Donald Driver had seven 1,000-yard receiving yards during his career with the Packers.
Now that we have begun carving the bust to commemorate Donald Driver's career to place in the pantheon of all-time great Packers receivers, we need to know where in the pantheon to place it.
Greatness is a subjective, especially in how we define it. We can use concrete numbers in measuring greatness, but even the numbers are open to interpretation.
Luckily, the pantheon of all-time great Packers receivers is a legendary place, where the hard stuff of facts are melded with the stirring flow of memories to create legends.
Don Hutson is the most iconic of the Packers receivers. A father of modern route running, his records stood for decades before being broken.
In a season of only 12 games, in 1942, Hutson even missed a game and still made 74 catches for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns. In his 11 seasons, he failed to lead the league in receptions just three times. He led the league in receiving yards seven times and in receiving touchdowns nine times.
Oh, and he also kicked extra points, made seven field goals and had 30 career interceptions.
And yet, how can we compare the early days of football to today, when every Division I college football team has training, coaching and scouting programs that would put those old NFL teams to shame, and those are just what today's NFL teams draw their talent from.
How do we overlook the fact Hutson's best years came during World War II, when so many young men who would have been shining on the football field were hunkered down in battle?
How can we name Hutson the Packers' greatest receiver when we've seen Sterling Sharpe?
Sharpe led the NFL in receptions three times, in touchdown catches twice and in receiving yards once.
He had a great season in 1989 with Don Majkowski, catching 90 passes for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns, but it's no coincidence his best years came when Brett Favre showed up in 1992. That year, Sharpe had 108 catches for 1,461 yards and 13 TDs.
In 1994, Sharpe had 18 touchdown catches, and we marveled at how he was able to get so open in the end zone. The Favre-Sharpe connection was like two men pulling on each end of a rope, making each other stronger. Favre supplied the ropes.
The Packers have their Glory Years, and Hutson embodies some of those. Sharpe embodies the other dominant part of Green Bay history - If Only.
If the most fanciful physicists are correct, there's a universe somewhere in which Sharpe's neck condition is not discovered, he avoids being injured and the Packers win Super Bowls in the 1995 and 1997 seasons, too, and maybe one or two in the early 2000s.
James Lofton is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while never leading the league in season receptions, yards or touchdowns. That itself is a rare feat.
Lofton once caught a pass in stride while running down the sideline by raising his right arm, snaring the ball with that hand and loping into the end zone, where he spiked the ball, never having pulled the ball to his body or touched it with his left hand. You see plays like that and realize you've stopped breathing.
Later, you wonder why he never scored more than eight touchdowns in a season.
Antonio Freeman delivered one of the Packers' great receiving seasons in 1998, when he caught 84 passes for 1,424 yards and 14 touchdowns, but then he signed his big new contract, thought he had it made and forgot what made him great.
Freeman had 74 catches in 1999, for 1,074 yards, and never had another 1,000-yard season.
Driver broke through with a 1,000-yard season in 2002 (1,064), with 70 catches and nine touchdowns, but his big years came from 2004 to 2006, all more than 1,200 yards, with 22 total touchdowns.
More notably, from 2004 to 2009, if Driver failed to pull a third-down pass to convert a first down, you were surprised.
Looming larger than his smile were Driver's work habits, which showed the way for Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
Jennings' case is like Sharpe's, but with a looming big contract instead of a neck problem. Jennings will likely leave the team after seven productive but injury-affected years. He has the talent of early Freeman with the work ethic of Driver.
The Lombardi Era failed to deliver any iconic receivers, if you leave out Max McGee catching seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in Super Bowl I after partying all night. If Vince Lombardi had a Sharpe or Lofton, surely he would have adjusted his offense to use their talents - or made them linebackers.
In the end, when we look at the pantheon of all-time great Packers receivers, the order must be: First, Sterling Sharpe; Second, Don Hutson; Third: James Lofton; Fourth: Greg Jennings; Fifth: Donald Driver.
- Jim Olski: 920-993-1000, ext. 252, or firstname.lastname@example.org