Mason Crosby

Mason Crosby turns 33 today, one week before the start of the 2017 season. Crosby was drafted out of Colorado in the sixth round of the 2007 draft by Green Bay and has a very strong leg. The 6’1” 210-pound Crosby surpassed Ryan Longwell’s team record point total in 2015. Through 2016, Crosby has scored 1,267 points in his 10 years as the Packer kicker. Add in 137 points in 18 postseason games, and he has scored 1,404 points for Green Bay.

However, it took Crosby five years before he recorded a field goal percentage of at least 80%. In 2011, he converted 85.7% of his field goals, but the next year slumped badly to 63.6%, the lowest in the league, and fans and the media were calling for his head (or foot). Crosby rewarded the faith of Coach Mike McCarthy by hitting 89.2% of his field goals in 2013, 81.8% in 2014, 85.7% in 2015 and 86.7% in 2016. That raised his lifetime percentage to 80.4%, and he’s converted 89.7% of his field goals in the postseason.

Playing for a team that usually plays with a lead, Crosby has not been called on to win many games at the gun. However, his two 48-yard field goals in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game in Seattle in 2014 were clutch and about the only positives in that frightful team meltdown. He topped that against Dallas in 2016, when his 56 and 51-yard field goals in the final two minutes sent the Packers to the NFC Championship game.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

2010mcrosby

Custom card in 1961 Fleer style.

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Charles Martin

Today would have been Charles Martin’s 58th birthday, but the wild man former nose tackle died in 2005 at age 45 from a kidney condition. In high school, Martin was known as “Too Mean,” and he lived up to that nickname as a Green Bay Packer.  He went to tiny Livingston College and played with Birmingham in the USFL before joining Forrest Gregg’s first Packer team in 1984.  Gregg’s teams were short on talent, and he tried to make up for that by having them play aggressively, especially against the hated Bears.  For some reason, there was very bad blood between Gregg and Bear Coach Mike Ditka, probably going back to their playing days in the 1960s.  Ditka had a vast advantage in talented players and that allowed him to beat the Packers at will.  With Gregg, his foe, as the opposing coach, Ditka took to rubbing Forrest’s nose in it.  In their 1985 championship season, the Bears won both games against the Packers so easily that they had 300-pound defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry score a touchdown in each game, one came on a run and one on a pass reception off of play action.

The 6’2″ and 285 pound Martin compensated for his modicum of talent with an abundance of belligerence. He was known for frequenting bars and becoming extremely antagonistic after having a few drinks.  A few years later, he would check into an alcohol treatment center.  Some teammates also suspected that he used steroids.  As an example of his troubled behavior, there was a sexual incident in a bar in 1986 that got Charles a two-game suspension by the team.  The first game against the Bears that year was very hard-hitting.  Mark Lee was thrown out of the game for tussling with Walter Payton on the Packers second possession.  On the next possession, Martin dropped Walter Payton on running play.  The whistle blew, and safety Ken Stills came charging in and drilled Bear fullback Matt Suhey from behind as he was walking back to the huddle.  The Packers were penalized and defensive coach Dick Modzelewski began yelling at Stills from the sideline, but Gregg told Modzelewski to lay off.  He liked the aggressive attitude. The Bears went on to win again 26-12.

The 1986 rematch at Soldier Field was Charles Martin’s moment.  That day he wore a towel at his waist with five Bear uniform numbers he was gunning for: Jim McMahon, Payton, Dennis Gentry, Willie Gault, and Jay Hilgenberg.  In the second quarter, McMahon threw a pass that was picked off by Mark Lee.  Following the interception, Martin headed right for McMahon. However, instead of blocking him as was his right, Martin grabbed McMahon from the blind side, picked him up off the ground, and body-slammed him onto the hard ground as if the two were in a World Wrestling Federation grudge match.  McMahon landed on his shoulder and would be out the rest of the year. Martin was thrown out of the game and came off the field getting high fives from some teammates; he would be suspended by the league for two games.  Once again, the Bears pulled out a 12-10 win in the fourth quarter.

It was an embarrassing moment to be a Packer fan.  Second-year linebacker Brian Noble to his credit went over to the Bears locker room after the game and apologized personally to Ditka for his teammates’ actions.  Martin apologized through the media and unsuccessfully appealed the suspension.

Charles Martin was involved in another bar incident in 1987 — this time involving a bouncer and was waived from the Packers.  He was picked up by the Oilers and spent a year there and a year in Atlanta before drifting out of the league.  His violent take down along with other sacks not quite as heinous led to 1987 rule changes outlawing body slams and the taking of more than one step toward the passer after the ball has been thrown.

(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers.)

1984tcmartin  1985tcmartin

1986tcmartin  1987tcmartin

1987 custom card is colorized.

1946 All-Time Packer Teams

On November 5, 1946, the Green Bay Press-Gazette announced they were conducting a poll to determine the Packers’ All-Time team in commemoration of the Packers’ 25th anniversary in the NFL. Fans were instructed to not just pick two ends tackles and guards, but a left end and right end and so forth. The article included Curly Lambeau’s selections, and they are listed below. Curly noted that if the team were running the “quick opening” style offense from the 1920s, Dunn would be the passer at quarterback and Lewellen the left half, but if the offense was the Notre Dame Box, then Larry Craig would be the blocking quarterback and Cecil Isbell the passing halfback.

The poll ran for two weeks, with daily vote totals featured during the voting. On November 19, the paper announced the results denoted below. I included the vote totals as well as a second team based on that measure (not broken down by left/right). While Arnie Herber’s total at quarterback is the lowest winning vote, it should be noted that he also garnered 383 votes as a left halfback for an overall total of 1,364 votes. While Herber was neglected by Lambeau’s selections, it was Isbell who was deserted by the fans with just 338 votes at both quarterback and halfback.

The fans reversed the positions of Hubbard and Buck from what Lambeau had and gave fewer than 20 votes each to such standouts as Tony Canadeo, Curly Lambeau, Bob Monnett, Hank Bruder, Lon Evans, Pete Tinsley and Bill Lee. They also gave one vote for Hutson at guard and Isbell at tackle. The biggest surprise to me in the votes is Elmer “Red” Sleight finishing fourth at tackle ahead of Baby Ray and others. Sleight only spent two years with the Packers. It was no surprise that Don Hutson garnered the most votes of all.

POS First Team Votes Second Team Votes Curly’s Picks
LE Don Hutson 1798 Tom Nash 44 Don Hutson
LT Cal Hubbard 1734 Ernie Smith 261 Cub Buck
LG Mike Michalske 1738 Russ Letlow 251 Mike Michalske
C Charley Brock 1538 Jug Earp 181 Charley Brock
RG Buckets Goldenberg 1738 Tiny Engebretsen 136 Buckets Goldenberg
RT Cub Buck 1087 Red Sleight 239 Cal Hubbard
RE Lavvie Dilweg 1551 Milt Gantenbein 278 Lavvie Dilweg
QB Arnie Herber 981 Red Dunn 669 Red Dunn/Larry Craig
LH Verne Lewellen 1442 Arnie Herber/Cecil Isbell 383/325 Verne Lewellen/Cecil Isbell
RH Johnny Blood 1545 Joe Laws 80 Johnny Blood
FB Clarke Hinkle 1789 Ted Fritsch 91 Clarke Hinkle

2waydhutsonc  2waychinklec

2waymichalskec2  2wayaherberc

2wayvlewellenc  2waydilweg2c

Custom cards all colorized.

Game Notes: Redskins vs. Packers 10/19/47

In 1947, Curly Lambeau finally acquired a quarterback and instituted the T formation in Green Bay. During the War, half the league followed the Bears example and converted to the T: Philadelphia in 1941, Washington in 1944, and the Cardinals and Rams in 1945. In 1947, the Packers were joined by the Lions and Boston Yanks in switching. A year later, the Giants would join the majority, but the Steelers hold out with the Single Wing until 1952.

The man Lambeau obtained to usher in the new era was Jack Jacobs who had previously played for the Cleveland Rams and the Redskins. Curly sent halfback Bob Nussbaumer to Washington for Jacobs. Jack was no Luckman or Baugh, but had his finest year for Green Bay in 1947, throwing for 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

On this day, the 2-1 Redskins travelled to Milwaukee to face the 2-1 Packers. Washington received the kickoff and lined up with Baugh in the T, while Green Bay set up in a 5-3 defense. After a punt, Jacobs led the Packer offense onto the field against his old mates. Sometimes the Packers would line one halfback wide as a flanker, sometimes as a wingback or H back and sometimes in a fullhouse backfield. On the second play, the Packers demonstrated Lambeau’s main twist to the T: Jacobs lined up behind center, but the snap went deep to halfback Bruce Smith instead.

On film, it appears that Jacobs is standing a bit off kilter, and Brock centers the ball next to his leg, but it’s hard to tell. In Boston, Coach Herb Kopf was running what he called the “Q-T formation” in which the snap would sometimes go between the quarterback’s legs directly to a halfback, so that could be what Green Bay was doing.

At any rate, Jacobs’ passes to ends Luhn and Goodnight drove the team right down the field, and Ted Fritsch punched in the TD from the two. Ward Cuff added the extra point. Following more sharp passing by Jacobs later in the quarter, Cuff converted a 14-yard field goal to extend the first quarter score to 10-0 Packers. A 50-yard interception return by Washington’s Dick Todd led to a six-yard Baugh TD pass to John Lookabaugh in the second quarter to bring the halftime score to 10-7.

In the third quarter, the Redskins evened the game on a Dick Poillon 18-yard field goal after a fumble by Packer fullback Walt Schlinkman. However, a roughing the punter penalty against the Redskins at the end of the quarter extended a Green Bay drive, and the Packers retook the lead 17-10 on the second play of the fourth quarter on a 26-yard halfback option pass from Tony Canadeo to Nolan Luhn.

The last stanza was all Packers. Ted Fritsch booted 49-yard field goal – most likely the longest of his career to extend the lead to 20-10. On the ensuing Redskin drive, defensive end Don Wells grabbed Baugh who flipped an ill-advised pass into the flat that linebacker Bob Forte picked off and ran back 68 yards for the closing touchdown of the 27-10 Packer victory.

Jacobs ended up completing 12 of 23 passes, while Baugh connected on 19 of 39. Green Bay would go on to post a 6-5-1 record and finish third in the West for the season; Washington sank to fourth in the East with a 4-8 tally.  A year later, the bottom would fall out for the Packers, Lambeau and Jacobs, who would drop to five TD passes and 21 interceptions in 1948.

1947jjacobs  1947wcuff

1947dwells  1947bforte

1947tcanadeo  1947nluhn

Custom cards all colorized.

All-Time Packers All Rookie Team

For the Packers All-Time Rookie team, I focused on the player’s contribution in his first year, not in his career. Players who were not my choice for the team’s top rookie of a season are in italics. And how about Vince Lombardi as the rookie coach?

1959tvlombardi (Custom Card)

Position Year Player Also of Note
WR 1952 Billy Howton Don Hutson, James Lofton
WR 1954 Max McGee Sterling Sharpe, Boyd Dowler
TE 2000 Bubba Franks
T 2010 Bryan Bulaga Mark Tauscher, Chad Clifton
T 1956 Forrest Gregg Bob Skoronski, Dick Wildung
G 1936 Russ Letlow Gale Gillingham
G 1922 Whitey Woodin Jim Bowdoin
C 1939 Charley Brock Jim Ringo, Ken Bowman, Corey Linsley
QB 1938 Cecil Isbell Bart Starr
RB 1971 John Brockington Ryan Grant, Eddie Lacy
RB 1932 Clarke Hinkle Tony Canadeo, Ted Fritsch
DE 1998 Vonnie Holliday Mike Butler, Ezra Johnson
DE 1963 Lionel Aldridge John Martinkovic
DT 1970 Mike McCoy
DT 2004 Cullen Jenkins
OLB 2009 Clay Matthews Tim Harris
OLB 1978 John Anderson Dan Currie
MLB/ILB 1985 Brian Noble Nick Barnett, Clay Tonnemaker, Bill Forester
CB 1972 Willie Buchanon Herb Adderley
CB 1983 Tim Lewis Tyrone Williams, Mike McKenzie
S 1975 Johnnie Gray John Symank
S 2005 Nick Collins Tom Flynn, Ha Ha Clinton Dix
K 1997 Ryan Longwell Chris Jacke, Chester Marcol
P 1994 Craig Hentrich Dick Deschaine
KR/PR 1967 Travis Williams Dave Hampton, Steve Odom

Cobb Turns 27

Randall Cobb is short at just 5’10” but solid at 190 pounds, and he is second to no one in toughness. Cobb began his tenure at the University of Kentucky as a quarterback. Although primarily a wide receiver in Lexington, he continued to play significant snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat formation for the Cats in his college career. He has continued that versatility in Green Bay as a kick and punt returner, starting wide receiver and even a sometime-running back in Coach Mike McCarthy’s offense.

After being taken by Green Bay in the second round of the 2011 draft, Cobb began his pro career in spectacular fashion by scoring two touchdowns on opening day – one on a record-setting 108-yard kickoff return and the other on a 32-yard pass reception. He became a starting slotback receiver in 2012 and caught 80 balls for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. The following season, Cobb broke his leg in week five, but returned for the season finale to catch two touchdown passes against the Bears, including the 48-yard game-winner on fourth down with 38 seconds to play, to clinch the playoffs for the Packers. Continuing to improve, Cobb caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. However, he fell off from there, particularly in 2015 when forced to assume the mantle of number one receiver once Jordy Nelson got hurt. Cobb battled injuries in 2016. In both years his average yards per catch and touchdown catches were way down.

As a player, Cobb is quick and elusive, but also fearless in going over the middle. Perhaps because of his own quarterbacking background, he is particularly attentive in making himself a target to Aaron Rodgers when the quarterback is forced to scramble. Cobb cheered Packer fans in 2015 when he re-signed with the team as a free agent, stating that, “I want to win championships.” He added, “I think Aaron’s going to go down as the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. To be able to play with him four more years, I know it’s a blessing.”

Rookies2011rcobb

Custom card.

Ken Ruettgers

Ken Ruettgers is 55 today. In Greg Koch’s last year, the Packers made a draft day trade to move up seven slots and select Ruettgers from USC with the seventh overall pick of the 1985 draft. At USC, he played both right and left tackle and even played some guard at times. In Green Bay, Ruettgers was a left tackle and a good one. Upon drafting Ken, Forrest Gregg said, “The thing I like about Ken over the other [available linemen] is probably his intensity.”

Ron Wolf tells the story in The Packer Way that when he evaluated the Packers’ roster as a consultant in 1987, the only star on the team was Ken; four years later when he was hired as Packer GM, the cupboard was still bare, with Ruettgers and Sterling Sharpe the only star players in 1991. For over a decade, the 6’6” 295 pounder maintained the blind side of a series of mostly forgettable quarterbacks before Brett Favre’s arrival in 1992. Unfortunately, by the time Wolf had built the squad into a championship one, Ruettgers’ balky left knee rendered him unable to play even after the fifth surgery of his career during the 1996 training camp. He tried to come back in November, but the pain was too great.

As a tackle, Ruettgers was a fundamentally sound technician who relied on film study to maintain a notebook on his defensive opponents. He was smart, big and worked hard, especially in the weight room. Generally better in pass protection, he was a decent run blocker as well. Even though he was forced out of the game just as the team reached the pinnacle, he is remembered fondly as a very sturdy building block on which that team was built.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

1985tkruettgers  1986tkruettgers

1987tkruettgers  1988tkruettgers

1989tkruettgers  1990tkruettgers

1991tkruettgers  1996kruettgers

Custom card for 1996 in 1961 Fleer style.