Favre holds edge on Rodgers in Packers QB lore
Who is the better quarterback, Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers?
That will be a question Green Bay Packers fans ponder for the ages, and it may never get resolved.
It was the most difficult decision I faced in tackling my latest Packers-related project. Since covering the team on a regular basis for the past 22 seasons, either as a columnist, editor or reporter, I produced an all-Packers team by position from 1992 to the present.
During that time, the Packers showed the NFL what an elite franchise looks like:
- They endured just two losing seasons, fewer than any other team.
- Their three Super Bowl appearances was surpassed by only the New England Patriots.
- Their 222-129-1 regular-season record (.632 winning percentage) is a very close second to the Patriots' 224-128 (.636) mark.
It's been a remarkable run of success that has lasted almost as long as the severe drought that preceded it. Prior to 1992, the Packers suffered through an abysmal 24-season depression in which they produced just five winning records and one playoff victory.
The biggest factor in the Packers' recent success has been the unprecedented stability and excellence at the most important position. Favre was the starting quarterback for 16 seasons and has been followed by Rodgers the past six years.
With apologies to Joe Montana and Steve Young, the Favre-Rodgers tandem should go down as the greatest back-to-back starting quarterbacks in NFL history.
Here's a look at the best Packers players at each position since 1992, a time period that can appropriately be termed the modern-era Glory Years.
Quarterback: Brett Favre
It's very possible Rodgers will one day overtake Favre and become known as the greatest quarterback in franchise history. But that time hasn't arrived yet.
Both have guided the Packers to a Super Bowl title, but Favre leads Rodgers in Super Bowl appearances, 2-1, and his durability streak in Green Bay of 255 consecutive games was astounding.
What Favre did for the franchise in the early 1990s is unmatched. He hoisted a losing culture on his brawny shoulders and transformed it, serving as the biggest on-field influence in changing the landscape.
The Packers never could have signed key defensive playmaker Reggie White in 1993 if not for Favre, whose talent and vast potential made Green Bay a destination for prospective free agents.
Anyone still holding a grudge against Favre because he played for the division rival Minnesota Vikings late in his career needs to grow up and get over it.
Favre belongs on the Packers' so-called Mount Rushmore, where franchise difference-makers like Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau reside.
All that praise for Favre doesn't diminish Rodgers' accomplishments a bit. Rodgers' consistency and command on the field is beyond impressive, and if his next six seasons are like his first six as a starter and includes another Super Bowl crown, he could move ahead of Favre on this list.
Halfback: Ahman Green
He surpassed Jim Taylor to become the franchise's all-time leading rusher and gave the Packers a bona fide ground game in the early 2000s. Eddie Lacy showed enough potential as a rookie last season to indicate he has a chance to catch Green, but he's got a long way to go.
Fullback: William Henderson
He was the consummate professional and as reliable as they come. He made his mark, including one All-Pro season, despite playing a position that has diminished in importance.
Wide receivers: Sterling Sharpe, Donald Driver
Sharpe's career was cut short by a neck injury, but not before he put up some phenomenal numbers. He played only three seasons with Favre, so there's no telling how gaudy his career statistics might have been if they had been together longer.
You won't find a player with a better rags-to-riches story than Driver, who as a lightly regarded seventh-round draft choice in 1999 became the franchise's all-time leading receiver for catches (743) and yards (10,137).
Tight end: Mark Chmura
In the four seasons he served as a starter in the mid-1990s, he made Pro Bowl appearances in three of them. He would have made a more-lasting impact if not for a neck injury that abruptly ended his career.
Left tackle: Chad Clifton
He spent 11 seasons as the primary starter protecting the blind side of both Favre and Rodgers. He made two Pro Bowl appearances and started 13 playoff games, including the Packers' Super Bowl win following the 2010 season.
Left guard: Josh Sitton
He's started only one season at left guard but was a four-year starter at right guard before that and is a Pro Bowl-caliber lineman. Super Bowl XXXI starter Aaron Taylor merited some consideration but played only three seasons for the Packers.
Center: Frank Winters
He was signed as an unheralded Plan B free agent and wound up starting for a decade. He made the Pro Bowl during the Packers' Super Bowl season in 1996, started 14 playoff games and was never part of a losing team in Green Bay.
Right guard: Marco Rivera
Three of his seven seasons as a starter in Green Bay resulted in Pro Bowl berths. The sixth-round draft pick needed 2-1/2years before battling his way into the lineup, but once there he made it count.
Right tackle: Mark Tauscher
He started nearly eight full seasons and parts of three others. Although he never made the Pro Bowl, he was reliable and tenacious. Earl Dotson received consideration as the Super Bowl XXXI starter, but his full-time starting status lasted just five-plus seasons.
Defensive line: Reggie White, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Aaron Kampman, Gilbert Brown
The Packers wouldn't have won the Super Bowl in 1996 without White. He was a dominant force for most of his six seasons in Green Bay, and the Packers never missed the playoffs with him on the roster.
Gbaja-Biamila accumulated a franchise-record 74-1/2 career sacks and although he was considered primarily one-dimensional as a pass rusher, he did that job very well.
Kampman ranks fourth all-time in career sacks (54) and performed capably as an every-down player. He earned a pair of Pro Bowl berths on the line before the Packers miscast him as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.
Brown was the best nose tackle in team history and at his peak was a one-man wrecking crew. He played a vital role during the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl run.
Other contenders for a first-team spot included Santana Dotson, Sean Jones and Ryan Pickett.
Linebackers: Clay Matthews, Bryce Paup, A.J. Hawk
Matthews is a Pro Bowl-caliber player who will one day become the team's career sacks leader, while Paup in his prime was one of the best in the NFL.
But the list of Packers linebackers over the past two decades drops off after that. Tony Bennett, Johnny Holland, Nick Barnett and George Koonce received consideration but none made the Pro Bowl.
Hawk is far from ideal but has made more contributions than any other candidate. He has essentially started every game over his eight NFL seasons, and while he doesn't make a lot of flashy plays, he rarely blows an assignment.
Cornerbacks: Charles Woodson, Al Harris
The only reason the Packers could sign Woodson as an unrestricted free agent in 2006 was because, inexplicably, no other team wanted him. He was a turnover machine capable of displaying his talents all over the field. He made four Pro Bowls as a Packer, was named first-team All-Pro twice and received AP NFL defensive player of the year honors in 2009.
The Packers gave up a second-round draft pick for Harris and he turned out to be worth the high price. He was a seven-year starter and two-time Pro Bowler who was capable of making big plays, none bigger than his "walk-off" interception return for a touchdown in overtime of a wild-card playoff game against Seattle following the 2003 season.
Safeties: LeRoy Butler, Nick Collins
Butler will go down as one of the best safeties in team history. He was named first-team All-Pro four times and played a key role on the Packers' No. 1-ranked and Super Bowl-winning defense in 1996.
Collins had already earned three Pro Bowl berths before a freak neck injury ended his career. His interception return for a touchdown in the Packers' Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh was a game-changer. It's possible his career might have surpassed Butler's, but we'll never know.
Darren Sharper deserves to be part of the conversation, but he blew the coverage in a last-second playoff loss to San Francisco following the 1998 season and was part of the disastrous fourth-and-26 playoff fiasco in Philadelphia in 2003. Those two plays alone keep him off this list.
Kicker: Ryan Longwell
He was as consistent as they come and is the team's all-time career leader in field goal percentage. He also booted 13 kicks from 50 yards or longer.
Punter: Tim Masthay
In four years, he has established team records for best single-season gross average (45.6) and net average (39.0) and is tied for most punts in a season (30) inside the 20.
Returner: Desmond Howard
He played just one season during the Holmgren era but made it count. Howard returned four punts for touchdowns in 1996, then earned Super Bowl MVP honors by taking back a kickoff for a game-sealing TD.
Coach: Mike Holmgren
It's nearly a dead heat between Holmgren and Mike McCarthy, who both won Super Bowls in their fifth seasons on the job. But Holmgren (75-37, .670) has a better overall regular-season record than McCarthy (82-45-1, .645) and a superior playoff record (9-5 compared to 6-5). McCarthy needs another championship to move to the top of this list.
General manager: Ron Wolf
He transformed a losing franchise into a consistent winner and his impact is still felt today, more than a decade after his retirement. He gets credit for grooming current general manager Ted Thompson, who like Wolf guided the Packers to a Super Bowl title.
Team president: Bob Harlan
His fingerprints remain imbedded on the franchise. He hired both Wolf and Thompson, a pair of top-flight GMs. Even more significant was Harlan's ability in 2000 to get a Brown County referendum passed to renovate Lambeau Field, which gave the team a bright financial future.
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