The Packers have won a record 13 championships in their 95 seasons in the National Football League. Of the other 82 Packers teams, here's a list of the five best.
1- 1963 –Vince Lombardi once said, "'61 and '62 were great teams, but the '63 team was probably the best team of all time." Seems like a strange thing for a coach to say who preached there were only two places: First and last. But he probably based it on this: His 22 starters in '63 averaged an ideal 5.5 years of experience and only three were older than 30. Had he lived longer would Lombardi have reconsidered? Perhaps. But who am I to argue with him? The 1963 Packers finished 11-2-1, losing to the Chicago Bears twice. The Bears won the season opener, 10-3, and the rematch in Wrigley Field, 26-7. That allowed them to edge the Packers by a half-game in the Western Conference race – the Bears finished 11-1-2 – and to beat the New York Giants, 14-10, in the championship game. Paul Hornung was suspended and missed the season. An injured Bart Starr missed four starts, including the second Packers-Bears game. Otherwise, it was basically the same lineup that went 13-1 and won the 1962 title. The one change was Lionel Aldridge replacing Bill Quinlan at right defensive end. (Photo thanks to the Manitowoc County Historical Society)
2- 1960 – This was Lombardi's second team and it probably played as well as any of his five champions down the stretch, if not better. It won a tight five-team race by winning its final three games by a combined score of 89-34. Then it dominated Philadelphia in the NFL championship, outgaining the Eagles, 401 yards to 296, running 77 offensive plays to their 48 and picking up 22 first downs to their 13. But this would be the only Lombardi team to lose a title game. It bowed, 17-13, when Chuck Bednarik tackled Jim Taylor at the Eagles' 9-yard line on the final play. In Lombardi's eyes, it wasn't his team that lost the game. He blamed himself, citing two fourth-down gambles that backfired. (Photo thanks to Vernon Biever)
3- 1941 – This Packers team split two regular-season games against the Monsters of the Midway when they were at their peak. The Bears had crushed Washington, 73-0, in the previous season's championship game. They would repeat as champions in 1941 with pretty much the same players and with another decisive 37-9 title-game victory over the Giants. But the Packers beat the Bears, 16-14, late in the season when Curly Lambeau surprised them with a seven-man defensive line and paralyzed their vaunted T-formation. As a result, the two teams tied for the Western Division title with 10-1 records before the Packers lost the playoff, 33-14. Cecil Isbell led the league in passing and Don Hutson led it in scoring and receiving. (Photo thanks to the Green Bay Press Gazette)
4- 2011 – The Packers went 15-1 in the regular season, their best winning percentage since 1929. Aaron Rodgers had an MVP season with an NFL record 122.5 passer rating and a phenomenal touchdown-to-interception ratio of 45-6. The Packers won the division by five games. They scored more than 40 points six times. Sure, the defense ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed. But at the time, defense wasn't the all-important element it had once been. While that might be changing again, two Super Bowl champs in the previous five years, Indianapolis and New Orleans, had ranked lower than 20th in defense. And the 9-7 New York Giants, the team that bounced the Packers out of the playoffs in the divisional round and went on to win the Super Bowl, ranked 27th in defense that year, only five slots better than the Packers. (Photo thanks to Jim Biever)
5- 1997 –Yes, this team lost a Super Bowl as the favorite. But it was not the same team that won in 1996. There was no Desmond Howard returning kicks, no Keith Jackson beating defenses down the seam and no Sean Jones at right defensive end. It might have been time to replace Jones, but Gabe Wilkins wasn't the answer. Unlike the 1960 Packers who kept getting better, this team's defense hit the wall in the Super Bowl. The defensive linemen, including Reggie White, were running on fumes at the end – if they were running at all – and 34-year old safety Eugene Robinson might have set some kind of record for missed tackles. In fact, I'm not so sure the 1995 Packers weren't better. Their misfortune was playing the Dallas Cowboys, a truly great team and the last of the NFL dynasties, in the NFC title game. (Photo thanks to Jim Biever)
For more of Cliff Christl's historical perspectives, click here.