NFC North: Bart Starr
We're down to five unsigned draft choices here in the NFC North after the Chicago Bears wrapped up contracts for their 2013 class over the weekend. First-round draft pick Kyle Long agreed to terms on a four-year deal, with a team option for a fifth, a move that gets 30 of this division's 35 draft picks under contract.
Those unsigned include four first-round picks and one second-rounder. They include the Minnesota Vikings' Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson; and the Green Bay Packers' Datone Jones and Eddie Lacy.
Unsigned draft choices are free to participate in offseason programs and in essence have until the start of training camp before their contracts become an issue.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Bears fans should realize their team is in the same boat with backup quarterback Josh McCown as most of the NFL, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. Pompei: "As quarterback play has become more important, the notion of a backup superhero has become increasingly quaint. There are more desirable ones than McCown, certainly. But not many."
- Former Bears coach Mike Ditka checks in with the Chicago Sun-Times on Jay Cutler's football IQ and other issues.
- Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch said that former Lions receiver Titus Young confided in him about mental illness. Tulloch would not specify Young's issues, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Lions' upcoming organized team activities should begin to answer the team's questions, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
- Free-agent defensive back Charles Woodson isn't opposed to playing for the Lions, notes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com. The question is to what extent the Lions would have interest.
- Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop is pledging to be "110 percent" by the time training camp begins, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Bishop is still recovering from a torn hamstring muscle suffered last summer.
- Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "The greatest mistake I made in my life was to coach. It's a great lesson that could apply to any of us. Because I didn't plan to, I hadn't prepared to. And I didn't have the guts to say to the Green Bay Packers, 'Thank you, but no thank you. I'm not going to do it.' I wasn't prepared, and it showed over the first few years. I felt very, very badly about that."
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette on rookie Packers running backs Lacy and Johnathan Franklin: "It’s entirely possible both will be used extensively this season and complement each other while giving Aaron Rodgers and his receivers some room to breathe."
- Vikings cornerback Chris Cook says he is ready to handle opponents' top receivers. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.
- Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson was part of a journalism boot camp earlier this month, writes Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.
- Neighbors of the new Vikings stadium have mixed reviews, writes Richard Meryhew of the Star Tribune.
If you qualify for AARP membership, or if you watched Bob Costas' weekly essay Sunday night on NBC, you know the Packers and Lions played a Thanksgiving game under similar circumstances in 1962. The Packers entered the game undefeated at 10-0, but the Lions handed them their only loss of the season.
Many people consider the 1962 Packers the best team in franchise history and one of the best in the history of pro football. It had 10 future members of the Hall of Fame, including fullback Jim Taylor, right tackle Forrest Gregg, quarterback Bart Starr, linebacker Ray Nitschke, cornerback Herb Adderley, defensive end Willie Davis, center Jim Ringo, halfback Paul Hornung, safety Willie Wood and defensive tackle Henry Jordan.
But on November 23, 1962, the Lions handed them a decisive 26-14 defeat. They sacked Starr 11 times and intercepted him twice.
Monday, the Lions made several members from that team available via conference call. On that day, recalled Hall of Fame linebacker Joe Schmidt: "We were all out to prove to the world that we were as good or better than Green Bay."
History tells us the Lions were hardly slouches in those days. They won the NFL title in 1957 and won the Runner-Up game in 1960 and 1961. But after opening the 1962 season 3-0, the Lions lost to the Packers in a game that has gone down in franchise lore.
Jerry Green of the Detroit News recalled that game in detail this season. The short version: Leading 7-6 with less than a minute to play, the Lions called a pass play. Receiver Terry Barr slipped, and Adderley intercepted Milt Plum's pass to set up Hornung's game-winning field goal.
Tempers flared in the post-game locker room, and defensive tackle Roger Brown said Monday that the Lions had a "vendetta" against the Packers in the Thanksgiving rematch. Added Schmidt: "We always felt down deep that we were a better football team."
The Lions were well-versed in Packers' coach Vince Lombardi's offense, and defensive coordinator Don Shula worked with Schmidt to recognize each play.
"They basically ran six or seven plays off a couple different formations," Schmidt said. "By the formation, I could call a slant to where they were going to run. Our defensive line penetrated them so severely that their offensive line lost their poise."
Said Brown: "We were determined to get to Bart Starr. I don't think the German Luftwaffe could have stopped us that day."
The parallels for this year's game are interesting, if not completely relevant. The Packers are again 10-0, of course, and the Lions are quite eager to demonstrate they are, as Schmidt said, just as good. Like the 1962 team, today's Lions are built around a nasty defensive line. I'm not sure if Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and company will register 11 sacks Thursday of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but they'll be trying.
It's worth noting that the Packers rebounded from that 1962 loss to finish 13-1 and win the NFL title. The Lions finished 11-3 and made another trip to the Runner-Up game. If nothing else, it's nice to have a game this season that means something to everyone -- the teams, both sets of fans and the playoff race.
Could you please pump the brakes on getting Aaron Rodgers fitted for his yellow Hall of Fame jacket and at least wait until he wins a single playoff game? Yeesh.
Our friends over at Cheesehead TV were a little more nuanced in their reaction, although I think the words "shut up" appeared a few times.
Dave of Annandale, Va., wrote that my "ignorance of Bart Starr is appalling" and is "typical of you modern-day 'experts' who think the NFL started in 1990."
Thanks to everyone who read and reacted to a serious debate written with what I thought was an obviously light-hearted approach. Trust me, I am well aware that the statistical odds are stacked against Rodgers surpassing Favre in any way. Believe me, I am well versed in the nature of Starr's career. My approach to him in this debate was more flippant than ignorant, but I guess he is one of the untouchables. To be clear, I don't actually think Bart Starr was a mere caretaker of the Packers' championship teams in that era.
With the calendar showing almost two weeks until the start of the regular season, Tuesday was simply a good moment to have some fun with what is an emotional and at least somewhat relevant corner of the NFC North. Nothing more and nothing less. Even if it's mere speculation, I do think it's worth considering what limits -- if any -- Rodgers has on what could be a historic career.
Knowing that this post was coming, I asked Rodgers an open-ended question last month on the general subject. I wanted to know if he had spent any time thinking about where his career might take him. After all, many of the game's all-time greats didn't open their careers as strongly as Rodgers has.
After a pause, here is what Rodgers said:
"Not really, to be honest with you. I'm a pretty regimented guy. I'm blessed with one of the great teachers in the game in [quarterbacks coach] Tom Clements. And we're always working. His best quality is not letting me be content with where I am as a player, and to always point out things I can improve on. That's how I stay motivated in the offseason. One thing I do realize is that as our team's success goes, then all of our individual success goes. And keeping that I mind, I think we can all have a lot of success this year."
OK. let's adjourn until such time that we can nominate Charles Woodson as the best defensive back in Packers history. Too bad for Herb Adderley, Willie Wood and Mossy Cade.
Assuming he retires, Brett Favre will one day enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a sack of NFL records to his name. He'll have more attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns (and interceptions) than any quarterback who has played the game.
But a funny thing happened when Favre left Green Bay after the 2007 season: His successor made arguably the best debut in the history of the league. Indeed, Aaron Rodgers is the first quarterback ever to produce consecutive 4,000-yard seasons at the start of his career.
At 26, Rodgers' career remains a mostly unwritten story. But after throwing for 8,472 yards in the past two seasons, and then picking up this summer with a red-hot preseason, the possibilities are endless. ESPN.com national columnist Gene Wojciechowski and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert are here to ponder the question: Could Rodgers ultimately go down as the best Packers quarterback of all time?
The raw numbers suggest that Rodgers will need to play another 13 or 14 seasons at his current pace -- even if the regular season moves to 18 games -- to overtake Favre from a statistical standpoint in Packers history. That's not to say it can't be done. All he would have to do is be in condition to throw for 4,000-plus yards when he's 40 years old. I know a guy who did that.
Favre's longevity has been his greatest career asset. The chances of Rodgers -- or anyone else for that matter - playing at such a high level for so long are not high. So for the purposes of this debate, I think we might need to rely on less objective measurables. Rodgers might not reach Favre's gross numbers, but that doesn't mean he won't one day be considered the better quarterback.
I think Rodgers is already a smarter passer. He's thrown a combined 20 interceptions in two seasons as a starter. Favre has thrown more than 20 interceptions in five single seasons as a starter.
Gene Wojciechowski: I'm sorry? Rely on less objective measurables? As the great Lee Corso says, "Not so fast, my friend."
Rodgers could end up as the greatest Packers quarterback of all time. And I could grow a full head of hair by daybreak.
Before Cheeseheads everywhere take that as a rip on Rodgers, remember a few things: I own two Packers jerseys (a Hornung and a Sharpe), my family is from Wisconsin and I've lived among you. But Favre's career numbers make it almost impossible for Rodgers, even with all his considerable talent, to surpass Favre.
I did the math. He'd have to average 4,000 passing yards for the next 15-plus seasons (at 16 games per season) to catch Favre's current total passing yards. He'd have to average 30 touchdown passes (which is what Rodgers had last year) for the next 14-plus season to reach Favre's 497 career touchdowns. He'd have to average 350 connections for the next 15-plus seasons to reach Favre's career completion totals.
Favre has 285 consecutive starts, the second most in the history of the league. Do we really think Rodgers will get to that number? Favre also had started 61 games and thrown for about 15,000 yards by the time he was 26. At the same age, Rodgers has thrown for 8,801 yards. And the scary part? Favre isn't done yet.
Yes, Rodgers is a remarkable talent. He's made a believer out of me with his arm and his toughness. But I'm not sure what you mean by a smarter passer. Didn't his postseason end with an interception?
KS: Hey, hey. Be nice, Gene. I'm just some blogger sitting in a (Wi-Fi enabled) igloo up north. But let's address your claims so I can keep my fingers from freezing.
First, Rodgers' postseason didn't end on an interception. It was on a fumble when a free blitzer grabbed his face mask and cheated Packers fans everywhere out of a trip to New Orleans. Not my guy Aaron's fault.
The thing I like most about Rodgers is that he's an aggressive, downfield passer without being a reckless gunslinger. Like Favre, he gets big chunks of yards. (In fact, he gets more.) But unlike Favre, he avoids unnecessary risks to do it. It's a rarity to see Rodgers throw a ball up for grabs or into double coverage.
And in this case, at least, the numbers bear me out. In his first two seasons as a starter, Rodgers has thrown 58 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. In his first two seasons with the Packers, Favre threw 37 and 37.
Otherwise, I'm with you on the numbers argument. As I said, it's going to be awfully difficult for Rodgers to play at such a high level when he is Favre's age. He's got almost no chance at the career totals, and his odds for overtaking Favre just in his Packers years aren't much better. But we already know that Rodgers, like Favre, is a gamer.
In 2008, he played with a sprained throwing shoulder. Last season, he played in all 16 games despite a foot injury that caused him to limp noticeably during some games in 2009.
I talked to Rodgers during training camp this summer. More than anything else, Rodgers said he is proud to have made every start since taking over as the starter. I realize his streak is only at 32, but he absolutely values that aspect of playing quarterback in the NFL.
Longevity alone shouldn't guarantee that title to Favre. From what I've seen of Rodgers so far, I think he has a good chance to finish his career as a more accurate, less mistake-prone passer. Victories and championships also could tilt our judgment.
To this point, Rodgers' career record as a starter is 17-15. Favre's was 160-93 with the Packers, a considerably higher winning percentage. But in his first two seasons, Favre was 18-14.
GW: Well, it's not like I'm sitting in a palatial estate in Palm Springs watching a polo match while an attendant pulls a fresh frostie from the cooler for me. I'm just a state or two over, in Illinois, home of Blago and Bears hysteria.
But you're right and I'm wrong about the Rodgers interception. It didn't come at the end of the wild-card loss to AZ, but on the first play of the game and later resulted in a Cardinals touchdown.
You're also right about Rodgers' toughness, physical and mental. It was a humbling day when he was taken with the 24th pick--much later than he expected -- of the 2005 draft. But he dealt with it. And he dealt with the controversy surrounding Favre's messy departure from Green Bay. I'd argue that he handled it better than Favre or Packers general manager Ted Thompson. And he has played through injuries, significant ones. I'm sure that meant a great deal to him, as well as to his teammates, who had come to expect nothing less than Favre.
I agree with you about the pure numbers versus greatest Packers quarterback of all time. It isn't a prerequisite. In fact, I'd argue that Rodgers first has to surpass the legacy of Bart Starr before we start worrying about Favre. I'm guessing there are Packers fans who flip Starr for Favre.
Rodgers' early numbers are encouraging and impressive, but he has yet to lead the Packers to a division title or a playoff win in those two years.
KS: Bart Starr? Please. You mean the guy who was the caretaker on all of Vince Lombardi's championship teams? Was the book called "Run to Daylight" or "Pass to Daylight?" I can't remember. What? You say Bart Starr is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Er, lemme check that one out. ...
Anyway, I guess the premise of my argument is that Rodgers has established a high standard at the base of his career. It presupposes he continues that upward climb, and I think that will continue in 2010. I think the Packers will win the NFC North, make a deep playoff run and be one of two or three favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
If that happens with Rodgers at quarterback, I think I'll be on to something. If not, I guess I'll just be on something.
GW: How dare you mock the great Starr.
Anyway, is this what you would call a Seifert leap of faith? Rodgers does something for two seasons, so that means he'll do it for the next 10? The NFL is littered with guys who start fast and then, for whatever reason, can't sustain the production.
I don't presuppose anything. Rodgers has played two full seasons, that's it. I like what I see, but I'm not ready to say he's destined for football immortality.
In his favor: a wonderful feel for the game, a set of really good wide receivers and tight ends, a head coach who loves the passing game.
Not so much in his favor: an improved -- but still questionable -- offensive line, playing at Lambeau in the snow months (yes, I know, Favre did just fine), and a knack for suffering injuries.
I'm reserving judgment on the 2010 NFC North. I'm leaning toward the Pack, but you can't tell me Favre's Vikings won't be a factor. And I'm having a hard time forgetting about Green Bay's shaky offensive line last season and those 51 points Arizona scored in the playoffs against them. But that's just me, Mr. Negative.
KS: You said it, not me. I'm all sunshine and roses. Brett and Bart are both Hall of Famers. And Aaron Rodgers has a chance to be better than both of them. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Chicago Bears: Brian Urlacher, middle linebacker
Claim to fame: Since joining the Bears in 2000, Urlacher has made six Pro Bowl teams and been named an All-Pro four times. He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
In that role, Urlacher has been an athletic playmaker unmatched in his prime, notching 17 interceptions and 37.5 sacks, while getting downfield faster than any linebacker in the game.
Case against enshrinement: Injuries have slowed Urlacher in the past three seasons and he might not have compiled enough Canton-caliber seasons before that point. Detractors also could suggest he benefited disproportionately from the play of defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson, who kept blockers away from Urlacher more often than not. Hall Of Fame voters haven’t been kind to even the best of Bears defenders. Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton are the only Chicago defensive stars from the 1985 Super Bowl team in Canton. Their teammate Richard Dent is now a six-time finalist for Hall of Fame induction but still is waiting for his official invite.
Parting shot: As we noted last fall, Urlacher might not stand as the best linebacker of his era. Ray Lewis, Junior Seau and Derrick Brooks might have something to say about that.
Detroit Lions: Billy Sims, running back
Claim to fame: He was a dominant runner during the early 1980s. Sims became the Lions’ all-time leading rusher even though a knee injury ended his career after 4 1/2 years. (Barry Sanders later overtook him.) Sims was a three-time Pro Bowl player, still ranks as the Lions’ No. 2 rusher, and has the second-most rushing touchdowns in team history.
Case for enshrinement: It’s obviously a long shot, but it’s important to remember how brightly Sims’ star shined during his brief career. He rushed for 153 yards in his first NFL game, led the league with 16 touchdowns as a rookie and finished his career with 5,106 yards in 60 career games.
His career ended midway through the 1984 season, at a time when he was averaging a career-high 5.3 yards per rush. There is precedent for acknowledging Hall-worthy careers cut short by injuries. Did you know that Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, forced to retire at age 28, gained fewer career rushing yards (4,956) than Sims in more games (68)?
Case against enshrinement: Sayers was a special case who was also a dangerous return man. In reality, it’s difficult for voters to consider a running back who ranks No. 106 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. But Sims was one of the NFL’s top players during the time he spent in the game.
Parting shot: Sims’ impact on the team also should be considered. The Lions were 2-14 the year before he was drafted. In 1980, they improved to 9-7. By 1983, they were division champions.
Green Bay Packers: Jerry Kramer, guard
Case for enshrinement: As with most successful offensive linemen, most of Kramer’s contributions came in a team context.
During his tenure, the Packers rushed for 21,637 yards -- the second-highest total among all NFL teams over that period. Kramer’s blocking was one of the reasons fullback Jim Taylor posted five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Over that stretch, Taylor rushed for more yards than anyone but Cleveland’s Jim Brown. Overall, the Packers made the playoffs eight times in Kramer’s career and won three NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.
Case against enshrinement: Guard isn't usually a highly valued position. In the history of the game, only 11 players who were primarily guards have made the Hall of Fame.
Voters could also be split on the source of the Packers’ running success, from Vince Lombardi’s coaching to the individual talents of Taylor and running back Paul Hornung.
Parting shot: Kramer made one of the most famous blocks in history, clearing the way for Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak to win the 1967 “Ice Bowl” game.
Minnesota Vikings: Jim Marshall, defensive end
Claim to fame: Marshall set a then-NFL record by playing in 282 consecutive games, of which he started 270. He played in two Pro Bowls, four Super Bowls and recovered an NFL-record 29 fumbles.
Case for enshrinement: If “answering the bell” is one of the main prerequisites for NFL players, then Jim Marshall is one of the greatest of all time. Although some of the stories have been embellished a bit over time, suffice it to say that Marshall battled through enormous pain and legitimate injuries to play for so long and at such a high level.
A punter (Jeff Feagles) and a quarterback (Brett Favre) have since surpassed his record, but it’s doubtful a defensive lineman ever will approach it. It would take 17 seasons of starting 16 games to do it. (Or 15 years if the NFL moves to an 18-game season.)
The longevity mark sometimes overshadows Marshall’s skills as a pass-rusher. Although sacks weren’t an official statistic then, the Vikings credit him with 127 -- only three fewer than teammate and Hall of Fame tackle Alan Page and 13 more than newly elected tackle John Randle.
Case against enshrinement: Like it or not, one of those 29 fumble recoveries always will haunt Marshall’s candidacy. In 1964, he picked up a fumble against San Francisco and ran 66 yards in the wrong direction for what was ruled a safety.
Parting shot: Another factor that might not be fair but is worth considering: Two members of the Purple People Eaters, Page and Eller, are already in the Hall of Fame. Would voters agree that 75 percent of one defensive line should be enshrined?
Under Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, this Packers team shut out two of its first three opponents and won its first four games by a combined score of 109-14. It went on to finish the season 13-1, leading the NFL in both points scored and fewest points allowed, and won the league championship with a 16-7 victory over the New York Giants. There hasn't been another one-loss season in Green Bay ever since.
The Packers have won 12 titles in their history, including five under Lombardi, but the 1962 team was a powerhouse unto itself. If you've read David Maraniss' biography of Lombardi, you understand why: This edition of the Packers recorded a pair of 49-0 victories and set an NFL record for highest average point differential in its games (19.1 points). Here are some other notable marks:
- In the second 49-0 drubbing, this one at Philadelphia, the Packers gained -- yes -- 574 more yards than the Eagles (628-54).
- The 49-0 victories are the two biggest shutouts in team history.
- The 1962 Packers scored 53 touchdowns, the second-most in team history despite a 14-game season at the time. Its 36 rushing touchdowns remain an NFL record.
- The defense led the NFL with interceptions (31) and fewest passing yards allowed (2,084).
The Giants were hell-bent on revenge in the championship game, having lost to the Packers 37-0 the year before. The game was in New York, but the Packers controlled the game throughout in 17-degree weather at Yankee Stadium. The Giants' only score came on a blocked punt. (Check out this NFL Films video on that game. Cool stuff.)
Most impressive win: It's hard to overlook an NFL title game, but beating any team 49-0 and outgaining it by 574 yards is a stunning demonstration of dominance.
Did you know? Nitschke was the MVP of the championship game but might have had a bigger impact on the league a few hours after the game. As the story goes, Nitschke appeared on the television show "What's My Line?" wearing his trademark black rimmed glasses. A film producer named Ed Sabol bought the rights to that appearance for $3,000. Sabol's company eventually became known as NFL Films.
1966: Won Super Bowl I after finishing the regular season 12-2. Its two losses, to San Francisco and Minnesota, came by a total of four points.
1996: Led the NFL in points scored and fewest points allowed, the only team to do so in the past 36 years, and won Super Bowl XXXI.
1929: Clinched the Packers' first NFL Championship, this one based on final standings, with an undefeated record (12-0-1).
Three Green Bay players are on the list, two on offense and one on defense. Quarterback Bart Starr was a 17th-round selection in 1956, center Jim Ringo was a seventh-round pick in 1953 and defensive back Willie Wood was signed after the draft in 1960.
All four current Black and Blue teams are represented on the list. There are more familiar names in the sixth-round grouping, and ESPN.com will continue to introduce a new round every day this week. I'll be sure to link to them in our morning post. History buffs should enjoy it.
Continuing around the division:
- Minnesota safety Tyrell Johnson knows he needs to improve this season, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Cornerback is the Vikings' top offseason need, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- Former Detroit receiver Mike Williams: "In my early years, I was more focused on fighting the system and fighting coaches that I didn't think liked me or that were out to get me." That quote comes from an interview with the Seattle Times via John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Chicago defensive lineman Tommie Harris: "I feel I owe this game because I'm a premier player, and I didn't play like one last year. So I'm doing everything in my power to make up for everything that happened last year.'' Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times has more.
- ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson on Bears safety Danieal Manning: "I expect Manning to eventually sign his injury waiver and start attending workouts -- perhaps as early as next week." Manning is a restricted free agent who has not signed his tender.
- Bears defensive end Julius Peppers: "I think we could be the best unit in the league." That quote and others from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
It was part of our pie-in-the-sky package on Tebow's future. We couldn't give Tebow his usual No. 15 because some guy named Starr used to wear it. So we opted for No. 16, immediately bringing to mind the Randy Wright years.
Surely you recall Randy Wright, a sixth-round pick in 1984. He played five seasons, notched a 7-25 record in 32 starts and had a career passer rating of 61.4.
On the Randy Wright scale, where do you think Tebow will land? Better or worse?
NFC: Cowboys-Eagles: Mosley » Packers-Cardinals: Sando | Seifert
Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday’s Packers-Cardinals wild-card game:
Sunday’s game could be a milestone affair for the Packers’ quarterback position. The last time someone other than Brett Favre started a playoff victory was before current starter Aaron Rodgers was born. That’s right. Green Bay’s last postseason victory without Favre occurred on Jan. 8, 1983. On that day, Lynn Dickey led the Packers to a 41-16 victory against St. Louis at Lambeau Field. Rodgers was born Dec. 2, 1983. The last time the Packers won a road playoff game with a quarterback other than Favre? You have to go back to Jan. 14, 1968. On that day, the Packers and Bart Starr defeated Oakland 33-14 in Super Bowl II at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Wow.
This game will feature two of the NFL’s top four quarterbacks against the blitz this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rodgers finished No. 2 on that list with a 117.4 passer rating against the blitz. Arizona’s Kurt Warner was No. 4 at 111.8. (Elias defined a blitz as five or more pass-rushers.) Sacks don’t count against passer rating, however, and so we should point out that Rodgers was sacked 9.4 percent of the time against blitzes. Warner took a sack on 5.8 percent of those instances. As the season progressed, both teams moved to shorter drops and quicker releases. That shift, along with each quarterback’s success when he got the ball off during the regular season, could make blitzing a risky proposition in this game.
Circling back to our Super Bowl MVP post of Monday -- which I'm sure you all have been waiting for with baited breath -- here are the four MVPs with NFC North ties:
Super Bowl I: Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr
Performance: 16 completions in 23 attempts, 250 yards, two touchdowns
Super Bowl II: Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr
Performance: 13 completions in 24 attempts, 202 yards, one touchdown
Super Bowl XX: Chicago defensive end Richard Dent
Performance: Two sacks, two forced fumbles
Super Bowl XXI: Green Bay kick returner/receiver Desmond Howard
Performance: 99-yard kick return, 244 all-purpose yards
NEW ORLEANS -- Greetings from the Big Easy. Just watched a story on the local news about the importance of "Monday Night Football" to the New Orleans economy, and it's true: Everywhere you went Sunday night, most of the people were wearing Green Bay Packers jerseys.
Yes, it's a big one for both teams Monday night at the Superdome. The Packers, for one, need a victory just to keep up in the NFC North race after Chicago and Minnesota both won Sunday.
To do so, the Packers will need to make some adjustments in the noisy atmosphere of an indoor stadium, points out the Green Bay Press-Gazette. On the other hand, they want quarterback Aaron Rodgers to continue protecting the ball. According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodgers is on pace to have the lowest interception since Bart Starr in 1964.
Monday night games are big for building national reputations, and Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette wonders if Packers assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss will soon work his way on the hot list of head coaching candidates.
We'll bring you a steady stream of posts during the day and will invite the rest of the division into the discussion. We plan to be in place at the dome by late afternoon.
For now, let's take a spin around the division:
- Chicago's defensive line made a loud return to the headlines Sunday in St. Louis, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and defensive tackle Tommie Harris each had two sacks, and Ogunleye had the hit that knocked Rams quarterback Marc Bulger out of the game.
- It didn't look like running back Matt Forte (132 yards) was hitting the rookie wall on Sunday, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
- The Bears showed a new energy on defense, according to Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune.
- Minnesota coach Brad Childress had a busy day in Jacksonville. He benched tailback Adrian Peterson for being late to a team meeting and also upbraided quarterback Gus Frerotte for too much out-of-pocket activity. Childress said he had a "one-sided conversation" with Frerotte during the game, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: "Childress' decision [to bench Peterson for the first two series] casts him as either despotic or brave. I favor the latter."
- Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell booted the longest field goal -- 54 yards -- in the history of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, according to the Star Tribune.
- Childress plans to use backup tailback Chester Taylor more down the stretch, writes Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Detroit quarterback Daunte Culpepper had only eight completions and was replaced by backup Drew Stanton late Sunday against Tampa Bay. "The game of football, you always have ups and downs," he said, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. "Everybody knows that."
- Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on 0-16: "The impossible is now practically inevitable."
- Mitch Albom of the Free Press on the Lions: "It's not football. I don't know what you call it, but it's not football. It's an exhibition. It's a circus. It's a running joke. But it's not football."
|Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIRE|
|He may be a Jet right now, but Brett Favre was voted the greatest player in Green Bay history.|
Readers' pick: Brett Favre, QB
Ha! The words "Brett" and "Favre" return to the NFC North blog! Victory!
Without a doubt, Favre is the most popular player in Packers history. His personality, gunslinger mentality, durability and his Super Bowl championship endeared him to generations of Packers fans.
But Packers history is well fortified with champions. Quarterback Bart Starr, who finished a distant second behind Favre in the voting, won five NFL titles and two Super Bowl championships. Running back Paul Hornung, who finished sixth in the voting, led the NFL in scoring for three years.
The biggest inconsistency in the Packers voting is defensive end Reggie White finishing third behind Favre and Starr -- and in front of linebacker Ray Nitschke, wide receiver Don Hutson, Hornung and others. White had a Hall of Fame career, but he spent only six years with the Packers. As good as White was, it seems difficult from this vantage point to put him ahead of some players who contributed to the golden years of Packers history.
The best of the NFC North this morning:
- Would Brett Favre's legacy be tarnished if he plays past his athletic prime? Or if he leaves the Packers to play with another team? For what it's worth, the Green Bay Press-Gazette notes that legendary quarterback Bart Starr remains an "icon" despite a nine-year stint as the team's head coach that was not nearly as successful as his playing career.
- We're not sure how this would be accepted in the scientific polling community. But on Sunday, a Chicago company called every name listed in the Green Bay phone book -- about 50,000 -- to ask their opinion about Favre. About 21,000 people picked up the phone and just under 10,000 people participated. Here are the (surprising) results: While 74 percent said the Packers should keep his rights, only 33 percent said he should be the starting quarterback.
- On the day Favre retired, Vikings safety Darren Sharper -- a former Favre teammate in Green Bay -- predicted that Favre wasn't finished playing. Sharper said over the weekend that he wasn't surprised to hear Favre's intentions but that he backs Tarvaris Jackson as the Vikings' starter.
- Sharper, 32, claims he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds during offseason workouts.
- Minnesota's Brad Childress wasn't the only NFC North coach facing Favre questions this weekend. Detroit's Rod Marinelli also had little to say on the subject when contacted by the Detroit News.