All-Time Green Bay Packers Part I: Defense
The Green Bay Packers are as storied as any sports' franchise in the United States. With 12 NFL Championships, they are American football's answer to the New York Yankees. Compiling a list of the Packers' all-time best players will leave many deserving players off the list, but that's the way things go when a franchise has as much history as the Packers do.
To garner consideration for my purposes, a player must have played at least three seasons for the Packers.
Here is the starting 11 for the Green Bay Packers all-time defense.
Defensive end: Reggie White, 1993-1998
Before coming to Green Bay, "The Minister of Defense" notched 124 sacks for the Philadelphia Eagles in eight seasons. He signed on with the Packers after the advent of free agency in the NFL and added another 68.5 sacks to his career total.
White was an integral part of the Packers championship defense in Super Bowl XXXI, a game in which he set the Super Bowl record for sacks in a game with three, and he retired as the career leader in sacks with 198.
Defensive end: Willie Davis, 1960-1969
Davis played ten seasons with the Packers and played in 138 consecutive games. He played on all five of the Lombardi-era championship teams and was as prolific as Reggie White as a pass rusher. Unfortunately, quarterback sacks were not an official stat in Davis's time. That doesn't mean we can't estimate his totals.
Some reports estimate that Davis had over 100 sacks during his ten years with Green Bay. He may have had over 120 in that span. Between 1963 and 1965, Davis had no fewer than 40 sacks, which averages to over 13 per year.
These numbers, if they had been official, would easily make Davis the team's career leader in sacks. Davis himself said that he had 25 sacks one season, which would also give him the single-season record for sacks.
Defensive Tackle: Henry Jordan, 1959-1969
Jordan joined Willie Davis on the Lombardi-era defensive lines for the Packers. He played in four Pro Bowls and was voted the MVP of the game in 1961. He is a member of the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Defensive Tackle: Gilbert Brown, 1993-1999, 2001-2003
"The Gravedigger" played for the Packers during the successful Holmgren-Wolf era and was one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles of his time. He was part of the defense that allowed a record-low 19 touchdowns during the 1996 season.
After his outstanding 1996 campaign, Brown received a contract offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars, but decided to stay with Green Bay for less money, which helped bolster his already positive standing with the Packer fan base. He played in 15 playoff games for the Packers, second all-time behind Brett Favre.
Linebacker: John Anderson, 1978-1989
The first player not from the Lombardi or Holmgren eras, Anderson played when the Packers were the laughingstock of the NFL. Despite this, he spent his entire career in Green Bay and became the all-time franchise leader in tackles with 1,020. He also had 25 career interceptions and was voted onto the NFL's All-1980's team.
Linebacker: Ray Nitschke, 1958-1972
Nitschke was the driving force behind the Packer defense of the Lombardi era. Receivers and running backs feared number 66 and Nitschke gave them good reason. While Nitschke's greatness can't be affirmed by statistics, he was one of the rare players who didn't need stats to command respect on the football field.
He was a seven-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL's 50th and 75th anniversary all-time teams. His number is one of five retired by the Packers and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Linebacker: Tim Harris, 1986-1990
Harris is another who shone on otherwise inept Packer teams. In 1989, the Packers went 10-6, which was the team's best record since 1972. In that season, Harris had 19.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. In 1992, Harris recorded a 17-sack season for the San Francisco 49ers and won a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers in 1994.
Cornerback: Herb Adderley, 1961-1969
Another important part to the success of the 1960's Packers, Adderley was drafted as an offensive player and only moved to defense to replace an injured teammate. Adderley proceeded to record 39 interceptions as a Packer and returned seven for touchdowns.
Adderley later went on Dallas teams that went to two Super Bowls and won one. Much to the delight of many Packer fans, Adderley said, "I'm the only man with a Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl ring who doesn't wear it. I'm a Green Bay Packer."
He is one of only three players to ever play on six world championship teams. The other two are also known for their time with the Green Bay Packers.
Cornerback: Willie Buchanon, 1972-1978
The 1972 Rookie of the Year, Buchanon went on to play in three Pro Bowls. He finished his career with 28 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.
Safety: Willie Wood, 1960-1971
Undrafted out of USC, Wood tried out for the Green Bay Packers as a quarterback. Little did anyone know at that time that Wood would become one of the greatest safeties in NFL history.
He garnered all-NFL honors nine times in his career and played in eight Pro Bowls and six World Championship games. He also flourished as a punt returner who ended his career with 48 interceptions and two touchdowns on punt returns.
Wood is also significant as an African-American trail blazer. He was the first black quarterback in the Pac-10 Conference at USC and he became the first black head coach of a professional football team when he coached the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League in 1973.
Safety: LeRoy Butler, 1990-2001
A member of the 1990's All-Decade Team, Butler had 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks in his 12-year career. He is one of nine players to be in the 20 interception, 20 sack club and was the first defensive back to do so.
He was a four-time Pro Bowler and earned a Super Bowl ring after Super Bowl XXXI.
Perhaps as important as his playing stats, Butler also is credited with inventing the Lambeau Leap in December 1993, a touchdown celebration that involves the player jumping into the stands that has been duplicated by many Packer and non-Packer players since.
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