Souhan: Sorry, Packer Nation, it's back to the QB Dark Ages

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 23, 2013 - 9:26 PM
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Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien hasn’t won as an NFL starter, but he hit on some deep throws against the Giants.

Photo: Tom Lynn, Associated Press

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Time for a little trivia about Packers quarterbacks.

• The Packers once employed a guy whose last name started with “Brat,’’ and it wasn’t a marketing gimmick dreamed up by a Wisconsin sausage company. Zeke Bratkowski backed up Bart Starr during the Packers’ glory years.

• The Pack once employed a guy whose first name was “Bullet.’’ Bullet Baker played for the Packers in the ’20s, in an obvious homage to Wisconsin’s hunting heritage.

• There have been Packers quarterbacks named Pid, Red, Curly, Adolph, Tobin, Babe and Jug.

•  These facts and many historical documents prove something that may shock Vikings and Packers fans whose first memories of the rivalry involved Randy Moss and lewd acts with goalposts:

Not all Packers starting quarterbacks were named Starr, Favre or Rodgers. You could look it up.

There was a time, children, when Packer Nation not only wasn’t called Packer Nation, because nobody back then conferred statehood on people because they wore the same-colored hoodies, but also because it was embarrassing to admit you followed a team that called Randy Wright its starting quarterback for an entire season.

Bart Starr started at least one game at quarterback every season for the Packers from 1956 through 1971. Favre became the NFL’s most admirable iron man from 1992 through 2007 before beginning his Sojourn of Revenge. Aaron Rodgers pried Favre’s cold, live digits off the baton in 2008 and, until suffering an injury on Nov. 4, didn’t require a backup, much like Starr and Favre.

In the three weeks since Rodgers’ injury, the Packers have been reminded what it’s like to hold open tryouts at the most important position in sports. They have learned what it’s like to be the modern Vikings — and the Packers of 1971-1992.

This is how shoddy the Packers’ quarterback play was in their Dark Years: In 1989, Packer Province believed a mullet-headed unknown named Don Majkowski was a savior.

The Pack won the Super Bowl following the 1967 season. They would not win another postseason game until Favre took them to the conference title game in 1995. Between the tenures of Starr and Favre, the Packers would win 10 games in a season only twice.

Scott Hunter quarterbacked them to a 10-4 record in 1972. Majkowski led them to a 10-6 record in 1989.

Before Majkowski arrived, the Packers existed only as a vehicle through which to celebrate the ghost of Vince Lombardi. Lambeau Field, now a manicured shrine, was nothing but a dump. The team actually played some of its regular-season games at decrepit Milwaukee County Stadium.

Majkowski wasn’t particularly accurate. He completed 59 percent of his passes that season, 55 percent for his career. He threw 20 interceptions. He did run around wildly, lead improbable comebacks, earn a cool moniker (Majik Man!) and do so with blond locks flowing or freezing in the wind.

For a franchise wearying of watching Lynn Dickey, Majkowski earned a playing-field promotion to football hero.

His mojo lasted about one season, and then he became one of the 19 quarterbacks the Packers tried out as starters between the tenures of Starr and Favre.

If, at the end of the 1990 season, you had offered the Packers a quarterbacking future involving Rich Gannon, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper and Favre, they would have eagerly taken it.

Then Ron Wolf took over, hired Mike Holmgren and traded for the Atlanta Falcons’ wild-man backup quarterback. Once Favre arrived, the Packers became what they are today: a franchise elevated by its quarterback play.

Thanks to Favre, Packers history was reborn, Lambeau was renovated into a living museum and there is no longer a need for the team to play in Milwaukee.

On Sunday against the Vikings, the Packers will use their third starting quarterback in four weeks. They had won four straight before Rodgers’ injury. They have lost three straight since.

Scott Tolzien is the latest object of hope for a fan base accustomed to faith.

This, Packers fans, is how the other half lives.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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