Murphy Takes 5

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Cal Hubbard best of Packers' interior defensive linemen

Posted Oct 13, 2016

Henry Jordan a close second

It has been 52 years since the Green Bay Packers have had an all-pro defensive tackle. In the last 50 years, the Packers have had only two defensive tackles picked for the Pro Bowl: Bob Brown in 1972 and B.J. Raji in 2011.

Since the start of last season, Mike Daniels has been playing at a level that no Packers defensive interior lineman has played at since the Vince Lombardi era. Accordingly, at this point, he would seem to stand a chance of being selected for this season’s Pro Bowl and maybe even become the first Packers’ defensive tackle to be named to a first-team all-pro since Henry Jordan in 1966.

Clearly, defensive tackle has not been one of the Packers’ stronger positions for the last half-century. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the top candidates for a list of the Packers’ five best interior defensive linemen mostly played during pro football’s Iron Man era, or at least before 1950 when the NFL restored free substitution for good and paved the way for two-platoon football and today’s ultra specialization.

As an active player, Daniels was not considered for the list. Guards who doubled as offensive and defensive players on six- and seven-man lines from the one-platoon era were included.

1.     Cal Hubbard (1929-33, 1935) – Hubbard and Don Hutson were the only players to make the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1969 and also the 75th Anniversary All Two-Way Team in 1994. Hubbard was listed at 6-2, 253 pounds and allegedly played at as much as 270. He was athletic enough to have played offensive and defensive end at times, and also was one of the first NFL linemen to stand off the line of scrimmage on defense, much like today’s linebackers. Because Hubbard was so dominant, it also was probably no coincidence that in four of his first five seasons – with the New York Giants in 1927, and the Packers from 1929-31 – his team won the NFL championship. Hubbard made at least one first-team, 11-man all-pro in 1929, ’31, ’32 and ’33 and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1963.

2.     Henry Jordan (1959-69) – Although Hubbard might have been the most decorated tackle in the first 30 years of the NFL, choosing between him and Jordan was no easy task. Jordan was one of the four Packers defenders in the 1960s to be named AP All-Pro (that’s first-team only) five times, along with Herb Adderley, Willie Wood and Willie Davis. Jordan (6-2, 248) also was a four-time Pro Bowl pick. Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle started against the Packers in the 1961 and ’62 NFL championship games and viewed Jordan as the key to their defense. The Packers’ defense shut out the Giants in ’61 and allowed seven points the next year. “(The Packers) have put together what seems to be man-for-man the perfect 4-3,” Tittle said at the time. “And the key to it all is one man, Henry Jordan… Henry Jordan is the best tackle in football – perhaps the best in the history of the NFL.” Jordan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

3.     Mike Michalske (1929-35, 1937) – A two-way guard who played much of his career on seven-man defensive fronts, Michalske was one of the first defensive linemen to shoot gaps and run plays down before they developed. While he stood out on both sides of the ball, defenses dominated in his era and that’s where Michalske often garnered attention. His 80-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Packers a 6-2 victory over the Chicago Bears en route to winning their third straight NFL title in 1931. Michalske, who was listed at 6-0, 210, was chosen to at least one all-pro team in 1929, ’30, ’31, ’34 and ’35. The Packers’ only other two-way guard to be named all-pro more than once was Lon Evans. Michalske was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964.

4.     Cub Buck (1920-25) – Relatively speaking, the signing of Buck for the Packers’ first league season in 1921 was as big as signing Reggie White in 1993. Walter Camp, known as “The Father of American Football,” had named Buck second-team all-American following his senior season at the University of Wisconsin. Starting in 1916, four years prior to the formation of what is now the NFL, Buck joined the Canton Bulldogs, arguably the best pro football team in the country, and played with the legendary Jim Thorpe. Buck was listed at 6-0, 259, but supposedly weighed up to 280 pounds and yet was athletic enough to be the Packers’ punter and placekicker. While he played both ways and up to 60 minutes a game, Buck was best known for reading his opponents’ signals and body language before teams huddled and beating them to the point of attack.

5.     Dave Hanner (1952-64) – Since the first Pro Bowl in 1950, Hanner is the only Packers’ defensive tackle beside Jordan to have been chosen twice. He played in 1953 and ’54. During his six seasons under Lombardi, Hanner (6-2, 257) played a read-and-react game so Jordan could basically freelance as a pass rusher and chase running plays down in pursuit. In all, Hanner played 13 seasons and smelled out draws and screens as well as any tackle in the game. Prior to 1950, Baby Ray was the only Packers’ tackle other than Hubbard to be named all-pro more than once. Ray played from 1938-48 on both sides of the ball and was named to a first-team in 1939, ’41, ’43 and ’44. Thus, he was in the mix with Buck and Hanner for the final two spots. Ron Kostelnik (1961-68) followed Hanner with little or no drop-off, but didn’t play as long. Bob Brown (1966-73) could be dominant to the point where he could destroy both blockers working a double-team against him, but he didn’t match Hanner’s longevity or consistency.

 
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