After the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl II over Oakland to end the 1967 season, the team went into a free-fall over the next 25 years. In that time, the Packers only reached the playoffs twice after winning Central Division titles in 1972 and 1982.
Head coach Lindy Infante was fired after a dismal 4-12 record in 1991, and the Packers replaced him with San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren.
Soon, Green Bay’s fortunes would turn around with Holmgren guiding the team to six consecutive playoff appearances including a Super Bowl win in January 1997.
But none of that may have happened without a virtually unknown gun-slinging quarterback who became a Hall of Famer.
Brett Favre played two games in his 1991 rookie season with the Atlanta Falcons. He had no completed passes in four attempts, threw two interceptions and was sacked once for an 11-yard loss. Atlanta head coach Jerry Glanville never wanted Favre to begin with, but Packers general manager Ron Wolf had his eye on the 6-foot-2, 222-pound signal caller from Southern Mississippi in the 1991 draft. Yet, the Falcons chose Favre before Green Bay had the opportunity to select him. Wolf acquired Favre from Atlanta after the 1991 season in exchange for a first-round draft pick.
Favre begins QB reign
Don Majkowski was Green Bay’s No. 1 quarterback as the Packers’ opened training camp in 1992.
In 1989, he led the NFL with 4,318 yards passing, 353 completions on 599 attempts and 27 touchdown passes. Majkowski couldn’t match those numbers in 1990-91, but was still first string entering Holmgren’s inaugural season.
Green Bay opened the campaign on Sept. 6 with a 23-20 overtime loss to Minnesota. The following week, the Packers trailed Tampa Bay 17-0 at halftime before Holmgren replaced Majkowski with Favre. His first pass attempt was deflected by a Buccaneer defender and caught by Favre, who was thrown for a seven-yard loss. He threw an interception and was sacked four times as the Packers fell 31-3.
In the Sept. 20 game at Lambeau Field against Cincinnati, Majkowski was forced to the bench with an injury and Holmgren was forced to put in Favre.
The Packers trailed 20-10 in the fourth quarter, but Favre hit Sterling Sharpe with 5-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 20-17. The Bengals added a field goal before Favre spearheaded a 92-yard drive in the final 1:07 of the game, including a 42-yard pass to Sharpe and a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor to give Green Bay a 24-23 win.
The following week, Favre threw touchdown passes to Sharpe and Robert Brooks as the Packers beat the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 17-3. However, Green Bay went into a tailspin with three straight losses against Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago.
Green Bay improved to 3-5 Nov. 1 at Detroit as Favre threw scoring passes to Sharpe and Jackie Harris in a 27-13 triumph, but in its next game, the Packers suffered a 27-7 setback to the New York Giants.
It appeared the team was doomed to an uphill struggle in the final seven games of the season, but Green Bay turned things around and put themselves into playoff contention with six straight wins.
The big push
Against Philadelphia at Milwaukee County Stadium on Nov. 15, Favre threw another scoring pass to Sharpe and Vince Workman tallied on a 1-yard run to put Green Bay on top 14-3 at halftime. Favre connected with Darrell Thompson on a scoring pass in the fourth quarter to give the Packers a 21-10 advantage.
But the lead didn’t hold as Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Heath Sherman, and Herschel Walker scored on a 2-yard run to put the Eagles on top 24-21.
Yet two Chris Jacke field goals proved to be the difference as the Packers pulled out a 27-24 victory.
The Pack then got revenge on the Bears in Soldier Field as Sharpe caught a 49-yard scoring pass from Favre, and Favre scored on a 5-yard run in a 17-3 win over Chicago.
The Packers returned to Milwaukee County Stadium Nov. 29 in a rematch against the Buccaneers. Four Jacke field goals accounted for all Green Bay scoring as Tampa Bay led 14-12 after three quarters. Yet, a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Favre to Harris made the difference in the Pack’s 19-14 win.
Green Bay defeated Detroit the following week 38-10 in Milwaukee as Favre threw three scoring passes, two to Sharpe, in the first half.
With Green Bay’s record up to 6-6, the team traveled to the Houston Astrodome Dec. 13 to play the Oilers. Jacke scored the first nine points on three field goals before Favre found Sharpe in the end zone on a 6-yard pass to give the Packers a 16-7 lead. The Oilers added a fourth-quarter touchdown but Green Bay held on for a 16-14 win.
Returning to Lambeau Dec. 20, Green Bay’s four-touchdown explosion in the second quarter led to a 28-13 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams as Favre connected with Sharpe on two more touchdown passes.
The Packers’ six-game winning streak raised their record to 9-6 and into a tie with Washington for the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Washington lost its regular season finale to the Los Angeles Raiders, but the Packers couldn’t take advantage as the Minnesota Vikings jumped out to a 20-7 halftime lead and added a third-quarter touchdown to take the win.
The Packers and Washington finished with a 9-7 record, but Washington won the playoff tie-breaker by having a better conference record than Green Bay.
Favre completed 302-of-471 passes for 3,227 yards and 18 touchdowns. Sharpe finished with 108 receptions for 1,461 yards and 13 touchdowns.
A new winning tradition was beginning for the Packers.
From 1993-98, Green Bay would be playoff qualifiers and win Super Bowl XXXI with a 35-21 victory over New England.
There would be some lean years, but since 1993, the team has reached the playoffs for 20 seasons, a mark very few NFL teams can match. Of course, the team would make some wise choices in the NFL draft including Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Donald Driver. They hired head coach Mike McCarthy, who guided them to another Super Bowl win with Rodgers as the signal caller.
But it’s safe to say the Packers’ current winning tradition started in 1992 when Holmgren, a rookie head coach, turned the offense over to a quarterback from Mississippi named Brett Favre.