Another Shared Birthday

Two Oakland Raiders with Packer ties were born on February 25 – Jim Brewington and Alphonse Dotson. Brewington was a17th round draft pick of the Packers in 1961 out of North Carolina Central, a small black college that had yielded halfback Paul Winston to Green Bay a year earlier. Brewington was 6’6” and 280 pounds, and the coaching staff took a long look before releasing him on August 28. The Raiders signed Brewington at that point and he appeared in all 14 games for Oakland that season, his only year in pro football. He passed away November 26, 2012.

Four years later, Green Bay selected Alphonse Dotson out of Grambling, another small black college in the south, but in the second round, as Dotson had drawn All-America notices. Dotson signed with Kansas City instead and then went to the Miami Dolphins in the expansion draft a year later. After one year each in Kansas City and Miami, Dotson had a second tryout with the Chiefs before ending up with the Raiders in 1968, where he spent three seasons as a backup. Dotson continued to report to training camps for a couple more years, but eventually devoted himself to business. His connection to the Packers came in 1996 when he represented his son Santana, a free agent signee that solidified the Packers defensive line for its Super Bowl run that year. Alphonse took his fee as his son’s agent and started a winery in his native Texas.

1961tjbrewington  1965padotson

Custom cards in 1961 Topps and 1965 Philadelphia styles.

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A Shared Birthday for Super Bowl 31 Champs

February 22 marks the 49th birthday for Mark Chmura and the 47th for Gilbert Brown, two heroes of the Brett Favre era. As one of Brett Favre’s closest friends, Chmura was a trusted safety outlet on the field for the Packers of the late 1990s. Early in 1999, though, Mark herniated two cervical discs in his spine, and he never played again. Even had he been able to return from that injury, it’s likely that his Packer career would have ended anyway after he was arrested on sexual assault charges involving his children’s’ babysitter in April 2000.

Ron Wolf’s response was to shift from his focus on defensive end John Abraham to tight end Bubba Franks with his first round draft pick later that month. The Packers then released Chmura before training camp. Despite being found not guilty of all charges in February 2001, the fact was he used poor judgment by participating in a post-prom party of high school students.

On the field, the 6’5” 250-pound Chmura was an all-around tight end in the Ron Kramer mold of blocker/receiver and was selected to three Pro Bowls. Drafted out of Boston College in the sixth round in 1992, he spent that season on injured reserve and the next two as a backup. Finally winning the starting job in 1995, Chmura had a breakout year with 54 catches for seven touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis described his development, “He’s a lot stronger, a lot more familiar with the offense. He’s a big target.” When All-Pro Keith Jackson arrived at season’s end, Green Bay had a formidable two-tight end attack for the 1996 championship season.

Chmura scored on a two-point conversion in the Super Bowl victory over New England. A year later, he caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl loss to Denver and was the target on Favre’s fourth down incompletion to end the game. A very short career and its sad end puts him on the bubble here.

Amiable, jumbo-sized Gilbert Brown was a favorite of both John Madden and Packer fans. I once described him as “a rumbling, jiggling dominant warrior Buddha in pads,” and I don’t think I can improve on that description. Drafted out of Kansas by Minnesota in the third round in 1993, he was cut and signed with Green Bay that year, although he did not become a starter until 1995. As a 6’2” nose tackle, his job was to clog the middle of the line, take up multiple blockers and free his teammates to make plays. At 330-340 pounds, he did just that, but as his weight crept up to 370 and beyond, he lost his wind and became just an immobile blob that could be bypassed. By the time he passed 400 pounds, he had eaten himself out of the league in the year 2000.

Brown worked hard that year to get back to playing weight and returned to Green Bay in 2001 at 340. Once again, he won the starting nose tackle position and extended his career for another three years, although never again at his “Gravedigger” peak of the championship year of 1996. At his run-stuffing best, he made the Packers’ middle impenetrable, but even then he was not of much value as a pass rusher and would wear down if he were on the field too long.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

1996mchmura  1996gbrown

Custom cards in 1961 Fleer style.

Lambeau Looks Ahead

I recently came across a Green Bay Press-Gazette story from Valentine’s Day 1936 in which Curly Lambeau said he planned on switching Don Hutson to safety the following year and using blocking back Herm Schneidman at defensive end in his place. It’s well known that Lambeau made this switch involving Hutson and Larry Craig in Craig’s rookie season of 1939, but I had never realized that Curly was planning the change as far back as Hutson’s second year in the league. It was one of Lambeau’s smartest moves and likely extended Hutson’s career and preserved his health.

Green_Bay_Press_Gazette_Fri__Feb_14__1936_

1936dhutson  1936hschneidman

Custom cards are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #23

First worn by guard Whitey Woodin in 1927, the number 23 has been worn by 39 Packers – 29 of them in the offensive or defensive backfield. Woodin and kick returner Travis Williams are the most noteworthy wearers, with both being members of the Packer Hall of Fame. Woodin and safety Tiger Greene wore the number the longest time at five seasons apiece.

Woodin (1927-31) was joined by guard Paul Minick (1929); tackles Jess Quatse (1933) and Av Daniell (1937); ends Ben Smith (1933), Alex Urban (1941), Earl Ohlgren (1942), Clyde Goodnight (1945-49), Steve Pritko (1949-50) and Val Jansante (1951); and backs Earl Witte (1934), Harry Mattos (1936), Jim Lankas (1943) and Don Perkins (1944).

In the two-platoon era, 18 defensive backs and seven running backs have worn 23:

Defensive backs: Bob Nussbaumer (1951), Dan Sandifer (1953), Jim Capuzzi (1955), Glenn Young (1956), Al Romine (1958), Jerry Norton (1963-64), Terry Randolph (1977), Maurice Harvey (1981-83), Chuck Clanton (1985), Tiger Greene (1986-90), Dave McCloughan (1992), Sammy Walker (1993), Matthew Dorsett (1994), Roosevelt Blackmon (1998), Billy Jenkins (2001), Darrien Gordon (2002), Mark Roman (2004) and Damarious Randall (2015-17).

Running backs: Paul Winslow (1960), Travis Williams (1967-70), Bob Hudson (1972), Charlie Leigh (1974), Noah Herron (2005-06), Dimitri Nance (2010) and Johnathan Franklin (2013).

1927wwoodin  1936hmattos

1942eohlgren2  1948logoodnight2

1955bjcapuzzi  1970ktwilliams

1983tmharvey2  1989ttgreene

1995mdorsett  2010dnance

First 6 custom cards are colorized.

Edgar Bennett Turns 49

Coach Mike Holmgren summed up Edgar Bennett to the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1994, “He’s an all-purpose guy, a Jack-of-all-trades. You’d like him a little faster, a little bigger. But he’s smart, and he plays smart and plays hard.” Drafted out of Florida State in the fourth round in 1992, he began his career as an undersized fullback and started in that capacity in 1993 and 1994 when he caught 59 and 78 passes out of the backfield. Shifted to running back in 1995, Edgar became the first Packer to gain 1,000 yards rushing in a season since Terdell Middleton in 1978, although he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry to reach the milestone.

Early on, there were comparisons of Bennett to Roger Craig of the 49ers because both players ran hard with high knee action and were excellent blockers and receivers. Despite being a dedicated, hard worker, the 6-foot 225-pound Bennett never came close to being Roger Craig. However, there is one quality of his play that few can match and that is ball security. Bennett fumbled just seven times in 1,183 touches in his career.

In the championship year of 1996, Bennett shared the running back slot with the bigger and faster Dorsey Levens, but still led the team with 899 yards rushing and averaged 4.0 per carry. In the playoffs that year, he was especially good in the mud against San Francisco, a regular occurrence for him in bad weather due to his flat-footed running style. The following year, Bennett tore his Achilles tendon and missed the entire 1997 season. He then signed with the Bears as a free agent in 1998, but gained just 639 yards rushing in two years in Chicago before retiring.

When he first came to Green Bay in 1992, Bennett joined his childhood friend safety Leroy Butler, who played with Edgar in both high school and college, as a Packer. Both men are known for their sunny dispositions and became local institutions, settling in Green Bay and putting down roots. Bennett rejoined the Packer organization in 2001 as Head of Player Development and moved on to the coaching staff in 2005. He spent six seasons coaching the running backs and four mentoring the wide receivers before being named offensive coordinator in 2015. Ousted in the management and coaching shake up after the most recent season, Bennet signed on as the receivers’ coach for the Oakland Raiders under Jon Gruden, another one-time Packers’ receivers’ coach.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1992ebennett  1993ebennett

1994ebennett  1995ebennett

1996ebennett

Custom cards in 1960s Fleer and Philadelphia styles

Rumors Greatly Exaggerated

I am currently working on a book with the working title of Pioneer Coaches of Pro Football: Scripting the Profession in the Days of Leather Helmets and 60-Minute Men and came across an interesting piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer while researching Frankford Yellow Jacket Coach Guy Chamberlin. Chamberlin was at the height of his powers in December 1926, having just led Frankford to the NFL title, his fourth in five years with three different franchises. Yet, all was not well.

On December 19, 1926, the Inquirer ran a story headlined: “Chamberlin to Quit Jackets, Is Rumor at Hornet’s Feast: Coach and Players Will Either Be with Green Bay or New York Next Year”. At the dinner held to celebrate the team’s championship, the reporter found that:

Together with Chamberlin, nine other players are said to be ready to follow in the footsteps of their coach and make their residences wherever the former All-America end at Nebraska locates. It is rumored that Tim Mara of the New York Giants and the Green Bay management want Guy to tutor their teams, while it is also said that he would be at the helm of a well-known college eleven.

As it turned out, Chamberlin did leave Frankford, but for the mediocre Chicago Cardinals and was fired by Thanksgiving, never to coach in the league again. The Giants, under new coach Earl Potteiger, won the championship in 1927 with an 11-1-1 record; the Packers, still under Curly Lambeau, finished second at 7-2-1. Two years later, Green Bay would start a string of three consecutive NFL titles and Lambeau became a national name.

1927clambeau

Custom card is colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #22

Four Packer Hall of Fame members have worn 22 for an extended period. End Lavvie Dilweg first wore the number in 1927 and should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the best end of his time. His successor, Milt Gantenbein, played the end opposite from Dilweg for four years. Halfback Elijah Pitts was an all-purpose back for the Lombardi Packers. Cornerback Mark Lee held his position and the number 22 for 11 years, longer than any other Packer. Pro Bowl punt return man Billy Grimes should also be noted here.

After Dilweg (1927-34) in the Lambeau Era, 22 was worn by ends Milt Gantenbein (1935-40), Ray Riddick (1942) and Dick Evans (1943); tackle Ernie Pannell (1941-42); backs Dick Bilda (1944) and Roy McKay (1946-47); and center Jay Rhodemyre (1948-49).

Since that time, 21 Packers have worn 22.

Running backs: Billy Grimes (1950-52), J.R. Boone (1953), John Papit (1953), Bill Roberts (1956), Jim Shanley (1958), Elijah Pitts (1961-69, 1971), Darick Holmes (1998) Eric Metcalf (2002), Nick Luchey (2003-04), Khalil Bell (2013) and Aaron Ripkowski (2015-17).

Defensive backs: Bill Butler (1959), Mark Lee (1980-90), Lewis Billups (1992), Lenny McGill (1994-95), Bucky Brooks (1996-97) Keith Thibodeaux (2001), Marquand Manual (2006), Pat Lee (2008, 2010-11) and Jerron McMillian (2012-13).

Wide receiver: Jon Staggers (1972-74).

1930ldilweg  1938mgantenbein

1944dbildac2  1951bbgrimes2

1959tbbutler4  1969tepitts

1974tjstaggers  1986tmlee

1994lmcgill  1996bbrooks

First four custom cards are colorized.