Joseph “Red” Dunn
Height: 5-11; Weight: 177
College: Marquette, 1921-23
As the quarterback of four NFL championship teams, Dunn shares second place on the all-time list with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Only Bart Starr, who won five titles with the Packers, and Tom Brady, who has won five with New England, rank ahead of them. Dunn led the Chicago Cardinals to the 1925 NFL title and the Packers to three straight from 1929 to 1931.
Much like Starr, Dunn’s strong suit might have been his field generalship. While he played in Curly Lambeau’s Notre Dame Box offense, a short snap from behind center, Dunn operated much like a T-formation quarterback, calling signals and serving as the Packers’ primary passer.
Dunn was well suited for the role thanks to his versatility. He was a capable passer, runner, punter and placekicker. On defense, at a time when players played on both sides of the ball, Dunn was a sure tackler and ball hawk from the safety position.
In 1930, when the Packers won their second straight NFL title, Dunn had probably his best year, throwing 11 touchdown passes, including three in a Thanksgiving Day victory over the Frankford Yellow Jackets.
Once Dunn departed, Lambeau revised his Notre Dame Box, and his future quarterbacks became blocking backs. That adaptation on Lambeau’s part was yet another testament to Dunn’s many talents. Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Arnie Herber was a great passer, but not as versatile as Dunn, and therefore operated from a halfback position in Lambeau’s system.
Thus, in 1948, Lambeau picked Dunn as the quarterback on his all-time Packers team. While certainly unsung throughout his career, Dunn was chosen second-team on the two all-pro teams named in 1930 and on two of the three picked in 1931.
“Red Dunn could throw the ball as well as anybody at the time,” teammate and Pro Football Hall of Famer Johnny Blood told author Ralph Hickok some 40 years after Dunn retired. “Benny Friedman was considered the best pro passer then, because he had the big college reputation, but every time we played the (New York) Giants, Red outplayed Benny as far as I’m concerned.”
The Packers announced they had purchased Dunn from the Cardinals on Aug. 8, 1927. Arguably the greatest football player in Marquette University history, Dunn began his pro career with the Milwaukee Badgers in 1924. He played with the Cardinals from 1925 to 1926.
In five seasons with the Packers, Dunn played in 58 games and started 40, all at quarterback. While he played before the NFL kept statistics, Dunn was credited in The Football Encyclopedia, published in 1994, with 4,641 passing yards, the second-highest total in the pre-statistical era, behind Friedman. The Pro Football Chronicle, authored by Dan Daly and Bob O’Donnell, credited Dunn with 29 touchdown passes, second in the 1920s to Friedman’s 42.
Dunn is also unofficially credited with intercepting 19 passes, scoring 113 points on field goals and extra points and punting 67 times. In addition, he might have returned more punts than any other player in Packers history. According to Eric Goska, author of the most comprehensive book on Packers statistics, Dunn returned 209 punts, 22 more than Willie Wood’s club record. While there’s no way to determine Dunn’s yardage total, the fact he handled the assignment for five years is a tribute to his athletic ability.
Dunn retired following the 1931 season to become freshman football coach at Marquette. Dunn also had lettered four years in basketball at Marquette and played professionally.
Born June 21, 1901, in Milwaukee, Wis. Given name Joseph Aloysius Dunn. Died Jan. 15, 1957, at age 55.
- By Cliff Christl