Who was the greatest player ever to play for the Packers?
Three men had a unique perspective on the subject. They were the only three ever to work in the Packers football operations for 40 years or more, and each one made a choice not long before or soon after their employment ended.
Here were the men and their choices:
Carl “Bud” Jorgensen spent 45 years with the Packers. He served as equipment manager from 1925-40 and then became trainer until his retirement in 1969. He was employed by the team for 26 of Curly Lambeau’s 31 seasons and Vince Lombardi’s nine as coach and one as general manager. Jorgensen died in 1982.
Jorgensen’s choice was Clarke Hinkle, who played fullback and linebacker for the Packers from 1932-41, back in the days when players went both ways. Jorgensen told the Green Bay Press-Gazette at the time of his retirement that he thought Hinkle was the best player, but that Johnny Blood was the greatest athlete.
“Clarke was just the best offensively or defensively,” said Jorgensen. “You know because of the changes in the game and size of the players, most of today’s players are physically better than the older guys, but Hinkle would be outstanding even today if he played just one way or the other.”
In reference to Blood, Jorgensen said, “He had great football sense and tremendous natural ability, but you never knew what he was going to do.”
Dave Hanner spent 43 years with the Packers. He was an outstanding defensive tackle from 1952-64, a member of Lombardi’s coaching staff from 1965-71, either defensive coordinator or assistant head coach or both from 1972-79 and a quality control coach in 1982. He spent his last 14 years as a scout from 1983-96. He was part of the Packers for the entire Lombardi Era and also Ron Wolf’s first five years as general manager. Hanner died in 2008.
Two years after his retirement as a scout, Hanner said his choice was Brett Favre.
“He’s the best player I’ve seen in Green Bay,” said Hanner. “I don’t know anybody who has dominated like he has. He does things you can’t teach.
“He hasn’t played over a long period of time, but who has done more than he has? Nobody ever got MVP three years in a row or done more.”
In comparing Favre to Bart Starr, his former teammate and fellow coach, Hanner said, "As good as Bart was, I think if Brett would have been there then, we might never have lost a game.”
John “Red” Cochran spent 42 years with the Packers. He was an assistant under Lombardi for eight years and for four others under Dan Devine before spending 30 years in the scouting department. He was still scouting part-time in 2004 at the time of his death. Cochran also played and coached against the Packers. He played with the Chicago Cardinals from 1947-50 and also was an assistant with Detroit, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego.
Cochran said for a story that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1998 that he would pick Don Hutson based strictly on the NFL records he set, but that it was a tentative selection. Cochran said Favre already was a close second and that as soon as he forged his name into the record book, he’d switch his vote. At that point, Favre still didn’t rank among the top 20 quarterbacks in passing yards or touchdown passes, two NFL records he holds today.
“I don't think anybody is going to touch him by the time he leaves here,” said Cochran. “I just think he’s unique. Before he finishes, he’ll outrank Hutson and whoever the hell there is in the league that has done anything.”
When asked how soon he might be willing to switch his vote from Hutson to Favre, Cochran answered: “If he can go through next year without getting hurt, he’ll be putting records in the book in greater numbers than Hutson.”