My Packers' Mount Rushmore...In Three PartsPosted:May 28th, 2013 3:07 pm
When I read that a popular football website was filling the NFL offseason abyss by electing fictional Mount Rushmores for the 32 NFL teams, I had to laugh. I mean, a Packers Mount Rushmore? How could you choose the most deserving four?
A Dynamic Dozen would be more apt. So I decided to whip up my Packers Mount Rushmores, split in three eras: the early years, the sensational 60s, and everything after.
Curly Lambeau gets the first spot and should have an automatic place on any Packer Mount Rushmore. He started the team. A Green Bay kid who played under Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. The rest is history: he coached the team to six league titles and coached seven Hall of Famers.
You could make a case that Don Hutson is the greatest all-time Packer. As the league's first superstar wide receiver, he set records that lasted decades. When he retired, he held 18 NFL records. In a nutshell, he was Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice. Now, he played in an era where many of the corners he faced also owned corner bars--not the most inclusive era in our history. But his talent was inarguable. His Packer record as all time leading scorer lasted almost 60 years (Ryan Longwell passed him in '03). Consider this: he retired in 1945 and still holds these NFL records: NFL reception leader eight times, NFL receiving yards leader seven times, and NFL touchdown leader nine times.
Tony Canadeo and Johnny "Blood" McNally get the final two spots on the mountain. Like their fellow Rushmore mates, none of us ever saw them play and rely on grainy highlights and colorful stories about the early years to frame our opinions. Canadeo missed a couple of seasons in his prime to serve in WWII. A ninth round draft pick who became a versatile all around offensive weapon, Canadeo is one of only four Packers with their number retired. McNally was a New Richmond kid whose speed set him apart--leading the league in scoring in '31. He's known more now for his nickname, but like Canadeo is an NFL Hall of Famer for what he did on the field, not the colorful things he did off of it.
Three of these were absolute locks. The fourth one is where the opinions can fly. We begin with Vince Lombardi, the architect of the birth of Titletown. After taking over the worst team int he league, he brought five NFL titles back to Green Bay over his ten year tenure and went 9-1 in his career in the playoffs.
Bart Starr was a 17th round draft pick with an ordinary arm and mediocre stats before Lombardi came around. The offensive genius that Lombardi was transformed the team and Starr became an all-timer. A league MVP and unquestioned leader of the five time champs. If Starr was the face of the offense, there's no question that Ray Nitschke was the identity of the defense. He stepped up in the biggest games, earning MVP of the '62 title game, after a key pick had wrapped up the title in the previous year's championship game. Nitschke oozed toughness and was known as one of the game's hardest hitters. A five time all pro and member of the NFL all 50 year team. Plus my #66 is my go-to game day jersey of choice.
The fourth spot on the 1960s-Rushmore was almost impossible for me to decide on. I welcome your arguments for your favorite. For me, it came down to three guys: Jim Taylor, Herb Adderley and Forrest Gregg. Yes, I know, you could make a case for Willie Davis (5-time All Pro), Jerry Kramer (5-time All Pro), Paul Hornung (4-time All Pro) and Henry Jordan (6-time All Pro) too. All but Kramer are Hall of Famers (and Kramer, obviously should be in as well).
I decided to go with Adderley. We're splitting hairs here. Maybe it's that goosebump inducing moment I witnessed when he returned to Lambeau recently and came out of the tunnel in his wheelchair and got up to salute the crowd. You really understand how these guys sacrifice their bodies and/or minds to play this game. Gregg's current struggles with Parkinson's also hit us hard. Adderley's greatness is unquestioned. Seven times al all pro, 39 picks and seven returned for touchdowns--still a Packer record. Plus he's the #3 kickoff returner in team history to this day. He was a shutdown corner and a champion: winning four rings with the Pack and two more with the Cowboys, before retiring. He's often said he never looks at his Cowboys Super Bowl rings. That he considers himself a Packer. He makes my Rushmore.
Ron Wolf doesn't earn a spot on my mountain because he wasn't a player or coach. But I'm naming the last Rushmore after him because he built the team that made the Packers relevant after a quarter century of mostly futility. Three of the faces on the post-Lombardi era have Wolf's fingerprints all over them.
The one that doesn't is James Lofton. He played in seven Pro Bowls in his nine years in Green Bay and was one of the lone bright spots in a long winning abyss. He was the first wide receiver to reach 14,000 yards and was a consistent big play threat for Packer QBs John Hadl and Lynn Dickey. 2003 Hall of Famer.
Mike Holmgren gets a spot on the mountain for corralling an undisciplined young QB that the Packers traded a draft pick for and turning him into one of the greatest gunslingers of all time. Holmgren's offensive genius turned the Packers into annual contenders. Then he picked up his phone one day and called up free agent Reggie White, the first mega-free agent. He said, 'Reggie, this is God. I want you to play in Green Bay.'
When Reggie White chose small town Green Bay over Philly and all of the other suitors who were drooling over him, he did more than shock the world. He set the Packers on course to win their first Super Bowl in 30 years. He led the league's best defense that year and changed everything in the locker room, as well as how Green Bay was perceived nationally. Reggie's one of the few guys who would make two teams' Rushmores (you can bet the Eagles have him here too). White was merely the most fearsome pass rusher of his time. His three sacks of Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI were the difference, though Desmond Howard earned the MVP for his kickoff return that stopped the Pats' momentum in its tracks.
The final face belongs to Brett Favre. For many of us of a certain age, watching the Packers over the years meant year after year of mediocre quarterback play. When Holmgren arrived he was getting some decent play from Don Majkowski, but when he got hurt and Favre took over, well, he took over forever. Week after week, year after year we had Favre. He never missed a start and was never boring. Sometimes maddening, but usually heroic, Favre became the face of the Pack and the NFL. We didn't like how things ended, but there is no debating the career of one of the NFL's top ten all time QBs.
What? I have to pick only four? Those are the rules? Gun to my head, I'd go with Hutson, Lombardi, Nitschke and Favre.