The Green Bay Packers, arguably the most storied franchise in the National Football League, were organized on Aug. 11, 1919, in the dingy second-floor editorial rooms of the old Green Bay Press-Gazette building, located on Cherry Street in downtown Green Bay.
Never imagining what might become of the semipro football team being formed that day, nobody documented who was there or how many were on hand. There had been no announcement of the meeting beforehand, and the Press-Gazette provided no details about it the day after.
Whether a full complement of players attended or if it was simply a small gathering of the team's prime movers was never made clear. Nor was it spelled out if much of the preliminary work had been completed beforehand or if the meeting itself triggered a rapid-fire chain of events.
Whatever the case, the Press-Gazette in its Aug. 13 edition revealed that the Indian Packing Co. would sponsor the team and referred to it for the first time as the "Packers." The paper said home games would be played at Hagemeister Park; listed 38 prospective candidates for the team, mostly former standouts at Green Bay East and West high schools; and noted full uniforms would be provided to up to 20 players.
"It will be the strongest aggregation of pigskin chasers that has ever been gathered together in this city," the Press-Gazette proclaimed.
A second meeting was held at the Press-Gazette on Aug. 14, three days after the initial one, and nearly 25 players were in attendance. Curly Lambeau was elected captain of the team, and George Whitney Calhoun was named manager.
Lambeau was a former star at East High School and played on Coach Knute Rockne's first team at the University of Notre Dame in 1918. Back home after dropping out of school in December, Lambeau was working for Indian Packing at the time. Calhoun, great-grandson of Daniel Whitney, founder of the city of Green Bay, was city editor at the Press-Gazette.
The story handed down for decades was that the impetus for the initial meeting was a chance encounter at a downtown street corner between Lambeau and Calhoun. In his 1985 book about the history of the Packers, longtime executive committee member and onetime Calhoun colleague John Torinus changed the setting to a conversation over a glass of beer.
Whether it's mostly urban legend or if there's a true story in there somewhere will remain a mystery for the ages. Too much time has passed. But Lambeau and Calhoun have long been regarded as the Packers' co-founders and there's little or no evidence to dispute that.
The first season, the Packers won 10 games and lost one against opponents representing mostly nearby towns in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The team conducted most of its practices that first year on a field next to the Indian Packing plant at the end of Morrow Street, but it played its eight home games at Hagemeister Park on an open field with no fence or bleachers. Calhoun "passed a hat," as did others, to collect spare change and help cover expenses.
The Packers again played an independent schedule against mostly neighboring towns the next year and again dominated the competition, finishing 9-1-1.
Better yet, their financial outlook improved considerably.
C.M. "Neil" Murphy, a local typewriter salesman, was named business manager in July, and he organized a committee to build a fence around the Hagemeister playing field so the Packers could charge admission.
Thanks to the support of Indian Packing, the local Association of Commerce, local contractor Ludolf Hansen and fans who provided volunteer labor, construction of the fence began in late August and was completed before the first game in late September.
By mid-October, two large sections of bleachers were erected so fans would no longer have to stand along the sidelines to follow the action.
Joining the NFL
On Aug. 27, 1921, the year-old American Professional Football Association awarded a franchise to the Acme Packers of Green Bay during a league meeting in Chicago. The Acme Packing Co., based in Chicago, had purchased Indian Packing eight months earlier. Less than a year later, the APFA would change its name to the National Football League.
Green Bay was now in the big leagues – sort of.
Most of the APFA's 21 members that second year were located in small hotbeds of football rather than big cities – places like Canton, Ohio, Hammond, Ind., and Rock Island, Ill.
Then again, compared to Green Bay, maybe those were big cities.
Green Bay was the smallest city in the league when it joined in 1921 other than Tonawanda, N.Y., which played one game on the road and folded. And except for a brief period in the mid- to late 1920s, Green Bay has remained the smallest city ever since.
Green Bay's population was 31,017, based on the 1920 U.S. Census. Not only was it the smallest city in the league, it was smaller than six other cities in Wisconsin, including Superior and Oshkosh.
No doubt to those who lived through it and also through the lens of history, it's almost incomprehensible that the Packers survived. Their 2018 season was their 100th, but until they were nudging toward 50 they were perpetually on their deathbed.
Take their first league season, for example.
The Packers pulled off a major coup when they signed lineman Howard "Cub" Buck, a veteran of the famous Canton Bulldogs. They won their inaugural league game against the Minneapolis Marines on Oct. 23, 1921. They were able to book games with the formidable Chicago Staleys (Bears) and Chicago Cardinals. And they finished with a winning record, 3-2-1.
But then scandal nearly doomed all that they had accomplished. On Dec. 4, 1921, in a non-league game against Racine billed as a battle for the state championship, the Packers used three Notre Dame players, with college eligibility remaining, under assumed names – and got caught. Less than two months later, Green Bay was booted from the league, albeit not for long.
Thanks to Lambeau's persistence and the impression Green Bay had made on other club owners during its first season, the Packers were reinstated at the next meeting in June.
Before their first league season was more than a week old, the Packers had cut ties with the debt-ridden Acme Packing Co., and were run for the rest of that season by J. Emmett Clair and his brother, John M. Clair, who had been an officer with Acme. In 1922, Lambeau and Calhoun headed a small group that organized the private Green Bay Football Club and took control of the franchise.
Plagued by limited resources and terrible weather, the new owners barely survived their first season.
A game against Columbus in early November was played in a driving rain and resulted in a loss of $1,500 when the total rainfall for the day fell three one-hundredths of an inch short of the amount needed for the Packers to collect on their rain insurance. On Thanksgiving, a 12-hour rainfall ruined what was supposed to be Booster Day, contributing to a sparse crowd for a non-league game against Duluth and another financial disaster.
Club officials nearly canceled the game, but were persuaded to play by Andrew Turnbull, one of the owners of the Press-Gazette.
Nearly 25 years later in a three-part series, Calhoun wrote that Nov. 30, 1922, "marked a turning point in the history of the Packers." He said Turnbull promised that if club officials went ahead and played their game that day, he would get Green Bay's business community to rally behind the team once the season ended.
True to his word, Turnbull led the effort to create the nonprofit Green Bay Football Corporation before the start of the next season. The Packers were now a community-owned team. Their investors were their fans.
The Iron Man Era
With an improved financial outlook, Lambeau was in position to expand his recruiting efforts and bolster his roster. Over the course of the 1921 and 1922 seasons, the Packers underwent a transformation where they replaced most of their local talent with players from big-time colleges or other pro teams.
As a result, they were highly competitive on the field from the beginning and, in turn, able to establish a firm foothold within the league. In 1927, when the NFL decided to cut its franchises almost in half and eliminate many of its smaller cities, Green Bay survived.
Then, before the 1929 season, it hit the jackpot.
The Packers signed three players off other NFL teams – halfback Johnny Blood, and linemen Cal Hubbard and Mike Michalske – who would lead them to three straight NFL championships and later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To this day, the 1929-31 and 1965-67 Packers are the only teams to have won three straight NFL titles. The 1929-31 Packers did it when the championship was determined by league standings. The 1965-67 Packers did it under the league playoff system, which was implemented in 1933.
The Hutson Period
While the Packers were in the process of winning the 1931 championship, they also were blindsided by what could have been a catastrophic event. In their second game, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, a local fan, Willard J. Bent, injured his back when a section of bleachers at City Stadium collapsed, and he fell nearly 10 feet to the ground.
Bent sued the Packers and was awarded roughly $5,000 following a trial in February 1933. With the country in a deep depression, the Packers' insurance company went into bankruptcy before the claim could be adjusted, and the Green Bay Football Corp. went into receivership while it appealed the case in court.
Somehow the Packers survived the proceedings long enough to be saved, once again, by two seminal events.
The first was the creation of a new corporation, The Green Bay Packers, Inc., in January 1935 following a second stock sale. That corporation remains in existence today, although "The" was removed from the name in 1997.
The other was the signing of Don Hutson less than a month later. According to lore, Hutson actually signed two contracts, one with the Packers and the other with the Dodgers, but was awarded to the Packers by league president Joe Carr. Carr supposedly settled the dispute based on the times postmarked on the packages containing the contracts mailed by the two clubs.
In his second game as a pro, Hutson caught an 83-yard touchdown pass from Arnie Herber that gave the Packers a 7-0 victory over the Chicago Bears. When he retired 11 years later, Hutson owned 19 NFL records and had revolutionized what was then the position of offensive end.
With money in the bank and Hutson shredding defenses like no other player in the game, the Packers would win three more NFL titles under Lambeau: in 1936, 1939 and 1944.
But when Hutson retired following the 1945 season, hard times followed. The Packers became perennial losers for the first time, and they encountered one financial crisis after another.
The war between the NFL and the newly formed All-America Football Conference left them financially strapped and unable to sign their No. 1 draft picks in 1946 and 1947.
By Thanksgiving Day 1949, the Packers had to play an intra-squad game to raise enough money to finish the season. They drew 15,000 fans to City Stadium despite cold, blustery weather and raised approximately $50,000, enough to pay the freight for their final three road games.
Meanwhile, the Packers also were losing money on their training quarters at Rockwood Lodge, located along the bay about 15 miles northeast of Green Bay, and Lambeau was immersed in a power struggle with several members of the board of directors.
Fortuitously for the Packers, the well-insured Rockwood was destroyed by fire Jan. 24, 1950. The other problems came to a head when Lambeau resigned a week later, ending his 31-year association with the franchise, to become head coach of the Chicago Cardinals.
Within a week after Lambeau's departure, the Packers hired Gene Ronzani, a former player and assistant coach with the Bears, to succeed him. Then, before the end of April, the Packers launched a third stock drive.
The stock sale would raise more than $100,000 and put the franchise back on firmer footing. On the field, the losing prevailed and with two games remaining in the 1953 season, Ronzani was forced to resign.
Blackbourn Takes Over
The Packers hired Verne Lewellen, a local attorney and one of the stars of their 1929-31 championship teams, as general manager, and plucked Lisle Blackbourn from Marquette University to become their head coach as part of a reshuffling of the organization in the winter of 1954.
The Packers compiled a disappointing 17-31 record during Blackbourn's four years as coach, but they also secured their future during that period by building a new, football-only stadium and drafting what would be the nucleus of future championship teams.
On April 3, 1956, voters approved a referendum to fund construction of the stadium. It was dedicated on Sept. 29, 1957, and officially named Green Bay City Stadium. It was renamed Lambeau Field in 1965.
On Blackbourn's watch, the Packers also drafted Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke, all future Pro Football Hall of Famers.
Despite his shortcomings as a coach, Blackbourn had a keen eye for talent – Vince Lombardi would hire him as a scout – and an able, young personnel director in Jack Vainisi, who had been hired by Ronzani and would play a part in luring Lombardi to Green Bay.
McLean Moves Up
After Blackbourn was fired following a 3-9 finish in 1957, likeable Ray "Scooter" McLean, backfield coach of the Packers since 1951, was hired as his replacement.
McLean lasted one season. He submitted his resignation under fire on Dec. 17, 1958, following a 1-10-1 finish, the worst in Packers history.
The Lombardi Era
The Packers' search for McLean's replacement lasted more than a month. Lambeau moved back to Green Bay and applied for the general manager post. Forest Evashevski, a highly successful coach at the University of Iowa, was brought to Green Bay for an interview, but declined the job. Other candidates were considered, as well.
Finally, at 3 p.m. on Jan. 28, 1959, Packers president Dominic Olejniczak announced that Vince Lombardi had accepted a five-year deal to become the team's coach and general manager. Six days later, Lombardi was officially introduced at a press conference at Green Bay's Hotel Northland where he declared, "I want it understood that I'm in complete command."
Although Lombardi had been backfield coach of the New York Giants for eight years, he was relatively unknown in a sports world much different than today. Television was still in its infancy, pro football was largely viewed as a second-rate sport and few, if any, assistant coaches were household names.
As a result, a popular question in Green Bay at the time was: "Who the hell is Vince Lombardi?"
It didn't take long for people to find out.
In his first season, Lombardi went 7-5 and was named NFL Coach of the Year. In 1960, the Packers captured the Western Conference, only to lose to Philadelphia in the title game. That would be the last time Lombardi's Packers lost an NFL Championship Game.
They won five world titles in 1961, '62, '65, '66 and '67, including Super Bowls I and II. Over nine years, they compiled a glittering 98-30-4 record (.766) and won nine of 10 postseason games.
The Packers would be recognized as the Team of the '60s and as one of the great dynasties in NFL history. Lombardi would be glorified as one of the game's greatest coaches and be posthumously honored by having the Super Bowl trophy named after him.
Following the third consecutive title in 1967, Lombardi turned over the head-coaching duties to Phil Bengtson and one year later announced that he was leaving Green Bay to become coach/GM of the Washington Redskins. Bengtson coached the Packers from 1968-70, compiling a 20-21-1 record. He resigned in December 1970.
The Devine Days
Dan Devine, one of the nation's most successful college coaches, succeeded Bengtson as head coach and general manager in January 1971. After settling for a 4-8-2 record during his first year, Devine and the Packers appeared on the road to new heights when 1972 produced a 10-4 record and the team's first Central Division title since 1967. But the Packers' Super Bowl hopes dissolved in the second half of 1973 and they slipped to 5-7-2. They continued their regression in 1974, going 6-8, and Devine resigned.
The Starr Trek
Winner of a record five NFL championships as a starting quarterback, Bart Starr was the overwhelming choice of Packers fans to succeed Devine, and the executive committee complied by awarding him a three-year contract as head coach and general manager, Dec. 24, 1974. Starr asked for "the prayers and patience of Packer fans everywhere … We will earn everything else."
Starr had only one season of experience as a coach – he was Devine's quarterbacks coach in 1972 – and things didn't turn out as he and Packers fans had hoped. He was handcuffed by a disastrous trade for aging quarterback John Hadl, which was agreed to by Devine just before the trade deadline of his final season. Having given up five prime draft picks in the Hadl deal, the Packers finished 4-10, 5-9 and 4-10 again in Starr's first three seasons. They raised hope with an 8-7-1 finish in 1978, but then couldn't get over the hump.
Over five more seasons, the Packers enjoyed only one winning record, a 5-3-1 finish in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Green Bay made the playoffs that year and beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a home playoff game, but when the Packers went 8-8 in 1983, Starr was fired the day following a disappointing 23-21 loss at Soldier Field to the rival Chicago Bears.
The Gregg Era
The Packers replaced Starr with another beloved player from the Lombardi era. On Dec. 24, 1983, Forrest Gregg, a former Starr teammate and one of the premier offensive tackles in football history, became the Packers' ninth head coach. Gregg had led Cincinnati into Super Bowl XVI following the 1981 season and his 19-6 record over the 1981-82 seasons was the best in pro football.
He started out with back-to-back 8-8 seasons as he tried to mold the roster in his own tough-guy image, but he went 4-12 and 5-9-1 in his final two years and resigned (Jan. 15, 1988) to become head coach at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University.
Infante Signs On
On Feb. 3, 1988, after interviewing a host of candidates and having his preferred choice, Michigan State coach George Perles, accept the job and then back out, executive vice president of football operations Tom Braatz hired Lindy Infante as Gregg's successor. Infante, who had been the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator, was considered a shrewd play-caller, but except for a 10-6 finish in 1989, his teams largely struggled on offense and he was fired after four seasons.
By then, Braatz also had been fired and replaced by Ron Wolf, who was given the title of general manager and complete control over the Packers' football operation. Wolf was hired Nov. 27, 1991. Braatz had been hired prior to Gregg's final season as coach in a power-sharing arrangement and was fired one week before Wolf was hired.
The front-office overhaul was executed by Bob Harlan, who had been named president of the Packers prior to the 1989 season after serving the team for 18 years in several administrative roles. Harlan had joined the Packers when Devine was coach and general manager and had witnessed each coaching hire in the years since finish with a worse record than his predecessor.
In the 24 seasons since Lombardi had stepped down as coach, the Packers had finished with a winning record five times and qualified for the playoffs only twice. Harlan was determined to put an end to the drought.
Wolf began the process Dec. 22, 1991, by firing Infante.
The Holmgren Era
Wolf named Mike Holmgren, offensive architect of San Francisco's four-time Super Bowl champions, to succeed Infante, Jan. 11, 1992. Holmgren, sought by five other clubs, received a five-year contract. Next, Wolf traded for quarterback Brett Favre, who had played little in his rookie season with Atlanta. But Wolf had rated Favre much higher than most NFL scouts while he was still working for the New York Jets and confidently rolled the dice. Not only hadn't the Packers won in 24 years, but their quarterback situation had been less than desirable for most of that time, as well.
Three games into the Wolf-Holmgren Era, Favre led the Packers to a stunning, last-minute victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field. The next week, he made his debut as a starter and the Packers were headed in the right direction for the first time in a quarter-century. In 1992, the Packers surprised the NFL with a 9-7 finish. Holmgren became only the third head coach in team history to register a winning record in his first season, and it was punctuated by a six-game winning streak, the team's longest since 1965.
Holmgren guided the Packers into the playoffs in 1993, forging a second-straight 9-7 record. They also won their first playoff game in 11 years on a "Hail Mary" Favre-to-Sterling Sharpe pass in the final minute that eliminated Detroit, 28-24. They then fell at Dallas, 27-17, in the divisional round.
The Packers reached the playoffs again in 1994 and '95, only to be eliminated on two more occasions by the Cowboys. But the Favre-led Packers were on the upswing. After finishing 9-7 for a third straight time in 1994, they improved to 11-5 and won their first NFC Central Division title since 1972. They also advanced one more round in the playoffs, losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship Game in 1995 after getting bounced in the divisional round the year before. Two highlights of those seasons were holding the incomparable Barry Sanders to minus-1 yard on 13 attempts in a 16-12 playoff victory over Detroit at Lambeau Field following the 1994 season, and formally dethroning the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in their own stadium, 3Com Park, 27-17, in a 1995 NFC Divisional playoff.
Putting nearly three decades of disappointment emphatically behind them, the Packers rewarded their long-patient faithful in 1996. Shunting aside eight of their first nine foes, they swept to a 13-3 record and their second straight division championship. Then, they captured their first NFL title since 1967, dispatching New England, 35-21, in Super Bowl XXXI at the Louisiana Superdome.
Displaying impressive consistency on both sides of the ball, they documented their superiority, outscoring three opponents 100-48 in a postseason sweep. Appropriately, the first two wins were before their Lambeau loyalists – a 35-14 divisional triumph over the 49ers and a 30-13 win over the upstart Carolina Panthers in the NFC title game.
In winning a 12th NFL championship, extending their own league record, the Packers joined an elite group of teams with three or more Super Bowls (Dallas, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Washington).
The Packers thus entered 1997 with an opportunity to win back-to-back Super Bowls for a second time – and came breathtakingly close to achieving their objective. Sweeping to a second consecutive 13-3 mark, they smothered the 49ers on a soggy, rain-swept afternoon in San Francisco, 23-10.
In a seesaw affair, Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego found the Packers trailing Denver at halftime, 17-14. Hopes of a repeat were high, however, when Favre engineered an 85-yard drive, knotting the contest, 24-24, early in the fourth quarter. But the Broncos later scored with only 1:45 remaining and a last-minute Packers drive fell short when Favre's pass for tight end Mark Chmura fell incomplete inside the Denver 20, with only 28 seconds left, sealing the Broncos' 31-24 win.
A third straight Super Bowl trip, a realistic goal at the outset, eluded the Packers in 1998, their 80th season. Historic accomplishment, however, did not, as they advanced to the playoffs for the sixth year in a row, a team record, while posting a seventh consecutive winning season. They set another team record by stretching their Lambeau Field winning streak to 25 games – the second longest in NFL history – before falling to the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 5. They finished 11-5, equaling another team standard by posting a double-digit victory total for the fourth consecutive year (11-5 in 1995, 13-3 in both 1996 and 1997). The only other time Green Bay had strung together four seasons of 10-plus wins was 67 years earlier – Lambeau's triple NFL champions of 1929-32 (12-0-1 in 1929, 10-3-1 in 1930, 12-2 in 1931 and 10-3-1 in 1932).
In the wake of these considerable achievements, the Packers' season came to a dramatic and painful end in an NFC Wild Card game at San Francisco, when a 27-23 lead abruptly dissolved into a 30-27 49ers victory. Steve Young's 25-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens sealed the game with just three seconds left.
Only five days later, Holmgren resigned to become head coach and director of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rhodes Season
Moving swiftly, Wolf tabbed Ray Rhodes, former Eagles head coach and Green Bay defensive coordinator, as the Packers' 12th head coach, Jan. 11, 1999. The Packers launched 1999 under Rhodes in breathtaking fashion, winning three of the first four games in the last minute. Fate, however, suddenly stopped smiling as Green Bay (8-8) missed the playoffs for the first time since 1992, ending seven straight winning seasons. Saying the Packers lacked the needed toughness and fire, Wolf relieved Rhodes soon after the season finale.
The Sherman Tenure
After searching more than two weeks, Wolf surprised many NFL observers by naming Mike Sherman as the Packers' 13th head coach, Jan. 18, 2000. As recently as the 1997-98 seasons, Sherman had served as the Packers' tight ends/assistant offensive line coach. Sherman finished 9-7, but out of the playoffs his first season. Soon thereafter, on Feb. 1, 2001, Wolf retired as the team's executive vice president and general manager, and Harlan quickly named Sherman to replace Wolf. Sherman became the first head coach with the GM title since Starr in 1980.
Wolf's impressive nine-year tenure included 101 total victories (including eight in the playoffs) and the NFL's best regular-season record (83-45) since the 1993 advent of free agency.
Sherman returned the Packers to the playoffs in 2001 and again in 2002, when they tied for the league's best record at 12-4. But they lost in the second round of the playoffs in 2001 and the first round in 2002.
In 2003, the Packers appeared destined to reach the NFC Championship Game, if not the Super Bowl, when they won their final four regular-season games, including an inspiring 41-7 victory over Oakland engineered by a heavy-hearted Favre following the death of his father. The following week, Green Bay captured an improbable division title in the last two minutes of the season, when Arizona upset Minnesota and the Lambeau Field crowd broke the news to the Packers.
But Donovan McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles to a come-from-behind, 20-17 overtime win to end an emotional Packers run in the divisional playoffs.
Not to be forgotten, the 2003 season included changes to three of the most-revered records in Packers history (Gregg's 33-year-old consecutive-games streak, broken by Favre; Taylor's 41-year-old season rushing record, surpassed by Ahman Green; and Hutson's 58-year-old career scoring mark, eclipsed by Ryan Longwell).
The Packers won a third straight NFC North title under Sherman in 2004, but lost to Minnesota in a Wild Card playoff at Lambeau.
On Jan. 14, 2005, Harlan restructured the team's football operations, naming Ted Thompson general manager, with full authority over football decisions. Harlan said he based the decision on his belief in a preferred structure – separate individuals for the GM and head-coach positions.
The Packers crumbled to a 4-12 mark in 2005 and Thompson dismissed Sherman.
He made the announcement on Jan. 2, 2006, saying it was time for a new face to lead the team.
The McCarthy Era
Thompson underwent an intensive nine-day search to tab Mike McCarthy the franchise's 14th head coach (Jan. 12, 2006).
McCarthy guided the Packers to a four-game winning streak to close his first season as head coach with an 8-8 record in 2006, finishing percentage points behind the Giants for the NFC's last postseason spot.
The NFL's youngest club carried that momentum into 2007, winning its first four games and ultimately tying the then-franchise record for regular-season victories with a 13-3 mark.
With Joe Philbin taking over as offensive coordinator, Ryan Grant emerging at midseason as a feature back, and Favre enjoying a brilliant final season in Green Bay, the offense finished second in the league, its highest ranking since 1983.
Grant then posted franchise playoff records of 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 42-20, snow-filled NFC playoff triumph over Seattle at Lambeau.
In the third-coldest game in NFL championship history, with a temperature of minus 1 and wind chill of minus 23 at kickoff, Green Bay fell at home, 23-20, in overtime to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
In 2008, the torch was passed to Aaron Rodgers from Favre, who retired in March with virtually every significant NFL passing record, un-retired in July and was traded to the New York Jets during the first week of training camp. Rodgers became just the second quarterback in league history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in his first season as a starter.
On defense, the team set a franchise record with seven touchdowns, including six on interception returns, leading to Pro Bowl berths for three-fourths of the starting secondary in Nick Collins, Charles Woodson and Al Harris. But the team lost seven games by four points or less and finished with a 6-10 record.
That led to a series of changes on the coaching staff, most of them on defense, as McCarthy hired Dom Capers as his new defensive coordinator. The players responded in 2009, climbing all the way to No. 2 in the league in yards allowed and No. 1 against the run for the first time in team history, setting a franchise record for the fewest rushing yards allowed per game (83.3).
That defensive prowess was highlighted by Woodson winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, rookie Clay Matthews leading the team in sacks, and Collins joining both as Pro Bowl honorees. Combined with another dynamic season on offense, in which the team set a new franchise record for points (461), the Packers won seven of their final eight regular-season games to finish 11-5 and earn an NFC Wild Card playoff berth.
Rodgers earned his first Pro Bowl nod and threw for a Green Bay postseason-record 423 yards and record-tying four TDs as he rallied the Packers from a 21-point second-half deficit but came up short, dropping a 51-45 overtime heartbreaker in Arizona, the highest-scoring postseason game in NFL history.
The team got out to a 3-1 start in 2010, but injuries to key players mounted. By season's end, the Packers would place 15 players on the season-ending injured list.
Despite the injuries, the Packers never blinked. Defensively, they ranked No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.0 points per game. Matthews, who racked up 13½ sacks, was voted a Pro Bowl starter and a consensus first-team All-Pro and was named the league's defensive player of the year by various publications. In the secondary, Woodson set career highs in tackles and forced fumbles, becoming the team's emotional leader throughout. His counterpart at corner, Tramon Williams, led the team with six interceptions, earning his first bid to the Pro Bowl, where he was joined by Collins, who was chosen for the third consecutive year.
The Packers became the first team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to never trail a game by more than seven points over an entire season. They finished with a 10-6 record and secured the sixth and final seed in the NFC's playoff bracket.
The Packers won the Wild Card game at Philadelphia by a score of 21-16. The following week they traveled to Atlanta and beat the top-seeded Falcons, 48-21, on the strength of a near-flawless display of quarterbacking by Rodgers (31 of 36 for 366 yards and three TDs).
For the NFC championship, the Packers beat their division rival, the Chicago Bears, 21-14, as the defense forced three Chicago turnovers.
The Super Bowl pitted the Packers against the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers stormed out to a 21-3 lead in the first half, with two touchdowns coming off the arm of Rodgers and one on an interception return by Collins. Under circumstances reflective of the entire season, the Packers were forced to overcome injuries, as veteran stalwarts Driver and Woodson were both ruled out of the game late in the first half.
The Steelers fought their way back, but a forced fumble by Matthews at the start of the fourth quarter led to another Rodgers touchdown pass. Forcing a turnover on downs on Pittsburgh's final drive, the Packers won the franchise's fourth Super Bowl, 31-25.
Despite no offseason program and an abbreviated training-camp schedule due to the work stoppage, the Packers recorded a franchise-best 15-1 record in 2011, becoming just the sixth team in NFL history to reach the 15-win plateau, and when combining the start of 2011 with the six wins that closed out 2010, the 19-game winning streak was the longest in team history and second longest in league annals.
Rodgers earned the league's Most Valuable Player award and consensus first-team All-Pro honors from almost every major publication after posting an NFL-record 122.5 cumulative passer rating,
In the postseason, Green Bay lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the divisional round, 37-20.
In 2012, the club recovered from a 2-3 start to win nine of the final 11 games and back-to-back NFC North titles. Matthews became the first player in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the league.
After winning the Wild Card matchup with the division-rival Minnesota Vikings, the Packers fell, 45-31, to San Francisco.
The Packers welcomed the 2013 campaign and an upgraded facility that was highlighted by the addition of 6,700 new seats.
Despite being beseiged by injuries to key players, including losing Rodgers for seven games due to a broken collarbone, Green Bay won the division for the third straight year after beating the Bears in Week 17.
The Packers' season would end at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card game, as San Francisco kicked a game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired.
After road losses in two of the first three games of the 2014 season, the Packers won 11 of the final 13 games to finish 12-4, including 8-0 at home. Green Bay's fourth consecutive division title was led by Rodgers, who earned NFL MVP honors from AP for the second time in his career.
The Packers' home success during the regular season continued with a 26-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. The season came to an end the following week in Seattle after the Seahawks rallied in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to beat the Packers, 28-22, in overtime.
In 2015, the Packers started 6-0 for just the fourth time since 1945. Green Bay honored Favre by unveiling his name and retired No. 4 during halftime of the Packers' first home Thanksgiving game since 1923. The Packers had an up-and-down last 10 games to finish with a 10-6 record and the No. 5 seed in the postseason.
After a 35-18 victory at Washington, Green Bay faced the Cardinals nearly three weeks after losing at Arizona. After a back-and-forth game, Rodgers heaved a pass to the end zone that WR Jeff Janis leaped to grab and the game went into overtime. For the second consecutive year, Green Bay's season would end on the first possession of overtime as Arizona went 80 yards in three plays to score a touchdown and win, 26-20.
The offseason saw Favre elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After starting the 2016 season 3-1, the Packers dropped five of the next six games to sit at 4-6. A road Monday night victory at Philadelphia started a six-game winning streak that was the longest by the Packers to end a regular season since 1941 (nine games).
The NFC North-champion Packers beat the New York Giants at home, 38-13, in the Wild Card round and used two 50-plus-yard field goals from Mason Crosby in the final minutes to win, 34-31, at Dallas. Green Bay appeared in an NFC-leading fourth NFC Championship Game since 2007, but lost, 44-21, at Atlanta.
Green Bay opened the 2017 season with a 4-1 record, marking the fourth time under McCarthy that the Packers won at least four of their first five games. In Week 6, the season changed as the Packers lost Rodgers to a collarbone injury that would only allow him to play in one more game the rest of the season. Brett Hundley would step in to lead the Packers.
After three consecutive losses dropped Green Bay to 4-4, Hundley would lead the Packers to wins in three of the next five games. With playoff hopes still alive, Rodgers returned in Week 16, but the Packers fell seven points short of the Panthers. Hundley finished out a season that ended with a 7-9 record.
The offseason brought a slew of changes. Thompson transitioned to a role as senior advisor to football operations while Brian Gutekunst was named general manager and Russ Ball was promoted to executive vice president/director of football operations. McCarthy also revamped his coaching staff with numerous changes, including welcoming back Joe Philbin as offensive coordinator and hiring Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator.
The 2018 season started with a come-from-behind victory over the Bears that was fueled by a hobbled Rodgers.
Green Bay's 100th season would be the last for McCarthy. After going 3-7-1 in the next 11 games, the Packers parted ways and named offensive coordinator Philbin as interim head coach. Green Bay finished 2-2 in the final four games for an overall record of 6-9-1.
The LaFleur Era
On Jan. 8, 2019, Matt LaFleur was named the 15th head coach in franchise history. He brought 10 years of coaching experience in the NFL and 17 overall to Green Bay, having previously served as an offensive coordinator in 2017-18 (Tennessee Titans, 2018; Los Angeles Rams, 2017) and a quarterbacks coach for seven years (Atlanta Falcons, 2015-16; Notre Dame, 2014; Washington Football Team, 2010-13).
The Packers not only brought in a new coach in 2019, but Gutekunst also added veteran LBs Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith as well as S Adrian Amos and G/T Billy Turner, who would all become key contributors.
Green Bay came out strong as LaFleur joined Lombardi as the only head coaches in franchise history to win their first three NFL games. After a loss to Philadelphia in Week 4, the Packers reeled off four straight wins and LaFleur became the 19th NFL head coach and the first since Jim Harbaugh in 2011 to win at least seven of his first eight games.
The Packers fell on the road in two of the next three contests to the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, but responded by winning their final five games to secure a 13-3 record and the No. 2 seed in the NFC. It tied the fourth-longest winning streak to end a regular season in team history as LaFleur led the biggest one-year win improvement in franchise annals (plus-seven wins).
Green Bay won its first NFC North title since 2016 and finished 6-0 in the division for just the second time (2011) since the league went to a divisional format in 1967. LaFleur became the first coach in franchise history to lead his team to the postseason in his first season and the first head coach in team history to lead the Packers to a division title in his first season.
The Packers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round, 28-23, to advance to their NFC title contest since since 2016. That would be as far as Green Bay would go as the Packers lost, 37-20, to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
RB Aaron Jones enjoyed a breakout season, registering a franchise-best 23 total touchdowns (including playoffs). T David Bakhtiari and Rodgers were original selections to the Pro Bowl and WR Davante Adams, DL Kenny Clark and Z. Smith were named to the Pro Bowl as injury replacements. It was the most Pro Bowlers for the Packers since five were selected in 2015.
The 2020 season was unlike any seen by the sports world. A global health pandemic known as COVID-19 dramatically changed how team sports operated. The normal in-person NFL offseason was switched to a virtual program for the spring. Teams would first report to their facilities for in-person practice and meetings in late July for training camp, and all preseason games were canceled. For training camp and most of the regular season, practices and games took place in front of empty stands.
The Packers would adapt and find a way, opening the regular season with four consecutive wins and scoring 30-plus points in each contest to tie the second-longest streak in team history (seven games in 1963). Green Bay would match the four games with 30-plus points later in the season (Weeks 11-14) to mark the first time in franchise history that the Packers had two separate streaks of four straight games with 30-plus points in a season.
Green Bay's first adversity came over the next three games, with the Packers falling at Tampa Bay and at home against Minnesota with a win at Houston in between. The Packers recorded back-to-back wins over San Francisco and Jacksonville before an overtime loss at Indianapolis.
That would be the final regular-season defeat for Green Bay, as it reeled off six straight wins to finish the season, marking only the second time in team history (1996-97) that the Packers had ended the regular season on a winning streak of five-plus games in back-to-back years (five in 2019). Green Bay finished with the same record as in 2019, 13-3, marking just the second time in team history that the Packers won 13-plus games in back-to-back seasons (13-3 in both 1996 and 1997).
Green Bay won the NFC North for the second consecutive season, and the 11-1 (.917) record in division games in LaFleur's first two seasons was the best two-year division record for Green Bay since going 11-1 in 2011-12. Dating back to 1967, it was only the second time the Packers had lost one or fewer division games over a two-year span.
Rodgers led an offense that scored the second-most points in a season (509) in team history (560 in 2011) and joined Favre (1995-97) as the only Packers to win the AP MVP three times (2011, 2014, 2020). Rodgers' NFL-leading 121.5 passer rating was the second-highest single-season mark by a quarterback in NFL history, trailing only his 122.5 rating in 2011.
The three-time MVP was not the only one to have a monster year as seven Packers were named to the Pro Bowl (Adams, CB Jaire Alexander, Bakhtiari, G Elgton Jenkins, Jones, Rodgers and Z. Smith), including six who were named starters (all but Jones), giving Green Bay the most starter selections since it had eight in 1967. The Packers had six players named All-Pro by AP (Alexander, Z. Smith) including four first-team selections (Adams, Bakhtiari, C Corey Linsley, Rodgers) which were the most by Green Bay since 1967 (six).
Adams had a historically great season, setting the franchise record for receptions in a season with 115 and tying WR Sterling Sharpe (1994) for the most receiving TDs in a season with 18 (tied for No. 3 in NFL history). Adams also became the first player in NFL history to have 15-plus TD receptions and average 95-plus receiving yards and eight-plus receptions per game.
After a regular season in which Green Bay earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the third time since 1990 (1996, 2011), the Packers beat the Los Angeles Rams to earn a trip to the NFC title game for the ninth time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and the fourth time since 2014 (2014, 2016, 2019), the most in the NFC over that span. It was the third time (1996 and 2007) that Lambeau Field hosted the NFC Championship. It also marked the first time since 1995-97 that Green Bay appeared in consecutive NFC title games. But the road would end there as the Buccaneers defeated the Packers, 31-26.