Championship of Champions

It could be said that the Packers-Steelers game is not only to decide the 45th Super Bowl but bragging rights for the greatest pro football franchise of all-time. Matt Tevsh lays out the arguments for No. 1 and provides the relevant numbers in anticipation of one of the most classic title matchups the NFL has ever seen.

Why the Packers are No. 1

No NFL franchise is as storied as the Green Bay Packers. As one of only two charter members of the NFL, the Packers not only span the history of the league, but they carry a charm that no other franchise can match. In the smallest market, as the only publicly owned team in pro sports, their appeal is global.

The Packers, however, are more than just a feel-good story. Green Bay is nicknamed Titletown for a reason. The Packers have held the record for most seasons as league champion since 1965, the year they won their ninth title (to break at tie with the Bears). The Packers have won three championships since, and are three ahead of the Bears and five ahead of the Giants.

Green Bay earned its town moniker during the 1960s, a decade of excellence that has never been equaled by any other team. Under coach Vince Lombardi, the Packers won five titles in seven years — including the first two Super Bowls — with three straight titles from 1965 through 1967 to match their trio of consecutive championships from 1929 through 1931 under Curly Lambeau. No other team has ever won three straight.

Green Bay was coined "Titletown" after a 37-0 victory over the Giants in the 1961 NFL Championship Game at Lambeau Field. It was Lombardi's first championship with the Packers. The Green Bay Press-Gazette printed the catchy term on signs that were distributed to the fans after the historic victory. The name has become synonymous with the city ever since.

Of course the Packers four titles after that, just before the NFL-AFL merger and during a time when the game's popularity was rising, solidifying the Packers as the preeminent franchise in pro football.

The Packers had to wait until the mid-1990s for a return to glory. With general manager Ron Wolf and coach Mike Holmgren taking over in 1992, the Packers began one of the longest streaks of consecutive non-losing seasons (13) in the Super Bowl era. Among that run was a Super Bowl championship (1996) and another Super Bowl appearance (1997).

Such consistent runs of success are a staple of the Packers. Under Lambeau, the team posted a winning season every year except one from 1921 to 1947. Green Bay's record during that span was 204-85-20 (.693) including NFL titles from 1929 through 1931 and in 1936, 1939 and 1944. The first three titles were earned based on the Packers' position atop the standings while the latter three were won in a playoff between the winner of the league's Eastern and Western Division.

As the NFL fought to survive during its early years, so too did the Packers. From the pre-NFL days as a town team, where a hat was passed around Hagemeister Park for donations, to a public stock drive as recent as 1998, Packers fans have answered the financial call. In all, there have been four major stock drives in the history of the Packers that have played a large part in saving the franchise.

Entering the season, the Packers' season-ticket waiting list was nearly 80,000 names long. Season ticket holders come from all 50 states as well as Australia, Canada, and Japan.

Whereas other teams may claim to be America's Team, polls in recent years have indicated that the Packers have the largest fan base using merchandise sales and Web site attraction as major indicators.

About to complete their 90th season in the league, the Packers have played 1,268 total games, posting a .560 winning percentage. That mark is fourth all-time behind the Cowboys, Dolphins and Bears.

Why the Steelers are No. 1

The Super Bowl has become the tool for judging excellence in the modern era of pro football. Quarterbacks, coaches, teams and organizations are ultimately defined by how many Super Bowls they have won.

In theory then, the Pittsburgh Steelers can lay claim to being the NFL's all-time No. 1 team. With a dramatic 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII two years ago, the Steelers won a record sixth Super Bowl Championship, putting them one ahead of the Cowboys and 49ers, and three ahead of five other teams including the Packers. The Steelers will be playing in their third Super Bowl in the last six years on Feb. 6.

As impressive as the Steelers have been recently, their overall body of work the past four decades sets them apart. On the way to eight Super Bowl appearances, the Steelers have posted winning records in each decade starting with the 1970s. They have had only seven losing seasons since 1972, and their 30 winning seasons in the Super Bowl era is an NFL record.

The Steelers have won eight conference championships (tied with the Cowboys) and perhaps most impressively boast a 33-18 (.647) record in the postseason since the advent of the Super Bowl. That mark is also an NFL record.

The Steelers rise to prominence in the NFL came in the 1970s, when they put together a decade of greatness only rivaled by the 1960s Packers. Under coach Chuck Noll, who took over in 1969, the Steelers won four Super Bowl titles in six years. Even with losing seasons in 1970 and 1971, the Steelers won 69.1 percent of their games in the 1970s, advancing to the postseason eight straight times.

The run in the 1970s made Noll an instant legend. The Steelers coach remained in Pittsburgh until 1991 in one of the greatest and longest coaching tenures in NFL history. Such longevity has become a trademark and a tool for success for the Steelers who have had just two coaches — Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin — since. Each has won a Super Bowl.

The Steelers' commitment to their coaches is a reflection of their ownership. The Rooney family has been there every step of the way, starting with the founding of the team by Art J. Rooney in 1933 (franchise was known as the Pirates; renamed Steelers in 1940). Today, Art Rooney III is the team's president.

Such kinship has given the Steelers organization a sense of pride and community that really only the Packers can match. An ESPN.com article last year even surmised that the Packers and Steelers are dead even when it comes to the NFL's best fans. The evaluation, done by a panel of ESPN.com writers, was based on seven unscientific criteria including loyalty, stadium, and travel.

As the fifth oldest franchise in the NFL, the Steelers had to build off humble beginnings to get to the top. Though wins on the field were tough to come by in the 1930s and 1940s, Rooney Sr. fought to make football work in Pittsburgh, even if it meant taking his team to Forbes Field or neutral cities such as Johnstown and Latrobe in Pennsylvania, and Youngstown, Louisville, and New Orleans to avoid competition with baseball and the mighty power of college football. In the long run, it paid off.

The Pittsburgh franchise has played in 1,132 games, posting a .521 winning percentage. This is its 78th season.

Packers vs. Steelers: Tale of the tape

ALL-TIME

Overall NFL Seasons

GB: 90. Pit: 78

Overall Record

GB: 692-540-36 (.560). Pit: 579-532-21 (.521)

Postseason Record

GB: 28-16 (.636)*. Pit: 33-19 (.635)

Overall NFL Titles

GB: 12*. Pit: 6

Hall of Famers

GB: 21^. Pit: 18 ^


SUPER BOWL ERA

Overall Record

GB: 376-336-10 (.528). Pit: 429-305-5 (.584)

Postseason Record

GB: 21-13 (.618). Pit: 33-18 (.647)*

Super Bowl Appearances

GB: 5. Pit: 8**

Super Bowl Titles

GB: 3. Pit: 6*

Conference Championships

GB: 5^^. Pit: 8**

Division Championships

GB: 10. Pit: 20

Winning Seasons

GB: 21. Pit: 30*

*NFL record; **ties NFL record; ^according to the Packers media guide; ^^Includes NFL Championship wins to advance to Super Bowls I and II.


Regular season: By the decades

1920s

GB: 61-25-13 (.682). Pit: N/A

1930s

GB: 86-35-4 (.704). Pit: 22-55-3 (.294)

1940s

GB: 62-44-4 (.582). Pit: 35-50-5 (.417)

1950s

GB: 39-79-2 (.333). Pit: 54-63-3 (.463)

1960s

GB: 96-37-5 (.714). Pit: 46-85-7 (.359)

1970s

GB: 57-82-5 (.413). Pit: 99-44-1 (.691)

1980s

GB: 65-84-3 (.438). Pit: 77-75 (.507)

1990s

GB: 93-67 (.581). Pit: 93-67 (.581)

2000s

GB: 95-65 (.594). Pit: 103-56-1 (.647)

2010s

GB: 10-6 (.625). Pit: 12-4 (.750)


What do you think?: Packer Report has laid out its arguments for both the Packers and Steelers and now wants to hear from you. Which team do you think is the best of all time? Why? What criteria would you use to evaluate? Should the Bears, Cowboys, Dolphins, or 49ers be included in the discussion? E-mail Matt at matttevsh@hotmail.com



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