Junior Coffey

Running back Junior Coffey turns 77 today. Coffey was with the team for just one season but did earn a championship ring in Green Bay. He was born and raised in Texas, where he was a star schoolboy athlete who dreamt of playing for one of the state schools in the Southwest Conference. However, the SWC had yet to integrate its sports teams, so Junior left Texas for the University of Washington.

As a Husky, Coffey led the team in rushing in both 1962 and ’64. In 1963, his season was interrupted by a foot injury, but he did manage to return to play in the 1964 Rose Bowl, where Washington lost 17-7 to an Illinois team powered by Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski.

While at Washington, Coffey developed an interest in horse racing and hoped to be drafted by Pittsburgh because Steeler owner Art Rooney had race horses, according to a 2002 San Francisco Chronicle article. Instead, Coffey was selected by Green Bay in the seventh round of the 1965 draft. He and Fellow rookie Bill Curry played in the College All-Star Game before reporting to Vince Lombardi.

Although Coffey and Curry would have some success in the league, the other three Green Bay rookies (Dennis Claridge, Bud Marshall and Allen Jacobs) did not. The 1965 Packers, nonetheless, won the NFL title, and then Claridge and Coffey were both taken by the Atlanta Falcons in the expansion draft.

Coffey who had carried the ball just three times for 12 yards as a rookie, got a chance to play with the Falcons and led them in rushing with 722 yards in both 1966 and ’67 before suffering a knee injury in ’68.  Junior finished his NFL career with the Giants in 1971 and then became a horse trainer and fashioned a long successful career with the equine set.

1965pjcoffey4  1965tbjcoffey

Philadelphia custom card is colorized.

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Whatchamacallit Offense

With the Packers having lost to the Bears 18 of the last 24 meetings, Coach Gene Ronzani tried a new approach on opening day 1951. He unveiled the DF, or Double Flanker, Formation. In this clip from Art Daley’s column on the Tuesday following that game entitled, “Packers ‘Earn’ Three TD’s on Whatchamacallit Offense,” that surprise offense is described.

Green_Bay_Press_Gazette_Tue__Oct_2__1951_

So essentially the DF was a variation of a spread offense. The Milwaukee Journal game story breathlessly reports that Green Bay threw the ball on 63% of its offensive snaps and that 10 different receivers caught balls. Bobby Thomason completed 16 of 28 passes for 177 yards and two scores, while Tobin Rote completed six of 10 for 61 yards. Unfortunately, in the game, Chicago got off to a 17-0 lead in the first half and were never challenged. Green Bay lost 31-20, with a Jack Cloud touchdown in the closing minutes making the final score closer than the game really was. Daley mentioned the DF a few days later in the lead in to the next game against the Steelers, but never again as the offense seems to have been dropped after just one game.

1951bgronzani2  1951bjcloud2

1951bbthomason  1951btrote

All custom cards except Thomason are colorized,

Buddha

On March 17, 1933 Tom Bettis was born in Chicago. As the Packers’ top draft pick in 1955, fifth overall, the Purdue All-America ostensibly was selected to replace retiring middleman Clayton Tonnemaker, but instead played his first three years as an outside linebacker. Playing on the outside did not go to Tom’s strengths. Coach Blackbourn publicly expressed his disappointment in Bettis’ play in October of 1955. Two years later, Chuck Johnson opined in the Milwaukee Journal that Bettis was finally living up to his potential.

Bettis switched to the middle in 1958 and held on to his job for most of the next three years despite the presence of a young Ray Nitschke during that time. When Vince Lombardi arrived in 1959, Tom’s career took a leap forward. Under Lombardi’s orders, the 6’2” Bettis dropped from 245 to 220 and had his finest season in 1959. He told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “We found with conditioning and enthusiasm we could win.”

Tom was a solid run stuffer, good leader and trusted signal caller; he was known as “Buddha” on the team. Defensive Coach Phil Bengtson once said of Bettis, “he substitutes quickness for size and, of course, he hits with great authority.” In 1961, Bettis had a knee operation in the preseason and no longer could hold off Nitschke’s superior size, range and playmaking ability; he lost his starting job in Lombardi’s first championship year. In the offseason, Bettis had an altercation with Lombardi over his demoted status and demanded a trade.

Lombardi traded him to Pittsburgh in 1962, but a year later Bettis returned to his native Chicago where his knowledge of the Packers played an integral role in the Bears knocking off the Pack twice that season en route to the 1963 NFL championship. Tom retired following that game, but returned to the game as a defensive coach with the Chiefs in 1966. However, his inside knowledge of the Packers could not help Kansas City upend Green Bay in Super Bowl I that season.

Bettis remained with the Chiefs for over a decade. He took over as interim head coach of the team in 1977 and beat the Packers in his debut on November 6. That would prove to be his only victory as a head coach. Fired at the end of the year, Bettis spent the next 17 years as a defensive assistant on a series of NFL teams before retiring in 1995. As a player, he was smart and solid, particularly against the run. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 81.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1955btbettis2  1957ttbettis4

1958ttbettis2  1959btbettis

1961ttbettis3  1961ftbettis

1962ttbettis  1977ttbettis

First four and last custom cards are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #70

There is no record of 70 having been worn during the Curly Lambeau era in Green Bay. The first Packer to wear 70 was tackle Steve Dowden in 1952. Since then, it has been worn by seven other tackles, six guards, four defensive tackles, two defensive ends and a linebacker.

T: Steve Dowden (1952), Dick WIldung (1953), Art Hunter (1954), Lee Nystrom (1974) Ernie McMillan (1975), Steve Collier (1987), Tyson Walker (2006) and Alex Light (2018).

G: Ron Sams (1983), Keith Uecker (1984-85, 1987-88, 1990-91), Chris Hope (1994), Joe Andruzzi (1998-99) Adrian Klemm (2005) and T.J. Lang (2009-16).

DT: Don King (1956), Rich Marshall (1965), Leon Crenshaw (1968) and Rich Moore (1969-70).

DE: Bob Barber (1976-79) and David Grant (1993).

LB: Paul Rudzinski (1980).

Draft bust Rich Moore was the first to wear the number for more than a season. Bob Barber upped that to four years and Keith Uecker to six before T.J. Lang made the number his own in his eight years as a Pro Bowl level player. Dick Wildung is the only member of the team’s hall of fame to wear 70. The longest gaps in service stretched from 1957-64 and 2000-04.

1952bsdowden  1968tlcrenshaw4

1970trmoore  1974tlnystrom2

1975temcmillan  1979tbbarber

1985tkuecker  2010tjlang

Dowden, McMillan and Barber custom cards are colorized.

Chris Jacke

March 12 marks the 53rd birthday of Chris Jacke, a sixth round pick out of Texas-El Paso in 1989, who gave the Packers eight solid seasons of consistent placekicking before leaving as a free agent in the wake of the Super Bowl championship season of 1996. He left just three points shy of Don Hutson’s traditional team scoring mark of 823 points.

Parenthetically, when I went to check this stat at the Pro Football Reference site, I was surprised to see Hutson listed with 825 total points. PFR has added a safety from 1937 to his scoring tally. When you go to the Green Bay Press Gazette game account of the Packers 14-2 loss to the Bears on September 19, 1937 in Green Bay, it indeed notes the Packers lone score came when Hutson blocked a punt by Sam Francis, with the punt rolling out of the end zone untouched. Perhaps points were not awarded to punt blockers at the time, but it seems to be an oversight.

As for Jacke, his overall field goal accuracy mark of 77.2 was above average for his time, and he was generally cool in the clutch. Three times he scored more than 100 points and twice earned All-Pro recognition. On kicks over 40 yards, Jacke was successful 64.8%. Unexpectedly, his percentage from over 50 yards (65.4%) was slightly higher than from 40-49 yards (64.5%).

Two kickers who have followed Jacke in Green Bay, Ryan Longwell and Mason Crosby, both exceeded Hutson’s point total and have ratcheted up the field goal percentage even higher. Longwell was successful on 81.6% of field goal attempts and 69.2% of those over 40 yards. Crosby has hit on 80.4% overall and 65.9% of those over 40 yards. Crosby’s big leg encouraged the Packers to attempt many more field goals from 50 yards and well beyond, although those lengthy attempts have lowered his overall numbers a bit.

1991tcjacke  1996cjacke

1937ydhutson

Hutson custom card is colorized.

Buckets

Charles (Buckets) Goldenberg was considered one of the top lineman in the league during his career, twice receiving All-Pro notice and later being named to the NFL’s All-1930s team. He also was one of the team’s most popular figures for years after his career ended.  Born in Odessa in the Ukraine on March 10, 1910, Buckets and his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was four.  Goldenberg grew up in Milwaukee and was an All City halfback in high school where he inherited his older brother’s posterior-inspired nickname “Buckets.”  At the University of Wisconsin he starred both in the line and the backfield, and Curly Lambeau signed him to a pro contract in 1933.  He spent the next 13 years in a Packer uniform mostly as either number 44 or 43.

Lambeau originally employed Buckets mostly as a single-wing quarterback, better described as a blocking back, for his first few years.  He led the league in touchdowns with seven as a rookie, but in his backfield years he only carried the ball 108 times and caught 11 passes.  Almost half of his carries came in his rookie year when he backed up Hinkle at fullback, but he was the starting blocking back on the 1936 champions.  At 5’10” and 220 pounds, he had the body of a 1930s lineman, and Mike Michalske helped convince Lambeau to convert Buckets to guard where he spent the last two thirds of his career.  As an offensive and defensive guard as well as linebacker he was known as a flattening lead blocker on offense and a tenacious tackler on defense.  Despite his talent and popularity, Lambeau actually traded him and Swede Johnston to Pittsburgh for Pat McCarty and Ray King in 1938 when Johnny Blood became coach of the Steelers.  Fortunately for all in Green Bay, the deal fell through when Buckets retired rather than report to Pittsburgh.  He returned to Packers for two more championship runs. Had World War II not occurred, though, it is doubtful his career would have lasted as long.  With so many of the young and able in the military, league rosters were filled with the old and damaged.  Goldenberg tried to enlist in the army, but he was rejected because his knees were so bad.

In his off-seasons, Goldenberg was a professional wrestler for many years until the travel became too much of a drain on his family life, so he opened a restaurant in Milwaukee in 1941.  His restaurant was very successful for decades and featured several large photographs of Packer players in action.  Like many former players of his time, he continued as a fan of the team in his retirement and regularly attended all Packer games in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago. In many ways, he was similar to another guard known more for his nickname than his given name, Fuzzy Thurston. Buckets also served on the Packers Board of Directors from 1953 till the year before he died, 1985.  He was inducted in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1971 and was named “Outstanding Jewish Athlete of All Time” by the Green Bay B’nai B’rith lodge in 1969.

(adapted from Packers by the Numbers)

1933bgoldenberg  1936bgoldenberg

1937ybgoldenberg  1940bgoldenberg

1941bgoldenberg  1942bgoldenberg

1945bgoldenberg3  2waygoldenbergc2

Custom cards are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #69

Just ten Packers have worn number 69, and the number has gone unworn during more than 70 of the team’s 100 years of playing. The first to wear 69 was guard Tiny Engebretsen in 1934, his first season in Green Bay. After him, there was a 17-year gap until Dave Stephenson next wore it in 1952. There have been three other gaps lasting at least a decade, as well– from 1962-74, 1988-2001 and 2003-12.

In the modern era, 69 has been worn by two centers three tackles, two guards and two linebackers.

C: Dave Stephenson (1952) and Bill Cherry (1986-87).

T: Bill Bain (1975), Bob Gruber (1987r) and David Bakhtiari (2013-18).

G: Leotis Harris (1978-83) and Jeff Blackshear (2002).

LB: Bill Forester (1953-59) and Nelson Toburen (1961).

Forester, at seven years, wore the number the longest, but Harris and Bahktiari both reached six seasons. Forester switched to 71 for the last four years of his career. He and Engebretsen are both members of the team’s hall of fame.

1934tengebretsen  1955bbforester3

1975tbbain2  1980tlharris

First two custom cards are colorized.