I had the pleasure of speaking with Boyd Dowler of the Green Bay Packers on the 53rd anniversary of the 1967 NFL championship game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” played on December 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field. Boyd and I talked about that game, as well as other subjects such as Davante Adams of the Packers and also the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In terms of the “Ice Bowl”, Dowler recalls that he caught four passes from Bart Starr in that game for 77 yards and two scores. Dowler recalls what happened on each of his touchdowns. The first touchdown came on the first drive of the game of the Packers and it was when Green Bay was on the 8-yard line of the Cowboys.
“Bart noticed that the cornerback was lined-up a couple of yards outside of me and I was in tight,” Dowler said. “So was the linebacker. Plus, Mel Renfro, who was a safety, was near the line of scrimmage near the center. So Bart calls an audible called 86, which had nothing to do with my number. 86 was a quick post or slant and it was a blitz audible when the safety was up. But Bart never once called that audible when I was in tight. He always had called it when I was split out wide.
“But he called it anyway. But the call did not throw me off, as I knew how Bart thought and was in my ninth year playing with him. So I thought to myself to just not screw up and run what Bart had called, even though I was in tight. The linebacker gave me a clean release off the line of scrimmage and I just broke inside to where Renfro should have been and Bart just threw it to me and it was an easy pitch and catch. But it was the play call that got me open. Bart sort of surprised me with the call, but when I broke wide open in the end zone, I realized it was a damn good call by Bart.”
Dowler also recalled the second touchdown, which occurred in the second quarter.
“It was third and short and Bart called the 36 pass,” Dowler said. “If Renfro was playing deep where he was supposed to be, Bart would have changed the call to a 36 run, when the fullback would run off tackle.”
On the 36 pass, Starr had two options. One, he could throw to the halfback out in the left flat or throw to the end who would run a post pattern. This play occurred when the Packers were at the 43-yard line of the Cowboys.
“On that 36 pass play, Bart first faked the handoff to Ben Wilson and then looked to pass,” Dowler said. “The wind was blowing in Bart’s face on that play. Renfro was playing up a bit and when I got by him, my heart skipped a beat because I thought Bart would overthrow me, but he laid it in there perfectly. Renfro wasn’t far behind me when I caught it and he did tackle me in the end zone.
“The bottom line is that on both of my touchdowns, the coverage problem for the Cowboys was because of where Renfro was lined up. Bart saw that and took advantage of it.”
After Dowler retired, he coached receivers for 15 years in the NFL. In fact, in 1971, Dowler was a player-coach with the Redskins. There he coached Charley Taylor, who like Dowler was on the NFL All-Decade team of the 1960s. Taylor was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
So was another player Dowler coached when he was on the staff of the Philadelphia Eagles. That would be Harold Carmichael, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020, which also included safety Bobby Dillon of the Packers.
Obviously Dowler knows a lot about playing receiver in the NFL, both as a player and as a coach. Which is why I wanted to get his take on Davante Adams of the Packers.
Adams is now ranked fourth in Green Bay history with 546 receptions. Dowler is ranked eight with 448 catches. Adams has 62 touchdown receptions, while Dowler had 57. In terms of yardage, Dowler leads in that category, as he had 6,918 receiving yards, while Adams has 6,568.
In 2020, Adams was basically unstoppable catching balls from Aaron Rodgers, as No. 17 had 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns. Because of the great season he had in 2020, Adams was named to the Pro Bowl squad and was also named first-team All-Pro.
“In terms of Davante, I don’t understand how he is being covered in games,” Dowler said. “For instance, when I coached under George Allen, he always had his defense set up by his generals. His generals were usually linebackers like Maxie Baughan and Jack Pardee. George also used safety Richie Petitbon in that role. And they would change defensive alignments and coverages based on where the star receiver of each team would line up.
“For instance, that would be the way we played Bob Hayes of the Cowboys. No matter where Hayes would line up, he would be double-covered. But in Davante’s case, it seems like he doesn’t get a lot of double coverage. I mean, he’s fast, he’s big, he’s got great feet and he has great moves. It seems like he is always open. But no matter how good you are as a receiver in the NFL, you aren’t always going to get open against two people.
“It just doesn’t make sense that Devante is not doubled at times. Even when he pressed, Adams has quick feet and can get away from the defender. I mean, Devante is awfully good. But it would be tougher with two guys covering him.
“Still, Matt LaFleur has a great offensive system. That’s due to using motion or different formations which seems to get Devante a lot of single coverage. I think that is a credit to the coaches and the quarterback.”
It sure looks like Adams will someday be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just like the quarterback (Rodgers) who throws him the football. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, we will know on February 6th who will be part of the Class of 2021. One of the players who could be selected is Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys.
Recently, I wrote a story comparing Pearson to Dowler and to me, both had very similar stats. Both were NFL All-Decade players for instance. So was another player who also is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’m talking about Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both Swann and Pearson were All-Decade in the 1970s, while Dowler was All-Decade in the 1960s.
In terms of comparing Swann and Dowler, in the regular season, Dowler had 448 catches for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns, while Swann had 336 catches for 5,462 and 51 touchdowns.
In the postseason, Dowler had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores in 10 games. One of those games was Super Bowl I, when No. 86 missed almost the entire game due to a shoulder injury.
Swann had 48 catches for 907 yards and nine touchdowns in 16 postseason games. So if you compare the two, Dowler and Swann each caught three passes per game in the postseason. Plus, each caught a touchdown pass in every other playoff game they played in. The only real difference between the two is that Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Dowler is not.
Also, neither Swann or Pearson was ever named to a NFL All-Time Team. Dowler was named to the NFL 50th Anniversary Team. No. 86 was named to the second-team of that 45-man squad. Dowler was joined on that second team along with players like Sammy Baugh, Bronco Nagurski, Harold “Red” Grange, Forrest Gregg, Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Danny Fortman, Mel Hein, Len Ford, Ernie Stautner, Joe Schmidt, Jack Butler, Jack Christiansen and Ernie Nevers.
All of those players have a bust in Canton except for Dowler. As a matter of fact, Dowler has never been a finalist. That needs to change. When I was at a party that the Packers had for Jerry Kramer in Canton the day of his enshrinement in 2018, I talked with Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin, who is part of the Seniors Selection Committee.
Gosselin asked me what I was going to do next now that Kramer was finally inducted. I told Rick that there were a number of other former Packers who deserve to be in Canton and that I would continue to promote those players and write about them. Rick told me to make sure that I wrote about Dowler, Ron Kramer and Gale Gillingham.
“In terms of getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I haven’t given that a whole lot of thought,” Dowler said. “But I know one thing, you are doing about as much as can be done in terms of making people aware of what I accomplished as a player and I’m very happy about that.”