With Brett Favre near the end of his career, Mark Belling had an interesting hour on his show the other day.
Now, I know it may come as a surprise that I listen to Belling, but I think he and Charlie Sykes really understand how to do popular radio shows, even though I never agree with either of them.
But Belling started out with a Favre vs. Bart Starr debate, and it expanded into a discussion of the top 10 all-time great Green Bay Packers. What it amounted to is a discussion of who were the best players. That took number of championships out of the equation. This discussion was based on skill.
So, I went to the memory bank and came up with my own list. And I made a decision about the Starr-Favre debate. You’re welcome to agree, disagree or anything in between.
1. Don Hutson. The player who is credited with inventing the pass pattern. You wonder where today’s game would be without Hutson’s contributions. Simply put, he was the greatest receiver the Packers ever had and maybe the best in the history of pro football. He played at a time when the forward pass was just coming into fancy, and the numbers he put up are astounding.
2. Brett Favre. Nobody has thrown more passes. Nobody has thrown more passes in a season. Despite the precision passing game of Starr’s Packers, Favre has the top four highest completion percentages for a season in the Packer record book. Plus his exuberance and style give him an edge.
3. Bart Starr. Starr was the extension of Vince Lombardi on the field. They had absolutely the same vision and plan of the game and Starr was like a surgeon in the execution of that plan. He didn’t have a great arm or flair, but he was very, very smart as a player and always seemed to know how best to exploit the weakness of the defense.
4. Jim Taylor. Nobody epitomized the greatest years of the team than Taylor, the hard-nosed fullback from Louisiana. Taylor teamed with Paul Hornung to give the Packers a ground game that beat defenses with execution. He once said, “They know what we are doing but they still can’t stop us.” When you think of Lombardi’s Packers, Taylor is the player you think of first. Taylor was the first of the Lombardi Packers named to the Hall of Fame.
5. Ray Nitschke. He’s just behind Taylor as the emblem of the Packers under Lombardi. A fierce tackler, he changed the way middle linebacker was played in the NFL, blitzing almost at will and covering the field from side to side. The fact that he was a jerk who once tried to throw me into a swimming pool when he was drunk doesn’t keep me from admiring his dominance as a player.
6. James Lofton. This may seem a little like a surprising choice, but Lofton labored with some horrible Packers teams and still was one of the best receivers in the league. He had great speed, toughness, soft hands and a desire that was unstoppable. Plus he was one of the most courageous athletes I’ve ever seen, playing with injuries that would have sidelined many other players. He and Favre share the same kind of toughness.
7. Tony Canadeo. The epitome of the all-around player, Canadeo was a runner, passer, pass receiver, punter, return man and defender. He was the first Packer to rush for more than 1,000 yards. After retiring in 1952 he was a classy and integral part of the Packers Board of Directors.
8. Reggie White. Even though he was only a Packer for a few years, there are not many players who had the skills he had. He was a ferocious pass rusher and stout against the run. He was so good that offensive coordinators designed schemes to keep him out of the action.
9. Paul Hornung. The face of perhaps the most single famous playbook play in history, the vaunted Packer sweep. You can close your eyes and see Kramer and Thurston leading Hornung around right end. The fact that he scored touchdowns and kicked field goals and extra points is an amazing feat. He’s been retired for almost four decades and still holds the NFL record for points in one season.
10. Willie Davis. Again, maybe a slightly curious choice, but he was the face of one of the best defensive lines of all-time. With Lionel Aldredge, Henry Jordan and Dave Hanner, this line was awesome. Davis was one of the smartest football players in Packer history and was the first thinking defensive end in the league.
That’s my list. And let me repeat, Favre gets the nod over Starr.
Let the discussion begin.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
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