Greatness remains elusive for Packers
With 2 star QBs, team hasn’t become dynasty
Green Bay — One will be a surefire, first ballot Hall of Famer and head to Canton in the summer of 2016.
The other has been a starter for just seven seasons, but already has a résumé that might merit Hall of Fame consideration.
For the last 23 years, no team in football has enjoyed greater quarterbacking play than the Green Bay Packers. With Brett Favre leading the way for 16 memorable seasons and Aaron Rodgers in charge the past seven, the Packers have had a marked advantage over the majority of the NFL.
Yet in that time, Green Bay has captured just two Super Bowl championships. The Packers bid to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season died Sunday with a 28-22 overtime loss at Seattle in the NFC championship.
Many organizations would trade places with the Packers in a heartbeat, and be downright giddy with two world championships since Favre became the starter in 1992. But for a team that’s enjoyed legendary play at the game’s most critical spot, are two titles enough?
“Man, winning a Super Bowl is hard,” Packers kicker Mason Crosby said. “Just getting to the postseason is hard, then you’ve got to win a number of games against the best teams in football.
“A lot has to go right for anybody to win a Super Bowl. It happened for us in 2010. It just didn’t happen this year.”
The Packers have put themselves in position for greatness most years since Favre stepped under center.
Green Bay has advanced to the postseason 17 of the last 23 years (73.9%), including six of seven under Rodgers (85.7%). The Packers have 11 division titles in that time, including four straight.
Green Bay has been to six NFC championship games in that time, going 3-3 in those contests. And the Packers have reached three Super Bowls, going 2-1 in those games.
But Green Bay has had a bevy of brutal losses in that time, too, that’s prevented it from becoming a modern-day dynasty:
There was the 1997 Super Bowl, in which Green Bay was an 11-point favorite vs. Denver, but lost, 31-24.
The Packers dropped a 3027 game to San Francisco in the 1998 wild-card playoffs when Steve Young and Terrell Owens hooked up for a 25-yard TD with three seconds left.
There was the 4th-and-26 game at Philadelphia in the divisional playoffs in 2003.
And Green Bay was a 7½point favorite against the New York Giants in the 2007 NFC championship, but dropped a 23-20 decision in overtime.
But none of those losses were as damning as the collapse in Seattle — a game where the Packers led 19-7 late in the fourth quarter before choking away their chance at the Super Bowl.
“I’d rather not even make the playoffs,” Packers left guard Josh Sitton said. “I’d rather have gotten blown out and known in the first quarter it was over.”
Packers defensive back Micah Hyde agreed.
“This one will hurt for a while,” Hyde said. “We felt like we handled them the whole game on every aspect: offense, defense and special teams. I’ll say 30 years from now that I’ll feel like we were a better football team than they were. I think that’s a given. But the best team doesn’t always win.
“We’re here to win Super Bowls and we didn’t accomplish that. It’s an unsuccessful season.”
Since Favre’s arrival, only New England and Dallas have won more Super Bowls than Green Bay (three). The New York Giants, Denver, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have all won two, as well.
Of the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks from those teams, Dallas’ Troy Aikman and Denver’s John Elway are in the Hall of Fame. New England’s Tom Brady is a lock, while Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, the Giants’ Eli Manning and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco will all have their supporters. Trent Dilfer, who quarterbacked Baltimore’s 2000 Super Bowl team, has no chance.
But Green Bay is the only team in that time with two different Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks that are almost certain Hall of Famers. So are two titles enough? “I don’t know about that,” said Jarrett Bush, a Packers special teams standout since 2006. “Two is still great. But I understand people always want more. The great thing about playing here is we’re always in the hunt, always in the mix to win.” That’s certainly true. The Packers went 160-93 (.632) in the regular season with Favre, and 12-10 (.545) in the postseason. Favre began his career 9-3 in the playoffs, then lost seven of his final 10.
Favre finished his time in Green Bay with a postseason passer rating of 85.2. In 22 games, he threw 39 touchdowns, 28 interceptions and completed 60.7% of his throws.
Rodgers began his postseason like gangbusters, winning four of his first five playoff games, including Super Bowl XLV. But Rodgers is 2-4 in the playoffs since, and for the most part, has failed to play at his MVP level.
In Rodgers’ last six playoff games, he has a 91.4 quarterback rating, with 10 TDs and four interceptions. But in Rodgers’ two NFC championship appearances, he’s thrown four interceptions, just one TD and has a 55.6 quarterback rating.
Rodgers, playing with a calf injury, was the definition of ordinary against Seattle on Sunday, throwing two interceptions, one TD pass and finishing with a 55.8 passer rating.
“It’s a missed opportunity that I will probably think about the rest of my career,” Rodgers said afterward. “We were the better team . . . and we played well enough to win and we can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf always lamented the fact he won just one title with Favre. Current general manager Ted Thompson certainly believes he’s had the talent and firepower to win more than one with Rodgers.
While opportunity has knocked annually, the Packers still have just two championships with Favre and Rodgers.
The chase begins again in six months.
In what has been called the defining moment of John Elway’s career, the QB goes flying near the goal line in Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. The Packers missed their chance at another Super Bowl title.