grudge when we won the Super Bowl? Where was that grudge when we won 19 games in a row? Because I will tell you this about Mike, and if you look at the comments I’ve made about him over the years, I love Mike McCarthy. Mike has been a huge part of my success in my career, and I’ve had some amazing moments on and off the field with Mike. We have had issues, no doubt about it. Any long relationship has issues, but the way that we dealt with those issues, Mike and I, was face to face.

“We had conversations. Things didn’t fester for weeks, months, years. It’d be up in his office. It’d be after a Thursday night practice down in the big team room, it’d be in the quarterback room. It’d be at my house sometimes, it’d be at his house sometimes. We spent time together. We talked about things. Even at the most difficult moments, when I was stubborn about something, when he was stubborn about something, the conversation ended the same way every time. We came to an agreement and agreed to move forward on the same page.”

Kramer and Lombardi also had their share of moments.

And it was one of those periods in time in which Kramer realized that he could become a great player in the NFL.

“I jumped offsides one time in a scrimmage and he [Lombardi] got in my face,” Kramer said. “Lombardi told me, ‘Mister, the concentration period of a college student is five minutes, high school is three minutes and kindergarten is 30 seconds. You don’t even have that. Where does that put you?’

“So I go into the locker room with my chin in my hand, my elbow on my knee and I’m looking at the floor. I’m thinking, I’m never going to play for this guy. But then Coach Lombardi came into the locker room and came across the room, slapped me on the back of the neck, mussed up my hair and he said, ‘Son, one of these days you are going to be the best guard in football.’ He then turned around and walked away.

“That statement gave me a new feeling about myself. From that point on, I really became a player. That positive reinforcement by him at that moment changed my whole career.

“It was a major turning point for me. Not only in performance, but also in effort. I really went to work at football after that. I believed Lombardi to be an honest man, so I believed what he said. I decided then that it was up to me to prove Coach Lombardi right.”

But there were also some moments with Lombardi when Kramer had just about enough of the criticism by his coach.

It was early in his career under Lombardi, when Kramer vividly recalls a situation that almost became volatile.

“I played a game against the 49ers in San Francisco when I broke some ribs,” Kramer said. ” I saw the team doctor early the next week and he told me that I just had a pulled muscle and not to worry about it. I didn’t tell the doc that his assessment was BS, but I told some of the guys that I knew I had busted a couple of ribs.

“So, I wasn’t going to rock the program, so I continued to practice even with my ribs hurting like hell. Then later that week an article came out in The Chicago Tribune that said that Fuzzy [Thurston] and I were the best guards in the NFL. Well, Fuzz and I were glowing in it pretty good, feeling pretty cool.

“Anyway, we are practicing that week with my ribs hurting and we were running a play when Fuzzy wasn’t in the lineup for this particular play and I believe a rookie was filling in for him. So, we run a sweep to the left and the rookie didn’t belly deep enough on the play and he and the blocking back collided and fell down and I fell over them and the ball carrier fell over all of us.

“Coach Lombardi sees this and he yells, ‘Best guards in the NFL my ass! We’ve got the worst guards in football! The worst!’

“Something popped in my head after he yelled that. We had been standing together on the 40-yard line on the practice field and I’m going after him. I’m walking towards him and my ass is just chapped. Well, Coach Lombardi goes to the area where the coaches normally stand behind our huddle and he walks past that by about 25 yards where he isolated and completely by himself.

“So I stop at the huddle and I’m glaring at him. I’m pretty much out of control. I’m really angry. But Coach won’t look at me. He’s walking back and forth with his head down. I’m standing there with my hands on my hips staring at Coach Lombardi while Bart is calling the play.

“After Bart called the play, the team broke the huddle and went to the line of scrimmage, but I just stood there. Still glaring at him. Finally, I go to the line of scrimmage and just bent over a little bit and didn’t put my hand down like I normally would. We run the play and I didn’t move.

“So I go back to the huddle and I’m figuring out what to do, as Lombardi was still 25 yards back. It was like a barrier that stopped me. So Bart is calling another play and I yell to Fuzzy to get in here as I had just about enough and I go to the sideline and now I’m about 30 yards from everyone. I’m still steaming with my arms crossed over my chest.

“I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Finally after about three minutes, Coach Lombardi comes over to me and punches me on the shoulder and messes up my hair a little and says, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean you. I wasn’t talking to you!’

“I knew that his line was all BS, but Coach Lombardi was basically apologizing and trying to re-establish communications and I allowed him to do that.”

Vince and Jerry II

In the next game, the Packers played the Rams in Los Angeles and Kramer went up against the great Merlin Olsen. After the game, Olsen asked Kramer what was wrong. Kramer told him that he was playing with extremely sore ribs. Olsen said, ‘Yep, I knew something was wrong.’

The next week Kramer saw his own doctor and not the team doctor. After he had some x-rays done, Kramer’s doctor told him that he indeed had two broken ribs.

Kramer made a point of telling Lombardi about that diagnosis as soon as he saw him.

“I see Coach Lombardi in the locker room and I go over and get right in front of him. I tell him that my sore ribs were actually two broken ribs. Coach Lombardi’s exact quote was, ‘No shit! They don’t hurt anymore do they?’

But that is how it went at times with the players who played under Lombardi in Green Bay. Lombardi knew how to motivate his players and he treated them all differently and knew what the right buttons were to push for a particular player.

It led to five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. Including in that span was three consecutive NFL titles. That is a mark which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL.

That success was certainly appreciated the players, as one of the other things that Lombardi preached was love. Love for your God, love for your family and love for your team.

Kramer expressed his love for Lombardi after the legendary “Ice Bowl “ game, which gave No. 64 the platform to discuss some bad press that his coach had received.

“After that game, I was interviewed by Tom Brookshier,” Kramer said. “There had been a negative article about Coach Lombardi that had come out recently from Esquire magazine. The article compared him to Mussolini and a pigeon walking around with his chest thrown out. It was just a hatchet job.

“Tommy asked me about Coach Lombardi. I had made up my mind previously to talk about him, as I heard that Coach’s mother was really upset with the article. She even cried over it.

“So when Tommy asked me about the coach and mentioned the criticism, I said, ‘People don’t understand Coach Lombardi. They don’t know him. But we know him. We understand him. And we love him. And this is one beautiful man.’

“And that still fits today. I still feel that same way.”

After that classic game, Lombardi received a phone call in the locker room from his mentor Red Blaik, who taught Lombardi so much at Army. The words from Blaik to Lombardi can be read in the fantastic book, When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss, which to me is the greatest book ever written about Lombardi.

“Vince,” Blaik said. “A great victory, but greater were the words of Kramer, who has stilled those who are skeptical about you as a person.”

Kramer also feels the same way about Rodgers. He likes the fact that he cares about the way his teammates practice or about the way they play during a game. It’s also okay to have squabbles with your coach and it’s also okay to get angry, even during a game.

But it has to be controlled anger. Kramer used that technique when he was a player. It started on Thursday when he would think about his upcoming opponent who he would see in the trenches on Sunday. Kramer would go through an exercise in his mind. That his opponent was trying to hurt his family, take away his home and his job. That served him well during his career.

The first time Kramer used anger to motivate himself was while he was in a state track meet in Idaho while he was in high school. Because of a mishap with a shotgun, Kramer had accidentally shot himself in the lower arm and wrist area. That is not a good omen for a person who has to throw the shot put.

But between hard work and using a different throwing technique which was used by Olympic champion Parry O’Brien, Kramer was able to throw the shot put close to 49 feet heading into the state track meet.

But when he was announced on the loudspeaker just before he was about to throw, Kramer tensed up and threw the shot put around 30 feet. Luckily for Kramer, the throw was not able to be spotted because the judges were back near 49 feet, the distance Kramer had thrown recently. This situation gave Kramer one more chance to make a throw.

But this time, he was pissed. Kramer used that anger and threw the shot put 51 feet, 10 inches, which broke a 20-year state record.

It was the controlled anger that helped Kramer break the state record in the shot put in Idaho. It was also controlled anger that Kramer witnessed from Rodgers in the opening game of the 2018 season, when the Packers played the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football on NBC.

That game was also played on alumni weekend, so Kramer and many of the Packer greats from yesteryear were on hand to see the game.

In that game, Rodgers had a 130.7 passer rating, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 286 yards. Most of this came after No. 12 had his season almost ended on one of the two sacks he took that night, as Rodgers suffered what was called a knee sprain, which saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

But Rodgers was able to come back in the second half, as he led the Packers back from a 20-3 deficit, as Green Bay roared back to beat Chicago 24-23.

Aaron vs. da Bears in 2018 at Lambeau

But it wasn’t just a sprain, as it was actually a tibial plateau fracture and sprained MCL in Rodgers’ left knee.

Rodgers talked about that knee injury last week on ESPN Wisconsin, as he talked about the play which injured him, when 294-pound Bears defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris came crashing down on him for a sack.

“If you watch the hit back,” Rodgers said, “just my two bones are coming together on the outside, just kind of made an indent fracture. Very painful. The good thing was it’s not super weight bearing, like load bearing every single time. but there definitely was some movement and things you do naturally that affected it.”

But you wouldn’t have known that watching Rodgers play in the second half against da Bears, as No. 12 led the Packers back to an unforgettable comeback.

“I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet Aaron was really mad after the injury,” Kramer said. “To see your season almost end against your most hated rival and on national television, had to have angered him. But in my mind, he used that anger in a controlled way and was almost flawless to lead the Packers back to a great victory.”

Yes, controlled anger is a great asset to have. Ask Tom Brady. How many times have you seen him scream at teammates and coaches on the sidelines? But he doesn’t let that anger affect his play negatively. He uses that anger to enhance it.

That is the credo which Kramer utilized in his Hall of Fame career with the Packers, both with his relationship with coaches and also with his play on the field.

And that is how Kramer believes it should be for Rodgers as well.

“Aaron has always played with a chip on his shoulder, just like Tom Brady has,” Kramer said. “It has served him well in the past and will serve him well in the future. He has to deflect the things in the media that aren’t important to him and his team and just continue to focus on getting the job done.

“There will be times when there will be issues with your head coach or your position coach. That is life in the NFL. But all of that has to put be aside when the time comes and you have to prepare for the game.

“Aaron is a winner and a champion. And that is something which will never change, as long as he keeps that chip on his shoulder.”

Green Bay Packers: Being Too Conservative in Big Games Cost Both Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy

mike sherman and make mccarthy

Since the year 2000, there have only been three permanent head coaches for the Green Bay Packers. Those coaches are Mike Sherman (2000-2005), Mike McCarthy (2006-2018) and currently Matt LaFleur, who was recently hired.

Joe Philbin took over for McCarthy as interim head coach for the last four weeks of the 2018 season after McCarthy was fired and the team went 2-2.

The Packers have been pretty successful in the NFL over the last 19 years with Sherman and McCarthy holding down the fort as head coach.

Sherman was 57-39 in the regular season, with five postseason appearances during that time, which included four straight divisional titles.

However, Sherman was just 2-4 in the postseason, which included the first ever postseason loss in the state of Wisconsin by a Green Bay team.

McCarthy was 125-76-2 in the regular season, with nine appearances in the postseason, which including eight straight seasons at one point and also six NFC North divisional titles.

Although McCarthy and his Packers won Super Bowl XLV, he was just 1-3 in NFC title games and just 10-8 overall in the postseason. Plus, McCarthy was also 0-4 in overtime games in the postseason.

So, how does one read that?

I mean, think about it. In 19 years, the Packers were 184-117-2 in the regular season, went to the postseason 14 times, won 10 divisional titles and a Super Bowl.

I would think any franchise in the NFL, with the exception of the New England Patriots, would be thrilled with those results.

I bring up the Patriots for a reason. The head coach of the Patriots is Bill Belichick, who has been the head coach of the Pats since 2000. Which is exactly when Sherman took over in Green Bay.

In those 19 years, Belichick and the Pats have been 225-79 in the regular season. That also includes 16 appearances in the postseason and 16 AFC East titles, which includes 10 straight times now.

Overall, Belichick is now 28-10 in the postseason with his Patriots after the win on Sunday versus the Los Angles Chargers and have been to eight Super Bowls, winning five of them.

The Patriots will be making an astonishing ninth straight appearance in the AFC title game this upcoming Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now granted, Belichick has achieved that with Tom Brady as his quarterback.

That being said, Sherman and McCarthy had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers to work with.

After the Patriots, there are very few teams who have been as successful as the Packers since 2000. The two that are in same area code are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts.

Since 2000, the Steelers have been 197-105-1 in the regular season, went to the postseason 12 times, won nine divisional titles and two Super Bowls.

The Steelers have only had two head coaches since 2000. The first was Bill Cowher, who coached from 1992 through 2006 and now current head coach Mike Tomlin.

Since 2000, the Colts have been 190-114 in the regular season, went to the postseason 14 times, won nine divisional titles and a Super Bowl.

The Colts have been a bit more liberal with their head coaching changes since 2000, starting with Jim Mora (1998-2001), Tony Dungy (2002-2008), Jim Caldwell (2008-2011), Chuck Pagano (2012-2017) and current head coach Frank Reich who took over in 2018.

The common denominator there again is mostly due to the excellent quarterback play, as over that time Ben Roethlisberger had led the Steelers for the most part during that period, while Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have been under center for the Colts most of the time.

When one looks back on the demise of the Packers under Sherman and McCarthy, I can point to a postseason game that each of them should have won, but instead lost. The main reason was being too conservative.

For Sherman it happened in the 2003 postseason in a NFC Divisional Game versus the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Packers were 10-6 in 2003 and won the NFC North. The Packers had back to back 12-4 seasons going into 2003, but the team had a rough start to the season.

But after a strong second half, when the Packers won six out of seven games, including four straight to end the season, Green Bay lucked out and won the NFC North. I say lucked out, because it took a last-second touchdown pass in a game between the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings to win the division.

Had the Vikings won that game, they, not the Packers, would be NFC North champs. But instead Josh McCown of the Cardinals threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole as time expired. The Cards won the game 33-28 at Sun Devil Stadium and the Vikings not only lost the game, but also a spot in the playoffs.

The Packers took that good karma and ran with it in their Wild Card Game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The Packers string of good luck continued, as an Al Harris 52-yard interception return for a touchdown beat Mike Holmgren and his Hawks 33-27 in OT.

That win led to the divisional game against the Eagles. The winner would be going to the NFC title game.

The Packers started fast in the game and led 14-0. The ground game of the Packers was especially effective as running back Ahman Green rushed for 156 yards in the game. The Packers were leading 17-14 late in the game when Sherman had a difficult decision to make.

ahman green vs. eagles in playoffs

It was fourth down and about a foot to go at the 40 of the Eagles. One more first down ends the game. It’s either go for it or punt.  To me, there was nothing to think about. Run for the first down and get ready for the NFC title game the next week.

Why? Well, not only had the Packers been running wild on the Eagles the whole game, they were also ranked third in the NFL in running the ball in 2003. Toting the rock was a big strength of the team.

Still, Sherman decided to punt. The punt went into the end zone and the ball was placed on the 20. The Packers had a net gain of 20 yards after that punt. Plus, Sherman was putting the game in the hands of a defense that was 17th in total defense in 2003 and was even worse in passing defense, as the team was ranked 23rd.

It all led to the 28-yard completion by Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell on the infamous fourth-and-26 play, which led to the game-tying field goal. The Packers later lost in OT, as the Eagles kicked another field goal after Brett Favre was picked off on a deep pass.

I don’t think that team ever got over that loss. Yes, the Packers went 10-6 in 2004 and won the NFC North again, but the team had a number of holes, due to the bad drafts and free agency miscues that Sherman had been part of, as he was also general manager at the time.

It all led to an embarrassing 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in a 2004 NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field.

That led to Sherman being stripped of his GM duties, as Ted Thompson was hired for that position. It also led to the Packers driving into the ditch in 2005, as the team went 4-12 and Favre had the worst year of his career.

Shortly thereafter, Sherman was fired. I believe it all stemmed from the postseason game against the Eagles, where had Sherman been proactive instead of be reactive, the Packers probably win.

After Sherman was fired, Thompson hired McCarthy.

McCarthy had a great run as head coach, as I indicated earlier. But when he was one play away from getting his team into their second Super Bowl under him, he decided to play the conservative game, just like Sherman did.

The game I’m talking about is the 2014 NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Packers totally dominated that NFC title game for about 55 minutes, but a late meltdown in all phases of the game led to the most agonizing postseason loss in the history of the Packers, as they lost 28-22 in overtime.

The Packers had a number of opportunities where they could have basically ended the game with just one play.

For instance, safety Morgan Burnett went to the ground after an interception, when it looked like he had a good chance to run the pick back deep into Seattle territory (perhaps even a touchdown) which would have clinched the game.

aaron rodgers vs. the seahawks in the 2014 nfc title game

Still, even with that mistake, the Packers could have won on offense by just getting one more first down. Instead of allowing Rodgers, the MVP of the league in 2014 to throw the ball at least one time, head coach McCarthy instead had the Packers run it three straight times when getting a first down basically would have ended the game. The Packers didn’t get the needed first down.

It led to a Seattle touchdown after the ensuing punt.

Then came the onside kick debacle. Instead of blocking like he was supposed to do, so Jordy Nelson could catch the ball, Brandon Bostick tried to be a hero and catch the ball himself. He didn’t and the Seahawks recovered.

Seattle scored again and were now up by three points. The Packers had to drive down the field to tie the game with a Mason Crosby field goal. McCarthy had no choice but to allow Rodgers to throw the ball in that situation and No. 12 quickly got the Packers in field goal position.

The Packers did indeed tie the game but lost in overtime.

Ironically in the 2018 season, at the very same field late in the game facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, McCarthy decided to punt. Yes, the Packers had one timeout left and there was 4:02 left on the clock. But guess what? Green Bay never got the ball back.

The reason was pretty obvious to anyone watching the game in the second half. Because of injuries on their defensive line, the Packers could not stop the running game of the Seahawks. And they didn’t stop them after the McCarthy decided to punt either.

17 days later, McCarthy was fired after the loss to the Cardinals at Lambeau Field.

Now I know what some will say. The Packers did get back into the postseason in 2015 and 2016 after that brutal loss in Seattle in the 2014 NFC title game.

But in 2015, the Packers had to go in as a Wild Card with a 10-6 record, as the team was flat down the stretch and lost the final game of the season to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field which enabled the Vikings to win the NFC North title.

Then after defeating the Washington Redskins in a NFC Wild Card game at FedEx Field, the Packers had a chance to steal a win in the NFC Divisional round against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Packers were trailing 20-13 with 55 seconds left in the game. They were facing a fourth-and-20 from their own four. Somehow, Rodgers miraculously was able to complete a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Janis, which put the ball at the Arizona 36.

Janis and fellow backup wide receiver Jared Abbrederis were only in the game because of injuries to Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Jordy Nelson was out for the year with an ACL injury he suffered in the preseason.

It came down to five seconds to go from the Arizona 41. Rodgers once again pulled out another miracle as hit Janis in the end zone for a Hail Mary touchdown.

Earlier in the drive, color commentator Cris Collinsworth said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers went for two if they scored a touchdown. I was thinking the same thing.

The Packers were an injury depleted team. They had just shocked the Cardinals with a late touchdown with no time left. On a drive that went 96 yards in 55 seconds. Arizona was wobbling. But alas, McCarthy decided to kick the extra point and tie the game.

Of course, the Cardinals scored on the opening drive of OT and the Packers lost 26-20.

In 2017, the Packers had to win their last six games of the season which won them the NFC North with a 10-6 record. The team also won two postseason games before they were blown out by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game 44-21 at the Georgia Dome.

The Packers were never able to regain their swagger under McCarthy, as they team went 7-9 in 2017, as Rodgers missed several games again with another broken collarbone and were 4-7-1 when McCarthy was fired in 2018.

Bottom line, both Sherman and McCarthy had nice runs in Green Bay. But both could have been even more successful had they been willing to put their foot on the throat of their opponents in key moments to win the game.

The Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi. Was Lombardi a conservative head coach? Hardly. He blamed himself for the only postseason loss (against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game) he ever suffered by going for it on a couple of fourth and short situations and being stopped in Philadelphia territory at Franklin Field.

The Packers lost that game 17-13, as fullback Jim Taylor was tackled at the Philadelphia 8-yardline as time ran out. The Packers needed a touchdown to win the game instead of a field goal that Lombardi could have kicked earlier in the game.

Plus there is the legendary “Ice Bowl” game, also known as the 1967 NFL Championship game. That classic game came down to the Packers having just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and trailing 17-14.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Lombardi could have brought in Don Chandler to kick a short field goal to tie the game then, but he decided to go for it and instead went for the touchdown. It worked out perfectly, as quarterback Bart Starr followed Jerry Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh (with help from center Ken Bowman) and No. 15 tumbled happily into the end zone for the winning score.

The Lombardi of current times is Belichick, based on what he done over the past 19 years. Like Lombardi, Belichick is a confident coach and will try to end the game on his terms.  And also like Lombardi did, Belichick trusts his players to get the job done when the situation calls for it.

Now did all the gambles that Lombardi and Belichick utilized work? No. But many more times than not they did. And together the two coaches won 10 NFL titles.

As a head coach, sometimes the situation calls for trusting your players in big moments in big games. Sherman and McCarthy did not in key situations and it ending up costing them. First in the deflating the spirit of their teams, which led to them eventually losing their jobs further down the road.

Green Bay Packers: Matt LaFleur has the Attributes to be a Successful Head Coach

matt lafleur

I’m sure many in Packer Nation asked the same question when it was announced that the Green Bay Packers had hired Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach.

Who the hell is Matt LaFleur?

The 39 year-old LaFleur was definitely an under the radar selection by president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Packers, but when one takes a closer look at the background of LaFleur and peels back the onion a bit, there is a lot to like.

First off, LaFleur has worked under some great offensive minds in the NFL. LaFleur has been an assistant under head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans, head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan of the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams before running the offense of the Tennessee Titans in 2018 as offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Vrabel.

At Houston, LaFleur was offensive quality control coach and then was the quarterbacks coach at Washington and Atlanta. In Los Angeles, his title was offensive coordinator, but McVay called the plays. When he became the OC in Tennessee, LaFleur was able to call the plays himself.

Let’s look at the success that players who have been tutored by LaFleur have done.

In 2012, while he was the QBs coach of the Redskins, quarterback Robert Griffin III was the rage of the NFL and became the Offensive Rookie of the Year, as he threw 20 touchdown passes, compared to just five picks for 3,200 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 102.4.

RGIII also ran for 815 yards and seven more scores.

In Atlanta, again as QB coach, quarterback Matt Ryan became the NFL MVP in 2016, as he threw 38 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,944 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 117.1.

Ryan just carved the defense of the Packers apart during the 2016 regular season as he threw three TD passes without an interception for 288 yards and a passer rating of 129. 5, as the Falcons squeezed by the Pack 33-32. But that was nothing compared to what Ryan did to the defense of the Packers in the 2016 NFL title game.

Ryan threw four TD passes, without a pick once again, for 392 yards and a passer rating of 139.4, as the Dirty Birds blew out the Packers 44-21.

matt lafleur and matt ryan

As offensive coordinator of the Rams in 2017, his number one priority was to get second-year quarterback Jared Goff to the next level after a very tough rookie year.

In seven starts as a rookie in 2016, Goff was 0-7 as a starter and had just five TD passes versus seven interceptions for 1,089 yards. That adds up to a paltry passer rating of 63.6.

But in 2017, under the guidance of LaFleur, Goff really took off, as he was 11-4 as a starter, plus threw 28 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 3,804 yards. Goff’s passer rating improved to a very nice 100.4 level.

Not only did LaFleur get Goff on the right track, but the Rams started using the skills of talented running back Todd Gurley much better in 2017.

In 2015, Gurley was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, but in 2016, things went south for the former Georgia Bulldog. In his second season, Gurley only rushed for 885 yards and his yards-per-carry average went down by over a yard and a half, as he only averaged 3.2 yards per rush.

But in 2017 under LaFleur, Gurley had a monster year, as he was named Offensive Player of the Year. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards (4.7 average) and 13 TDs, plus caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six more scores.

In 2018, as offensive coordinator of the Titans, the offense struggled early, as quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered an elbow injury which would linger all season long.

Tennessee didn’t flash statistically under LaFleur (25th in total offense and 27th in scoring), but he figured out the best way to run his offense down the stretch. It led to five straight wins before the Titans were beaten by the Indianapolis Colts in the final game of the season, in a game which would see the winner get into the playoffs.

Knowing that he had an ailing Mariota dealing with elbow issues, LaFleur leaned on the running game for the last quarter of the 2018 season. Running back Derrick Henry became a force (and you who had him in fantasy football know this), as he rushed for 585 yards and seven touchdowns in four games to end the season.

So, based on the excellent work that LaFleur has done in both the passing and running game, not to mention the coaches he has developed under, it’s no wonder why the Packers made him their new head coach.

The Mike McCarthy tenure had run it’s course and although he and then general manager Ted Thompson had a lot of success over several years, it was time to turn the page. Which is what Murphy did after the brutal loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on December 2nd.

In addition to all that, reports say that LaFleur is inclined to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and perhaps even keep other coaches as well, including Joe Philbin, who was interim head coach after the firing of McCarthy.

To me, that is good news. As was the report that quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave his blessing to the hiring of LaFleur. That is key.

When McCarthy was hired in 2006, his first priority was to get quarterback Brett Favre back to playing a MVP level again. That’s because is 2005, Favre had his worse season ever, as he threw 20 touchdown passes versus a whopping 29 interception for 3,881 yards. That added up to a very mediocre passer rating of 70.9.

Favre improved in 2006 and then really took off in his last season in Green Bay in 2007, as he threw 28 TD passes versus 15 picks for 4,155 yards. No. 4’s passer rating improved to 95.7 and the Packers made it to the NFC title game.

LaFleur has a similar situation with Rodgers, although not near as much work as McCarthy had to do with Favre.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

Most quarterbacks in the NFL would have loved to have the stats Rodgers had in 2018. No. 12 threw 25 touchdown passes versus just two picks for 4,442 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 97.6, which isn’t too far from his career passer rating mark of 103.1, which is tops in NFL history.

Still, something wasn’t right. First, there was an obvious disconnect between Rodgers and McCarthy. Plus, the completion percentage for Rodgers was just 62.3 percent, which is two points lower than his career average. Adding to that, Rodgers threw away more passes than he has ever done in his career and his accuracy was off at times. Sometimes missing low and other times high.

Some of that can be blamed on the sprained knee Rodgers suffered in the first game of the season against the Chicago Bears, but the two-time NFL MVP gutted it out and played in all 16 games.

Speaking of Green Bay quarterbacks, back in 2014, LaFleur was the QBs coach at Notre Dame. Which means he has a good read on the skills of backup quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was with the Fighting Irish then.

It’s important that LaFleur can aid in the development of Kizer and to find out whether or not he is a viable backup QB to Rodgers.

The bottom line is that I believe the hiring of LaFleur as head coach by Murphy and Gutekunst was excellent. LaFleur has proven that he can help make quarterbacks and running backs play much better.

The key now for LaFleur is to put together the best possible coaching staff he can. Keeping Pettine and possibly Philbin are two good moves in my opinion.

Adding an excellent special teams coach will also be paramount to the success of the teams LaFleur will put together in Green Bay.

But just like Vince Lombardi in 1959, Mike Holmgren in 1992 and McCarthy in 2006, I have a feeling that the hiring of LaFleur will yield similar success.

Packer Nation will get to meet LaFleur tomorrow, as he will be introduced as the new head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

 

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.”

 

The Track Record of Aaron Rodgers vs. the NFC North Gives the Packers Hope

Aaron Rodgers vs. the Vikings in 2016

Although the Green Bay Packers are 4-5-1 after 10 games in the 2018 NFL season, there is still hope that the Packers can still make the playoffs. The biggest reason is quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as he will be playing all three of his NFC North rivals during the final six-game stretch of the year.

Rodgers is a combined 41-15-1 versus the Minnesota Vikings (12-7-1), Chicago Bears (16-4) and Detroit Lions (13-4).

There is a big reason for his success. It’s the numbers he puts up against those teams. Combined, Rodgers has thrown 122 touchdown passes compared to just 21 interceptions for 19,122 yards against his biggest rivals. That adds up to a combined passer rating of 109.4, which is even better than his all-time NFL best career mark of 103.7.

That rating is helped by his off the charts ratio of touchdown passes (332) vs. interceptions (79). That means that Rodgers throws 4.20 touchdown passes compared to every pick he throws.

No one else in NFL history comes close. In fact, Tom Brady (3.02) of the New England Patriots and Russell Wilson (3.01) of the Seattle Seahawks are the only other QBs in NFL history to be above the three to one ratio when comparing touchdown passes to interceptions.

Bottom line, since Rodgers became the starting QB of the Packers in 2008, Rodgers and the Packers have won the NFC North five times and have made the playoffs eight times overall.

Currently, the Bears lead the NFC North with a 8-3 record, followed by the Vikings at 5-4-1, the Packers at 4-5-1 and the Lions at 4-7. The Bears and Lions have played one more game, as they met in Detroit on Thanksgiving, as Chicago won 23-16.

Rodgers has had a very good 2018 season, as he has thrown 19 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 3,073 yards. Plus, he has played very well against his NFC North rivals as well.

Against da Bears and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the season opener at Lambeau Field, Rodgers had a 130.7 passer rating, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 286 yards. Most of this came after No. 12 had his season almost ended on one of the two sacks he took that night, as Rodgers suffered a knee sprain that saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

But Rodgers was able to come back in the second half, as he led the Packers back from a 20-3 deficit, as Green Bay roared back to beat Chicago 24-23.

Aaron versus da Bears at Lambeau in 2018

In Week 2, versus the Vikings at Lambeau, on the same day the Packers put Jerry Kramer’s name on the stadium facade and he was given his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, the Packers saw a sure win taken away from them due to a very controversial roughing the quarterback call against Clay Matthews as he hit Kirk Cousins.

The game ended in a 29-29 tie, as Rodgers threw for 281 yards and a touchdown (without a pick). No. 12’s passer rating in the game was 97.4. And this all happened a week after Rodgers almost had his season ended against da Bears with his knee injury.

As it was, the Vikings sacked Rodgers four times.

In Week 5 against the Lions at Ford Field, Rodgers and the Packers were hurt by the kicking game, as kicker Mason Crosby missed four field goals and an extra point, as Detroit beat Green Bay 31-23.

Rodgers had a nice game, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 442 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 108.0.

But for the Packers to have any chance of making the postseason, either as division champs or as a Wild Card team, they have to certainly defeat the Vikings Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Rodgers can’t do it alone, but he has to play well for Green Bay to win. And as good as Rodgers has played in 2018, in spite of his lingering knee issues, he has also shown a few tendencies that have been rare throughout his career.

For one thing, Rodgers has just a 61.8 completion percentage this season, which is the second lowest of his career (64.9 average). Some of that could be due to his knee woes, plus he is playing with a number of younger wide receivers, including rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.

That has led to a number of inaccurate throws to open receivers. Besides that, we can’t forget that Rodgers has suffered two broken collarbones in his career, including the one from last season (after a hit by Anthony Barr of the Vikings) when Rodgers had to have 13 screws put in to repair his broken collarbone.

Still, Rodgers is still playing at a very high level, even though the Packers are 1-3 in their last four games. In those four games, Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes without a pick for 1,076 yards. That adds up to a combined passer rating of 108.2.

Teams should not be 1-3 when their quarterbacks play like Rodgers has the past four games overall, but it goes to show that there are a number of other issues with the 2018 Packers.

And a lot of heat is going in the direction of head coach Mike McCarthy.

Besides utilizing the skills of Rodgers on offense, the Packers also need to rely on running back Aaron Jones more.

The defensive and special teams units have to play better as well.

All that being said, Rodgers is the best chance the Packers have in getting back to the postseason again in 2018, after missing out in 2017.

A lot of that is due to the great success Rodgers has had against his NFC North rivals in his career.

The Hourglass is Running Out on Mike McCarthy’s Tenure in Green Bay

Mike McCarthy in Seattle

When one looks at the track record of Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Green Bay Packers over close to 13 seasons, there is a lot to like.

Things like having a 125-75-2 record in the regular season, which equates to a .624 winning percentage. That includes six NFC North titles.

Plus there is the fact that the Packers have been to the postseason nine times under his watch, including eight seasons in a row. But even though his team won Super Bowl XLV, McCarthy has not fared as well in the postseason overall, as he is just 10-8.

Included in that were three losses in the NFC title game, two of which were lost in overtime. In addition to that, McCarthy’s teams have lost two other postseason games in overtime.

That’s four overtime losses in the postseason.

Just imagine what McCarthy’s record might be in the postseason if his teams got a break or two in those games. Instead of 10-8, McCarthy’s record in the postseason might be much better and might include another Vince Lombardi Trophy or two.

But sometimes you have to create your own breaks. And that’s where some of us take issue with McCarthy’s tactics over the years in big games. Like being too conservative.

I’ll give you two examples and they both happened in the same stadium (CenturyLink Field) when the Packers played the Seattle Seahawks.

The first example is the 2014 NFC championship game. The Packers dominated the game for 55 minutes, but a breakdown on offense, defense and special teams in the last five minutes led to an agonizing 28-22 loss in overtime.

At one point the Packers were basically one more first down away from putting the game away. So what plays did McCarthy call in that instance? Three straight running plays. This with the 2014 NFL MVP (Aaron Rodgers) as your quarterback.

Then on Thursday night with the Packers down 27-24 with 4:02 to go in the game and the Packers facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, with just one timeout, McCarthy decided to punt, again with Rodgers as his QB.

The Packers never got the ball back, as the Packers were having big issues stopping the run in the second half of the game, plus defensive lineman Mike Daniels was out of the game with an ankle injury and fellow D-lineman Kenny Clark had also limped off with an injury.

So what was McCarthy’s explanation?

“We have the injuries to Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, so yeah, it was definitely a consideration there,” McCarthy said. “But with the one timeout and the ability to stop the clock at the two-minute [warning], we played the numbers.”

That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.

Which is why the now 4-5-1 Packers might not make the postseason for the second straight year. Which also places McCarthy is the hot seat of being perhaps fired.

I hear from a lot of fans that McCarthy was fortunate that he had Brett Favre and Rodgers playing quarterback for him during most of his tenure. Plus, when Rodgers was hurt last year, the team didn’t fare very well with Brett Hundley at quarterback.

That is true, but at least McCarthy was smart enough to bring back Matt Flynn in 2013 when Rodgers was out with a similar injury. That helped the Packers achieve their third straight NFC North title.

But now things look much worse. It certainly appears that McCarthy and Rodgers are not on the same page in terms of the play calling on offense.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

Plus, now McCarthy doesn’t have Ted Thompson as his GM anymore. That job now belongs to Brian Gutekunst. But even with a new general manager, the decision to keep or fire McCarthy lies with team president Mark Murphy.

On Friday, McCarthy talked to the media about his job status.

“That’s the job,” McCarthy said. “That’s the way this business has gone. I’m not going to get into comparables, but at the end of the day that’s part of the job responsibility of the head coach.

“We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard.”

But McCarthy also realizes that things are different in today’s NFL, especially now that people can get information off the social media.

“I don’t think you can tune (criticism) out,” McCarthy said. “That’s the old days. That’s when you had newspapers. But I think today’s world, everything is accessible, everything is instant. I’m sure (Packers players are) all aware.”

McCarthy has been down this road before with his team, both in 2013 (when the Packers need a strong push from Flynn at the end of the season) and in 2016 (when the Packers need to win the last six games of the season to win the NFC North and make the playoffs).

Green Bay almost certainly has to run the table again with six straight wins in 2018 for the team to perhaps win the NFC North or get in as a Wild Card.

The odds of that don’t seem too good, especially knowing the team is 0-5 on the road.

There is growing speculation that McCarthy’s time in Green Bay is short. An article by Mike Silver of NFL.com illustrates that.

In the article, Silver uses a couple of quotes about McCarthy’s decision to punt late in the game.

Defensive back Tramon Williams of the Packers shared his thoughts on that subject.

“I want to go for it,” Williams said. “I want to play to win. We’ve got Aaron Rodgers. We (should) play to win — period. We don’t want to put it in anybody else’s hands. We’ve got the best quarterback in the league. We’ve got to put it in his hands and let him do what he does.”

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. of the Seahawks was very happy with McCarthy’s decision.

“Oh my God,” Norton said after the game. “I was like, ‘Please! Punt! Punt! Punt!’ ”

Time will tell how this will all play out, but unless things change pretty drastically, the Packers will most likely will have a new head coach in 2019.

The Packers Can Exorcise Some Demons in Seattle on Thursday Night

Brandon Bostick Flub vs. Seahawks

Since Aaron Rodgers became the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers in 2008, he is 6-2 lifetime versus the Seattle Seahawks in the regular season and 0-1 against the Hawks in the postseason.

All three of those defeats happened at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, where it seems like every game between the two teams in the Emerald City has been written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame.

In 2012, the Packers lost 14-12 on the final play of the game on the infamous “Fail Mary” pass that was “caught” by Golden Tate.

In the season opener in 2014, the Packers were whipped 36-16, as Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half alone.

But the topper was the 2014 NFC title game.

The Packers dominated that NFC championship game for about 55 minutes, but a late meltdown in all phases of the game led to the most agonizing postseason loss in the history of the Packers, as they lost 28-22 in overtime.

The Packers had a number of opportunities where they could have basically ended the game with just one play.

Plays like safety Morgan Burnett going to the ground after an interception, when it looked like he had a good chance to run the pick back for a touchdown, which would have clinched the game.

Or just getting one more first down. Instead of allowing Rodgers, the MVP of the league in 2014 to throw the ball, head coach Mike McCarthy had the Packers run it three straight times when getting just one first down basically would have ended the game.

Or just not screwing up on an onside kick, which is exactly what backup tight end Brandon Bostick did. Instead of blocking like he was supposed to do, so Jordy Nelson could catch the ball, Bostick tried to be a hero and catch the ball himself. He didn’t and the Seahawks recovered.

But all that is in the past now.

The good news is that Rodgers normally plays very well against the Seahawks. In the eight regular season games he has played against Seattle, Rodgers has completed almost 69 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdown passes versus just two picks for 1,663 yards.

That adds up to a passer rating of 101.5.

That comes close to Rodgers’ career rating of 103.5, which is tops all time in the NFL, based on 1,500 passing attempts.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Seahawks

On Thursday night, Rodgers will be going up against the quarterback who is second on the all-time career passer rating. That would be the former Wisconsin Badger, Russell Wilson, who has a career passer rating of 99.7.

Wilson is 2-3 against the Packers in the regular season, and 1-0 versus the Pack in the postseason. All three of his wins happened at CenturyLink Field.

In the five regular season games, Wilson has thrown seven touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 925 yards. The completion percentage for Wilson is just under 58 percent. All told, his passer rating is just 75.8.

Both Rodgers and Wilson are playing better than the 2018 versions of their respective teams.

The Packers are 4-4-1, but Rodgers is having another Pro Bowl season, as he has thrown 17 touchdown passes versus just one interception for 2,741 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of exactly 100.

The Seahawks are just 4-5, but Wilson has thrown 21 touchdown passes compared to five picks for 1,967 yards. That adds up to an outstanding passer rating of 110.2.

In terms of how this game will play out, the Packers are ranked seventh in total offense and 11th in total defense. The Seahawks have struggled a bit on offense at times, as they are ranked 22nd in total offense and 12th in total defense.

As good as both quarterbacks have been for each team, the Packers and Seahawks both are more successful on offense in different ways.

The Packers are sixth in the NFL in passing, while the Seahawks are just 27th. But when it comes to running the rock, the Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing, as they average over 152 yards per game. The Green Bay running game (14th in the NFL) is getting better as well, as Aaron Jones has been a catalyst in that improvement.

While the Packers primarily use Jones (494 yards and a 6.8 yard rushing average) and Jamaal Williams (270 yards) to tote the rock, the Seahawks have been effective with three different running backs.

The Hawks have used Chris Carson (497 yards), Mike Davis (346 yards) and Rashaad Penny (254 yards).

The Packers are tied for the NFL lead in rushing average with the Denver Broncos, as they average 5.2 yards per carry. The Seahawks are tied for seventh with a 4.8 rushing average.

When it comes to the passing game, the Packers look to Davante Adams more times than not and No. 17 is having another outstanding season. Adams has 62 receptions for 787 yards and nine touchdowns.

The wide receiver who is really coming on for the Packers is rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The rookie out of USF has 23 catches for 402 yards (17.5 average) and two scores. Lately the rookie has been getting as many snaps at wide receiver as Adams has. That tells you how much the Packers think of him.

The Packers also have former Seahawk Jimmy Graham at tight end. No. 80 has not produced like many thought he would in Green Bay, but is still a dangerous weapon, especially in the red zone. For the year, Graham has 33 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns.

One of the reasons that the passing game has not jelled as much as it could for the Seahawks has been because of the injury issues (knee) with Doug Baldwin (23 catches for 275 yards). No. 89 is as healthy as he has been all year right now.

Russell Wilson vs. Packers

The primary target for Wilson has been Tyler Lockett, who has 33 receptions for 483 yards and seven touchdowns.

Nick Vannett has been the primary target at tight end, as he has 20 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

The strength of the Green Bay defense has been the play of their young secondary, especially rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. Overall, the Packers are 5th in the NFL in passing defense.

On defense, the Packers might have an advantage, as defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was a consultant with the Seahawks in 2017 under head coach Pete Carroll. Pettine knows the personnel of the Hawks pretty well and he understands what it will take to stop Seattle defensively.

Stopping the run is No. 1 and that is where the Packers have to improve, as they are ranked 22nd in the NFL in run defense, as Green Bay gives up an average of almost 121 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.

Going up against the best running team in the NFL will be a real test.

But if the Packers can stop the run or at least shut it down somewhat, Green Bay should be able to put pressure on Wilson when he goes back to pass.

Some may find this hard to believe, but the Packers are tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 31, along with the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have given up 29 sacks, which ranks them seventh in the NFL in sacks allowed.

Like the Packers do with Pettine, the Seahawks also have someone who knows the Green Bay personnel pretty well. That would be backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who the Hawks acquired via trade.

Bottom line, this should be one hell of a game, but I like the Packers to exorcise some demons in this game and get a big victory. A win would be a key turning point for the team in 2018.

That’s how important this game is for the Packers, especially with the Vikings being their next opponent on the road.

The Packers have beaten the Seahawks three straight times. All of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I see that streak going to four in a row, but this time the win will finally come in Seattle.