With Sunday’s game, the Green Bay Packers surpassed the Chicago Bears for having the most wins as a franchise in NFL history with 787 all time regular season wins- a record the Bears held since the inception of the National Football League all the way back in 1920. An 81 game lead in 1992 was overcome 30 years later thanks to the help of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at the helm. In honor of this achievement, let’s take a brief look back at the history of one of the NFL’s oldest franchises. From the franchise’s founding to the years under legendary coach Vince Lombari, the team’s mediocrity in the 1970s and 80s, to the 30+ straight years of Hall of Fame quarterback play, today we will take a look at a rundown of all you need to know about the history of one of the greatest franchises in sports in the Green Bay Packers.
The Green Bay Packers were founded on August 11, 1921 by Earl “Curly” Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun. On August 27th of that same year, the Packers were given permission to join the American Professional Football Association: the pro football league we now know as the National Football League.
The Packers won their first of many NFL championship titles in 1929 after boasting a league best 12-0-1 record due to NFL rules at the time stating that the team with the best record at the end of the season would be the NFL league champion. The rule was changed in 1933 to incorporate a championship game. The Packers went back-to-back-to-back to win championships in 1930 and 1931 thanks to the performances of future Hall of Famers: tackle Cal Hubbard, guard and fullback Mike Michalske, RB Johnny McNally, and QB Arnie Herber. The team also set an NFL record for most consecutive wins at home with 29, a record that still stands to this day.
The Packers sunk back to being a good but not great NFL team for the next 4 years, posting a 30-20-2 record- until the arrival of Don Hutson. Hutson was a versatile player for the Packers but was most known for his extraordinary receiving ability, leading the league in receptions eight times, yards seven times, and touchdowns nine times. The record breaking play of Hutson helped the Packers reach four NFL championship games in 1936, 1938, 1939, and 1944 and win it all in ‘36, ‘39, and ‘44.
The four-time pro-bowler and eight-time first team all-pro player would have his number 14 honorably retired in 1951. He was the first of few Packers to gain this honor, and the 1963 Pro Football HOF inductee’s retirement in 1945 would spell the beginning of the end of coach Curly Lambeau’s era in Green Bay Packers history. Lambeau left the Packers after posting a 2-10 record in the 1949 season. The years following didn’t amount to much, except for the unveiling of New City Stadium in 1957: the place we know and love today as Lambeau Field. Lambeau Field is currently the longest active home-field tenure in all of American football. The Packers’ years of mediocrity would end with the hiring of a former New York Giants assistant coach on February 2nd, 1959. That man was Vince Lombardi.
The Vince Lombardi Era
The hiring of Vince Lombardi brought a new era of winning to the Green Bay Packers’ organization. Winning Coach of the Year his first year as head coach by giving the Packers their first winning season since 1947, Lombardi quickly turned things around for the Packers. In his second year as coach he guided the Packers to their first NFL championship game since 1944. Despite falling to the Eagles in a close back-and-forth battle, the future was bright for the Packers due to their roster filled with future HOF talents in QB Bart Starr, RB Paul Hornung, FB Jim Taylor, Right Tackle Forrest Gregg, Right Guard Jerry Kramer, Defensive End Henry Jordan, Linebackers Ray Nitschke and Willie Davis, and later on the addition of CB Herb Adderley.
With Vince Lombardi at the helm, the Packers became like a dynasty as they dominated the league in the 1960s, going on to play in and win five of the next seven NFL championships, including a 37-0 beat down over the New York Giants in 1961. When the NFL and AFL merged in 1966, the domination didn’t stop for Vine Lombardi’s Packers. The Packers easily cruised to a 35-10 victory over the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s first ever Super Bowl in 1967. The following year they did it again, beating the AFL Champion Oakland Raiders 33-14 two weeks after Bart Starr put the team on his back to score the game winning touchdown over the Dallas Cowboys in the infamous Ice Bowl game.
1967 was the last year of Vince Lombardi’s legendary coaching career with the Packers, and he stepped down as head coach shortly after Super Bowl II. Lombardi’s 82-24-4 record and five championships in nine years with the Packers cement him as one of, if not the, greatest head coach in Green Bay Packers history. Three years later, on September 3, 1970, Lombardi would lose his battle with cancer, and the NFL would rename the Super Bowl trophy the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his honor.
The Dark Ages
The Packers were never really able to recover from losing Vince Lombardi. Between 1968 and 1993, the Packers would have five different head coaches. Two of whom, Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg, were former Packers players. Over this 25 year span, the Packers only posted five winning records and made the playoffs only twice. One of which playoffs was during the strike shortened 1982 season. The post-Lombardi era was one stricken with poor personnel decisions; the most notable of which occurred during the 1989 NFL draft. The 1989 NFL draft is known for having four future Hall of Fame players selected within the first five picks. Legendary athletes in quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Barry Sanders, linebacker Derrick Thomas, and the best corner of all time in Deion Sanders were taken at first, third, fourth, and fifth overall respectively. The Packers held the second overall pick, and with the opportunity to have any one of three future Hall of Famers, who did they select? In what is considered by many to be the biggest draft blunder in history, the Green Bay Packers selected Tony Mandarich: a tackle out of Michigan State. Dubbed “the best offensive lineman prospect ever”, the Packers bought into the hype surrounding Mandarich. But his poor work ethic, attitude problem, and steroid use, which wasn’t revealed until 2008, held him back from developing into the tackle the Packers drafted him to be, and he was released before his rookie contract was up. Considering who was selected with the next three picks, this selection ranks as one of the worst in not just Packers history but also NFL history.
After years of mediocre performance and poor personnel decisions, the Green Bay Packers made a change and hired Ron Wolf to be their general manager at the start of the 1991 season. A year later he hired Mike Holmgren and traded for a backup quarterback from the Atlanta Falcons; decisions that would forever change the fortunes of the franchise.
The Favre Era
Ron Wolf gave the Falcons a first round pick for their backup quarterback, Brett Favre. Favre got his chance early on in the 1992 season subbing in for an injured Don Majkowski in a week three matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Favre led the Packers’ offense to 21 points in the fourth quarter in a comeback win and was granted the starting job the following week for this performance. After going 9-7 in his first year with complete control over football operations, Wolf made yet another franchise defining move by signing former Eagles defensive end- the most sought after free agent in NFL history- Reggie White. The 1989 Defensive Player of the Year helped to bolster the Packers defense and solidify a promising future for a franchise that hadn’t had much success in nearly 30 years.
The next three years the Packers advanced to the divisional round of playoffs and reached the NFC championship game in 1995 for the first time since 1972 riding off of the MVP play of Brett Favre. The following season the Packers put it all together boasting the number one ranked offense behind another MVP performance by Brett Favre, the number one ranked defense behind Reggie White, and the number one ranked special teams unit thanks to the outstanding return ability of Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard. All this together propelled the Packers to a 13-3 record and allowed them to cruise through the playoffs and easily handle the New England Patriots 35-21 to win Super Bowl 31: their 12th championship and third super bowl in franchise history. Desmond Howard not only set the record for longest kickoff return touchdown in Super Bowl history with a 99-yard return in the fourth quarter, but also set the record for the most punt return yards accumulated with a 90-yard performance as well as tying the Super Bowl record of most return yards with 244 combined yards. Howard was awarded Super Bowl MVP honors for this performance.
The following year the Packers repeated as super bowl champs posting another 13-3 season thanks to yet another MVP campaign for Brett Favre, making him the first player to win three MVP awards and the so far only player to win the award three consecutive times. The Packers entered Super Bowl 32 an 11.5 point favorite against the John Elway led Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, the repeat wasn’t meant to be as Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown with under two-minutes left. The Packers would fall to the Broncos 31-24. Despite another great year for Reggie White, earning him Defensive Player of the Year honors, the Packers lost in heartbreaking fashion to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round the following year. Holmgreen then departed as head coach of the Packers.
After an 8-8 playoffless season under new head coach Ray Rhodes, Wolf fired Rhodes and brought in Mike Sherman to replace him. This was his last move as general manager for the Packers as he resigned shortly before the 2001 NFL draft. Sherman led the Packers to respectable success in the regular season going 53-35 in his first five years at the helm. But he struggled in the playoffs and went 2-4 including the Packers’ first ever home loss in the playoffs in franchise history. This lack of post-season success would ultimately be the demise of Sherman, who was fired after a 4-12 season in 2005 by new general manager and director of football operations Ted Thompson.
Ted Thompson hired Mike McCarthy, former offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and QB coach for the team back in 1999. In the 2005 NFL draft, Ted Thompson drafted Brett Favre’s successor in the first round: Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers would have to wait for his chance though. Despite the misses, playoffs in back-to-back years, and questions about his retirement, Brett Favre announced that he would return for the 2007 season and led the Packers to a 13-3 record and NFC Championship debut. It was their first championship in a decade, and they played against the New York Giants. They ultimately came up short as Favre threw a game-losing interception in overtime. That pass would be the last of Favre’s career with the Packers as he announced his retirement.
Favre finished as the Packers leader in all passing stats and set the NFL record for most touchdown passes, passing yards, and unfortunately interceptions and fumbles in a career. Favre attempted to come back, but he was traded to the Jets for a 2009 draft pick, and the Packers decided to stick with Rodgers for the future. The three time first-team all-pro and 11-time pro-bowler was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016 and his number 4 was retired by the Packers in 2015.
The Rodgers Era
Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers starting quarterback in 2008. Despite having an okay season, the Packers went 6-10 due to many key injuries to the defense. After a change in defensive coordinators with Ted Thompson bringing in Dom Capers, the Packers entered the 2009 season with high hopes. Rodgers played even better than the year before, and, with the help of the second ranked defense in the league behind DPOY award winning Cornerback Charles Woodson, the Packers would go 11-5 and earn a trip to the playoffs. Injuries to their secondary was the Packers downfall though, and their lone postseason game resulted in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals in a 51-45 overtime thriller.
The next season saw more injuries for the Packers, with 16 players being placed on injured reserve by the time the season ended. Despite the injuries, the Packers were able to secure a playoff berth in their last game of the year by beating the NFC North Champion Chicago Bears 10-3. Being the sixth seed, the Packers would have to play on the road in every playoff game in order to get to the Super Bowl. In the wild card round the Packers faced the Philadelphia Eagles and a Tramon Williams interception sealed a 21-17 victory. The following week the Packers dismantled the number one seeded Atlanta Falcons 48-21 in the divisional round, setting up a third faceoff against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game. A pick-six by Packers defensive lineman BJ Raji helped the Packers cruise to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1997. On February 6th 2011, the Packers faced off against the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 45. Rodgers and the Packers jumped out to a 21-10 lead at the half, and put up another 10 by the game’s end. The Steelers, despite a valiant effort, could not overcome the deficit and the Packers would win Super Bowl 45 31-25. Aaron Rodgers was awarded Super Bowl MVP honors thanks to his 304 yard, three touchdown performance.
Coming off of their Super Bowl win, the Packers continued to dominate going 15-1 behind the first of many MVP performances from Aaron Rodgers. The wide receiver corps of Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and a rookie Randall Cobb is still to this day one of the best receiving corps the franchise has ever seen, aiding Rodgers as they became the number one offense in the NFL. Their defense, however, was one of the worst in the league and was picked apart by eventual Super Bowl champion The New York Giants in the divisional round.
The Packers saw plenty of regular season success in the coming years, winning the division in four of their next five seasons and making the playoffs in all of those years. Their playoff success had its ups and downs, and they reached the NFC Championship game in the 2014 season thanks to a second MVP campaign by Rodgers and outstanding defense. The Packers played their best football since the 2010 season. Despite that, they blew a 16-0 lead to the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and a muffed onside kick recovery attempt by the Packers would spell the beginning of the end for their season. They would go on to lose in overtime. In 2016, the Packers struggled to start the year dropping six of their first 10 games on the brink of playoff elimination. Aaron Rodgers infamously declared the Packers would “run the table” after a week 11 blow out loss to the Washington Redskins. After that loss, the Packers went on to win each of their last six games, clinching the division title and the playoffs in the process. Behind a dominant Rodgers-lead offense and a defense that was starting to figure things out, the Packers beat down the New York Giants in the Wild Card round and escaped the number one seeded Dallas Cowboys thanks to a last second field goal by kicker Mason Crosby. The hype had taken over the Packers, but their improbable playoff run came to an end at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons after a brutal 44-21 loss. The following year Rodgers suffered a broken collar bone and the Packers finished the season 7-9. After another abysmal start to the year going 4-7-1, the Packers fired Mike McCarthy after a 17-20 loss to one of the league’s worst teams: the Arizona Cardinals. McCarthy finished his career with the Packers posting a 135-85-2 combined record.
After firing McCarthy, the Packers hired Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to fill the head coaching void. In his first year as head coach, behind a breakout 19 touchdown year from running back Aaron Jones and strong defensive play, Matt LaFleur and the Packers went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC championship game. The 49ers run game was too much to handle, though, and the Packers were dismantled 37-20.
That following April during the NFL 2020 Draft, after a subpar year by Rodgers standards, the Packers infamously selected quarterback Jordan Love with their first round pick. Jordan Love has only one start for the Packers under his belt to this point, and his future with the Packers is still up in the air. However, one thing this draft pick did, if anything, was light a fire under Aaron Rodgers. The 2020 season was Rodgers best season since his 2011 MVP campaign. Rodgers led the Packers to another 13-3 season, posting 4,299 yards, 51 total touchdowns, and only five interceptions on his way to winning his third MVP award. Rodgers and the Packers dismantled the Los Angeles Rams’ number one ranked defense in a 32-18 victory in the divisional round, but they fell in a close matchup against the Tom Brady led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game 31-26.
The following season, despite a rough start losing 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints, Rodgers and the Packers bounced back and won 13 of their last 16 games to finish the year, once again, with 13 wins. A year that featured Rodgers tossing his 443rd career touchdown pass, surpassing Brett Favre’s record for most in Packers’ history as well as his 68th touchdown pass to Davante Adams, and setting the record for most by a duo in Packers’ history, the Packers once again secured the first seed. Aaron Rodgers won his second-consecutive and fourth overall MVP award and became only the second player in NFL history to have four or more. Poor unchecked special teams play all year, however, came back to haunt them and Green Bay lost to the San Francisco 49ers 13-10 in part due to a blocked punt touchdown by the 49ers.
Currently the Packers are fighting to stay alive in the playoff race despite a struggling performance in all aspects. Only time will tell if Jordan Love will be the future of the franchise and if Aaron Rodgers will be able to steal one more Super Bowl win for the Packers.
As it stands, the Packers are not only the all-time winningest NFl franchise, but also have the most championships (13), most MVP winners (10), and the second most hall of fame players (26) with plenty more on the way. The Packers are undoubtedly the most storied franchise in all the NFL.