Glance back: Never quite Wright

On the afternoon of Oct. 26, 1986, Green Bay quarterback Randy Wright completed 30 of 54 passes for an eye-popping 328 yards against the San Francisco 49ers at Milwaukee County Stadium.<p>

And, Green Bay lost, 31-17.

More than any, this game is indicative of the ill-starred career of Wright. Key injuries, poor defensive teams, major roster changes and lack of high draft choices combined to imprison Wright and the Packers in a mid-1980s malaise.

After his freshman year at Notre Dame, Wright was cut by then-coach Dan Devine. He transferred to Wisconsin and won the starting job as a junior in 1982. Wright knew he could play pro ball after two solid years for the Badgers, he just didn't know where.

"I thought I'd be selected in the fifth or sixth round and was prepared to go anywhere," he says. "I knew the Packers were interested in me but I didn't expect Green Bay to draft me."

Green Bay selected him in the sixth round of the 1984 NFL draft. Wright entered his first training camp No. 4 on the depth chart behind veteran Lynn Dickey, David Whitehurst and Rich Campbell, but moved up to No. 2 once the regular season began. He got his first start against the Bears on Dec. 9, 1984, but bad luck began that day when he sustained a knee injury.

"As I dropped back, our left guard didn't pass block to the outside," Wright remembers. "Bears' end Richard Dent charged in untouched. Our left tackle saw what was happening and dove in the direction of Dent in an attempt to trip him up. Subsequently, Dent rolled into my knee."

The injury required surgery, rehab, and another year of playing backup, but it prepared Wright in his first full season as the starter in 1986. Full of anticipation, Wright and the Packers entered the campaign with high hopes, only to have them dashed by losing nine of their first 10 games and finishing 4-12. Wright quickly became the target of boos from state fans.

"That was the first year the coaching staff decided that some of the older veterans were probably not in the Packers' future plans," he says. "There was a major exodus of players. It was my first year starting and I certainly struggled. We were working with a new offense. We started three free-agent rookie offensive linemen. We had new running backs. I think everyone contributed to our lack of success.

"We lost the equivalent of four or five draft picks in those years," Wright adds. "Tim Lewis went down with an injury. Mossy Cade never developed because of off-the-field problems. In 1987, James Lofton was gone. In 1985, we did not have a second round draft choice and in '86 we didn't have a first-round draft pick. We didn't have the talent to carry those kinds of losses. The coaches thought the players would develop faster than they did."

The Packers were embarrassed by their rivals to the south, the Chicago Bears. While Green Bay was mired in one of their worst seasons ever, the Ditka-led Bears were destroying the league on their way to a championship. The Packers-Bears games of the were wars, full of cheap shots, bounties, and hit towels. Charles Martin's slamming of Jim McMahon and Ken Stills' late hit on Matt Suhey were a few of the lowlights for the Packers.

"I was not involved in any altercation during those games," Wright says of the time. "Both Ken Stills and Charles Martin can talk forever and never come up with a justifiable excuse for what they did.

"In any rivalry you are going to have cheap shots taken. It's not that the person is a cheap shot artist. Sometimes your emotions take over your brain thoughts. It doesn't mean that guy is like that every game."

Wright split the starting job with Don Majkowski in 1987 and '88. In 1989, new coach Lindy Infante looked to the younger Anthony Dilweg to back up Majkowski. After a career completion percentage of 53.2 and nearly 5,000 passing yards, Wright was released prior to the season opener. In 1990, he went to Pittsburgh and was eventually released. It was time to hang the cleats in the closet.

"Infante is a very intelligent coach," Wright says. "But, I think history has proven that he is a better offensive coordinator than a head coach."

Like most departed Packers, Wright closely follows his former team and relishes in the franchise's recent accomplishments. "It's wonderful, this success they're having," he said. "They have very good players, coaches, and front office people there now. Everyone, fans and players alike, can share in that."

Now living near Madison, Wis., Wright is president of Wright Vending Company, a full service business that provides, "anything you can buy out of a machine and consume."

Although his football playing career has long since passed, Wright has managed to still be a part of the game. For five years he was an analyst on a Packers post-game radio show on WTMJ in Milwaukee. He currently appears as an ESPN game analyst on regional Big Ten games.

"It's wonderful because it keeps me just as involved as I want to be with football," said Wright. "It's a lot of fun."


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