'Majik Man' created buzz on memorable '89 Packers team

But there was no afterglow for QB Don Majkowski

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Former QB Don Majkowski (#7)

Team historian Cliff Christl has been writing the official biographies of the members of the Packers Hall of Fame. Those bios will be posted periodically on packers.com.

Don Majkowski

  • Inducted: 2005
  • Quarterback: 1987-92
  • Height: 6-2; Weight: 200
  • College: Virginia, 1984-86

Honors:

  • Pro Bowl Selection (played since 1950): 1989

Don Majkowski played for a franchise that has won an NFL-record 13 championships and been led by some of the greatest passers in league history from Arnie Herber to Aaron Rodgers, yet he created a buzz in 1989 like few quarterbacks in Packers history despite it being his first season as an opening-day starter and playing on a team that didn't even make the playoffs.

With Majkowski starting every game and throwing all but one of the team's 600 passes, the Packers finished 10-6, only to fall short of the NFC Central Division title and a postseason berth based on a tiebreaker that wasn't determined until the final night of the regular season. But the allure of those rags-to-riches Packers was their rise from a 4-12, dead-last finish the year before to the franchise's best record in 17 years combined with their league-record four one-point victories and five come-from-behind victories.

"Majik Man" was the nickname bestowed upon Majkowski that season and his highlight reel alone would have made for a marathon melodrama.

It would have started with Game 2 when he rallied the Packers from a 24-7 halftime deficit and finished off a 35-34 victory over New Orleans with an 80-yard, 55-second drive climaxed by his 3-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 1 minute 26 seconds remaining. The storyline also would have included his 99 yards of total offense, including a 37-yard touchdown pass, during a 17-point fourth quarter rally that wiped out a 21-6 Atlanta lead with 1:42 remaining and produced a 23-21 victory.

Rolling on, Majkowski threw for 313 yards, including 79- and 38-yard TD passes, in a 31-13 victory over Dallas and for 367 yards in a 23-20 overtime victory over Detroit.

Still to come were Majkowski's four clutch fourth-quarter completions for 48 yards in what turned out to be the game-winning drive in a 20-19 victory over Minnesota, followed the next week by another one-point victory, 17-16 over Tampa Bay, when he threw for 331 yards and led a 12-play, 52-yard drive to set up a Chris Jacke field goal on the final play. The season ended with back-to-back victories over Chicago and Dallas, teams the Packers always relish beating, as Majkowski ran for 59 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears and clearly outplayed his rookie counterpart at quarterback and that year's No. 1 draft pick, Troy Aikman, in the victory over the Cowboys.

The capstone of the film would have been the gripping, edge-of-your-seat moments in the two biggest victories of the season: the controversial "Instant Replay Game" against the Bears and a 21-17 victory over defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco, both played over the first three weeks of November.

The Packers' 14-13 win over the Bears – their first in eight years against their archrival – was decided by a 14-yard, Majkowski-to-Sharpe pass with 32 seconds remaining and a more than four-minute-long booth review that overturned the call on the field and resulted in the winning touchdown. Against the 49ers, Majkowski didn't necessarily outplay future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, but he notched the victory and showed the kind of swagger that was earning plaudits across the league.

"I watched tons of film on the guy this week and he's just like Joe (Montana)," 49ers cornerback Eric Wright said after the game.

Drafted in the 10th-round in 1987, Majkowski began that season as Randy Wright's backup but started five games and became a fan favorite thanks to his daring, madcap style that allowed him to forge a 17-17 overtime tie against Denver and future Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in his first pro start the second week of the season. A year later, Wright started the first five games before Majkowski replaced him and started nine of the last 11. This time, it was his teammates who all but clamored for Majkowski to get the job. The coaches sensed it too that the players seemed to have more spark and confidence when Majkowski was under center rather than Wright.

"In the old days, he probably would have been some kind of pirate," Joe Clark, general offensive assistant to Lindy Infante, said of Majkowski at midseason. "He's got that confident air about him. He's got that charisma that seems to zero in on everybody."

In 1989, Infante waived Wright on the final cutdown and it paid off. Not only did Majkowski enjoy a breakout season, he became the first Packers quarterback since Bart Starr in 1966 to be selected for the Pro Bowl and also finished second – albeit a distant second – to Montana in the Associated Press voting for the league's most valuable player.

Majkowski's future couldn't have looked any more promising. At the Super Bowl, where the 49ers repeated as champions, even George Seifert, their coach, said he saw similarities between his 33-year-old superstar quarterback and the Packers' 25-year-old, raw sensation. "I think Majkowski is a budding young Montana," said Seifert.

But there was no afterglow for Majkowski.

In 1990, he held out for 45 days over a contract dispute, reported only five days before the opener, suffered a season-ending injury to the rotator cuff in his throwing arm in the 10th game and underwent surgery less than a month later. Majkowski recovered in time to start the 1991 opener, but his passes didn't have the same zip and the Packers were 2-6 in his eight starts before he suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for six weeks.

Majkowski made his final start for the Packers on Sept. 20, 1992, suffered an ankle injury, was replaced by budding legend Brett Favre and was granted unconditional free agency after the season ended. Majkowski finished his career with Indianapolis and Detroit, where he played a combined four seasons but started only eight more games.

In his six seasons with the Packers, Majkowski played in 68 games and started 49. The Packers' record in his starts was 22-26-1. Statistically, Majkowski completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 10,870 yards with 56 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.

Born Feb. 25, 1964. Given name Donald Vincent Majkowski.

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