Packers training camp memory: The last quarterback battle

Don Majkowski emerged the winner

QB Don Majkowski

If it's not an unofficial and informal NFL record, it is at least a mind-blowing streak.

This is the 31st straight year that the Green Bay Packers have enjoyed a stress-free existence in training camp at the all-important quarterback position. Not since 1989 have they had to brace for battle there with no frontrunner for the job.

Sure, the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers got a little messy in 2008, but it was an almost seamless transition on the field and the two never really competed against each other for the job. And, yes, after Don Majkowski won the quarterback competition in 1989 and enjoyed his one magical season, a lengthy holdout and shoulder surgery followed. But all that did was create a degree of uncertainty at the position for the next three years. Majkowski's status as the starter was never really in doubt, including 1992 when Mike Holmgren made it clear that newcomer Brett Favre would start the year No. 2 on the depth chart.

Thus, not since Lindy Infante declared a three-way race among six-year veteran Randy Wright, Majkowski, then in his third year, and third-round draft pick Anthony Dilweg just days before camp opened in 1989 has the job truly been up for grabs. That was the year, if you'll remember, that the Packers drafted Tony Mandarich after holding the inside track in the Troy Aikman sweepstakes, only to blow it with a pyrrhic victory over the Phoenix Cardinals in the final game of 1988.

Actually, it was somewhat surprising the following summer that Infante didn't at least declare it was Majkowski's job to lose. In 1988, Infante's first season as coach, he created a free-for-all at quarterback and picked Wright largely by default over Marc Wilson and Majkowski, only to watch Wright start the season 0-5.

When Wright suffered a groin injury at that point, Majkowski replaced him and won the next two games, before losing six in a row and suffering a shoulder injury. Wright returned to the lineup and lost his first game, then reinjured his groin and was replaced by Majkowski in a win over Minnesota. Majkowski also started and led the victory over the Cardinals.

Neither quarterback was overly impressive that season, but Majkowski had a better passer rating – 67.8 to 58.9 – and was the clear-cut choice of his offensive teammates. If nothing else, he, at least, had shown leadership ability.

At that point, Wright had a 7-25 record as a starter, including 2-12 the previous two seasons, while Majkowski was 5-8-1.

But Infante decided to give all five quarterbacks on his roster – fifth-year journeyman Blair Kiel and free agent Doug Hudson of Nicholls State were the other two – equal playing time in the first scrimmage of camp in 1989.

In the first preseason game, Majkowski and Wright each played a quarter in the first half and looked good, but Dilweg played the entire second half and benefited most from the extra playing time, completing 7-of-11 passes for 102 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in a victory over the New York Jets.

For whatever reason, Infante started Kiel in the second preseason game and played him the entire first half. Down 17-6 at that point, Dilweg and Majkowski rallied the Packers in the second half as they took a 23-17 lead in the final two minutes before the defense lost it. Even Hudson played a series to start the fourth quarter, but Majkowski clearly grabbed the lead in the quarterback derby that day, producing two touchdowns, despite not even playing the entire fourth quarter. Of course, he also had the advantage of playing against Indianapolis' second-team defense.

After Wright didn't get off the bench against the Colts, he started the third game against Buffalo, fumbled a shotgun snap and was replaced by Majkowski midway through the second quarter with the Packers down 10-0. Majkowski completed 12-of-19 passes for 145 yards and led three scoring drives as the Packers won 27-24. But Dilweg also looked good for the third straight game after replacing Majkowski midway through the third quarter and was the focus of most of the questions Infante addressed in his postgame press conference.

Dilweg led the final drive and capped it with a game-winning, 2-yard touchdown pass to Perry Kemp with 19 seconds remaining.

"What are you guys trying to do with Dilweg," Infante responded. "Enshrine him? Is it time to go to the Hall of Fame? Call up the people in Ohio?"

On Aug. 28, four days before the final preseason game, Infante announced Majkowski would be his starting quarterback. Majkowski, in turn, responded with a strong showing in a 16-0 victory over New England, the Packers' final tune-up before their Sept. 10 season opener against Tampa Bay.

Six days before that, the Packers cut Wright and Kiel, and entered the season with only two quarterbacks on their roster, Majkowski and Dilweg.