Lombardi: Who is the Greatest?

Who do you think is the greatest Green Bay Packer of all-time? PackerReport.com's John Lombardi ranks his top four. Read on to see if you agree or disagree with Lombardi's ranking of four great Packers.

Attending the Packer Hall of Fame ceremony for Reggie White last weekend got me thinking about who was the greatest Packer player of all time.

It is risky to do such a thing because I am guaranteed to upset someone by leaving their favorite player off the list or ranking them lower than expected. It will spark disagreement and discussion, but hopefully people will look at my reasons. If you do not agree with me, at least acknowledge my logic.

I think there are four players in the running for the title of Greatest Packer Player of all time. I will name them shortly, but let me first go over my criteria for choosing them and ultimately where I ranked them. There are only two and I will use the old school A, B, C, D, F grading system.

The first criteria should be there innate physical tools and skills. The second criteria is their impact on the franchise, both short term and long term. How good a football player where they and what impact did they have on the history of the franchise? By answering these questions, I hope to determine who the greatest player in Packer History is. I also want to limit this discussion to football-related issues. Bart Starr will not get any points or lose any points for his stint as coach. Neither will Coach Gregg.

The list is below and is in ascending order.

4. Bart Starr – Bart is the fourth greatest player in team history. He was not the most physically gifted player, but he led the Green and Gold to five championships in a seven-year span. That feat has never been equaled and in my estimation never will be duplicated. He did not have the strongest arm and he will never be confused with Steve Young or Mike Vick, but he got the job done. He did it in a manner that is to be admired. He was poised and courageous and mentally tough. Because of his manner and personality, he is loved by Packer fans both young and old. His achievements are legendary and because of the number of championships won, he has had an amazing impact on the team. His decision to try a QB sneak in the Ice Bowl is enough to put him on the list.

Physical Skills – B
Impact – A+
Overall Grade – A-

3. Don Hutson – Hutson was a member of three championship teams and was so far ahead of everyone else skill-wise in his day. He set records, some that he still holds and some that would never have been broken had not the rules been liberalized to make the game more exciting. It is hard to imagine how much better he was than his peers, but he was head and shoulders above everyone else. He held 18 league records upon his retirement. He was probably best player to ever play for the team if compared to those around him. His long term impact on the team was immense, but not as important as the others on this list. He revolutionized the passing game with Coach Lambeau, but that was not exclusive to the Packers.

Physical Skills – A+
Impact – B+
Overall Grade – A

2. Brett Favre – Brett has won one championship and was NFL MVP three times. His physical skills are immense. His ability and personality have endeared him to legions of Packer fans and he will be loved and remembered for as long as they play this game. He is the definition of a football player and his consecutive games started streak is amazing. He was instrumental in taking the Packers from the door mat of the NFL to the mountain top. He is the face of what has become a very visible team and one of the most marketable and recognizable athletes in the country.

Physical Skills – A+
Impact – A
Overall Grade – A

1. Reggie White – This will probably surprise some people, but I think that Reggie was the greatest Packer ever. His physical skills are unmatched. He led the team to one championship victory. He is not the fan favorite that Brett and Bart are, but quarterbacks always win popularity contests. Reggie was as good a football player who ever played the game. No matter what era or position you choose, it is hard to argue that someone was better. Talent-wise, he as complete a player that has ever strapped on a helmet.

As for his impact on the franchise, it is major. Along with Brett, he led the team back to elite status after 20 something years of struggle. Signing with the Packers as the most coveted free agent in football history, he cleared the way for other players to consider the Packers in spite of the drawbacks long associated with the team. It was OK for guys to sign and play for the Packers. Until recently, when the team struggled on the field, the Packers were as attractive as any other program in the league. Unless the team continues to struggle between the lines, this legacy will continue. Had he not signed with the Packers, it is doubtful that the Packers would have had as much success signing free agents over the past 10 years. Without that ability, the team's success since 1993 would have probably been more difficult to come by. Had Reggie played back in the 60's or 70's he would have been influential, but no where near as important. In the free agency era, he paved the way for great players to consider the Packers. It may be small here and cold here, but if a great player like Reggie can go to Green Bay, then every player should consider it. In spite of Reggie's great talent, it is his impact on free agency that puts him on top.

Physical Skills – A+
Impact – A+
Overall Grade – A+

Bob Harlan once told me that the reason Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi are glorified with huge statues in front of Lambeau Field is because Curly founded the team and Vince saved it. Bart helped Vince save the team. Don helped Curly establish the team. Brett and Reggie revived the franchise when it was down. White and Favre, along with Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren, saved the team a second time. All of them in their own way are the greatest players for the greatest team in the league.


John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.


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