Green Bay, Wisconsin, home to just over 100,000 people is the smallest market in any major sports league in the United States. Dubbed in the mid-sixties as “Title town, USA”, Green Bay is the proud home of the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers. Such a small town allows for many unique experiences. Only in Green Bay will you see a professional football player riding the bike of a six-year-old to the Clark Hinkle practice field. The team’s helmet is also present on the official city flag, along with a wedge of cheese, a roll of paper and a ship.
Such a small town and a big name franchise once purchased for 250 dollars is now worth over 125 million. A big name franchise started from humble beginnings, a conversation between two men, and a drive for excellence. On August 11, 1919, Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun gathered young athletes from around the area, in a close editorial room of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, to discuss the creation of a professional football team. Several weeks before, in a casual street-corner conversation, they had discussed the idea, but hadn’t given it much thought.
From that room, one of the proudest and most storied NFL franchise. In order to start the team, the two would need financial backing. Lambeau approached his employer, the Indian Packing Company, for the necessary funds to buy the team jerseys. The company agreed to purchase uniforms, and to allow the use of their private athletic field. In exchange for the resources, the team was named the Green Bay Packers. The newly formed Green Bay Packers played opponents from Michigan and Wisconsin on an open field without stands or fences.
By going 10-1 in their first ever season, losing only to the Beloit Fairies in the last game, the Packers gained the backing of the Indian Packing Company once again in pursuit of an official franchise in the National Pro Football League on August 27, 1921. The players split the money collected by donation at the end of the season; each player received 16 dollars, a far cry from the money needed to pay their own medical bills. Unfortunately, the team fell into financial troubles and had to be forfeited at the end of the season, the first of many troubles to come for the young team.
In 1920 Curly Lambeau found a new company to support the franchise, and paid 205 dollars to readmit the team, including 50 dollars from Lambeau’s own pocket. In the team’s second season, in a time of smash-mouth football, the Packers broke the mold and threw the ball. Opponents didn’t take kindly to Lambeau’s aerial assault, calling him a sissy for not handing the ball off. During the 1921 season, Curly Lambeau got in trouble for paying college students to play under assumed names, and the franchise was once again revoked.
Lambeau apologized, and reapplied for admission into the newly named NFL with 250 dollars he borrowed from a friend. At the time of reinstatement, the Packers’ rivals the Decatur Staley’s had been moved by George Halas to Chicago and were renamed the Bears. At this time the NFL was growing, and the competition for athletes became more competitive, and recruiting players out of college was a necessity. As luck would have it, Curly Lambeau had a knack for spotting star players and convincing them that Green Bay was the place to be.
Such an acquisition was the feared Johnny “Blood” McNally. With the combination of quarterback Red Dunn, to McNally, the Green Bay Packers were one of the most dominant teams of the era, and cruised to three straight NFL Championships in 1929, ’30 and ’31. Then, in the 1933 season, the Dunn-McNally duo was replaced with Don Hutson through the air, and Clark Hinkle on the ground. The Green Bay Packers once again were the cream-of-the-crop, and won three more Championships in the next nine years. In the mid 1920s, the team once again had fallen into debt.
In a last-ditch attempt to save the team from bankruptcy, Lambeau turned the Packers into a non-profit organization, and sold the company into local stock to keep it afloat. In the late 1940s, with the Packers finally stable financially, thanks greatly to the NFL beginning to create lucrative TV contracts, Curly tried to buy back his beloved Green Bay team. The stock holders wouldn’t hear of it, and Curly departed Wisconsin. Most locals had come to believe that Curly had become too arrogant, and high-brow, living a luxurious life in California.
The man, who had rescued the Packers from debt several times, left Green Bay. With Lambeau gone, he took one Packers tradition with him, winning. In 1958, the Green Bay Packers won only one game. The stage was set for arguably the greatest football coach in the history of the National Football League, Vince Lombardi. February 2, 1959, the Packers hired Vince Lombardi as the new head coach. In Lombardi’s first season as the Packers head coach, the team finished with a 7-5 record. Lombardi was the unanimous decision for the National Football League ‘Coach of the Year’.
Vince Lombardi demanded respect, authority and perfection. The moment he arrived, Lombardi met with the board of directors and stated: “I want it understood that I am in complete command here,” and from that moment on, he was. Vince became the General Manager, as well as the head coach. Henry Jordan, an offensive tackle for the Packers at the time, told reporters “When he says sit down, I don’t even look for a chair. ” In Lombardi’s time in Green Bay, he followed the precedent set by Lambeau before him; he raised the bar. Green Bay became the most dominant team in the NFL, setting a new standard of excellence.
During his 1960 second season in Green Bay, Lombardi led the Packers to the NFL title game, but they fell short, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles. After the game, the players gathered around Lombardi: “Perhaps you didn’t realize you could have won this game. But I think there’s no doubt in your minds now. And that’s why you will win it all next year. This will never happen again. You will never lose another championship. ” True to his word, they never did. Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers rebounded to win world championships in 1961, ’62, ’65, ’66 and ’67. From 1960 on, his team never finished lower than second.
Lombardi ended his career with a 96-34-6 (. 728) for the second best winning percentage in the history of the game. After Vince Lombardi finished his tenure with the Packers by winning three straight titles, including the first to Super Bowls, the head coaching duties were given to Phil Bengtson, who left the Packers one year later with a 20-21-1 record. The next man was Dan Devine, who was one of the most successful college coaches at the time. After a less-than-stellar record his first year (4-8-2) Devine led the Packers back towards the top, winning the Central Division title for the first time since Lombardi’s departure.
Unfortunately nothing materialized and, slowly but surely, the Packers began to recess back into their losing ways. Through 1974, the Packers finished 11-15-2 (. 429), and Dan Devine resigned. The Devine years were followed by one of the most successful Packers players, when Bart Starr accepted the head coaching job in Green Bay. As the quarterback for the Packers, Bart Starr won five world championships from 1961-1967, and looked to bring them back to the glory days as he signed a three year contract as coach and general manager in December 1974.
When Starr signed on, he asked for only “…the prayers and patience of Packer fans everywhere…” the team would earn everything else. In his first season, the Packers finished 4-10, however winning three of the last five games. And so a massive rebuilding effort began. Starr continued to restore the positive and winning attitude in the locker room. After several years of improvement, in 1978, the Packers posted there first wining season since 1972, one game above . 500. Unfortunately the injury bug bit the Packers the next two seasons and they once again failed to end with winning records.
In 1981 however, the Packers rebounded strongly, with a dramatic midseason comeback but yet again fell short of the playoffs. The following year, a strike-interrupted season, the Packers finally reached the postseason. In the first round to the NFL Super Bowl Tournament, the Packers routed the St. Louis Cardinals in their first game, only to drop to Dallas 37-27. December 19, 1983 Starr was relived of his coaching duties after the Packers failed to reach the postseason one last time.
Bart Starr was succeeded by one of his old teammates, and one of the best offensive tackles in the history of the NFL, when Forrest Gregg became the Packers’ ninth head coach. Gregg had previously led the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XVI, and left with the best team in pro football for a five-year contract with Green Bay. The following seasons were characterized by slow starts and strong finishes to finish just short of the playoffs. After several seasons filled with mediocrity, the Packers coach resigned January 1988 to become the coach at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University.
Only nineteen days after Gregg left, Lindy Infante, seen as a brilliant innovator across the NFL signed a five-year contract, in hopes of successfully rebuilding a team that had been treading water. In Infante’s second season with the Packers, the team finished with a 10-6 record—their best in 17 years—but, once again, one game short of the playoffs. In 1990, there were high hopes for the first postseason berth in almost two decades, the team finished the season with five straight losses finishing 6-10.
The team continued to decline, and Infante was fired December 22, 1991 by new executive vice president/general manager Ron Wolf. Following the termination, Wolf would finally begin to bring the Packers back to the top, and hired Mike Holmgren, who had built San Francisco’s four-time Super Bowl champion teams, to a five-year contract. In Holmgren’s first season he directed the Packers to a 9-7 record, and became only the third Green Bay coach with a winning record in his first season. In 1993, the Packers finished, once again, with a 9-7 record earning its first playoff berth in ten years.
The Packers beat the Detroit Lions, but would be eliminated by the Dallas Cowboys 27-17 in the divisional round. In 1994, the Packers finished with their third straight 9-7 season and—for the first time since Lombardi and the days of Title Town—earned a second straight playoff berth, once again beating the Detroit Lions. The teams Super Bowl hopes were crushed the next week courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys. The next year the Packers would finish 11-5 winning the Central Division crown for the first time since 1972, only to fall short once again to Dallas, 38-27.
In 1996 the Green Bay Packers were poised for the Super Bowl. In a preseason press conference Brett Favre, the Packers’ quarterback told the media that they were ready, and if they didn’t think so to just bet against them. True to his word, any reporters who had done as advised were about to lose a lot of money. The Green Bay Packers and leader Brett Favre led the Packers to a league-best 13-3 record through the regular season. The Packers also had the highest-scoring offense in the NFL and a defense that gave up a league low 179 points, a mere 12 per game.
The Green Bay Packers steamrolled their opponents as fans watched Favre set an NFL record for touchdowns on their way to the postseason. Throughout the next three games, the Packers would nearly double up their opponent’s point total as they advanced to Super Bowl XXXI. The Packers continued their dominance, dismantling the New England Patriots in a 35-14 victory less than one hour from Favre’s home hometown Kiln, Mississippi. In 1997, the Packers finished the season with a 13-3 record for the second straight season, and seemed primed for another Super Bowl appearance.
The Packers once again cruised through the playoffs, and met the Denver Broncos in San Diego for Super Bowl XXXII. Unfortunately, their second Super Bowl trip didn’t go according to script, as they lost to the Broncos 31-24. At the start of the 1998 season, the Packers had their sights set on the Super Bowl XXXIII, but finished 11-5 and lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs on a late touchdown with only three seconds remaining. Only five days after the loss in the Wild Card round, Mike Holmgren resigned only five days later, after being denied an additional role as the organization’s general manager, to join the Seattle Seahawks.
Holmgren was replaced later by Ray Rhodes, a former Eagles head coach and defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. After a promising start, the Packers ended the season 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Wolf was relieved at the end of the season. After falling one game short of the playoffs in the new head coach Mike Sherman’s first season, General Manager Ron Wolf retired, leaving behind the best record since his arrival in Green Bay. Mike Sherman was given the GM duties that Holmgren had requested just two years before.
In Sherman’s six seasons in Green Bay, he took the Packers to the playoffs four straight years, but failed to advance the team past the Divisional Playoff Round. After an injury ravaged 2005 season, the team finished 4-12 and Mike Sherman was relieved as head coach. Ted Thompson would hire Mike McCarthy to become the franchise’s fourteenth head coach in its eighty-eight year history. McCarthy infused talent, utilizing the NFL draft to field the youngest team in the NFL. In his first season, the Packers finished 8-8, and were eliminated from the playoff picture with only seven hours remaining the regular season.
The team sent two players to the Pro Bowl, wide receiver Donald Driver, and Defensive End Aaron Kampman, both of whom posted career high statistics. In Mike McCarthy’s second season, another strong draft class, and a revitalized Pro Bowl-bound Brett Favre, the Packers sit at 12-2, good for second place in the NFC. To date, the Green Bay Packers have clinched the NFC North Division Title, as well as a first-round bye in the playoffs. Other Pro Bowl selections for 2008 include Donald Driver and Aaron Kampman again, as well as first-time cornerback Al Harris.
All indications show the Green Bay Packers are on the rise, and looking to bring the Lombardi Trophy, named after their former coach, back to its home in Green Bay. Works Cited Bengtson, Phil. Packer Dynasty. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1969. Behreandt, Denise L. “Coaching with conviction: Vince Lombardi’s extraordinary success as the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers demonstrates the dramatic difference principle-based leadership can make. ” The New American 21. 12 (June 13, 2005): 32(7). Student Edition. Gale. SDLN, South Dakota State Library. 6 Dec. 007 <http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS>. “Birth of a Team & a Legend. ” Packers. com. 7 Dec. 2007 <http://www. packers. com/history/birth_of_a_team_and_a_legend/#chapter10>. Doherty, Jim. “In chilly Green Bay, Curly’s old team is still packing them in. ” Smithsonian 22. n5 (August 1991): 80(10). Student Edition. Gale. SDLN, South Dakota State Library. 7 Dec. 2007 <http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS>. Lombardi Jr, Vince. What it takes to be #1: Vince Lombardi on Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001. 205.
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