On Tuesday, SB Nation published an article by Charles McDonald entitled “10 unwritten rules for not screwing up your jersey number.” These rules take into account a combination of aesthetic observations, historical trends, and players’ positions to compile some dos and don’ts for NFL players.
With this article in mind, APC thought it would be interesting to see how well the Green Bay Packers adhere to these suggestions, both on the current roster and in recent years.
Rule 1: no defensive backs shall wear #46
The Packers currently follow this rule carefully. 46 has been assigned to a host of unspectacular running backs in recent years, including Alonzo Harris, LeShun Daniels, Kapri Bibbs, and currently Malcolm Johnson. Going back a few years further, Vince Workman donned it during his Packers career.
However, if you look farther back, we find that the two most successful Packers to wear the number were indeed defensive backs. Safety Steve Luke wore 46 from 1975 to 1980, spending five of those seasons as a starter. And going even farther back, we find Packers Hall of Famer Hank Gremminger, who started at cornerback and safety for nine of his ten seasons with the team from 1956 to 1965. However, it’s safe to say that numbering rules for the modern age did not apply then — after all, the league did not mandate certain numbers for certain positions at that time.
Rule 2: defensive linemen should not wear numbers in the 60s
Currently, the Packers are safe, and for the most part they have reserved numbers in the 60s for offensive linemen and long snappers. None of the linemen on the current 90-man roster are in this area — they’re largely in the 90s (more on that shortly) with a few stragglers like Mike Danies (76), Eric Cotton (59), and Deon Simon (79).
Matt Brock was an exception to this rule, however, as he wore 62 for most of his Packers career. Brock started 61 games and recorded 12.5 sacks for the Packers from 1989 to 1994. The most notable recent Packers defensive lineman in this group was Mike Pennel, who wore 64 for three seasons from 2014 to 2016. However, Pennel switched to 98 when he left to play for the New York Jets in 2017.
Rule 3: 10s are now better than 80s for wide receivers
The Packers’ most recent high draft picks at wideout have stuck with the recent trends around the NFL and chose numbers in the teens — Randall Cobb took 18 in 2011 and Davante Adams chose 17 when he became a Packer in 2014. The only other receiver that the Packers have drafted on day two since 2011 was third-rounder Ty Montgomery, who wore 88. (Montgomery, of course, became the subject of one of the sillier jersey number debates in recent history after his position switch to running back.) Currently, Adams of course is the star receiver on this team, and he’s squarely in the upper echelon of NFL receivers so wearing a number in the teens puts him in good company.
Perhaps this will give a slight boost to second-year Packer Equanimeous St. Brown (#19), the only one of the three wideouts drafted in 2018 to pick a number in the teens. J’Mon Moore wears 82 while Marquez Valdes-Scantling picked 83. Meanwhile, the other presumed starter at wideout, Geronimo Allison, is also in the 80s, wearing #81.
But when it comes to the elite players, the Packers’ top receiver is right in line with this rule.
Rule 4: Linebackers can only wear numbers in the 40s if they’re fast enough
This is a recent rule, as linebackers only recently got blanket approval to wear numbers in the 40s starting in 2015. Prior to a few years ago, they could only get that number if there were no other eligible numbers available (similar to tight ends).
However, the Packers have a pair of linebackers wearing numbers in the 40s: Oren Burks (42) and Ty Summers (44). Both meet the arbitrary criteria of a 4.60 40-yard dash that I’m setting here: Burks ran 4.59 at the 2018 Combine while Summers ran 4.51 this year.
In recent years, we might have had a slight issue. Jake Ryan wore 47, but his 40 time was 4.65 seconds and he did not seem to play quite that fast. But with him now in Jacksonville, that’s their problem. Likewise, Vince Biegel and his 4.67 time got 45, but he’s in New Orleans now and wearing number 59.
Rule 5: Running backs should not wear 39
This is mainly about the appearance of number 39 — it looks big and bulky, not nimble and agile. Cornerback Chandon Sullivan has that number at present, so we’ve got no issues here for now according to this rule, though I argue it should be extended to corners so that only safeties or fullbacks wear the number.
In team history, the Packers only ever had one notable running back wear 39: that was Darrell Thompson in the early 1990s, and he was hardly a speedy back.
Rules 6 and 7: Numbers in the 90s and 20s are all great
No argument here. Big guys need big-looking numbers — for example, 97 just works for Kenny Clark. There’s something sleek about a two for a running back or a DB, and 23 is a great look for a player with as much swagger as Jaire Alexander. One interesting nugget from this year’s group is that Josh Jones switched from 27 to 24 this offseason. Why? Who knows.
Rule 8: Only #8 is a bad quarterback number
Poor Tim Boyle. He’ll be relegated to the third string forever under this rule, which says that aside from Steve Young, QBs wearing 8 are entirely devoid of any sort of swagger. As McDonald noted, think about the recent starting quarterbacks in the NFL who wear it: Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford...yawn.
Rule 9: 50-55 are the good 50s numbers
Yep. Look at the names of players on the Packers’ 90-man roster currently wearing numbers in the bottom half of the 50s:
And now the guys from 56 to 59: Randy Ramsey, Adam Pankey, Greg Roberts, Brady Sheldon, Eric Cotton. (Pankey and Roberts both have 57 for the time being.)
That’s quite the dropoff. In fact, from 56 to 59, the only particularly good Packers player from recent memory who comes to my mind as I write this was center Mike Flanagan, who wore 58.
In total, it seems that the Packers have done a good job sticking to the trends laid out in this piece, at least at present. Got any other big rules that should have been included in the list? Let us know in the comments.