Well, here we are on the 32nd NFL team's Franchise 9 page. I started this series over five years ago, went a long time between posts, kicked out a few when I had time for the research and writing, and now it comes to an end. If you missed your favorite team's post, here is the link to all of the posts. I didn't intend to save my team for last, but when I randomized the list of teams for the order, the Packers were 31st and the Saints 32nd. When Drew Brees announced his retirement, I thought it was a good time to write up the Saints and I was totally okay with saving the best for last.
The Packers were one of the most difficult teams for this list. Yes, it was partly because that I have a great affinity for so many of the players and didn't want to leave them off. But the greatest difficulty I had was following my own rules. For every other team, I included only the players who played in the Super Bowl Era. For players who played before, I cut off their stats from before the Super Bowl was instituted during the 1966 season. This was a problem for the Packers, who won the first two Super Bowls with a core of players who had been around for much of the prior decade. If I eliminated those years from consideration, then the majority of players from the early Super Bowl championship teams failed to make the cut. The list would look really strange to include "Super Bowl Era players" and yet exclude Bart Starr, who was enough of a Super Bowl Era player to win the first couple of Super Bowl MVP awards. So I made a special rule for the Packers--anybody who played until at least 1970 would receive full career consideration. There were plenty of legends to choose from.
1. Brett Favre, QB (1993 SP)
Brett Favre is the franchise's career leader in games, passing yards, and approximate value. When he left Green Bay he was not the team record holder, but also the league record leader in career passing yards and touchdowns. The league MVP award he shared with Barry Sanders in 1997 was monumental because he became the first player to win NFL MVP three times--and he did it in consecutive seasons. He's still the only player to have done that. He led the team to two Super Bowls and won one. The only knock on the Gunslinger is the interception total, which is still the highest in NFL history.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB (2015 Prestige Extra Points Green)
Since taking over for Favre, Aaron Rodgers has captured the team's TD pass title. He still trails Favre in yards, but for a great contrast in their style of play, compare Favre's 286 interceptions to Rodgers's 93. The 2021 NFL MVP also gives Rodgers one more MVP than Favre. Rodgers has also delivered one Super Bowl title to Green Bay. Favre is in the Hall of Fame and Rodgers without a doubt will be the moment he is eligible. This is not to debate and compare, but to show how spoiled we Packers fans have been to have an all-time great under center for the last 25 years. The franchise is not what it is if not for these first two QBs.
3. Bart Starr, QB (2013 Topps Archives)
There is one Packers QB who has more championships than Favre or Rodgers: Bart Starr. Starr won the first two Super Bowls, but he also won five championships before that. Rodgers and Favre are 1-2 in some combination in every passing category in Packers history, but Starr is right behind them, sitting third in all of them. He led the league in passer rating four times and took home an MVP of his own in 1966.
4. James Lofton, WR (2014 Prizm)
Currently, James Lofton ranks second in franchise history in receiving yards. The only person higher than him is Donald Driver. The difference between those two is that Lofton needed about 70 fewer games than Driver to reach his mark. Also, Driver had Favre and Rodgers throwing to him. Lofton made the plays he did with Lynn Dickey and David Whitehurst. His career yards per catch is a jaw-dropping 18.2. While with the Pack, Lofton earned a 1st-Team All-Pro nod, three 2nd-Team All-Pros, and seven Pro Bowl nominations. He was named to the 1980 NFL All-Decade Team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. Forrest Gregg, T (1996 Collector's Choice ShopKo Green Bay Packers)
Among Packer offensive linemen, Forrest Gregg ranks 1st in career AV (though active left tackle David Bakhtiari is gaining ground). Gregg anchored a strong offensive line through seven NFL Championships, including two Super Bowls. He was seven-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler, cementing his place in Canton.
6. Reggie White, DE (1995 Action Packed Rookies & Stars)
When Reggie White became a Packer, it changed NFL history. He was the first superstar to change teams through unrestricted free agency. His choosing Green Bay gave the Packers the defensive cornerstone the team needed to fit with young, rising star Brett Favre's offensive piece. The result was the team bringing the Lombardi trophy home a few years later. Though White spent more time with the Eagles than the Packers, once he arrived in Green Bay, he kept his streak of Pro Bowl berths going. In six seasons with the Pack, White made six Pro Bowls and two 1st-Team All-Pro lists. His 68.5 sacks with the team ranked third when he left, and his 14 forced fumbles were tops at the time. Other Packers sack-masters have put up more numbers than he did, but nobody had the same overall team impact as Reggie White.
7. Ray Nitschke, LB (1990 Pro Set Super Bowl)
Statistically, it's hard to quantify what Ray Nitschke did for the Packers. Things like tackles and sacks weren't recorded back then. But Pro Football Reference has Nitschke's career AV at 120, which is good for fifth on the team all-time, ahead of even Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr. Nitschke was a dominant linebacker in his day, making two All-Pro 1st teams and three 2nd teams. He was selected alongside Dick Butkus as the middle linebackers of the 1960s All-Decade Team and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
8. Herb Adderley, CB (1988 Swell Football Greats)
Herb Adderley picked off 38 passes for the Packers, returning seven of them for touchdowns. Currently, that sits him at number three and number two all-time for the team, respectively, in those categories. Like Starr, Gregg, and Nitschke that we have already discussed, Addereley helped the team to five championships and then the first two Super Bowls, and was a part of the All-1960s Team. In his nine years in Green Bay, Adderely was a seven-time All-Pro (5 1st-Team, 2 2nd-Team). He was a premier shutdown corner in his day.
9. Willie Wood, S (1971 Topps)
Joining Adderley in the secondary, on the championship teams, and on the All-1960s Team was Willie Wood. Wood ranks second in team annals in interceptions, (48) trailing only old-timer Bobby Dillon. Like so many of his teammates, Wood was an All-Pro multiple times (4 1st-Team, 2 2nd-Team) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of all the players who qualified as "Super Bowl Era" players for this exercise, Wood is 3rd on the Packers' career AV list, behind Favre and Rodgers.
There are some players who were hard to leave off this list. I'm sure somebody expected maybe Charles Woodson or Clay Matthews to appear here. They certainly were in the running. Donald Driver spent many years with the team, but maybe wasn't quite the impact player as these players were. Of current Packers, David Bakhtiari and Davante Adams are moving up the list quickly, but still not quite there. And then we had players like Henry Jordan, Jim Taylor, or Willie Davis who won Super Bowls with the team, but didn't make my admittedly arbitrary 1970 cutoff date, and so were not considered. Just because of the timing of the franchise's dominance clashing with my own ground rules for this series, some legends were left off. But who would they have bumped, anyway? There was just too much meat for this list to be easily finished.
And that will do it for the Franchise 9 series. I'm happy to have it done, but it has been a fun one to share with you. Once again, I'll ask for your opinions in the comments. How would your list compare to mine?
Some notes on this series:
- This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
- The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
- A player can represent multiple teams.
- I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
- For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
- This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!