1936: The First Packers’ Title Game

It was the deep pass that won the Packers their first championship since the East/West title game playoff format was adopted in 1933.  That and a nightmare day for Redskin signal caller Riley Smith. On December 13, 1936 the Packers met the Eastern champs the Boston Redskins for the championship at the Polo Grounds in New York.  The game was played in New York because Redskins owner George Marshall was fed up with the lack of fan support for his team in Boston; indeed, they would become the Washington Redskins in the next season.

Green Bay was favored and started off quickly by scoring on its second possession. Lou Gordon recovered a fumble by Riley Smith on the Washington 47. Two plays later from the 44, Arnie Herber hit Don Hutson on a deep crossing pattern at the 15, and Hutson raced into the end zone from there. Tackle Ernie Smith converted the extra point and Green Bay had a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.  After an exchange of punts, the Redskins drove 78 yards in 12 plays and scored on a 2yard Pug Rentner plunge at the start of the second quarter but Riley Smith missed the extra point. Smith also had a 30-yard field goal attempt blocked later in the second quarter so the score stood at 7-6 Packers at halftime.

Green Bay started fast again in the second half.  The key play in the Packers’ opening touchdown drive was a 51-yard pass from Herber to Johnny Blood who was immediately knocked out of bounds at the Redskins nine.  Still at the eight on fourth down, Herber found end Milt Gantenbein in the end zone for another touchdown pass and a 14-6 lead following Tiny Engebretsen’s extra point.  After the ensuing kickoff, the two centers in the game –Frank Butler of Green Bay and Frank Bausch of the Redskins – were ejected from the game for getting into a fist fight.

The Packers would clinch matters in the fourth quarter after Lon Evans blocked Riley Smith’s punt from the Washington 20 and Don Hutson recovered the ball at the two.  On second down, Bob Monnett swept wide for two yards and the third Green Bay touchdown to complete the scoring in a 21-6 final. Ernie Smith kicked the final extra point and a few minutes later blocked still another Smith punt, but no points came of that.

Individual statistics from the day are in conflict.  The Milwaukee Sentinel lists Arnie Herber as completing nine of 23 passes while the New York Times says he hit six of 13 passes. The Chicago Tribune lists Herber as 6 of 14 and Don Hutson catching five balls. Presumably, Bobby Monnett threw the remaining Packer passes. It is clear that the Packers outgained the Redskins 153-91 yards through the air and that two of their three scores came on passes.

To get an idea of how much this championship game differed in impact from today’s Super Bowl, consider that second sentence of the Milwaukee Journal’s recap of the game read: “It was a battle between champions of the western and eastern division of the league and paid off not only in that intangible thing called the “title” but also in a crack at the college all-stars in Chicago next September and that means money.”

1936aherber  1936bmonnett

1936dhutson  1936mgantenbein

1936jblood  1936esmith

1936pengebretsen  1936levans

1936lgordon  1936fbutler

Custom cards are all colorized.

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