A Look Back at 1985

The Packers recorded their third consecutive 8-8 season, but were clearly an aging team on the decline. The offense slipped to 16th with 337 points, while the defense slid to 15th by giving up 355. Although the team went 6-2 in the Central Division, it was a weak division. They were 5-3 at home, 3-5 on the road, 7-2 against losing teams, but just 1-6 against winners.

The highlight of the year was the Blizzard Bowl against Tampa on December 1 at Lambeau. In the white-out that held attendance under 20,000, the Pack won easily 21-0, outgaining the Bucs 512 yards to 65. Lynn Dickey was brilliant, completing 22 of 38 passes for 289 yards, while Tampa’s Steve Young was continually driven into the snow. The game would turn out to be the last regular season game that Dickey would play. That week he injured his neck on a weight machine, missed the rest of the season and then was cut and retired the following preseason.

1985 is also notable for Green Bay surrendering first and fifth round picks to San Diego to acquire the discontented and out-of-shape cornerback Mossy Cade. Cade was unimpressive in his two seasons in the Packer secondary before he was charged with sexually assaulting his aunt and disappeared from the game.

Dickey was 5-5 in his starts and completed 54.8% of his passes for 2,206 yards, 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Veteran backup Jim Zorn was 3-2 in five starts despite completing just 45% of his passes for 794 yards, four TDs and six picks. Randy Wright lost his only start and threw for 502 yards for two scores and four interceptions.

The ground game was a three-headed affair of Eddie Lee Ivery (636 yards), Jessie Clark (633 yards) and Gerry Ellis (571 yards). James Lofton was the leading receiver with 69 catches for 1,153 yards and four scores. Paul Coffman caught 49 passes for six touchdowns, and Phil Epps added 44 receptions. Al Del Greco led in scoring with 95 points.

On defense, Tim Lewis picked off four passes to lead the team, while Ezra Johnson was the top pass rusher with 9.5 sacks, and Alfonso Carreker added nine. Lofton was the team’s only Pro Bowl selection and was a second team All-Pro. The draft did produce some quality for a change. Tackle Ken Ruettgers came in round one, guard Rich Moran in round two, linebacker Brian Noble in round five and safety Ken Stills in round eight.

Custom card of Coffman is colorized.

A Card for Everyone: Terry Wells

Born in Wade, Mississippi on April 20, 1951, running back Terry Wells attended the University of Southern Mississippi several years before that Favre fellow. Wells signed with the Oilers as an undrafted free agent in 1974 and appeared in six games, recording one reception for nine yards on his only touch in Houston. Waived in 1975, Wells was picked up by new coach Bart Starr who was signing anyone he could to try to find some decent football players for Green Bay.

Wells showed some promise and had his biggest day in week four when he ran for 72 yards against the Saints. However, he also suffered knee and ankle injuries that day and would rush for just 11 more yards from scrimmage all season although he only missed one game. For the season, Wells gained 139 yards rushing and caught six passes for 11 yards. He was waived by the Packers in 1976 and never appeared in the NFL again.

Custom card in Topps style.

A Card for Everyone: Steve Wagner

Born on April 18, 1954 in Milwaukee, Steve Wagner was a 6’2” 208-pound hard-hitting, slowish safety who starred at Wisconsin and was drafted in the fifth round by Minnesota in 1976. After being cut by the Vikings in September before the start of the season, Wagner signed on with his home state team as a free agent later in the month.

Wagner spent four seasons in Green Bay, but never started a game nor intercepted a pass. He made his presence felt on the kicking teams where he was one of the leading tacklers each year. He appeared in 57 games for the Packers before being released in the preseason and claimed by the Eagles. However, Philadelphia cut him in September. Philly resigned Wagner in November when rookie defensive back Zac Henderson went down to injury, but Henderson came back in December, so Wagner missed the Eagles trip to the Super Bowl that year, his final one in the NFL.

First two custom cards are colorized.

A Card for Everyone: Jim Flanigan Sr.

Born in Pittsburgh on April 15, 1945, Jim Flanigan senior, whose father worked in the steel industry, went on to star at his hometown university as a 6’3” 240-pound linebacker. Vince Lombardi tabbed Flanigan as his second-round pick in the 1967 draft, and Jim served as a reserve on Vince’s final championship team as a rookie.

He continued as a backup and kicking teams’ player throughout his tenure in Green Bay. Even in his fourth season when Dave Robinson went down to injury, Flanigan was pushed aside by rookie Jim Carter who started the last ten games of the year in Robby’s place. Jim injured his knee in the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys. Since he needed an operation, the Packers tried to slip him through waivers, but he was claimed by the desperate Saints.

In New Orleans, Flanigan finally got a chance to start in 1971, but then was traded to New England in 1972 and was cut that September. Jim retired to Sturgeon Bay and raised three children, a daughter and two football-playing sons: Brian who played at the University of Wisconsin and Jim Jr. who starred at Notre Dame and then spent seven years as a defensive tackle for the Bears before signing with the Packers as a free agent in 2001. Junior finished his career with a season in San Francisco and one in Philadelphia before he, like his father before him, returned to Wisconsin to settle down.

Custom cards are colorized.

A Look Back at 1984

Green Bay was the third coaching stop for Forrest Gregg, a disciplinarian and Lombardi acolyte. In previous stints at Cleveland and Cincinnati, Gregg’s second season were the high points before decline set in. That did not occur in Gregg’s disappointing Packer homecoming. The high point came in the second half of the first season when the Pack bounced back from a 1-7 start to finish on a 7-1 run and a second straight 8-8 season. The offense under OC Bob Schnelker scored 390 points, seventh in the league, while the improved defense allowed just 309, 10th in rank. They were 3-5 against winning teams and 5-3 against losing ones. Likewise, they were 5-3 at home and 3-5 on the road.

Lynn Dickey was 7-8 in his 15 starts and threw for 3,195 yards 25 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Rookie Randy Wright started game 15 against the Bears because Dickey had a back injury and left in the second quarter with a knee problem. Rich Campbell came in with the score 0-0 and directed a 20-14 win for which Wright got credit.

Gerry Ellis led the Pack with 581 yards rushing and caught 36 passes. Eddie Lee Ivery, who missed the first six games of the season, added 552 yards on the ground. James Lofton caught 62 passes for 1,361 yards for seven touchdowns and a league-leading 22 yards per catch average. Paul Coffman contributed 43 grabs for nine scores, while Phil Epps and John Jefferson each nabbed 26 passes. Al Del Greco joined the team in week nine and paced the scoring with 61 points.

On defense, Mike Douglass recorded nine sacks and Ezra Johnson seven, with disappointing first round pick Alfonso Carreker getting just three. Unheralded fifth round pick Tom Flynn led the Packers with nine interceptions, and Tim Lewis picked off seven. It would prove to be the one good season for Flynn, the only rookie of note on the team. Both James Lofton and Paul Coffman were selected for the Pro Bowl. Lofton was also named All-Pro with Coffman gaining second team recognition.

Custom cards of Coffman, Del Greco, Johnson, Carreker and Lewis are colorized.

Larry Coutre

Larry “Scooter” Coutre was born in Chicago on April 11, 1928. In 1946, he was part of one of the greatest recruiting classes in Notre Dame history. He joined the Fighting Irish the same year as future pros George Connor, Jim Martin, Leon Hart, Bill Wightkin, Gus Cifelli and Emil Sitko. That class would go 36-0-2 in four years under the Golden Dome with three national titles and one number two ranking. As a senior, Coutre and his two starting running backs mates each averaged over six yards a rush.

The 5’10” 175-pound Coutre was drafted in the fourth round by the Packers and showed promise as a rookie, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and catching 17 passes out of the backfield. However in 1951, Coutre was drafted into the service and missed the next two years. When he came back in 1953, he gained just 39 yards on 22 carries and was cut before Thanksgiving. The Colts signed Larry for the last three games of the year as a kick returner, and that ended his NFL career.

Coutre also was such a good softball player that he was named to the Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame, but that sidelight was set aside when Larry joined the FBI as his life’s work. He died in Boca Raton, Florida on May 19, 2008 at the age of 80. He was survived by his wife and six children.

All Custom cards are colorized.

Terdell Middleton

The Packers’ fourth man to run for 1,000 yards in a season was born on this date in 1955 in Memphis, Tennessee. Thus far, Terdell Middleton is also only one of two NFL players with the first name of Terdell, and both played in Green Bay. The second being defensive tackle Terdell Sands in 2003.

Middleton starred at his hometown university, Memphis State, as a running back and was selected in the third round of the 1977 NFL draft by the Cardinals. The Packers obtained him in the preseason for cornerback Perry Smith, but Middleton made little impression as a rookie. However, in 1978 with rookie receiver James Lofton and second-year quarterback opening up the offense, Middleton burst forth as an able running back and gained 1,116 yards on the ground with the onset of the 16-game schedule. He also caught 34 passes and scored 12 touchdowns. He would never approach any of those figures again.

In 1979, he was beset with leg and shoulder injuries as well as by encroaching defenses and dropped to 495 yards gained rushing and 18 receptions. He spent two more seasons as a backup in Green Bay and then was released. After two seasons on the Tampa bench, Terdell finished his pro career by gaining just 46 yards with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL.

After football, Middleton worked as a firefighter and died just five days prior to his 60th birthday in 2015.

As noted, Middleton was the fourth Packer to break 1,000 yards rushing in a season. Tony Canadeo was first in 1949, followed by Jim Taylor who cracked the barrier five years in a row, and then John Brockington who did so three consecutive seasons. After Middleton, the next 1,000-yard man in Green Bay was Edgar Bennett in 1995. Bennett, like Canadeo and Middleton, never did so again, although Canadeo and Bennett had several more productive seasons in their Packer careers. Middleton was a one-year wonder. Other Packer 1,000-yard men are Ahman Green, 6 times; Dorsey Levens, two times, Ryan Grant, two times; Eddie Lacy, two times and Aaron Jones, two times.

Altogether, the Packers have recorded 25 1,000-yard seasons, even with the Giants and Browns and one behind the Washington and Pittsburgh franchises. Highest in this metric are the Rams with 33 seasons, followed by the Bears with 32, the Titans and Bills at 30 and the Cowboys at 29.

All custom cards are colorized except for first one.

A Look Back at 1983

In Bart Starr’s final season as coach, the Packer high-flying offense averaged 26.8 points a game, the 429 points being fifth in the league. Somehow, though, their defense was so awful that if gave up 10 points more, 439, and the team finished with an 8-8 record. They were 4-4 against losing teams, and 4-4 against all others. They were 5-3 at home and 3-5 on the road. Strikingly, they played five overtime games this season and lost three of them. The finale against the Bears, with a shot at the playoffs riding on a win, came down to Starr holding on to his timeouts as Chicago drove down the field to kick a 23-yard game-winning field goal with 10 seconds remaining. The coach was fired the next day.

Of course, the signature game of the year was against the defending champion Washington Redskins on Monday Night, October 17 in Green Bay. In a seesaw 48-47 offensive shootout, the two teams combined for 1,025 total yards, 771 yards passing and 56 first downs, with five lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. Broadcaster Don Meredith said at one point, “The coaches just got together and decided that the first one to 50 wins.” And that nearly came to pass as reigning league MVP Mark Moseley missed a 39-yard field goal for Washington with three seconds to go that would have given the Skins the game and 50 points.

Lynn Dickey had the season of his life and became the first Green Bay passer to throw for more than 3,000 yards when he completed 59.7% of his passes for 4,458 yards, 32 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Aaron Rodgers in 2011 is the only Packer to exceed that yardage total.

Gerry Ellis led in rushing with 696 yards and caught 52 passes for 603 yards. James Lofton caught 58 passes for 1,300 yards and eight scores, while John Jefferson grabbed 57 for 830 yards and seven touchdowns, and Paul Coffman nabbed 54 for 814 yards and 11 TDs. Another speedy receiver, Phil Epps, had a 90-yard punt return touchdown. Jan Stenerud led the team with 115 points scored.

Even the defense had a couple of highlights, with Ezra Johnson’s 14.5 sacks and the five interceptions recorded by linebacker John Anderson and first round cornerback Tim Lewis. However, there were many more breakdowns than high points on that side of the ball Lofton, Coffman and center Larry McCarren were named to the Pro Bowl. Lofton was named All-Pro as well, with McCarren receiving second team notice.

Custom cards in Topps style.

A Look Back at 1982

Coach Bart Starr’s one playoff season was, of course, a fluke, taking place in a strike-shortened nine-game season against a weak schedule. However, being the first postseason appearance in 10 years and the first home playoff game in 15 makes this season a pleasant memory for older Packer fans. The team finished fifth in scoring with 221 points and 11th in defense with 169 points allowed and were seeded third overall in the NFC behind Washington and Dallas for the playoff tournament that season. They were 3-1 at home and 2-2-1 on the road; 2-1 against winning teams and 3-2-1 against losers. Their one tie came against the Colts who finished 0-8-1.

The Pack opened the season winning its first two games before the two-month players’ strike. Returning in late November, the team went 3-3-1 down the stretch and drew the St. Louis Cardinals for a first-round playoff game in Green Bay on January 8. And a glorious game it was. Lynn Dickey threw for four touchdown passes, and John Jefferson caught six aerials for 148 yards as the Packers rolled to a 41-16 victory. A week later, though, Dickey was not as sharp against the Cowboys in Dallas, throwing three picks and just one touchdown. James Lofton tightened the game to 19-23 with 71-yard end-around in the fourth quarter. After another Cowboys’ score, Mark Lee’s 22-yard pick six again closed the gap to 26-30, but Dallas prevailed 37-26.

Dickey started all nine games and completed 57% of his passes for 1,790 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Eddie Lee Ivery returned again from injury and led the team with 453 yards rushing, although he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. Gerry Ellis added 228 yards on the ground. James Lofton caught 35 passes for 696 yards and four scores, while John Jefferson added 27 receptions and Paul Coffman had 23. Jan Stenerud led with 64 points, but Ivery scored 60 on 10 touchdowns.

 On defense, linebacker John Anderson picked off three passes, and Ezra Johnson recorded 4.5 sacks in the first season in which sacks were officially tallied. Lofton, tackle Greg Koch, and linebackers Mike Douglass and George Cumby all drew some All-Pro notice, while Lofton, Jefferson, Coffman and Larry McCarren were all selected to the Pro Bowl.

Last three custom cards are colorized.

A Card for Everyone: BD

Brian Dowling was born on April 1, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. A multisport schoolboy star athlete, Dowling was later elected to the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. Although heavily recruited as an athlete, Dowling enrolled at Yale University in the same class as Calvin Hill and earned the starting quarterback job as a sophomore, only to miss most of the season due to a knee injury. However, as a junior and senior, the running quarterback led the Elis to a 16-1-1 record and two Ivy League titles. He also inspired classmate Garry Trudeau to create the football-helmet-wearing character BD for his comic strip Doonesbury.

Dowling was drafted by the Vikings in round 11 in 1969, but was cut and spent the season with the minor league Bridgeport Jets. He signed with New England in 1970 and spent two seasons on their taxi squad before graduating to Patriots’ roster in ’72. Brian spent two seasons as Jim Plunkett’s backup, completing 29 of 54 passes for 383 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

In 1974, he signed with the New York Stars of the World Football League and was replaced in New England by Neil Graff. In two seasons as a backup for the Stars and Charlotte Hornets (whom the Stars became), Dowling completed 44 of 93 passes for two touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the struggling league. Once the WFL folded, he signed with Toronto in the CFL in 1976, but was cut again.

George Allen signed Dowling for the Redskins in 1977, but once again he failed to make the grade and was waived in the preseason. Thus, when Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey broke his leg in November, Dowling was available. Packers Director of Player Personnel Dick Corrick assembled a list of eight available signal callers at the time: Neal Jeffrey, Steve Spurrier, Pat Sullivan, Steve Ramsey, Joe Gilliam, Jesse Freitas, Clint Longley and Dowling.

Corrick recommended signing Dowling because he liked how he played in the exhibition season for Washington and because Brian was a smart guy. Dowling appeared in just two games for the Packers and threw one incomplete pass as rookie David Whitehurst’s backup. In training camp the next year, though, Dowling was cut after the Packers signed Neil Graff. Allen signed Dowling again, this time for Los Angeles, but neither man lasted the full camp for the Rams. Following this end to his NFL career, Dowling led a successful life in finance and insurance.

Custom card is colorized.