The 1997 Packer team lost 31-24 to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. That in itself should disqualify that team for any consideration as the best Green Bay squad in the biggest game of them all. However, some feel, including myself, that the Packers were the best team in football that year. Brett Favre won his third straight MVP that year. The team went 13-3 in the regular season and beat their two NFC playoff opponents - the Bucs and 49ers - by two touchdowns apiece. I still believe that the reason the Packers lost to the Broncos that day in San Diego was because they were out-coached.
The Packers had amassed very nice rushing yardage in the first half of that game behind the legs of Dorsey Levens. But for some unexplained reason, head coach Mike Holmgren went away from the running game in the second half. It was very puzzling. One, they were gashing the blitzing Bronco defense. Two, they were keeping the Broncos honest with their blitz packages because of the success of the running game in the 1st half. Three, a sustained rushing attack would have kept the tired Packer defense fresher in the second half. There is no question that the Packers should have been back-to-back champs in my mind. Favre played well enough throwing three touchdown passes to only one interception. Had Holmgren coupled Favre's performance with a consistent ground attack, the Packers win the game. It's as simple as that.
The 1967 Packer team might be the sentimental favorite of a lot of fans for a variety of reasons. The Ice Bowl. Vince Lombardi's last ever Packer coached team. "Instant Replay" by Jerry Kramer took the fans through the entire Super season ordeal. But the 1967 Packers were a team ravaged by injuries and also a team depleted of two of it's greatest stars - Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.
The team struggled by Lombardi standards to a 9-4-1 regular season record. But then the Pack came back to whip a very good Los Angeles Ram team 28-7 in the divisional playoff game. The next week was the Ice Bowl, where the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in the greatest game in Packers history. Two weeks later the Packers outclassed the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in the second Super Bowl. It was a remarkable journey for a team that had to overcome so much.
The 1966 Packer team was by far the most dominant in the NFL that particular year. Green Bay out-scored their opponents by a 335-163 point margin as they streaked to a 12-2 regular season record. Bart Starr was league MVP. The Packers came tantalizingly close to a perfect season that year losing their two games by a total of 4 points. The Packers lost by a point to the 49ers and by a field goal to the Vikings.
The 1966 NFL championship game was a classic. Starr was tremendous throwing 4 TD passes in a 34-27 Packer win. The game came down to a classic goal line stand by the Green Bay defense. The Cowboys had first and goal at the Packer 2 yard line, but couldn't find pay dirt in four tries. The game basically ended when quarterback Don Meredith, with linebacker Dave Robinson draped around his shoulders, threw an interception to safety Tom Brown.
Green Bay went on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl 35-10. The Chiefs gave the Packers a good game in the first half only trailing 14-10. But behind an early second half safety Willie Wood interception, the Packers totally dominated the game thereafter. The game had two interesting twists. First, back up WR Max McGee was forced into the lineup after a shoulder injury to WR Boyd Dowler. McGee had spent the night on the town the previous evening, not returning to the team hotel until breakfast time. All McGee did in the game as catch seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Even with that big day, Starr was still the game's MVP with a very solid passing performance.
The game is also remembered for the antics of Chiefs cornerback Fred "the Hammer" Williamson. Williamson used his forearm to club down receivers in the helmet after they caught the ball. Thus came the nickname. Williamson also had quite a mouth as he was very demonstrative before the game claiming he would wreak havoc on the Packer receivers. That didn't happen. In fact, the "Hammer" got hammered. Toward the end of the game, Donny Anderson's knee hit Williamson flush in the helmet knocking him out. It was poetic justice to a super day.
The 1996 Packer team was clearly the most dominant team in the NFL that year. The Packers roared to a 13-3 regular season record. They led the league in scoring with 456 points. They gave up the fewest points in the league, allowing 210. Brett Favre won his second straight MVP. Legendary Reggie White led a powerful and aggressive Green Bay defense. The Packers dominated its NFC competition in the playoffs as well.
First, the Packers demolished the 49ers 35-14 on a muddy track in Green Bay. Desmond Howard had a huge day which would be sign of things to come later in the post-season. The next week the Packers whipped the Carolina Panthers 30-13 in the first championship game in Green Bay since the Ice Bowl. The final piece of the puzzle would be Bill Parcells and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
The Packers started out quick that day as Favre's pass on an audible play hit Andre Rison in stride for a 54-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Favre followed that play by gleefully running back to the Packer bench with helmet in hand. Green Bay then fell behind 14-10, and Holmgren wisely started running the ball with more authority. That led to a 81-yard touchdown pass from Favre to wide receiver Antonio Freeman. The Packers then added a Chris Jacke field goal and a two yard touchdown scamper by Favre to take a 27-14 halftime lead.
But the Patriots got back in the game in the third quarter with a Curtis Martin touchdown run. The game turned on the following kickoff. Howard continued his regular and post-season return dominance by taking back a kick 99 yards for a touchdown. That return helped Howard garner game MVP honors. The Packers tacked on a two-point conversion and led for the rest of the game 35-21.
The game will also be remembered for White's three sacks of QB Drew Bledsoe that put the game away. White finished what safety LeRoy Butler had started. Butler was turned loose in the second quarter by defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur to blitz Bledsoe. That strategy helped to turn the game in the Packers' favor. No one will ever forget the sight of White parading around the floor of the Superdome with the Vince Lombardi trophy clutched proudly in his hands.
So which Packer Super Bowl team was the best? ESPN recently rated the 1996 team as better than the 1966 team. I'm not so sure. Both were definitely the most dominant teams in the league that year. I think it's almost too close to call. I guess if I had to give an opinion, I would opt, ever so slightly, for the 1966 team by a nose. The 1966 Packers were almost perfect and they did win the FIRST Super Bowl game ever. They also had nine future Hall of Famers on that team.
The 1996 team is fresher on our minds and also had two of the greatest players in NFL history on that team in Favre and White. But to me, the margin between the 1966 and 1996 teams is razor thin. Packer fans are hoping that one day soon, they can compare another Super team to the four that made it to the NFL's promised land.
Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.