Sneak preview: Biggest game of decade produced franchise's 13th NFL title

A quick glance at highlights from the final chapter of the definitive history of the Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl trophy presentation

Packers team historian Cliff Christl is the author of "The Greatest Story in Sports," the definitive and comprehensive history of 100-plus years of Packers football. In this weekly "Sneak preview" series, Cliff will provide various treats and tidbits from each of the book's 11 chapters.


A Picture Worth 1,000 Words – Coach Mike McCarthy hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy with team president Mark Murphy and general manager Ted Thompson looking on marked the 13th time the Packers captured an NFL championship. No other team has won more than nine.

A Bite of Text – Growing their fan base from the several hundred who dropped spare change into George Calhoun's hat in 1919 to one with global reach at the start of the team's second century took more than just the lure of the Packers' unmatched success and rich tapestry of their history. Timing and the hand of fate played a part, too.

Robbing the Databank – The Packers .636 winning percentage from 1992 to 2016 ranks as the 10th best 25-year run in NFL history. Second on the list was Green Bay's .704 winning percentage from 1921-45. The Packers are the only team to have two different runs in the top 12.

A Secret to Share – General Manager Brian Gutekunst's inside stories about the Packers' No. 1 draft picks over the course of the decade: both the hits and misses.

Memory to Cherish – When 67,000 fans filled Lambeau Field on July 18, 2015, to celebrate Brett Favre's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame.

Deathbed Moment – The Packers were more secure financially than ever before, but a 20-17 loss to Arizona on Dec. 2, 2018, was McCarthy's last game as head coach of the Packers. They would finish the season, 6-9-1, and the game was another warning sign of how interest in a team – yes, even the Packers – can diminish rapidly when losses start to mount. The no-show count at Lambeau that day exceeded 13,000.

If You Were a Fan – Training camp forever changed following the 2010 season when a new collective bargaining agreement ended the tradition of two-a-day practices.

Shattering Myths – The Packers ended their 2010 Super Bowl season with 15 players on injured reserve and might have become a better team in the process. Those injuries created opportunities for James Starks, Desmond Bishop, Bryan Bulaga and Howard Green, among others who were key to that team winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Best Player – Aaron Rodgers. He won two of his three NFL MVP awards during the decade and was widely regarded throughout the 10 years as one of the game's two best quarterbacks, along with Tom Brady.

Overlooked by History – Before revamping the Packers' organizational structure in January 2018 and then being part of the search committee that hired Matt LaFleur a year later, Murphy had hit the jackpot twice as a collegiate athletic director when he hired head coaches to run the football programs at Colgate and Northwestern. At Colgate, Murphy hired unassuming, 48-year-old Dick Biddle, who appeared destined to be a lifetime assistant when Murphy put him in charge of the program. Biddle finished his career as Colgate's winningest coach in history and made the playoffs seven times at the NCAA I-AA level despite coaching at a non-scholarship school in a scholarship division. Today, the Patriot League coach of the year award in football is named after Biddle. At Northwestern, Murphy hired Pat Fitzgerald when he was a 31-year-old linebacker coach to be the head coach following the death of Randy Walker. Fitzgerald is the winningest coach in Northwestern history and has won five bowl games at a school that won only one before he took over the program.

Among the Chapter's Rare Photos – A never-before-published picture of Packers quarterback legends Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers taken on Nov. 26, 2015, the night Favre's No. 4 was unveiled on the Lambeau Field façade at halftime of a Packers-Bears game. All three QBs were wearing the numbers they made famous: 15, 4 and 12.

Biggest Game – Super Bowl XLV highlighted offensively by Rodgers' 31-yard strike down the middle of the field to Greg Jennings in the closing minutes of the game and defensively by linebacker Clay Matthews' jarring tackle of running back Rashard Mendenhall that forced a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter. Those two second-half plays were the clinchers after the Packers dominated the first half in their 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh.

Sam Seale
Sam Seale

Unsung Hero – Sam Seale, Packers' former West Coast scout and now national scout under Gutekunst, encouraged Thompson to select Rodgers from the University of California, Davante Adams of Fresno State and Kenny Clark of UCLA, among other draft-day coups.

Center of Controversy – The Fail Mary Game in Seattle on Sept. 24, 2012. It was a debacle that cost the Packers a game, and a bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs, and it also embarrassed the NFL enough to settle its labor dispute with its officials within 48 hours.

Only in Green Bay – A section of the chapter is devoted to the history of the only-in-Green Bay traditions, events and crests that make the franchise so special, including kids and bikes, the Lambeau Leap, Family Night and the iconic G. 

Sadly, but True – The chapter also addresses the controversy over the Packers' retired numbers.

Would You Believe? – Even if you were an eyewitness to all three, don't you still harbor some disbelief over Rodgers' three Hail Mary passes over a 13-month span from December 2015 to January 2017?

Rescued from Oblivion – Backup defensive lineman C.J. Wilson hit all the right notes when he spotted a baby grand piano outside the ballroom where the Packers held their team meeting the night before Super Bowl XLV and started playing. Wilson played old church hymns and gospel songs he learned as a young boy at the Pentecostal church in little Bellhaven, N.C., where his father was a pastor and his teammates turned it into a sing-along before filing into their meeting. "In that moment … the game was already won," Charles Woodson said later.

A Life of Mystery – The history of the Packers G from the football-shaped one unveiled in 1961 to the oval of today. How and why did it get changed?

A Quote to Remember – "I remember walking Matt (LaFleur) out and feeling really good about it. I walked back in and Russ (Ball) and Mark (Murphy) were talking. And I said, 'I think we might have found one.' And they had really liked him," Gutekunst on the 48-hour whirlwind tour in search of new coach that ended following the seventh and final interview.


The Greatest Story in Sports

This four-volume book tells the remarkable story of the first century of the Packers

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