Mark Chmura rewarded Packers' patience

Tight end was named to three Pro Bowls after limited opportunity his first three seasons

221013-cliff-profiling-the-past-2560
Former Packers TE Mark Chmura

Mark Chmura

  • Inducted: 2010
  • Tight End: 1993-99
  • Height: 6-5; Weight: 253
  • College: Boston College, 1988-91

Honors:

  • Years selected to an all-pro first team other than AP: 1995
  • Pro Bowl Selection (played since 1950): 1995, '97, '98

Mark Chmura was a prime example of how patience can pay huge dividends when an NFL team places a premium on player development as the Packers did from day one of the Ron Wolf-Mike Holmgren era.

Drafted in the sixth round in 1992, Chmura spent his rookie season on injured reserve, caught two passes in a reserve role his second year and spent most of his third year still backing up 33-year-old Ed West, who had regained his starting assignment after two years of playing behind up-and-coming Jackie Harris. The job had opened up when Harris signed a free agent contract with Tampa Bay in the offseason.

Not until his fourth year did Chmura finally emerge as a starter in training camp, and by the end of it, he and Jay Novacek of Dallas were the two tight ends selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Oddly enough, by then, Chmura also had been sitting out roughly one of every three offensive series since Keith Jackson ended his holdout in late October. Yet, all things considered, that was hardly a knock on what Chmura had accomplished.

After all, despite winning their first NFC Central Division championship in 23 years, the Packers had only two other Pro Bowl picks that year: future Pro Football Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White. What's more, Chmura was sharing playing time with a tight end who was the superior athlete and the faster of the two, but he was the better blocker and the one having a more productive season. Jackson, who had been acquired from Miami in a March trade, had been a four-time Pro Bowl pick himself.

"Everybody said we were dead when Harris left, when Ed West left, that we had no tight end here. Lo and behold, we have a Pro Bowl tight end. Make that two Pro Bowl tight ends," Wolf gushed when Chmura's selection was announced.

When Holmgren arrived in 1992 and installed the West Coast offense, he had placed a greater value on tight ends than at least some of his predecessors in Green Bay and was looking to keep a third one on his roster behind Harris and West. However, Chmura suffered a lower back injury that limited him to two practices in training camp and sidelined him for the season. A year later, Chmura played occasionally in two tight end sets, but wasn't strong enough to consistently win his matchups against defensive ends in the running game and warrant more playing time.

Then in 1994, a transformed Chmura, who had bulked up 25 pounds from his college weight of 228, emerged as a vastly improved blocker in addition to being a can't-miss target in the passing game. Unfortunately, he suffered yet another setback when he injured his right hamstring in training camp, aggravated it in the second game of the season and missed the next two. Then opportunity beckoned. West injured an ankle, and Chmura started the final four games, plus two playoff games, catching 14 passes in the regular season and seven more for 88 yards in the postseason.

In 1995, his first as a fulltime starter, Chmura had what turned out to be his best season statistically. He ranked third on the team with 54 catches for a 12.6 average and scored seven touchdowns, a league high among tight ends.

"He's always had tremendous hands and he's good at finding holes," tight ends coach Andy Reid said after that season. "What makes him different than other tight ends in this system is that he's turned himself into a big physical blocker."

In 1996, when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI for their first NFL championship in 29 years, Chmura started all 13 games that he played in – he missed three with a sprained arch – and all three in the postseason, including the Super Bowl. However, Jackson, who started only five all year, finished with better stats in their job-sharing arrangement and made the Pro Bowl over Chmura. The biggest difference in their numbers was touchdown catches: Jackson had 10 in the regular season; Chmura was shut out.

After Jackson retired following the Super Bowl, Chmura enjoyed two more Pro Bowl seasons. Following the first, Mike Sherman, then the Packers' second-year tight ends coach, called Chmura "the hardest worker on the team," before adding, "I don't know if anybody plays better in big games than he does."

Chmura's final season was 1999 when he spent all but the first two games on injured reserve after sustaining a cervical spine injury in training camp. Following the season, Chmura was charged with sexual assault and waived by the Packers in early June, eight months before he was found not guilty.

In seven seasons, Chmura caught 188 passes for 2,253 yards, an average of 12 yards per catch, and scored 17 touchdowns. In 14 postseason games, he caught 25 passes for 259 yards, a 10.4 average, and scored four touchdowns. He also was capable of filling in as a long snapper.

Given name Mark William Chmura. Born Feb. 22, 1969.

Advertising