Wright and Milan

January 12 is a birthday shared by two Packer quarterbacks, but not two of much renown in Randy Wright, born in 1961, and Don Milan, born in 1949.

Wright was born in Austin, Texas and moved to Chicago while in high school. A successful schoolboy athlete, Wright was recruited to Notre Dame, but transferred to the University of Wisconsin after one year so he would have a chance start at quarterback. Randy did start for two seasons in Madison and led the Badgers to a victory in the Independence Bowl in 1982, the first Bowl triumph ever for UW.

The Packers took a flyer on Wright in the sixth round of the 1984 draft, and he stuck for five years, starting 32 games. He completed 53.8% of his passes for 7,106 yards, 31 touchdowns and 57 interceptions, for an underwhelming passer rating of 61.4. In The Quarterback Abstract, I wrote:

Randy Wright threw nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. His .219 winning percentage is second only to Randy Johnson’s .214 as the lowest among quarterbacks who started at least 30 games. Wright had losing streaks of six, six and seven games in his career. He was completely over his head in the NFL and once fainted in the huddle of a game against the Vikings. The only question about his career is why did coaches Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante give this man 32 starts?

At present, Mike Glennon has snuck in under both Wright and Johnson with his current 6-25 won-lost record. After leaving the game, Wright started his own vending company, did color for Big Ten broadcasts from 1995-2007, coached the offense for his son’s high school for five years and ran a football camp for quarterbacks and receivers

Don Milan was undrafted out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo but spent four years in the training camps of the Raiders and Rams before making the Packers in 1975. Don was given his only start in a week eight showdown between the 1-6 Packers and the 1-6 Bears but completed just eight of 20 passes for 127 yards in the first half before being benched. He did complete passes for 42 and 56 yards that day, but also threw a 76-yard pick-six to Craig Clemens in the 27-14 loss. He went on injured reserve for wrist surgery in 1976, then needed a second operation in ’77 before retiring in training camp.

Second row of custom cards are colorized.

Jackie Harris

Jackie Harris did have star ability. Born on January 4, 1968 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, he would star at Pine Bluff High School. A fourth round pick out of Louisiana-Monroe in 1990, his career seemed to be taking off when Mike Holmgren arrived in 1992. That year he caught 55 passes, including 43 in the last 11 games. He missed four games in 1993, so his numbers dropped a bit, but the Packers named him a “transitional player,” allowing them to match any free agent offers he would receive. However, when Tampa signed Harris to a $2-million contract, Ron Wolf chose not to match it.

Harris had some good seasons over the next eight years in Tampa, Tennessee and Dallas, but never quite became a star. He never was named to another Pro Bowl after his appearance in 1992 as a Packer. Harris had good size at 6’4” 245 pounds and was fast enough to easily outrun the strong safeties covering him. Brett Favre said, “Jackie is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.” He had good hands and developed into a decent blocker under Ed West’s tutelage. Tight end coach Andy Reid noted, “He comes across as a very soft-spoken, well-educated person. But he’s got that nasty in him. He got that from Ed West.” Had he stayed, I believe Harris would have had a more memorable career in Holmgren’s offense, but that didn’t happen.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

Custom cards in Topps and Fleer styles.

Cletidus Hunt

Ron Wolf took a gamble when he selected 6’4” 300-pound Cletidus Hunt in the third round of the 1999 draft. Hunt, from Kentucky State, had tested positive for marijuana during the scouting combine, but he had such potential that Wolf took a chance. Hunt was a Memphis native, born on January 2, 1976, and with his size and quickness was able to play both defensive end and tackle.

As a rookie, Hunt got into 11 games and had one-half sack. He won a starting job at right defensive end in 2000, starting 11 of the 16 games in which he appeared and began to demonstrate his ability by recording five sacks and seven tackles for loss. Unfortunately, the risks of the pick revealed themselves in 2002 when Hunt was given a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for the second time. That year was a lost season, with Hunt starting just four of 12 games, having no sacks and just one tackle for loss.

Hunt then had his greatest year in 2003. He started 14 games at right defensive tackle, defensed four passes, had 5.5 sacks and tackled 11 opponents for losses. Coach/GM Mike Sherman chose to drink the Kool-Aid and signed the inconsistent free agent lineman to a six-year, $25.3-million contract, as the last remnants of Hunt’s professional motivation drained away.

Hunt’s performance in 2003 was lackadaisical, and he slipped to four sacks and eight tackles for loss, but his performance in 2004 bottomed out as he loafed through a year with just two sacks and five tackles for loss. Complaining of knee and shoulder problems in the following season’s training camp, Hunt missed 25 days before returning on September 1 for the final preseason game. Two days later, new GM Ted Thompson cut Hunt, signaling a change in the organization’s intensity.

As it turned out, Hunt later had rotator cuff surgery, so the Packers were obligated to foot his $1.25-million base salary for 2005, but he never played in the NFL again.

Custom cards in a variety of styles.

Karl Swanke

Karl Swanke was born a Packer fan in Elmhurst, Illinois, on December 29, 1957, and remained one even after his family moved to Connecticut when he was young. The 6’6” 220-pound Swanke played football at Newington High School and won state titles in throwing the javelin and the discus. Winning a scholarship to Boston College, Karl bulked up to 250 pounds and was a three-year starter at center, while earning a degree in Physics.

Bart Starr, whose autograph Swanke had collected as a boy, selected Karl in the sixth round of the 1980 draft. Swanke appeared in all 16 games as a rookie. In 1981, he scored his only touchdown by catching a two-yard pass from Lynn Dickey against the Falcons in week two. Two weeks later, he tore up his knee in a clash with the Vikings. Karl then won the starting left tackle slot in 1982, although recurring knee problems caused him to miss the Packers playoff run in that strike-shortened season.

Swanke remained the Packers’ starting left tackle through the 1985 season, although he also played a little on the right side once Ken Ruettgers joined the team. His biggest moment of fame came in the second game of the season in 1985 when broadcaster John Madden admiringly highlighted a play in which Karl smacked Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor in the face and then kicked him in the stomach.

In 1986, Forrest Gregg switched Swanke to center, and he started half the season there before knee problems ended his season. His teammates voted him the team’s Ed Block Courage Award that year, which would prove to be his last. Karl reported to training camp in 1987, but then retired in August due to his ongoing knee problems.

Since retiring from football, Swanke has led a successful career in business, both with IBM and as a private consultant. He has also testified as to living the life of a devout Christian.

Second and fourth custom cards are colorized.

A Look Back at 2020

In Matt LaFleur’s second year, the Packers took a small step forward with a second straight 13-3 season, in that they won the top seed in the NFC and got to host the Conference Championship game, but they fell short of the Super Bowl with a frustrating performance in that contest. Here are my notes after that loss to Tom Brady’s Bucs:

Kevin King’s brain cramp at the end of the half was the first blow.

Giving up a quick score off a fumble to start the third quarter was awful.

Rodgers being overly focused on Adams in the red zone was deadly.

Two three and outs after picks by the defense were devastating.

Can’t say I’m surprised. One of my main storylines for the season was will Brady take the Bucs to the SB. He signed with a team that was all set up for him with receivers, runners, a decent line and a good defense. He took care of the leadership part even on a day when he threw three picks.

I would have made the conventional choice and gone for it on fourth down, but that choice was not the biggest thing to me. Either way the defense would have to stop Brady with the game on the line.

Tampa won the battle of the trenches on both sides throughout the game. The loss of Bakhtiari didn’t help. 

Packers had terrible return and coverage game all year. That also showed up in this loss.

For the season, the Packers were scored 509 points (first) and allowed 369 (13th). They were 9-1 against losers, 2-2 against winners and 2-0 against .500 teams. They were 7-1 at home and 6-2 on the road.

Rodgers started all 16 games, completed 70.7% of his passes for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 8.2 yards per pass and recorded a 121.5 passer rating en route to his third league MVP trophy.

Aaron Jones was the leading rusher with 1,104 yards gained. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 47 passes for two more scores. Jamaal Williams was effective relief with 505 yards rushing and 31 receptions.

Davante Adams had a monster season, catching 115 balls for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns. Robert Tonyan emerged at tight end with 52 catches and 11 scores. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling each chipped in 33 grabs, and MVS averaged over 20 yards per reception. Adams led the team with 108 points, besting Mason Crosby by one point.

Darnell Savage led in interceptions with four of the team’s paltry 11 picks. Za’Darius Smith recorded 12.5 sacks and was followed by Rashan Gary’s five and Preston Smith’s four.

Rodgers, Adams, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos and Za’Darius Smith (second team) all were named All-Pro. Rodgers, Adams, Jones, Bakhtiari, Z. Smith, Alexander and Elgton Jenkins all were selected for the Pro Bowl. Jordan Love was the team’s top draft pick, but second rounder AJ Dillon had more impact as a rookie. Speaking of Dillons, Bobby Dillon was elected to the Hall of Fame posthumously.

Custom cards for Packers 100th NFL season in 1960 Topps Baseball style.

Summing Up the 2010s

For the third decade in a row, the Packers had only two losing seasons. Those six losing seasons in the last three decades are fewer than they had in in either the 1950s or 1970s (8), their two worst decades. In fact, only the Patriots won more games in the 2010s, and the Patriots were the only team to win more than one Super Bowl in the period as well. Green Bay was a disappointing 1-3 in NFC championship games and won their one Super Bowl in the first year of the decade.

On offense, the Packers twice led the league in points and were in the top ten six times. Their worst finish was 21st in 2017. The other side of the ball was the team’s downfall. They were second in points allowed in 2010 and ninth in 2019. In between, their rank dropped into the 20s four times.

New England Patriots (3)12535078.1%
Green Bay Packers (1)10256264.4%
Pittsburgh Steelers10257164.1%
Seattle Seahawks (1)10059162.8%
New Orleans Saints10060062.5%
Baltimore Ravens (1)9862061.2%
Kansas City Chiefs (1)9664060.0%
Denver Broncos (1)8971055.6%
Atlanta Falcons8971055.6%
Philadelphia Eagles (1)8773054.4%
Dallas Cowboys8674053.8%
Indianapolis Colts8278051.2%
Houston Texans8278051.2%
Minnesota Vikings8177251.2%
San Francisco 49ers8079150.3%
Carolina Panthers7881149.1%
Los Angeles Chargers7783048.1%
Cincinnati Bengals7781248.8%
Chicago Bears7684047.5%
Arizona Cardinals7583247.5%
Los Angeles Rams7386145.9%
Detroit Lions7287145.3%
Buffalo Bills7189044.4%
New York Giants (1)7090043.8%
Miami Dolphins7090043.8%
Tennessee Titans6991043.1%
New York Jets6892042.5%
Oakland Raiders6397039.4%
Washington Redskins6297139.1%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers59101036.9%
Jacksonville Jaguars51109031.9%

Aaron Rodgers was 96-45-1 as a starter. He completed 64.7% of his passes for 38,145 yards, 305 touchdowns and just 63 interceptions. He averaged 7.7 yards per pass and earned two of his three league MVP awards. Four other quarterbacks started games for Green Bay. Matt Flynn was 3-3, completed 61.6% of his passes for 2,162 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Brett Hundley was 3-6, completed 59.5% of his passes for 1,853 yards, nine TDs and 13 picks. Scott Tolzien was 0-1-1, completed 61.5% of his passes for 721 yards, one score and five interceptions. In one loss, Seneca Wallace completed 66.7% of his passes for 139 yards and an interception.

On the ground, Eddie Lacy, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, ran for 3,435 yards and 23 scores. Aaron Rodgers was second with 2,552 yards and 20 touchdowns. John Starks gained 2,506 yards and scored nine times. Aaron Jones gained 2,260 yards and scored 28 times by rushing.

Jordy Nelson led all pass receivers with 495 catches for 7,162 yards and 65 TDs. Randall Cobb had 470 grabs for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns. Davante Adams caught 431 passes for 5,194 yards and 44 scores. James Jones added 261 catches for 3,805 yards and 37 TDs.

Mason Crosby scored 1,178 points with his foot. Nelson, Cobb and Adams scored 392, 274 and 272 points on touchdowns and two-point conversions. Cobb scored twice on punt returns and once on a kickoff return. Micah Hyde returned three punts for scores.

On defense, Tramon Williams nabbed 20 interceptions and scored on one. Sam Shields intercepted 18 passes, while Charles Woodson and Damarious Randall each picked off 10 and scored twice. Clay Matthews recorded 73.5 sacks. The next three pass rushers for the decade were Nick Perry 32, Mike Daniels 29 and Julius Peppers 25.

David Bakhtiari was named All-Pro four times, Rodgers, Matthews and Josh Sitton three times, Woodson and John Kuhn twice, while Nelson, Lacy, Nick Collins, Scott Wells and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were named once a piece. Rodgers was picked for seven Pro Bowls, Matthews for five, Adams, Sitton and Kuhn for three, Bakhtiari, Woodson and Greg Jennings for two. Williams, Wells, Sitton, Lacy, Cobb, Nelson, Shields, Peppers, Clinton-Dix, Daniels, Collins, Donald Driver, AJ Hawk, BJ Raji, Jeff Saturday, TJ Lang, Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith all were selected once.

Rodgers was league MVP in 2011 and 2014. Matthews was Defensive MVP in 2010. Nelson was comeback Player of the Year in 2016.

Custom cards mostly in National Chicle style.

Sean Jones

On December 19, 1996, three members of the Packers celebrated their birthdays, three days before the season finale in Minnesota. Defensive tackle Santana Dotson turned 27 in his first season in Green Bay. Reggie White turned 35 in the 12th season of his pursuit of a Super Bowl championship. White’s counterpart at defensive end, Sean Jones, was just a year younger than White at 34, but had been chasing the Lombardi Trophy for 13 NFL seasons, 11 of which his teams reached the postseason. The Packers, of course, beat the Vikings in that finale and then swept through the playoffs and won the Super Bowl, satisfying a career-long quest for the bookend defensive wingmen.

Dwight Andre Sean O’Neil Jones was born in Kingston Jamaica in 1962. He went to high school in New Jersey and then college at Northeastern. The 6’7” 270-pound Jones was then drafted in the second round by the defending Super Bowl Champion Raiders in 1984. Sean spent four seasons in the Silver and Black, racking up 31.5 sacks, including 15.5 in 1986. Two years after that, Al Davis traded Jones to Houston for the ninth overall pick in the 1988 draft that he used to select defensive back Terry McDaniel who would have an 11-year career in the league.

Jones spent the next six seasons with the Oilers, accumulating 57.5 sacks and three times recording double figures in sacks. The Oilers made the playoffs all six seasons but lost three times in the wild card round and three times in the divisional round. During the latter three seasons of his Houston tenure, Jones’ seasons tortuously ended on fourth quarter comebacks led by John Elway, Frank Reich (yes, the blown 32-point lead) and Joe Montana.

In 1994, Packer GM Ron Wolf, who was with the Raiders when Jones was drafted, signed Sean as a free agent to team with White on the defensive line. In three seasons, the angular Jones recorded 24.5 more sacks to raise his career total to 113. In Green Bay he had 10.5, nine and then five sacks in those three seasons, as well as another four in the postseason. He also scored the sole touchdown of his career on a fumble recovery in the end zone against the Vikings on October 22, 1995.

Once he won his ring against the Patriots in 1997, Jones retired on top. The oddity of having three-quarters of the defensive line share a birthday was down to half. In the ensuing years, he has worked as an announcer, a player agent, a financial advisor, a sports talk personality and dabbled in real estate. As a player, he was picked for the Pro Bowl for the 1993 season and was named second team All-Pro in Green Bay in 1994 and 1995.

Custom cards in Topps and Fleer styles.

A Look Back at 2019

CEO Mark Murphy made a surprising choice for the team’s new head coach in youthful Matt LaFleur, but three years in, that selection is looking pretty good. LaFleur turned around a sinking ship so quickly that even Aaron Rodgers stopped moping by the end of the 2019 season. Brian Gutekunst helped matters by signing linebackers Za’Darius and Preston Smith as free agents and drafting Darnell Savage, Elgton Jenkins and Rashan Gary, but LaFleur brought it all together.

The Packers went 13-3, again scoring 376 points (15th) but giving up just 313 (ninth). They were 7-1 against losers, 3-2 against winners and 3-0 against .500 teams. They were 7-1 at home and 6-2 on the road. They even won a playoff game by whipping Seattle 28-23, although they had to hang on after once leading 21-3. The following week in the NFC title game in San Francisco, the wheels came off. Down 27-0 at half, the Pack ended up losing 37-20.

Aaron Rodgers started all 16 games and completed 62% of his passes for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns and four interceptions. He averaged seven yards per completion, and his passer rating was 95.4. Backup Tim Boyle was three of four for 15 yards.

Aaron Jones ran for 1,084 yards (4.6 per carry) and scored 16 TDs on the ground. He added 49 catches and three more scores through the air. Jamaal Williams gained 460 yards on the ground and caught 39 passes.

Davante Adams again caught more than twice as many passes than any other Packer receiver with 83 for 997 yards and five scores. He was supplemented by Jimmy Graham’s 38 receptions, Allen Lazard’s 35, Geronimo Allison’s 34 and Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s 26. Jones led the team with 114 points, and Mason Crosby added 106.

On defense, Kevin King nabbed five interceptions (from the team’s improved total of 17). Za’Darius Smith recorded 13.5 sacks and ‘brother” Preston had 12. Kenny Clark chipped in with six up the middle.

Z. Smith and David Bakhtiari were named All-Pro, and punter JK Scott was named to the second team. Rodgers, Adams, Bakhtiari, Clark and Z. Smith all were picked for the Pro Bowl.

A Look Back at 2018

Mike McCarthy’s swan song was a disaster in which the 12-year coach did not even make it through the season. Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin stepped in as interim coach for the last month. Green Bay began the season 3-2-1 at the bye. After the bye, though, the team went 1-5, so Philbin was promoted to finish the season with a 2-2 mark. Altogether that adds up to a disappointing 6-9-1. They scored 376 points (14th) and allowed 400 (22nd). The Packers were 5-4 against losing teams and just 1-5-1 against winners. They were 5-2-1 at home and 1-7 on the road. McCarthy had brought in Mike Pettine as Defensive Coordinator, but that did not help, and new GM Brian Gutekunst pulled the plug on the McCarthy era.

A pouting Aaron Rodgers started all 16 games. He completed 62.3% of his passes for 4,442 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He averaged 7.4 yards per pass and recorded a 97.6 passer rating. Backup Deshone Kizer completed 47% of his passes for 187 yards and two interceptions.

Aaron Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry and gained 728 yards on the ground, while catching 26 passes. Jamaal Williams added 464 yards rushing and 27 catches. Davonte Adams caught 111 passes for 1,386 yards and 13 scores. No other Packer had even half as many catches nor had more than two aerial touchdowns. Jimmy Graham caught 55 passes. Randall Cobb and rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling each caught 38. Mason Crosby led in points with 124.

On defense, Ha Ha Clinton Dix picked off three passes of the team’s anemic total of seven. Kyler Fackrell recorded 11.5 sacks. He was followed by Kenny Clark’s six and the fading Clay Matthews’ 3.5. David Bakhtiari was named All-Pro; Rodgers and Adams were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Gutekunst’s first drafted yielded a diamond with top pick Jaire Alexander, but the rest of the picks were underwhelming. He got better value from undrafted rookies Allen Lazard, Tyler Lancaster and Robert Tonyan.

Jerry Kramer finally was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Custom cards in variation of 1968 Topps style.

A Card for Everyone: Bobby Jack Floyd

Born on December 8, 1929, in Paris, Texas, Bobby Jack Floyd starred at Paris High School a few years before future Hall of Famer Raymond Berry did. Floyd then went to Paris Junior College before transferring to TCU, where he was twice All Southwest Conference. He was a rugged 6’ 210-pound fullback.

Drafted by the Packers in the 15th round in 1952, Bobby Jack appeared in all 12 games as a rookie, starting five. He gained 236 yards on the ground, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and caught 11 passes. He scored his one NFL touchdown on October 12 on a first quarter 14-yard run against the Rams in Milwaukee. The Packers led 28-6 going into the fourth quarter that day before Bob Waterfield got hot and led the Rams back to a 30-28 triumph.

Unfortunately, the following August, Floyd was operated on for bone spurs in his heel and was subsequently waived in September. With the injury and the acquisition of Howie Ferguson to join Fred Cone at fullback in Green Bay, Floyd was expendable. The Bears signed Bobby Jack in October, in a rare example of the Bears picking up a ‘50s Packers’ discard; usually it was the Packers grabbing up former Bears in that decade. Floyd appeared in eight games for Chicago, gained 70 yards on the ground and caught nine passes. That ended his NFL career.

He got married in 1957 and worked at Texas Instruments in Dallas. Eventually, the family moved to Garland and then Sherman, Texas. The Floyds spent a decade in retirement in California and then returned to Paris, Texas in 2012 where Bobby Jack died on June 27 that year at age 82. He was survived by his wife of 55 years, two sons, one daughter and seven grandchildren.

Custom cards are colorized.