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Green Bay Packers
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packers LogoGreen Bay Packers, professional football team and one of five teams in the Central Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take affect in 2002, the Packers will move into the North Division of the NFC. The Packers play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and wear uniforms of dark green, gold, and white. The team, the NFL’s only publicly owned franchise, takes its name from a local packing plant that provided the club with uniforms in 1919. From 1929 to 1944 the Packers earned six NFL crowns under head coach and team cofounder Earl “Curly” Lambeau. A skilled halfback during his playing career, Lambeau became one of only five NFL coaches with more than 200 career victories. After Lambeau left the team in 1949, the franchise declined. During the 1960s, however, head coach Vince Lombardi transformed the team into one of the most powerful dynasties in professional football history. Star-studded lineups featuring quarterback Bart Starr, halfback-kicker Paul Hornung, offensive lineman Forrest Gregg, linebacker Ray Nitschke, and running back Jim Taylor captured five league championships in seven seasons—a record unmatched in NFL history.

In 1996 the Packers put together a 13-3 win-loss record behind quarterback Brett Favre and defensive tackle Reggie White en route to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. A season later the Packers again reached the Super Bowl but lost to the Denver Broncos. The Packers predate the NFL. The team was founded in Green Bay on August 11, 1919, by two young players, George Calhoun and Curly Lambeau. The Indian Packing Plant, Lambeau’s employer, donated uniforms and the use of an athletic field. During the team’s first season in 1920, players earned their salaries by passing hats among spectators. In 1921 Lambeau’s Packers joined the new American Professional Football Association, which soon became the NFL. Lambeau played until 1927, becoming an early master of the forward pass. Green Bay won three consecutive league titles from 1929 through 1931, and three more crowns in 1936, 1939, and 1944. Many of the club’s players would later be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including quarterback Arnie Herber, fullback Clarke Hinkle, tackle Cal Hubbard, end Don Hutson, guard Mike Michalske, and halfbacks Tony Canadeo and Johnny “Blood” McNally. Hutson, credited with inventing detailed pass patterns, led the league in receptions eight times and in yardage seven times. In 1942 he became the NFL’s first receiver to amass more than 1000 yards in a single season. With Hutson as his primary target, Herber became the league’s first great long passer; the two helped build one of professional football’s first sophisticated offensive attacks. Lambeau left the Packers in 1949 having posted 26 winning records in 29 seasons, including 14 straight during one stretch.

The team’s stadium, built in 1957, is named for him. Green Bay experienced relative instability from 1950 to 1958, changing coaches three times and failing to produce a winning record in any season. In 1959 former New York Giants assistant coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers club, which had just suffered its worst season in franchise history. In his first season Lombardi delivered the team’s first winning record since 1947 and was named the NFL coach of the year. In Lombardi’s second season the Packers won the Western Division, and a year later the Packers won the 1961 NFL crown. Lombardi built strong lineups on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and under his guidance the Packers won five league crowns from 1961 to 1967.


packers helmet

They also won the first two Super Bowls, humbling two American Football League (AFL) champion teams: Following the 1966 season the Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the 1967 Super Bowl, and a year later they beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14. On the field, Bart Starr led the team. He collected three passing titles and two Super Bowl most valuable player (MVP) awards. Starr was among ten future Hall of Fame members who played for Lombardi—five each from offense and defense. Others included Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor. Hornung ranks among the greatest all-around talents ever to play the game. His 176 points scored during the 1960 season remain an NFL record for the most points scored in a single season

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Taylor rushed for 1000 yards five times in his career. During his nine seasons in Green Bay, Lombardi’s teams won more than 75 percent of their games, including nine of ten playoff contests. Lombardi’s .740 career winning percentage is the highest among coaches with at least 100 victories. From 1968 to 1992 the Packers appeared in the playoffs only twice, in 1972 and 1982. Former players Starr and Gregg each served stints as head coach. Notable individual achievements during this period included running back John Brockington’s three 1000-yard seasons from 1971 to 1973, quarterback Lynn Dickey’s NFC yardage title in 1983, and wide receiver James Lofton’s five 1000-yard efforts during the early 1980s. In January 1992 the Packers hired Mike Holmgren, a former offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, as the team’s head coach. Sparked by wide receiver Sterling Sharpe’s 1000-yard seasons in 1993 and 1994, Green Bay earned wild-card berths to the playoffs. In 1995 the club won the division crown and advanced to the NFC Championship Game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl—champion Dallas Cowboys.

Wide receiver Robert Brooks broke the club record for yardage that season; quarterback Brett Favre led the league in passing yards (4413) and touchdown passes (38), and was named player of the year. Green Bay’s success continued as Favre threw 39 touchdown passes to lead Green Bay to 13 victories and its second consecutive division title in 1996. In the playoffs the Packers captured the NFC championship and defeated the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI. The following season the Packers continued to dominate the NFC, with another 13 wins and the Central Division title. After defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, however, Green Bay faltered in the Super Bowl and lost to the Denver Broncos.

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