Football History: The Green Bay Packers

Updated on March 20, 2019
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Alex is a football fan, traveler, and a fitness aficionado who enjoys expanding her culinary skills in her free time.

Lambeau Field is home to the Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field is home to the Green Bay Packers

A Brief Rundown on the Green Bay Packers' History

The Green Bay Packers have been playing football since 1919. That's over 100 years. That is significantly longer than most NFL teams. The Packers also have another impressive claim: they have always called Green Bay, WI home. The team and the city of Green Bay have always shared a special relationship that is unique to any other team in the NFL.

When the Green Bay Packers first became a team, there was no NFL. The idea of professional football had just taken off and there was little professional organization. The team itself was sponsored by the Indian Packing Company. On September 14th, 1919, the Packers played their first game, a home game at Hagemeister Park. The Packers went 10-1 that first season. At each home game, some of the players would pass a hat amongst the spectators to collect spare change to support their expenses.

In 1921, the Acme Packing Co. (yes, like from all the old Loony Toon cartoons) bought out the Indian Packing Company and the team was renamed to the Acme Packers. At that time the Packers uniform was navy blue and gold, not the green and gold we see today.

The Packers experienced several years of hardship, with mostly losing records in the 70s and 80s. In the mid 1990s, glory was returned with the arrival of Brett Favre as starting quarterback and continued with Aaron Rodgers.

The city of Green Bay has a population of around 104,000 and the capacity of Lambeau Field is just over 81,000. Green Bay is the smallest city to house an NFL team. Despite the city's small size, the Packers have one of the largest fan bases in the NFL, most likely due to their long history. Since the mid 1960s, every home game in Green Bay has been sold out and there is a waiting list to purchase season tickets. Since only about 90 season tickets are turned over each year, the waiting list is about 30 years. For this reason, many people pass down their season tickets in their wills.

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi are arguably two of the most important people in Packers history. I'm sure an argument could be made that they are also two of the most important people in NFL history.

  • Curly Lambeau was the first coach of the Green Bay Packers, in addition to coaching he also played in the early years. After leaving the Packers Lambeau went on to coach in Chicago for the Cardinals and Washington for the Redskins. After his death the Packers Organization changed the name of their stadium to Lambeau Field, which is still home to the Green Bay Packers to this day. Curly Lambeau was also inducted in the inaugural NFL Hall of Fame in 1963 and the Packers Hall of Fame in 1970.
  • Vince Lombardi was brought on as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1959. At this time the team and the fans were in a slump. They had been on a losing streak and the team was having financial troubles. His first season as head coach brought immediate improvement at 7-5. The people of Green Bay were back on board. What happened after that has set Green Bay apart from all NFL teams. Every singe home game, pre-season, regular season, and post-season, has been sold out since. Let that sink in for a moment. In the seven seasons Lombardi was head coach in Green Bay he led the team to five championships, including the first two Super Bowl games.

Photos from the Packers v Steelers Pre-Season Game in 2007

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mason Crosby practicing kicking a field goal.During this game both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers took the field. Bret Favre taking the field during a pre-season game against the Steelers in his final season as a Packer.Running drills before the game.
Mason Crosby practicing kicking a field goal.
Mason Crosby practicing kicking a field goal.
During this game both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers took the field.
During this game both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers took the field.
Bret Favre taking the field during a pre-season game against the Steelers in his final season as a Packer.
Bret Favre taking the field during a pre-season game against the Steelers in his final season as a Packer.
Running drills before the game.
Running drills before the game.

Famous Green Bay Quarterbacks

When you think of Green Bay football, chances are pretty good you think of legendary quarterbacks. And it's no wonder—the team has had three quarterbacks that have reached this status.

Bart Starr led his team to victory in the first two Super Bowl games and played in the infamous Ice Bowl game. Brett Favre helped bring back the former glory of team that had lost its way. With the impossibly powerful arm of Farve the Packers won their third Super Bowl title and fought in their fourth Super Bowl game only to fall short to the Broncos. The team's current quarterback, Arron Rodgers, is arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game and has led his team to the post season the majority of his seasons and brought the team its fourth Super Bowl victory.

  • Bart Starr is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to victory in the championship three years in a row (1965-1967 including the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967) and is tied with Tom Brady for a record of five championship titles. Bart Starr proved to be a better quarterback than he was coach as his coaching stats were an unimpressive 52-76-2. Bart Starr was inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame and the Packers Hall of Fame.
  • Brett Favre was first brought to the NFL by way of the Atlanta Falcons, he was never well thought of and did not play much at all. In 1992 the Green Bay Packers traded a first round draft pick for Brett Favre. Second string Favre replaced the starting quarterback, Majkowski, after he sustained an injury. Due to poor performance Favre himself was benched during this game. However, Favre was brought back int he game with a few minutes left on the clock and threw the game winning touchdown. Favre was then the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers until he, briefly, retired. Favre's record for consecutive starts has yet to be broken by a quarterback, and with the legue's new concussion protocol it likely never will be. Brett Favre was known for having a 'rocket arm' and could through the ball with more force further down the field than most other quarterbacks in the game. However, for as much power has Favre had 336 interceptions in his career and an overall passer rating of 86.0. Favre has been inducted in the NLF Hall of Fame and the Packers Hall of Fame. It is ironic that Favre's last play as a Packer was an interception that allowed the Giants to win the NFC championship in overtime. Brett Favre as since become an advocate for concussion awareness and acknowledges that he would have missed several games if current concussion protocols were in place when he played and that he suffers from memory loss as a result of repeated head injury.
  • Aaron Rodgers was drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers. At this time Brett Favre was still the starting quarterback. Upon Brett Favre's temporary retirement from the NFL Green Bay announced Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback. Aside from brief issues with various injuries Aaron Rodgers has been the starting quarterback for Green Bay since. Rodgers is known for having a remarkably accurate throw, the ability to achieve deep passes down field, his athleticism, and in-depth understanding of the game. Despite having a career riddled with injuries Rodgers has achieved an overall passer rating of 103.1 as of the end of the 2018 season. With multiple alcaldes under his belt, including a Super Bowl victory, there is no doubt that Rodgers will be inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame and the Packers Hall of Fame upon retirement.

Coaching Eras

Having already covered the Lambeau and Lombardi eras of coaching, there are two other notable head coaches of Green Bay: Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy. Both coaches have impressive winning histories with the team and lead their teams to Super Bowl victories.

  • Mike Holmgren was head coach of the Green Bay Packers from 1992-1998. In that time he resorted the Packers to their former shine from the glory days of Lambeau and Lombardi. Holmgren was able to turn around a team that only had 2 winning seasons in 19 years. Holmgren's stats for coaching in Green Bay in the regular season were an impressive 75-37-0 and 9-5 for post season. That is one of the winningest records for a coach in the NFL, statistically speaking. The City of Green Bay paid homage to Holmgren by naming a street after him: Holmgren Way.
  • Mike McCarthy served as head coach of the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2018. Mike McCarthy was coach to both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy had impressive stats as head coach of the Packers with a record of 125-77-2 regular season games and 10-8 post-season games over his 13 seasons as head coach. Only one other head coach in Packer's history had more wins under his belt, Curly Lambeau with 212. Mike McCarthy lead the Packers to a Super Bowl victory. Like Holmgren after winning the Super Bowl McCarthy was immortalized by the City of Green Bay with the street named' McCarthy Way'. It is unfortunate that the Packers and Mike McCarthy parted ways near the end of the 2018 season after an embarrassing home loss the the Cardinals on December 2nd 2018. The 2018 season was an unsightly blemish on an otherwise impressive head coaching career in Green Bay.

The Ice Bowl

On December 31st, 1967, the Green Bay Packers met the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC championship. Kick off temperature in Green Bay was -15 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -44°F. After finding his car frozen and dead from the cold Packers player Willie Wood was quoted saying, "It's just too cold to play. They're going to call this game off." He was wrong. It went on to be one of the coldest games every played in the NFL.

The heating system for the turf was malfunctioning, allowing moisture to remain of the turf. This caused the field to freeze. The University of Wisconsin's marching band was able to perform at the game, but the instruments froze to the player's lips and many band members suffered hypothermia. In addition to the frozen field, the heating coils on the sidelines did not work in the extreme cold. After blowing the metal whistle to start the game, an official had to peel the whistle from his lips, causing them to bleed. Frank Gifford, one of the announcers for the game, said, on air, "I'm going to take a bite of my coffee."

The game was a long and hard-fought battle for both teams. The final drive of the Packers is one of the reasons this game is so immortalized. After calling their last time out, the Packers were held to one yard line and were down 14-17. The players had been slipping on the icy field for most of the second half. With 16 seconds left and on third down, Bart Starr ran a quarterback sneak in to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. After kicking the extra point, the Packers won over the Cowboys, 21-17.

After this game, Green Bay became known as the Frozen Tundra. Of course, Lambeau Field really isn't a frozen tundra any more. The current heating system under the field is one of the most advanced in the NFL and prevents the ground from freezing, even in the subzero temperatures common in Green Bay.

Green Bay Packers Championships

The Green Bay Packers have won 13 championships since forming in 1919. That is more than any other team in the NFL. Of those championship titles, four are Super Bowl wins. The Packers have an impressive 4-5 record in the Super Bowl, which (aside from teams that have only gone once and won) is among the most impressive in the NFL.

The People's Team: Owning Shares in the Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL owned by the fans. There have been five stock sales in the history of the team. At the first sale, you could buy a share for $5 and sales totaled at $5,000. The most recent sale, in 2011, shares were $250 a share and sales totaled $64 million.

As an owner, you are able to vote in the annual shareholder's meeting and have access to exclusive stockholder merchandise. The stock itself has no value aside from bragging rights. Currently there are 360,584 stockholders.

During training camp, many children in Green Bay will wait for the players at the training facility and ask them to ride their bikes back to the stadium. The tradition started in 1957 around the time of the construction of Lambeau Field.

The term "cheesehead" was first used in 1987 as an insult, however in 1994, Packers fans fully embraced the nickname. Today, many Packers fans wear a block of cheese on their heads for games.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The statute of Vince Lombardi outside of Lambeau FieldThe statute of Curly Lambeau outside of Lambeau Field. The view of the field from a box suite. Banners inside the stadium.
The statute of Vince Lombardi outside of Lambeau Field
The statute of Vince Lombardi outside of Lambeau Field
The statute of Curly Lambeau outside of Lambeau Field.
The statute of Curly Lambeau outside of Lambeau Field.
The view of the field from a box suite.
The view of the field from a box suite.
Banners inside the stadium.
Banners inside the stadium.

The Lambeau Leap

The Lambeau Leap was first done December 26th, 1993. LeRoy Butler had recovered the ball after Reggie White forced a fumble and he returned it for a touchdown. Upon scoring the touchdown Butler leapt in to the stands. It has been tradition to do the Lambeau Leap after a Packers player scores a touchdown at home.

When the NFL banned excessive celebrations the Lambeau Leap was grandfathered in, thus allowing the players to continue the tradition. Occasionally, a visiting team player will attempt a leap only to be denied by the fans. Sometimes the fans will pour their drinks on the offending player in addition to shoving them from the stands.

Which Numbers Have the Packers Retired?

In the over 100 seasons of play, the Packers have retired six numbers.

  1. Number 3 Tony Candaneo.
  2. Number 4 Brett Favre.
  3. Number 14 Don Hutson.
  4. Number 15 Bart Starr.
  5. Number 66 Ray Nitschke.
  6. Number 92 Reggie White.

To have the number retired is a great honor, and of these six players, only two are still alive: Bart Starr and Brett Favre.

Without a doubt there will be another number added to this list in the future. Number 12 Aaron Rodgers.

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