Packers' shining Starr

Hall of Fame quarterback was best in the clutch for Packers

Bart Starr hasn't played a down of football for the Green Bay Packers since 1971. But what he accomplished over his career in Green Bay is still the high-water mark in a number of very important areas.

Starr won five championships during his career. No QB in NFL history has ever topped that. He led the Packers to three straight championships. No QB has ever done that, although Tom Brady of the New England Patriots will have his chance this year as the Pats will go for their third straight title. Starr is also the highest rated QB in NFL post-season history. Starr threw for 15 TD passes while only throwing 3 interceptions during his post-season career. That equates to a 104.8 rating which tops Joe Montana. Starr was 9-1 in playoff games. To add icing on the cake, Starr was MVP of the first two Super Bowls.

As great as Starr's accomplishments were, they could have been even better with a little luck. Starr did win 5 titles, but he had a chance to win 8. The Packers narrowly lost to the Eagles 17-13 in the 1960 championship game. That was Starr's only championship loss. The Packers outgained the Eagles by a wide margin but came up a bit short from victory.

In 1963 the Packers had a record of 11-2-1. They just missed getting into the championship game as the eventual champion Chicago Bears finished 11-1-2. Starr missed four games that year due to injury, including the pivotal second game against the Bears in Chicago. In 1964 the Packers finished second to the Baltimore Colts in the Western Conference. The Packers had lost a couple of very close games to the Colts that year as Paul Hornung really struggled kicking field goals. For the year, Hornung was just 12 out of 38 trying three pointers. Had the Packers beaten the Colts in their two games, then the Packers, not the Colts, would have faced Cleveland in the 1964 championship game.

Starr was also involved in one of the most famous plays in championship history. It was Dec. 31, 1967. The NFL championship game in Green Bay against the Dallas Cowboys. The Ice Bowl. It was minus-13 degrees as Starr was flawless early in the game throwing two TD passes to WR Boyd Dowler. As the conditions worsened, the Packers offense started to struggle. When the Packers finally got the ball for the last time in the 4th quarter, they trailed 17-14. There was just 4:50 on the clock and 68 yards to cover on the frozen tundra. Starr utilized his backs on the drive as the Dallas linebackers were having trouble with their footing. HB Donny Anderson and FB Chuck Mercein were the main cogs that Starr counted on during the drive. In fact, Starr threw only one pass to a WR during the drive. That was infamous play in which Boyd Dowler caught a pass over the middle and was viciously thrown down to the icy surface. Dowler's helmet hit the turf like a basketball being dribbled by a point guard.

Starr finally got the Packers into the end zone with 13 seconds remaining on a QB sneak behind a great block by G Jerry Kramer. It was a very gutsy call. The Packers had no timeouts. Although it was only third down, the Packers would not have had time to get their field goal unit on the field for a field goal attempt to tie the game had Starr's sneak failed. Starr had conferred with Coach Vince Lombardi just before the play and explained to Lombardi that a wedge play would work. Starr also felt that he should keep the ball because of the footing problems due to the frozen surface. Lombardi seem to agree as he replied to Starr, "Then run it in. Let's get the hell out of here." Starr then called a wedge play in which everyone in the Packer huddle thought FB Chuck Mercein would get the ball. But when the ball was snapped Starr didn't hand it to Mercein. He instead kept the ball, followed Kramer, and tumbled into NFL immortality.

Starr's overall numbers don't jump out like those of Brett Favre's. For his career, Starr only threw 152 TD passes. But Starr did win three passing titles on a team that was predominantly a running team behind the likes of FB Jim Taylor and HB Paul Hornung. Starr was also the league MVP in 1966.

No one in the NFL was more deadly on third-and-short or fourth-and-short situations. Starr would use play-action to sell the run threat to the defense. He would then calmly throw a deep pass to a Max McGee or a Boyd Dowler that would result in a touchdown or at least a long gain. Starr was not a flamboyant QB. He was just a winning QB. A winning QB that was the best when it counted the most.

Editor's note: Bob Fox is a freelance writer and longtime Packers fan from the Tampa, FL area.

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