The 100th Anniversary All-NFC North Team


Packers vs Bears by Mike Morbeck [CC BY-SA 2.0 (] Image Cropped

With the first century of NFL football in the books, we thought it would be nice to come up with a definitive All-Time squad to represent the whole of the NFL’s “oldest” division.

Yes, there has been ample division realignment over the years, but all four NFC North teams have been in the NFL since 1961, with three of them since the 1930s, and two since 1921.

The NFC North, as its currently comprised, is the oldest combined division in the NFL by a wide margin. Between the four teams, the division has won 27 NFL Championships, 26 World Championships, and five Super Bowls.

NFC North is, by far, the most culturally homogeneous and geographically appropriate division. Nestled amidst the Great Lakes, their four stadiums represent the Mecca of Midwestern sports culture. The NFC North is the most historic division in NFL history, with many of the most legendary names the game has ever seen. This cohesive division has been battling each other since before the first Super Bowl.

Lombardi’s Packers, The Monsters of the Midway, The Purple People Eaters, the Curse of Bobby Layne and so on. The mystique around this division is palpable. It’s the “Black and Blue Division” people; it’s an old school division.

The Great Lakes culture, whatever it may be, permeates the division. Three major metropolises dominate the region: Chicago, Detroit, and the Twin Cities. And then there’s little old Green Bay, two hours north of the Midwestern little brother city, Milwaukee.

The sharing of brats, craft beer, cornhole matches and bonfires, the indescribable feeling of hunting season, an afternoon on the lake, and traditions that somehow endure in both small towns and underrated cities. The Midwest is a fascinating place. Where people don’t think twice about taking an eight hour drive, where people say “watch out for deer” as a final goodbye, and where everyone has some special plot of land they refer to as “up north.”

Strong coffee and upper-Midwest sunrises cannot be beat. Okay, maybe a craft beer on a Great Lake beach. Or perhaps some some prime rib, a Friday night fish fry or another oversized portion of meat.

There are no wrong answers here.

Other major Midwestern cities include Indianapolis (an adored former home of mine and where one sister and her family resides), Cleveland, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. But the “big three” really pull their weight for the region, historically and culturally.

It’s funny to see Green Bay included with those three in the context of the NFC North. This division, and region, mean so much to me. There was no chance for me, really. I personally have been surrounded by it my whole life. My fiancee is a Chicagoland-born Bears fan, my childhood and lifelong best friend is a Detroit Lions fan, and multiple cousins and uncles of mine are Vikings fans.

I grew up on the outskirts of the extended metropolitan area of Detroit, I’ve lived and worked in the city of Chicago, I have extended family in Minneapolis and its suburbs, and my sister and her family (including my Bears fan brother-in-law), coincidentally, currently live in Green Bay.

I was born in Wisconsin like my father and his father before him, both Packers fans to the core. They were born in west-central Wisconsin. I was born near the border of Minnesota. However, I currently live in Pittsburgh in the middle of AFC North territory, another division with strong Midwestern roots itself.

I traded Great Lakes for three rivers.

My mother was born in St. Paul and her father was a Minnesota-native Vikings diehard. My other brother-in-law is the son of a Hoosier born Bears fan (turned Colts fan when the team moved to Indy).

The first player that my father (the other half of really told me about from NFL history before I was born was Walter Payton, a player he got to see live at Lambeau Field. In my fourth grade school picture I am wearing a Randy Moss jersey, he’s one of the reasons I played wide receiver when I was a kid. The first NFL game I ever went to was a Packers game in Detroit with my dad. My next one would be in Detroit, too, this time with both parents and my best friend. I wore an Antonio Freeman jersey, he wore a Lions Chris Spielman jersey.

Randy Moss – Mike Morbeck [CC BY-SA 2.0 (]
Most of my friends growing up identified as suffering Lions fans. Throughout my entire life, about twice a year I get to visit the “homeland” of Wisconsin with my family. I used to always get a new Packers hat while we mingled with the locals; to this day I never feel more at home than when I’m there.

We at have a deep respect for the entire NFC North. We really do.

Sure, we make our jokes about the other three NFC North teams. You know, like the Lions having not won a championship since 1957 or a playoff game since 1991, the Vikings being 0-4 in the Super Bowl, and the fact that the Bears still suck… but behind the jokes is respect and mutual adoration for the Packers’ closest (literally and figuratively) rivals.

With that backstory out of the way, below is our All-Time NFC North team. You’ll notice that all 100 years of history were accounted for when creating these squads, as they should be. Greats from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, and beyond are all represented.

Before you dig in, we wanted to point out some of our favorite Position Groups. The defensive front (DE, DT and LB) of the First Team is incredible. When you get to it, really look at those names. A surprising favorite group are the skill position players (RBs, WR and TE) on the Second Team. It’s insane that they are not on the first team, but that just shows how deep this division is in all-time talent.

The offensive line of the Third Team is full of legends, somehow, and features three legendary legendary halfbacks. Even the Fourth Team is full of Hall of Fame inductees, check out their defensive line and running backs. It’s incredible.

So here it is, the most comprehensive NFC North All-Time Team ever assembled — enjoy.

All-Time First Team:

QB: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
QB: Brett Favre (GB)
RB: Walter Payton (CHI)
RB: Barry Sanders (DET)
RB: Gale Sayers (CHI)
WR: Don Hutson (GB)
WR: Randy Moss (MIN)
WR: Calvin Johnson (DET)
TE: Mike Ditka (CHI)
LT: Orlando Pace (CHI)
LG: Randall McDaniel (MIN)
C: Jim Ringo (GB)
RG: Jerry Kramer (GB)
RT: Forrest Gregg (GB)

DE: Reggie White (GB)
DT: Alan Page (MIN)
DT: John Randle (MIN)
DE: Carl Eller (MIN)
OLB: Bill George (CHI)
ILB: Dick Butkus (CHI)
ILB: Ray Nitschke (GB)
OLB: Dave Robinson (GB)
CB: Lem Barney (DET)
S: Paul Krause (MIN)
S: Willie Wood (GB)
CB: Charles Woodson (GB)

K: Jason Hanson (DET)
P: Bobby Joe Green (CHI)
KR: Devin Hester (CHI)

Head Coach: Vince Lombardi (GB)

All-Time Second Team:

QB: Bart Starr (GB)
QB: Fran Tarkenton (MIN)
RB: Adrian Peterson (MIN)
RB: Jim Taylor (GB)
RB: Red Grange (CHI)
WR: Cris Carter (MIN)
WR: Sterling Sharpe (GB)
WR: James Lofton (GB)
TE: Charlie Sanders (DET)
LT: Gary Zimmerman (MIN)
LG: Steve Hutchinson (MIN)
C: Bulldog Turner (CHI)
RG: Dick Stanfel (DET)
RT: Ron Yary (MIN)

DE: Willie Davis (GB)
DT: Dan Hampton (CHI)
DT: Henry Jordan (GB)
DE: Richard Dent (CHI)
OLB: Joe Schmidt (DET)
ILB: Mike Singletary (CHI)
ILB: Brian Urlacher (CHI)
OLB: Joe Fortunato (CHI)
CB: Dick “Night Train” Lane (DET)
S: Jack Christiansen (DET)
S: Yale Lary (DET)
CB: Herb Adderley (GB)

K: Ryan Longwell (GB/MIN)
P: Yale Lary (DET) – Second Time Listed
KR: Desmond Howard (GB)

Head Coach: George “Papa Bear” Halas (CHI)

All-Time Third Team:

QB: Sid Luckman (CHI)
QB: Arnie Herber (GB)
RB: Doak Walker (DET)
RB: Bronko Nagurski (CHI)
RB: Paul Hornung (GB)
WR: Herman Moore (DET)
WR: Bill Hewitt (CHI)
WR: Anthony Carter (MIN)
TE: Paul Coffman (GB)
LT: Lou Creekmur (DET)
LG: Mike Michalske (GB)
C: Mick Tinglehoff (MIN)
RG: Grover “Ox” Emerson (DET)
RT: George Connor (CHI)

DE: Chris Doleman (MIN)
DT: Roger Brown (DET)
DT: Alex Karras (DET)
DE: Doug Adkins (CHI)
OLB: Matt Blair (MIN)
ILB: Khalil Mack (CHI)
ILB: Lance Briggs (CHI)
OLB: Clay Matthews (GB)
CB:  Dick LeBeau (DET)
S: LeRoy Butler (GB)
S: Bobby Dillon (GB)
CB: Charles “Peanut” Tillman (CHI)

K: Mason Crosby (GB)
P: Brad Maynard (CHI)
KR: Gale Sayers (CHI) – Second Time Listed

Head Coach: Curly Lambeau (GB)

All-Time Fourth Team:

QB: Bobby Layne (DET)
QB: Matthew Stafford (DET)
RB: Ahman Green (GB)
RB: Dutch Clark (DET)
RB: Chuck Foreman (MIN)
WR: Jordy Nelson (GB)
WR: Ken Kavanaugh (CHI)
WR: Billy Howton (GB)
TE: Steve Jordan (MIN)
LT: Joe Stydahar (CHI)
LG: Charles “Buckets” Goldenberg (GB)
C: Alex Wojciochowicz (DET)
RG: Danny Fortmann (CHI)
RT: Cal Hubbard (GB)

DE: Jim Marshall (MIN)
DT: Keith Millard (MIN)
DT: Steve McMichael (CHI)
DE: Robert Porcher (DET)
OLB: Otis Wilson (CHI)
ILB: Charley Brock (GB)
ILB: Chris Spielman (DET)
OLB: John Anderson (GB)
CB: Darius Slay (DET)
S: Joey Browner (MIN)
S: Gary Fencik (CHI)
CB: Al Harris (GB)

K: Fred Cox (MIN)
P: Donny Anderson (GB)
KR: Travis Williams (GB)

Head Coach: Bud Grant (MIN)

A few inside linebackers were switched to outside linebackers just to “get them on the field” with these All-Time teams. To keep things simple, ends are classified as wide receivers and running fullbacks are listed as running backs. Kick returner is also each team’s punt returner. Yes, blocking fullbacks do get the short end of the stick on these all-time teams.

There is a slight emphasis on offensive skill position players on these all-time teams because that’s what makes the league go ’round. Ryan Longwell is a rare case where a player had a similar impact on two NFC North teams. Because of special teams positions, Sayers and Lary are the two men included twice on the teams.

To see how incredible this division’s history holds, look at some of the great players below that couldn’t crack one of this division’s top four teams (particularly at the running back position, the deepest position group by far). Multiple Hall of Fame inductees are left out because of this phenomenon.

All-Time Honorable Mentions:

Packers: RB Clarke Hinkle, RB Tony Canadeo, RB Johnny Blood, WR Donald Driver, WR Lavern Dilweg, WR Boyd Dowler, WR Billy Howton, G Fuzzy Thurston, G Russ Letlow, T David Bahktiari, CB Bob Jeter, DT Gilbert Brown, DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and S Nick Collins.

Bears: QB Paddy Driscoll, RB George McAfee, RB Bill Osmanski, RB Rick Casares, RB Matt Forte, WR Harlon Hill, TE Greg Olsen, T Jumbo Covert, T Ed Healey, C Olin Kreutz, C Jay Hilgenberg, G Stan Jones, DE Ed Sprinkle.

(G Josh Sitton for the Packers and the Bears).

Vikings: QB Daunte Culpepper, RB Bill Brown, RB Robert Smith, WR Ahmad Rashad, C Matt Birk, T Gary Alderman, DE Jared Allen, DT Gary Larsen, DT Henry Thomas, DE Everson Griffen, LB Roy Winston, CB Bobby Bryant, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Carl Lee, S Harrison Smith and Antoine Winfield (MIN).

Lions: RB Byron “Whizzer” White, RB Billy Simms, WR Mel Gray, T George Christensen, T Lomas Brown, G John Gordy, DE Al “Bubba” Baker, DT Roger Brown, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Doug English, CB Jim David and K Matt Prater.

Out of these over 150 notable men, which team did your all-time favorites end up on?

I’d like to see any division’s All-Time First Team try to go up against the NFC North’s All-Time Team. There is not a single position of weakness on this division’s top team. Every player on the the NFC’s North All-Time First Team is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (other than special teams).

No other division in NFL history has had the collection of high-end talent at every single position as the NFC North. Yes, being collectively the oldest division in professional football helps in that regard, but that history is what makes the division so special.

Alright, lets hear it. Who did we completely disrespect on these all-time teams? What player isn’t getting the respect you think they should get?

Whether you agree or disagree with us, we thank you NFC North fan for reading. Here’s to another 100 years of NFL football, wonder how different these all-time NFC North teams will look in another 100.

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We seek to bring more context to, and share interesting stores about, the history of the Green Bay Packers and the NFL as a whole. Clickbait be damned. "We" are Daniel and David Zillmer; hit the about or contact to learn more.

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