Green Bay Packers,
professional football team and one of five teams in the Central Division
of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take
affect in 2002, the Packers will move into the North Division of the NFC.
The Packers play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and wear
uniforms of dark green, gold, and white. The team, the NFL’s only
publicly owned franchise, takes its name from a local packing plant that
provided the club with uniforms in 1919.
From 1929 to 1944 the Packers earned six NFL crowns under head coach and
team cofounder Earl “Curly” Lambeau. A skilled halfback during his
playing career, Lambeau became one of only five NFL coaches with more
than 200 career victories.
After Lambeau left the team in 1949, the franchise declined. During the
1960s, however, head coach Vince Lombardi transformed the team into one
of the most powerful dynasties in professional football history.
Star-studded lineups featuring quarterback Bart Starr, halfback-kicker
Paul Hornung, offensive lineman Forrest Gregg, linebacker Ray Nitschke,
and running back Jim Taylor captured five league championships in seven
seasons—a record unmatched in NFL history.
In 1996 the Packers put together a 13-3 win-loss record behind
quarterback Brett Favre and defensive tackle Reggie White en route to a
Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. A season later the
Packers again reached the Super Bowl but lost to the Denver Broncos.
The Packers predate the NFL. The team was founded in Green Bay on August
11, 1919, by two young players, George Calhoun and Curly Lambeau. The
Indian Packing Plant, Lambeau’s employer, donated uniforms and the use
of an athletic field. During the team’s first season in 1920, players
earned their salaries by passing hats among spectators.
In 1921 Lambeau’s Packers joined the new American Professional Football
Association, which soon became the NFL. Lambeau played until 1927,
becoming an early master of the forward pass. Green Bay won three
consecutive league titles from 1929 through 1931, and three more crowns
in 1936, 1939, and 1944. Many of the club’s players would later be
elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including quarterback Arnie
Herber, fullback Clarke Hinkle, tackle Cal Hubbard, end Don Hutson,
guard Mike Michalske, and halfbacks Tony Canadeo and Johnny “Blood”
Hutson, credited with inventing detailed pass patterns, led the league
in receptions eight times and in yardage seven times. In 1942 he became
the NFL’s first receiver to amass more than 1000 yards in a single
season. With Hutson as his primary target, Herber became the league’s
first great long passer; the two helped build one of professional
football’s first sophisticated offensive attacks. Lambeau left the
Packers in 1949 having posted 26 winning records in 29 seasons,
including 14 straight during one stretch. The team’s stadium, built in
1957, is named for him.
Green Bay experienced relative instability from 1950 to 1958, changing
coaches three times and failing to produce a winning record in any
season. In 1959 former New York Giants assistant coach Vince Lombardi
took over the Packers club, which had just suffered its worst season in
franchise history. In his first season Lombardi delivered the team’s
first winning record since 1947 and was named the NFL coach of the year.
In Lombardi’s second season the Packers won the Western Division, and a
year later the Packers won the 1961 NFL crown.
Lombardi built strong lineups on both sides of the line of scrimmage,
and under his guidance the Packers won five league crowns from 1961 to
1967. They also won the first two Super Bowls, humbling two American
Football League (AFL) champion teams: Following the 1966 season the
Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the 1967 Super Bowl,
and a year later they beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14.
On the field, Bart Starr led the team. He collected three passing titles
and two Super Bowl most valuable player (MVP) awards. Starr was among
ten future Hall of Fame members who played for Lombardi—five each from
offense and defense. Others included Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor.
Hornung ranks among the greatest all-around talents ever to play the
game. His 176 points scored during the 1960 season remain an NFL record
for the most points scored in a single season. Taylor rushed for 1000
yards five times in his career.
During his nine seasons in Green Bay, Lombardi’s teams won more than 75
percent of their games, including nine of ten playoff contests.
Lombardi’s .740 career winning percentage is the highest among coaches
with at least 100 victories.
From 1968 to 1992 the Packers appeared in the playoffs only twice, in
1972 and 1982. Former players Starr and Gregg each served stints as head
coach. Notable individual achievements during this period included
running back John Brockington’s three 1000-yard seasons from 1971 to
1973, quarterback Lynn Dickey’s NFC yardage title in 1983, and wide
receiver James Lofton’s five 1000-yard efforts during the early 1980s.
In January 1992 the Packers hired Mike Holmgren, a former offensive
coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, as the team’s head coach.
Sparked by wide receiver Sterling Sharpe’s 1000-yard seasons in 1993 and
1994, Green Bay earned wild-card berths to the playoffs. In 1995 the
club won the division crown and advanced to the NFC Championship Game,
losing to the eventual Super Bowl—champion Dallas Cowboys. Wide receiver
Robert Brooks broke the club record for yardage that season; quarterback
Brett Favre led the league in passing yards (4413) and touchdown passes
(38), and was named player of the year.
Green Bay’s success continued as Favre threw 39 touchdown passes to lead
Green Bay to 13 victories and its second consecutive division title in
1996. In the playoffs the Packers captured the NFC championship and
defeated the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI. The
following season the Packers continued to dominate the NFC, with another
13 wins and the Central Division title. After defeating the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, however, Green
Bay faltered in the Super Bowl and lost to the Denver Broncos.
1967 Super Bowl I Defeated Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10
1968 Super Bowl II Defeated Oakland Raiders, 33-14
1997 Super Bowl XXXI Defeated New England Patriots, 35-21
1998 Super Bowl XXXII Lost to Denver Broncos, 31-24
NFL History Guide