Packers by the Numbers Update: #57

57 was first worn in Green Bay by guard Clyde Van Sickle in 1932. He was followed in the Lambeau era by tackle Champ Seibold (1934, 1939-40), tackle Ade Schwammel (1936), guard Dick Zoll (1939) and end Ray Wehba (1944).

Following a 19-year gap, the number was next worn by rookie center Ken Bowman in 1964, and Kenny wore it for a full decade of fine service. He is both the Packer who wore the number longest and the only 57 to be a member of the Packer Hall of Fame.

Bowman’s successors included 13 linebackers, two guards and one defensive end.

LB: Ron Acks (1974-76), Mike Curcio (1983), Chet Parlavecchio (1983), Putt Choate (1987r), Joe Kelly (1995), Antonio London (1998), Jim Nelson (1999), Chris Gizzi (2000-01), T.J. Slaughter (2003), John Leake (2005), Cyril Obiozer (2009), Matt Wilhelm (2010) and Jamari Lattimore (2011-14).

G: Derrell Gofourth (1977-82) and Rich Moran (1985-93).

DE: Jason Hunter (2006-08).

1932new linemen  1964pkbowman2

1976tracks2  1982tdgofourth

1990trmoran  1995jkelly

2000cgizzi  2010mwilhelm

Custom cards of Van Sickle, Gofourth and Moran are colorized.

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Vonnie Holiday Turns 43

Vonnie Holliday was the 19th overall pick out of North Carolina in the 1998 as Reggie White’s heir apparent. Vonnie had his career high of eight sacks as a rookie playing across from White, but never developed into the game-changing pass rusher that White was. That being said, the 6’5” 290-pound did have a 15-year career in the NFL as a heavy-bodied defensive end who was solid against the run, and the Packers did get his best years. In five years in Green Bay, Holliday accumulated 32 of his 62.5 total sacks, not to mention 32.5 of his 60 total stuffs (running plays tackled behind the line of scrimmage) and 26 of his 42 total passes defensed. (stuff and pass defense numbers courtesy of Webster and Turney).

Holliday was actually a pretty consistent performer for the Packers. The one year his sack numbers dipped was 2000 when he was hampered by hamstring and ankle problems. In his last year as a Packer, Vonnie had six sacks in 10 games before a torn pectoral muscle and knee injury sidelined him. He went on to play for the Chiefs, Dolphins, Broncos, Redskins and Cardinals through the 2012 season. He was a solid pro and a good role player in a defense, but never really lived up to his billing as a number one pick.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1998vholiday  1999vholliday

2000vholliday

Custom cards in a variety of designs.

Ryan Grant Turns 36 Today

Ryan Grant’s rise in the NFL was meteoric, but so was his decline. He gained over 2,000 yards in four years at Notre Dame, but the 6’1” 220 pounder was not drafted. The Giants signed him as a free agent in 2005, and he spent that season on their practice squad. An off-field injury in 2006 placed him on the injured list for another season. The Packers traded a sixth round pick for him during the 2007 training camp, and Grant made the team.

Green Bay’s rushing attack was struggling before Grant was inserted into the lineup. Over the last ten games of the season, though, Ryan posted five 100-yard games and fell just short of reaching 1,000 yards for the season. Grant topped 1,200 yard in both of the next two seasons, but then disaster struck in the second quarter of the 2010 season opener when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury and missed the team’s championship run. In 2011, he wasn’t quite the same player and left for Washington the next year, although he finished 2012 back in Green Bay and then was released.

Coach Mike McCarthy once described Grant to reporters, “His body type where he’s taller, he has a longer leverage than the other running backs. He runs with a natural forward lean.” He had decent speed and was skilled at making cutbacks to find a hole. His most memorable game was the 2007 playoff game when he gashed the Seahawks in the snow. That day he recovered from losing fumbles on two of his first three touches to gain 201 yards rushing and score three touchdowns in leading the Packers to victory. He was a nice player, but for too brief a period.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

2010rgrant

Custom card in 1960 Topps style.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #56

56 was worn by only four players in the Lambeau era. Back Orrin Pape first wore it in 1930, and he was followed by center Nate Barragar (1932), guard Harry Wunsch (1934) and center Tom Greenfield (1939-41).

Following a 23-year gap, linebacker Tommy Joe Crutcher reintroduced the number in 1965, and it has been worn by 18 other linebackers and one center in the intervening years.

LB: Tommy Joe Crutcher (1965-67, 1971-72), Tom MacLeod (1973), Ted Hendricks (1974), Tom Perko (1976), Blane Smith (1977), Ed O’Neil (1980), Cliff Lewis (1981-84), Burnell Dent (1986-92), John Pointer (1987r), James Willis (1993-94), Lamont Hollinquest (1996-98) Kivuusama Mays (1999), Gene McCaslin (2000), Rob Holmberg (2001), Hardy Nickerson (2002), Nick Barnett (2003-10), Terrell Manning (2012), Julius Peppers (2014-16), Korey Toomer (2018).

C: Rick Nuzum (1978).

No one ever wore 56 better in Green Bay than Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks, but for just one season. Future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers also represented the number well. Nate Barragar is the sole member of the Packer Hall of Fame to wear the number, but Nick Barnett will likely join that group at some point, and he wore 56 the longest as a Packer–eight years.

1930opape  1940tgreenfield

1965ptjcrutcher   1973ttmcleod

1974tthendricks  1988tbdent

1993jwillis  1998lhollinquest

2010nbarnett

First three custom cards are colorized.

Spartan Showdown

I have a book on early NFL coaches coming out next spring. One of the chapters in Pioneer Pro Football Coaches is on Coach Potsy Clark of the Portsmoth Spartans, forerunner to the Detroit Lions franchise. This excerpt concerns the end of the Packers’ three-peat in 1932:

The Spartans had a tentative agreement with Green Bay for the Packers to finish the 1931 season in Portsmouth’s Universal Stadium on December 13. However, once the Packers lost to the Bears on December 6, dropping Green Bay’s record to 12-2, just one game better than Portsmouth’s 11-3, Curly Lambeau decided not to risk the Packers’ third straight NFL title with a finale in Ohio. Clark, the Spartans and their fans were incensed. The Portsmouth Times referred to the Packers as the “Yellow Bay Pikers,” “Cheese Champs,” and “limburger champions.”   Clark pleaded with league president Joe Carr, “I don’t see how a team can claim a pennant when they haven’t played all the teams in the league.”   The protest was to no avail; the league ruled the Packer-Spartan game was never part of the official schedule, so Green Bay was under no obligation to play.

Still angry over the Packers backing out of a tentatively scheduled showdown at the end of the 1931 season, Portsmouth was aching for revenge in 1932. The fact that the Packers whipped the Spartans 15-10 in October in Green Bay only intensified those feelings. Potsy Clark frothed to the press before the first match, “We’ll take the Packers, Sunday, and get even for the raw deal of last December. My team is in the pink of condition and we are tuned up for a battle royal. It is a grudge game if there ever was one…We’re out to show up the Packers.”

After that bitter loss, Clark upped the ante for the December 4, 1932 rematch. Years later, Glenn Presnell recalled to Richard Whittingham, “Before the game, Potsy Clark gave one of his most impassioned pep talks. Then he named the starting lineup and said, ‘You people, you eleven men, are going to stay in the game. The only way any one of you is going to come out is by being carried off on a stretcher.’ And sure enough, we played that game with eleven men, didn’t make a single substitution all afternoon.”

On a very windy day, Portsmouth dominated. The run-based Spartans completed five of 10 passes for 87 yards, while the aerial Packers completed just one of 17 passes for nine yards and had three passes picked off. Local broadcaster Grant P. Ward observed in the Ohio State Journal that the Packers made several unaccustomed tactical mistakes and seemed flat and tired all day. The Spartans scored following a 60-yard drive in the first quarter, a drive aided by a 22-yard interference call on the Packers’ Clarke Hinkle and a 25-yard pass from Presnell to Father Lumpkin. Presnell ran the final four yards for the score.

In the second quarter, Arnie Herber’s punt from his own 20 went straight up in the air and was buffeted down by the wind at the Green Bay 25. A five-play drive was culminated by Dutch Clark’s nine-yard touchdown burst off-tackle. Portsmouth tacked on one more score in the final period when Presnell returned a punt 27 yards to the Green Bay 28. After one running play, Presnell tossed to Clark at the five and Dutch powered in to make the final 19-0. The loss knocked the Packers out of first place and ended their drive for a fourth straight NFL title.

(Adapted from Pioneer Pro Football Coaches: Shaping the Game and the League in the Days of Leather Helmets and 60-Minute Men.)

1932clambeau  1932chinkle

1932aherber2

Custom cards are colorized.

Rodgers Turns 35

It’s way past time to build a better team around our brilliant quarterback who turns 35 today. Brett Favre’s successor, Aaron Rodgers, sat in the green room at the 2005 NFL draft for a very long time. Expected to be one of the top picks in the draft, he fell all the way to 24 where Ted Thompson grabbed him for Green Bay. Thompson had planned on taking Nebraska cornerback Fabian Washington, but he was taken at 23 by Oakland, so Green Bay took the plummeting California signal caller. Thompson said at the time, “I just think when you look back five years from now you’ll say ‘This was a hell of a pick.’” Ted was right.

The 6’2” 225-pound Rodgers learned the pro game while watching Favre for three years, and he has Favre’s gift for improvisation without Favre’s tendency to force throws that aren’t there. The only comparable handoffs from one great quarterback to another were Joe Montana to Steve Young in San Francisco and Bob Waterfield to Norm Van Brocklin in Los Angeles. None of these changes was amiable. Rodgers has been the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating for several seasons. In his 10+ years as a starter, he’s exceeded 3,000 yards passing eight times and 4,000 six times. He’s thrown for more than 30 touchdowns six times, and his touchdown to interception ratio is more than 4-1. In fact he is the career leader in lowest interception percentage with a percentage of 1.5. He is fifth all-time in yards per passing attempt at 7.9

The reasons for all these achievements are obvious. Aaron is very smart and doesn’t make mistakes, is an elusive runner who’s at his best when plays break down, and has a very strong and extremely accurate arm. Not only is he dead-on with short and intermediate throws, Rodgers’ deep throws are pinpoint shots, even his Hail Mary’s. He is the best quarterback in the game.

When I think of Rodgers, I remember the darts he threw in tight coverage windows to Greg Jennings in Super Bowl XLV and his repeated eluding of Falcons pass rusher John Abraham earlier in the same postseason. And then there was 2013 finale against the Bears, when Rodgers returned from a two-month absence due to a broken collarbone and, with the game and the playoffs on the line, evaded Julius Peppers to deliver a game-winning 48-yard touchdown strike to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-eight with under a minute to play. Did I mention it was against the Bears? Very sweet.

Aaron Rodgers takes the best traits from Bart Starr and Brett Favre. Like Starr, he is crafty, under control and averse to making mistakes. Like Favre, he has a strong arm, can create spontaneously when a play breaks down and operates a high-performance passing offense expertly. We wasted the second half of Favre’s career by surrounding him with so-so talent. It seems we are repeating the mistake with Rodgers.

(adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1976fbuarodgers  2010arodgers

nflmvparodgers  53manarodgers

Custom cards in a variety of styles.

A Belated Salute to Bob Skoronski

Last month, another of Lombardi’s Packers passed away–left tackle Bob Skoronski. I have written about this Pro Bowl stalwart previously here,  but wanted to make a couple more points in tribute.

First, Skoronski figured prominently in two of my favorite plays from that championship time. In the November 8, 1964 game against the Lions, Jim Taylor broke off the longest run of the whole era. He took a quick toss to the right from Bart Starr, followed point-of-attack blocks by Ron Kramer on the defensive end, Paul Hornung on the linebacker and Forrest Gregg on a defensive back to break free and score on an 84-yard run. It’s still the third longest run in team history. What has always been particularly striking to me, though, is the final block by Bob Skoronski. Left tackle Skoronski hustles all the way across the field to make his block 80 yards downfield, clearing away Dick LeBeau so that Taylor can reach paydirt.

Skoronski said at the time: “LeBeau kept backing up on me. I just ran him back. I could feel Jim on my tail, and I knew we were gaining another yard every time LeBeau backed up so that was fine with me. If he’d planted his feet, I would have taken him out – I was kind of hoping he would as a matter of fact.”

Skoronski also made the crucial seal block on George Andrie that allowed Chuck Mercein to slip free to the Cowboy three on a trap play at the conclusion of the Ice Bowl. Skoronski’s comment on that game is my second tribute. He called the game “Our mark of distinction,” and that phrase from the team captain perfectly summarized the greatest moment in team history.

Steady, hustling leadership was his mark of distinction. RIP Bob Skoronski.

1961tbskoronski2  1964pbskoronski2

1965tbbskoronski  1966tvbskoronski

Tall Boy and TV set custom cards are colorized.