No team wants to play second-best to another in the ultra-competitive world of the NFL.
But that’s precisely the position the Packers have been in for more than 75 years in their regular-season series with the Bears.
The good news for Green Bay? Today at Soldier Field, the team has an opportunity to pull ahead in one area of the rivalry for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural term as president.
Few aspects of the game are so inconsequential as to not invite comparison between franchises.
Have 10 players in the Hall of Fame? Our team has a dozen.
Stadium capacity 70,000? Our facility seats 75,000 comfortably.
The Packers and Bears are well schooled in one-upmanship. They’ve been at each other’s throats since 1921.
In Green Bay’s favor: It has fielded more playoff teams (30-25) and won more championships (13-9).
In Chicago’s favor: It has more regular-season wins (92-90) and points (3,207-3,200) in the series.
See where this is headed? The Packers can eclipse the Bears in points scored today while moving one step closer to supremacy in the long-running feud.
Chicago took control of the rivalry at the outset. Pete Stinchcomb, Pard Pearce and George Halas each scored touchdowns as the Bears, then the Staleys, blanked Green Bay 20-0 on Nov. 27, 1921.
The Packers had to wait eight years before grabbing the lead in points. Let the record show that Carl (Cully) Lidberg put the Pack in front with a 14-yard run in a 25-0 victory, a triumph that closed out the 1929 season and clinched Green Bay’s first championship.
Though still trailing 6-7-3 in the series, the Packers led in points scored, 144-124.
A year later, Green Bay grabbed its first lead in the series (8-7-3) en route to a second championship. It went up by two games (10-8-3) – its biggest advantage ever – on the way to a third straight title in 1931.
But the Bears didn’t stay down. A 10-7 win on Oct. 22, 1933 put them up 12-11-4.
Jack Manders booted the winning field goal in that game. Seven weeks later, his extra point after Keith Molesworth’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Gene Ronzani put Chicago back on top in points scored (206-205).
The Bears have not been behind since.
Chicago dominated the series in the 1940s and ’50s, outscoring the Packers 981-660. Not even the success of the Vince Lombardi era could erase the damage done.
The 1970s and ’80s belonged to the Bears as well. They outscored Green Bay 699-579 and pushed their lead in the series to 75-57-6.
Bob Harlan, Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren returned the Packers to prominence in the 1990s. The former team president, general manager and head coach also helped turn around Green Bay’s fortunes against the Bears.
In 16 seasons in Green Bay, Brett Favre posted a 22-10 record as a starter against the Bears. Aaron Rodgers is 11-3.
With each victory, the Packers chipped away at Chicago’s lead in points. Last season, the Green and Gold caught up, however briefly, for the first time in 82 years.
Green Bay blew out the Bears twice (38-17 and 55-14) in 2014. The 93 points were the most the team has scored at Chicago’s expense in one season.
So when Casey Hayward returned a Jay Cutler interception 82 yards for a touchdown on Nov. 9, the all-time tally evened at 3,200 points apiece. Chris Williams swung it back in Chicago’s favor with a 101-yard kickoff return 14 seconds later.
Arnie Herber and Johnny Blood collaborated on the last score that put Green Bay in the series points lead. Herber’s 38-yard pass to the “Vagabond Halfback” on Oct. 22, 1933 at Wrigley Field moved the Packers out front, 199-189.
That December, Chicago reasserted itself. In the years since, Green Bay has had to play second fiddle.
The time may have arrived for that tune to change.