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Green Bay Packers: The 25 Best Players to Ever Play for the Packers

Bob FoxContributor IFebruary 15, 2012

Green Bay Packers: The 25 Best Players to Ever Play for the Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers started their illustrious history in the NFL in 1921. The Packers have won 13 NFL titles during that time, including four Super Bowl crowns. The greatness of the Packers can be broken into four periods: the Curly Lambeau era, the Vince Lombardi era, the Ron Wolf/Mike Holmgren/Brett Favre/Reggie White era and the Ted Thompson/Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers era.

    Under Lambeau (1921-1949), the Packers went 209-104-21 in the regular season, 3-2 in the postseason and won six NFL titles.

    The Lombardi era (coaching only) was from 1959-1967 and his teams were 89-29-4 in the regular season, 9-1 in the postseason and the team won five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

    Wolf was hired as GM in late 1991 and he hired Holmgren the next year, plus traded a No. 1 pick in the draft to acquire Favre in 1992. The next year Wolf signed Reggie White as a free agent.  It led to six straight appearances in the postseason, three consecutive NFC Central titles, three straight NFC Championship Game appearances and two straight Super Bowl appearances, with the Packers winning Super Bowl XXXI.

    Thompson was hired in 2005 (his second time back with the Packers) to become GM. Thompson's first-ever draft choice was Rodgers in 2005. Thompson fired Mike Sherman after the 2005 season and brought in McCarthy to be his next head coach in 2006.  Since then the team has gone 63-33 in the regular season, 5-3 in the postseason and the team won Super Bowl XLV. 

    The Packers are 679-525-36 all-time in the regular season and 29-17 all-time in the postseason.

    The Packers currently have 21 individuals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with one glaring omission...Jerry Kramer.

    There has been an abundant of great players in that time frame, but I am going to try and rank the top 25. It will not be an easy task.

    My list of 25 includes 16 players who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, three who definitely will be and a few more who should be. 

    The various criteria that I used include being among the best players in the NFL at his position, overall dominance, records achieved, longevity and championships won. There is not an exact science to all of this, but I will weigh the variables. This ranking is for players only, no coaches, although Curly Lambeau did both at one time (Lambeau was actually All-Pro three times).

1. WR Don Hutson

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    Don Hutson truly changed the position of wide receiver in the NFL during his era. Like Brett Favre, Hutson was a multiple award-winner of the NFL's MVP award, as he won it twice in 1941 and 1942. The Packers also won three NFL titles during his tenure, winning in 1936, 1939 and 1944.

    Hutson held 18 NFL records at the time of his retirement, which tells you how dominant he was at his position. Hutson led the league in receiving eight times. In fact, Hutson held the all-time record for TD receptions with 99, before it was finally broken by Steve Largent in 1989. Hutson had 105 TDs overall in his career.

    Hutson was also a two-way player during his time in Green Bay, which was common in the NFL back then. Hutson was a defensive back and had 30 career interceptions. Hutson was also a kicker with seven career field goals and 172 extra points made. Hutson is second in career team scoring with 823 points.

    Hutson is in the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hutson was All-Pro 11 times and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. The Packers also honored Hutson by retiring his uniform number (No. 14) and by dedicating their state-of-the-art practice facility across from Lambeau Field in 1994 to Hutson's name.

2. QB Bart Starr

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    Bart Starr won five NFL championships as a QB, more than any other quarterback in NFL history. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana have won four championships, but Starr still is all alone with five titles. In addition, Starr quarterbacked the Packers to wins in the first two Super Bowls, winning MVP in each game.

    Starr was also the league MVP in 1966, plus led the NFL in passing three times. Starr is probably best remembered for his thrilling quarterback sneak with 13 seconds remaining in the infamous Ice Bowl on December 31st, 1967.

    Starr was named All-Pro four times and was also named to the Pro Bowl four times. Starr was 9-1 as a playoff QB. Starr also had his number retired (No. 15) by the Packers. Starr is also in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Starr is tied with Brett Favre in the length of service with the Packers as he also played 16 seasons in Green Bay. Starr also played the second-most games ever for the Packers, having played in 196 games. Starr also coached the Packers from 1975-1983.

3. QB Brett Favre

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    Brett Favre had 160 wins as the starting QB of the Packers, which broke the all-time mark of 148 by John Elway. Favre also had an unbelievable starting streak at QB, which was at 253 games (275 games, if you include the playoffs) when he left Green Bay.

    Favre also threw 442 TD passes as a Packer, which broke Dan Marino's all-time record of 420. Favre also threw for 61,655 yards in his Green Bay career, which topped Marino again, who threw for 61,361.

    Favre owns the club's all-time postseason record for service with 22 games played. Overall, he was 12-10 in the playoffs, including two NFC championships and one Super Bowl win.

    Favre also won three consecutive MVP awards (1995-1997). Favre was also named All-Pro six times and was named to the Pro Bowl nine times. In terms of overall service with the Packers, Favre is tied with Bart Starr with 16 seasons played for Green Bay, plus he also played in 255 games (regular season) for the Pack, which is the most all-time.

4. RT Forrest Gregg

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    In his book Run To Daylight, Vince Lombardi said, "Forrest Gregg is the finest player I ever coached!"  Gregg played 14 seasons for the Packers. Gregg was the key staple in the offensive line during the Lombardi years which included such greats as Jim Ringo, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston and Bob Skoronski.

    However, only Gregg and Ringo are in the NFL Hall of Fame, which to many is a travesty, especially because of Kramer's omission. Gregg was named All-Pro nine times and was named to the Pro Bowl nine times as well. Besides being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Gregg is also in the Packer Hall of Fame. 

    Gregg played on five NFL championship teams. Gregg also coached the Packers from 1984-1987.

5. MLB Ray Nitschke

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    Ray Nitschke was the face of the defense in the Vince Lombardi era. He also played in an era that had some excellent middle linebackers like Dick Butkus, Sam Huff, Bill George and Joe Schmidt.

    Nitschke was named All-Pro six times and was named to only one Pro Bowl squad for some ridiculous reason. Nitschke was also MVP of the 1962 NFL championship game against the New York Giants as he deflected one pass for an interception and also recovered two fumbles.

    Nitschke is also in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Nitschke played on five NFL championship teams. The Packers also retired Nitschke's jersey (No. 66). Nitschke also has one of the two outdoor practice fields named for him across from Lambeau Field.

6. CB Herb Adderley

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    Before there was Deion Sanders, there was Herb Adderley. Adderley was the epitome of a true shutdown cornerback. Adderley had 39 career interceptions, including seven for touchdowns. Another interception return for a touchdown occurred in Super Bowl II when Adderley returned one 60 yards against the Oakland Raiders.

    Adderley was named All-Pro seven times and was also named to five Pro Bowls. Adderley also has returned the third-most kickoffs (120) in team history, plus has the third-most yardage (3,080) in team history. Adderley also returned two kickoffs for TDs.

    Adderley is also in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Adderley played on five NFL championship teams.

7. FB Jim Taylor

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    Jim Taylor is the second all-time rushing leader for the Packers with 8,207 yards. Taylor also scored 91 touchdowns in his career, including 19 in 1962, the year Taylor was named MVP in the NFL.

    Taylor was named All-Pro six times and was also named to the Pro Bowl five times. Taylor led the team in rushing seven times, and also led the NFL in rushing in 1962. He probably would have led the league a few more times if not for the presence of the great Jim Brown in his era.

    Taylor had five seasons of 1,000 yards or more, plus gained over 100 yards in a game 26 times. Taylor is also in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Taylor played on four NFL championship teams.

8. S Willie Wood

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    If there was anybody that Ray Nitschke was afraid of on the Packer defense in the Lombardi era, it was Willie Wood. Nitschke once said that he hating missing a tackle, because he knew he was "gonna get a dirty look from Willie. He'll kill you with that look."

    Wood was not just a player that would look mean, but also play mean. Wood was named All-Pro nine times and was also named to eight Pro Bowls. Wood had 48 career interceptions as a Packer. Wood was also an accomplished punt returner as he returned the most punts (187) and has the most punt return yardage (1,391) in team history. He returned two punts for TDs.

    Wood is also in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wood played on five NFL championship teams.

9. HB Paul Hornung

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    Paul Hornung, without a doubt, was Vince Lombardi's favorite player with all of his versatility. Hornung led the NFL in scoring three consecutive years from 1959-1961, including a record that was broken just a few years back, when Hornung scored 176 points in just 12 games in 1960.

    The "Golden Boy" also shares the single-game playoff record with 19 points in the 1961 NFL championship game against the New York Giants. Hornung was named NFL MVP in 1961. Hornung was also named All-Pro two times and was named to the Pro Bowl two times as well.

    Hornung is fourth in career team scoring with 760 points. Hornung had 62 career TDs, plus 66 field goals and 190 extra points. He gained 3,711 yards rushing and 1,480 yards on pass receptions. Hornung was also a great blocker and was very dangerous as a passer out of the backfield as a HB, as he played QB at Notre Dame, where he won the Heisman Trophy.

    Hornung played on four NFL championship teams. Hornung is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

10. DE Willie Davis

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    Because it wasn't a statistic yet, Willie Davis wasn't recognized for being the first player in Super Bowl history to record three sacks in a game, when Davis had three against the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II. Davis also had two sacks in Super Bowl I.

    Davis was an All-Pro five times and was named to the Pro Bowl five times. Davis played on five NFL championship teams. Davis is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

11. DE Reggie White

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    Reggie White only played in Green Bay six seasons, but they were memorable ones. White was named All-Pro every season he played in Green Bay and named to the Pro Bowl squad every season as well. White was also named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1998.

    White had three sacks in the Green Bay win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI, still a Super Bowl record. White had 68.5 sacks as a Packer, second most in team history. White is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. White also had his jersey number (No. 92) retired as a Packer.

12. RG Jerry Kramer

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    Jerry Kramer was an All-Pro six times. He would have been named to even more All-Pro teams if not for injuries and illness. Kramer was also named to three Pro Bowl teams. Kramer was named to the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade team.

    He was also named to the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team. He is the only member of that squad not in Canton. 

    Kramer kicked three field goals on a blustery and frigid day in Yankee Stadium during the 1962 NFL championship game against the New York Giants. The three field goals by Kramer were the difference in the game, as the Packers won 16-7.

    The power sweep was the signature play for Vince Lombardi and his Packers; Kramer was a key component of its success. The final drive of the “Ice Bowl” was the signature series of the Lombardi Packers and cemented their legacy; Kramer, again, had a huge role in that. 

    The Bart Starr quarterback sneak in the “Ice Bowl” was led by the signature block of the Lombardi era—to many, the greatest block in NFL history. It was Jerry Kramer who made that block.

    Kramer played on five NFL championship teams. He is also in the Packer Hall of Fame and definitely should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well.

13. DT Henry Jordan

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    Henry Jordan was All-Pro five times and also was named to four Pro Bowl teams. Jordan had 3.5 sacks in the 1967 Western Conference championship game vs. the Los Angeles Rams.

    Jordan was a bit on the smallish side as a DT, but he was very quick and also very durable.

    Jordan is in the Packers Hall of Fame and also the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

14. WR James Lofton

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    James Lofton is third all-time in receptions for the Packers with 530. Lofton is second all-time in receiving yardage with 9,656 yards. Lofton had 49 career TD receptions.

    Lofton was All-Pro four times and was named to the Pro Bowl squad seven times as a Packer. Lofton is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

15. WR Sterling Sharpe

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    If not for a neck injury that forced him to retire, Sterling Sharpe was destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sharpe was named All-Pro five times and was also named to five Pro Bowl squads.

    Sharpe led the NFL in receptions three times, including back-to-back seasons when Sharpe had more than 100 receptions for the first time in NFL history.

    For his career, Sharpe had 595 receptions for 8,134 yards and 65 TDs. Sharpe is in the Packer Hall of Fame. 

16. C Jim Ringo

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    Jim Ringo was named All-Pro seven times with the Packers and was also named to seven Pro Bowl squads while he was in Green Bay.

    Played on two NFL championship teams in Green Bay. Ringo is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

17. HB Tony Canadeo

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    Tony Canadeo became only the third man in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards when he gained 1,052 yards in 1949. Canadeo is still the fourth-best rusher in Green Bay history with 4,197 yards rushing.

    Canadeo was All-Pro three times. The "Grey Ghost" also had his number retired (No. 3) by the Packers.

    Canadeo served 59 years in the Green Bay organization, which is longer than anyone in history. This included stints on the executive committee and the board of directors.  

    Canadeo is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

18. QB Arnie Herber

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    Arnie Herber was the NFL's first great long passer. He teamed with Don Hutson to form the most feared passing combination in the 1930s. Herber won three NFL passing titles and was also named All-Pro once.

    Herber twice led the Packers to NFL championships in 1936 and 1939.

    Herber is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

19. FB Clark Hinkle

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    Clark Hinkle was named All-Pro four times and was also selected to three Pro Bowl squads. Hinkle was a great both offensively and defensively (linebacker), as he was named to the NFL's All-Time Two-Way team.

    Hinkle could do it all. He ran very hard, was a punishing blocker, a good receiver and also a fine placekicker.

    Hinkle is ranked seventh in Green Bay history with 3,860 yards rushing. Hinkle also scored 379 points as a Packer, with 44 TDs, 31 extra points and 28 field goals.

    Hinkle is in both the Packer Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

20. QB Aaron Rodgers

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    Aaron Rodgers has only been a starting QB for four years, but at the pace he is going, he might end up at the top of the all-time best Packers when it's all said and done. 

    During the 2011 NFL season, Rodgers threw 45 TD passes to just six interceptions for 4,643 yards and also had a QB rating of 122.5. Rodgers also had a completion percentage of 68.3. The 122.5 QB rating was the best in the NFL and also broke the all-time record set by Peyton Manning in 2004, when Manning had a 121.1 QB rating. 

    Rodgers not only had the best-ever QB rating in a single season in 2011, but Rodgers is the all-time leader in QB rating in both the regular season and the postseason.

    Rodgers has thrown 132 TD passes vs. just 38 interceptions for 17,366 yards and has a 104.1 QB rating in his career during the regular season. Rodgers is the only QB in NFL history to have a QB rating of over 100 based on 1,500 passing attempts.

    Add to that Rodgers has thrown 15 TD passes vs. only four picks for 1,781 yards, and has a QB rating of 105.5 in his career during the postseason. Again, that is the best in NFL history.

    Rodgers just turned 28 years old in December.

    Rodgers was first-team All-Pro in 2011 and has been named to two Pro Bowl squads.

    Rodgers was MVP of Super Bowl XLV and also NFL MVP for the 2011 season.

21. HB Ahman Green

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    Ahman Green is the all-time leading rusher in Green Bay history with 8,322 yards. Green is also ranked eighth in pass receptions in the history of the Packers with 350 catches. Overall, Green had 11,048 total yards.

    Green was named All-Pro twice as a Packer and was also named to four Pro Bowl squads.

    Green is third all-time in postseason rushing yardage for the Packers with 521 yards.

22. S LeRoy Butler

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    LeRoy Butler was named All-Pro four times and was also named to four Pro Bowl squads. Butler had 38 career interceptions, plus 20.5 sacks as well.

    It is Butler who is credited with inventing the "Lambeau Leap" when he scored a TD after getting a lateral from Reggie White, who had recovered a fumble, ironically forced by Butler.

    Butler was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade team. Butler played on one Super Bowl champion.

    LeRoy is also in the Packer Hall of Fame.

23. G Gale Gillingham

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    Gale Gillingham was All-Pro six times in his career and Gilly also was selected to five Pro Bowls.  Gillingham took over for Fuzzy Thurston at LG in training camp of the 1967 season, when Thurston went down with a knee injury; Fuzzy never got his job back.

    Gillingham played on two NFL championship teams in Green Bay. Like Kramer, Gilly had the respect and admiration among his NFL peers and was one of the very best players at his position for almost a decade. Kramer should be in Canton in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as should Gillingham.

    Gillingham is in the Packer Hall of Fame. 

24. CB Charles Woodson

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    Charles Woodson was the Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL in 2009 for the Packers. 

    Since his arrival in Green Bay in 2006, Woodson has 37 interceptions, nine of which were returned for TDs. Woodson has averaged almost 85 tackles per season. He has 10 sacks and 14 forced fumbles, one of which he recovered and returned for a TD.

    Woodson has been named All-Pro four times as a Packer, and has been selected to four Pro Bowl squads.

    Woodson had seven picks in 2011, including one for a TD, so it doesn't appear that Woodson is slowing down too much.

25. WR Donald Driver

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    Donald Driver is the all-time leader for the Packers in terms of receptions (735) and receiving yardage (10,060). Driver has also been named to four Pro Bowl teams.

    Driver has 59 TD receptions, which is the third-best mark in Green Bay history, only behind Don Hutson and Sterling Sharpe.

    Driver is also the all-time leader for the Packers in postseason receptions, as he now has 49 catches.

    The 13 seasons that Driver has spent with the Packers only puts him behind notable legends such as Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Ray Nitschke and Forrest Gregg.

Some Great Players Who Just Missed the Top 25

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    My list of the top 25 Green Bay Packers of all time was a very difficult process. I wanted to note some of the players who just missed my top 25. First, a few Pro Football Hall of Fame members that missed out: T Cal Hubbard, HB Johnny "Blood" McNally, G Mike Michalske.

    There were also a few others that certainly deserved consideration too: LB Dave Robinson, FB John Brockington, WR Boyd Dowler, WR Max McGee, WR Antonio Freeman, HB Dorsey Levens, DB Bobby Dillon, QB Cecil Isbell, LG Fuzzy Thurston, LT Bob Skoronski.

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