1992 was a watershed year for the Packers. Though he took over in 1991, Packers general manager Ron Wolf didn’t really get down to work until 1992, when he hired Mike Holmgren and traded for Brett Favre. And as you well know, everything changed after that, leading to a virtually unbroken 30-year run of good football in Green Bay.
But the Packers had plenty of great players pre-1992, and that’s not just counting the Lombardi years, either. So today, we’re bringing some of those players from the past to the present, adding them to the modern Packers roster. Here’s who we’d bring out of our personal time machines.
Tex Western: Ted Hendricks
Part of me is picking this Hall of Famer purely to see a 6-foot-7, 230-pound linebacker on the field. Another part wants to make sure he gets his due for his one transcendent season as a Packer. But I think the Mad Stork could be just what the doctor ordered for a Packers defense desperate for a playmaker at off-ball linebacker.
Before his transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Raiders, Hendricks played left linebacker in the Packers’ 4-3 defense in 1974 and earned All-Pro honors for his efforts that year. He posted a truly monstrous season that year, with five interceptions, an estimated 75 tackles and two sacks, one safety, and an absolutely incredible SEVEN blocked kicks. He was a walking big play, and as his stats show, he was more than just a run-stopper.
In a modern NFL strength program, Hendricks might end up bulking up to play on the edge, where he could be part of a devastating group with the Smith Brothers. There’s no question about him setting the edge in the run game or disengaging from blocks, and he would be more than intelligent enough to call the defense — after all, he was a physics major in college and enjoyed doing math problems in his free time. Ultimately, Hendricks would be able to maintain his playmaking ability even playing off the ball in the modern NFL.
Rcon14: Bart Starr
People don’t realize how awesome Bart Starr was. He led the league in INT% three times, AY/A twice, Completion percentage four times, and passer rating four times. While Starr never had the single peak season to match Rodgers’ 2011, Starr actually posted two seasons better than any of Favre’s by era-adjusted AY/A. If we make assumptions for the ability of a prior player to play in today, which is what we have to do here, Starr is a no-brainer. It’s a passing league, and because it is a passing league, it is a quarterbacks’ league. Because of the gritty aura around the Lombardi-era Packers, it’s often forgotten that they had the NFL’s best quarterback during that time, and if Green Bay could get someone to put up production that was 15-40% above league average at the quarterback position, they would be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Shawn Wagner: Willie Davis
While additional weight would be needed for today’s game, Davis was perhaps the greatest defensive lineman in franchise history and would immediately help bolster the Packers’ current pass rush from an end position. Davis may have enough versatility to slide inside to tackle on pass-rushing downs as well while having the power to set the edge on first and second down as a run defender. While his official sack counts are unknown, Davis was a terrorizing figure for quarterbacks and was believed to have notched more than 20 in a single season. Likewise, forced fumble statistical records are unavailable, but there is no doubt that Davis forced many of the 22 fumbles he recovered during his career. Green Bay’s defense is always on the lookout for turnover-creators and that was Davis.
Davis was tough as nails, known to play through an in-game dislocated finger and several other injuries. With the Packers seeking increased push and stoutness up front in 2020, Davis is an excellent addition to the roster.
Jon Meerdink: Dave Robinson
I’m a sucker for versatility, and Dave Robinson would bring exactly that to the Packers defense.
One of the three great linebackers on Vince Lombardi’s defense, Robinson did a little bit of everything for the Packers. He rushed the passer, played the run, and, with his condor-like wingspan, was a nightmare in pass coverage, intercepting 21 passes in 127 games with the Packers.
His most noteworthy contribution came on the dramatic last play of the Packers’ 1966 NFL Championship win over the Dallas Cowboys. Robinson freelanced on the play and forced Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith into a hurried throw, which the Packers intercepted in the end zone, preserving the 34-27 win. (Lombardi actually downgraded Robinson publicly for the play, but praised his quick-thinking playmaking in private.)
At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Robinson has enough size to fit in naturally as an off the ball linebacker or a slightly small-ish edge rusher. Once we figure out the logistics and ethics of time travel, I think Mike Pettine will find plenty of interesting ways to use him.
As a side note, it’s cool that Robinson (and his defensive running mate Willie Davis) wore a number in the 80s. Defenders should be allowed to do that. When I am made king of the NFL, they will be able to do so.
Paul Noonan: James Lofton
There’s a pretty good case to be made that Lofton is the second greatest receiver in team history and the best of the Super Bowl era. He also fills a huge need on the current team as an incredible outside deep threat. In an era that wasn’t even close to as pass friendly as today’s NFL, Lofton eclipsed 1100 yards in five of his Packer seasons and 1200 yards in three of them. He led the league in yards per reception twice, averaging more than 22 yards per catch in 1983 and 1984. He eclipsed 20 yards per catch five times in his great career. Lofton’s best seasons were, unsurprisingly, those in which Lynn Dickey was behind center, and you can also make a good case that with better quarterbacking in the non-Dickey years, or better health from Dickey, he would have been even better.
He continued to put up Hall of Fame-level numbers with Jim Kelly in Buffalo, and one would assume that he would be just fine paired up with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams as well. The Packers should have selected a receiver in the last draft, and since they ignored the position, Lofton is the obvious answer.