Best Packers QB: Favre or Starr?

Brett Favre or Bart Starr? Mind-blowing stats or championship greatness? Packer Report publisher Bill Huber reviews their parallel careers and asks the greatest-ever question in honor of Starr's 75th birthday.

Who is the best quarterback in Green Bay Packers history?

It's a question that's been thrown around in the subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum where I hang out here at, and it's a question I present on this cold Saturday in Green Bay because the legendary Bart Starr turned 75 on Friday.

Of course, there's no right or wrong answer to the best-quarterback question.

Do you prefer Starr's five world championships? Or, knowing Brett Favre wasn't surrounded by such a Hall of Fame cast, do you prefer Favre's mind-numbing stats?

It's interesting to recall that Starr and Favre didn't exactly look like Hall of Famers early in their playing careers.

Starr was a 17th-round draft pick in 1956. He threw just 34 passes behind Tobin Rote as a rookie, and split time in 1957 and 1958 with Babe Parilli, when the Packers finished a dreadful 4-19-1.

When Vince Lombardi arrived in 1959, he was so unimpressed with Starr that one of his first moves was sending a third-round draft pick to the Cardinals for Lamar McHan. McHan was the starter for the first seven games in 1959 but was benched in favor of Starr when the Packers dropped four straight to ruin a 3-0 start.

Starr was edged in his debut against Baltimore but reeled off four straight wins to end the season.

Before continuing with, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story, let's revisit Favre's early years.

Favre was a second-round pick of the Falcons in 1991 who needed exactly one year to wear out his welcome in Atlanta. Ron Wolf took Favre off the Falcons' hands with a first-round draft pick — a move that was widely criticized at the time but turned out to be among the biggest steals in NFL history.

Favre began his first season in Green Bay as the backup to Don Majkowski but got his chance in Week 3 when Majkowski went down with torn ankle ligaments. Against Cincinnati, Favre fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor in the final seconds for a 24-23 victory.

Favre started the rest of the season, and his 64.1 completion percentage topped Starr's team-record 63.7 percent.

Now, we turn back to Starr. Even after winning his final four starts in 1959, Starr's spot in Green Bay wasn't secure. He got the start in the 1960 opener, but was benched after completing 9-of-24 passes for 77 yards and two interceptions in a loss to the Chicago Bears.

In came McHan, who ran off three straight wins before completing just 4-of-16 passes against Pittsburgh. Starr came on in relief and led the Packers to the winning touchdown.

Starr never lost the job again, even though he threw four interceptions in a loss the following week to Baltimore. With the season on the line, Starr went 3-0 to lead the Packers into the championship game, where the Packers ran out of time in a 17-13 loss at Philadelphia.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Starr led the Packers to five world championships, including MVP performances in Super Bowls I and II. He was voted NFL MVP following the 1966 season, in which Starr threw 14 touchdown passes against three interceptions while compiling a superior 105.0 passer rating. Starr led the NFL in passing three times and retired with a league-record 57.4 completion percentage. In 1977, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Brett Favre
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Turning back to Favre, the Packers slipped to 3-6 in 1992 before he directed a six-game winning streak to get them into the playoff race. But in the finale, Favre was intercepted three times in a 27-7 loss at Minnesota.

As was the case with Lombardi and Starr, Mike Holmgren had a crucial decision to make regarding Favre. In 1993, the Packers made the playoffs in spite of Favre's 19 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

By midway through 1994, Holmgren had seen enough.

In the coach's quarterback-friendly system, Favre had thrown 46 touchdowns against 44 interceptions. Favre had just went down with an injured ankle in the Week 7 loss against Minnesota, and promising Mark Brunell looked good in his place. Holmgren polled the coaches on whom to start. Brunell won the vote, but Holmgren sided with Favre, anyway.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Until Peyton Manning joined him last week, Favre was the only three-time MVP in NFL history. He led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI, and guided the team to two conference championships and four conference championship games. Last year, he set career records for touchdowns, completions, attempts and yards, and in 2007, he became the winningest starting quarterback in history. And, of course, there's his legendary ironman streak that reached 291 games (including playoffs) with the Jets.

So, who's the best? For my money, I'll take Starr. Behind his league-record playoff passer rating of 104.8, Starr went 9-1 in playoff games. He threw three interceptions in 213 postseason passes. Favre went 12-10 in the playoffs with 28 interceptions in those 22 games.

Who do you pick? Send me an e-mail and I'll run the best of the answers.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at

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