The history of the Green Bay Packers is staggering. It, in all of its intricate detail, dates back to the immediate days of post-World War I America and has grown stronger through present day. It’s the unlikeliest story in the history of sport.
This small town franchise has always been led by huge names. Names that will forever linger in the consciousness of football fans in the state of Wisconsin.
We want to give Green Bay Packers fans an intimate and detailed visual representation of the team’s history of notable players at every position. In this way, it works as a sort of timeline and history of the franchise itself.
The basic idea is that the larger the font, the more crucial that player was to the history of the Packers at the position they played.
With these infographics, we have covered the entire first 100 years of franchise history by looking at which players have dominated at each position. We believe they offer a rare, and interesting, zoomed-out view of the history at each position. Some things cannot be adequately understood until you see them from a different perspective.
This perspective shows the flow of talent in Green Bay, rises and falls and certain positions, and how team success lines up with star talent (larger-fonted names).
With this said, some position lineages were harder to accurately piece together than others. The NFL, and its recorded history, focused primarily on the offensive side of the ball in the first three decades of its existence. Thus, the histories of many defensive positions are relatively lost. It’s just the way it is.
But we want to be transparent about that. It was a conscious decision to not guess or disingenuously include names on these font-size-weighted lineages.
Professional footballers played two-ways in those early decades (1920s-40s) and their play on the offensive side of the ball is much more widely chronicled. You will notice this phenomenon as you check out these lineages.
So, we’ve been left with being able to honor these players’ offensive output with more accuracy.
Note: For every position group, the names are sized by their impact out on the field and on the franchise, relative to others at their position group throughout team history. Keep in mind, the size of each players’ name is only comparable to others in their position group, not to the names in other position groupings.
Some position groups are stronger than others all-time, of course, and it’s interesting to chart the all-time greats (larger names) along with the Packers’ most successful years as a franchise. The 1930s and 1960s are the most successful decades, in terms of championships, and there are some huge names — literally — to go along with those years.
That said, the 1990s through the 2010s have been littered with success, too. Those names were a large part of that success.
There will be players that you watched or liked that did not make it onto these lineages. However all notable players at each position group are included in this all-time piece.
Some of the biggest names in NFL history are found on the PackersHistory.com original infographics below. There are also some names that you’ll have forgotten about, but will enjoy seeing.
As you probably know, the team was successful in the 1920s, especially in the late-1920s and throughout the entirety of the 1930s. The team was also good in the 1940s, but fell off as the decade raged on. The Packers got worse throughout the entirety of the 1950s, before Vince Lombardi turned them into a dynasty in the 1960s.
The 1970s and ’80s were lean, of course, both in team success and in star players. But then the team finally bounced back in the 1990s. Stars were found in Green Bay once again and through the 2000s and 2010s the winning culture has remained.
Keep this roller coaster in mind as you peep the names in the infographics below.
Enjoy this century-old lineage of Packers at every position:
As you can see, and you surely already knew, the Packers have been incredibly fortunate and top-heavy at the quarterback position throughout its entire history. When you think of the Packers, you think of quarterbacks.
There’s no position in sport as magical as the signal caller in Green Bay. All eyes are about to be on you, Jordan Love.
As you can tell, the history of the Packers, when it comes to notable individual players, is dominated by running backs. Which makes sense for a franchise as old as Green Bay, when the game of football was first and foremost a ‘ground game’ for at least the first half of the league’s existence.
Name after name is impressive from the 1920s to 2020. In fact, 2020 may be one of the strongest backfields in team history. Only one position group in team history matches running back in overall collection of notable players and elite players (found later on in this piece).
The Packers have had ample success at the wide receiver position in recent years, which makes sense with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball. But still, this position is dominated by a few large names in franchise history, including the first superstar at the position in professional football history.
Their current best wide receiver is living up to that legacy nicely and he’s not done writing his story quite yet.
Tight end might just be the Packers’ “weakest” position in franchise history. With that said, the position has had a big impact on the overall success of the team. It’s a unique position that didn’t really gain ample traction on the gridiron, in Green Bay, until the 1950s.
The roles of tight ends have evolved dramatically over the decades throughout all of football. Yeah, Big Bob Tonyan has earned his spot here already. He’s so much fun to root for.
Tackle is a position where the Packers have had elite players since the very beginning. The position peaked in the 1960s, of course, but is in great hands today. It’s been one of the more consistent positions in Packers history.
…And it’s still far too soon to mention that Bryan Bulaga (eye-wuh) is with the Los Angeles Chargers and no longer in Green Bay.
Interior offensive linemen, in Packers history, are an incredibly dense collection of talent. Offensive line, as a whole, represents the strongest position group in team history along with ball carriers. Again, this makes sense because of the nature of football in the team’s earliest days.
Man, how can you not appreciate these names? “Big E” is looking to grow his font size in the coming years. We’re believers.
Some absolutely monstrous names can be found on the Packers’ all-time defensive line. It’s tough to look at who stared on the defensive line before 1950 because footballers often played two ways in those days and were, typically, more revered for their work on the offensive side of the ball. So it goes.
This position group would have definitively peaked in the 1960s if it wasn’t for one monumental free agent signing in 1993. Yeah, that guy.
The linebacker position is another position that unequivocally peaked in the 1960s. However the position may be having a bit of a renaissance in Green Bay at the moment. And yes, we included edge rushing linebackers, who often times operate like defensive ends, in with traditional linebackers on this all-time timeline.
It’s an important distinction, but a necessary one to make. The current group of linebackers relies heavily on rushing the passer and we’re not complaining.
The cornerback position didn’t exactly thrive in Green Bay from 1980-2000, but has been quite strong in most other decades. It’s a top-heavy position for the Packers all-time, no doubt.
We think you can see (and probably already knew) the two men who lead this position for this franchise all-time. Although look for Jaire Alexander to double his font size in the coming seasons.
Safety has even more talent at the top than cornerback in Packers history. In recent years it’s been a bit of a question mark following Nick Collins’ injury, but the position appears to be in good hands at the moment.
In fact, there’s a chance the current group grows in stature in the coming years. They have the swagger, speed and talent to be an elite tandem.
Special teams in Green Bay has had a litany of notable names, but it wasn’t until the last three decades that it really began to boast borderline iconic names (in Wisconsin, at least). There’s a lot of positions included in this “position group” timeline. However it felt necessary to group them all together.
And no, Desmond Howard’s font isn’t too large. His tenure was short, but absolutely magical.
The Green Bay Packers’ franchise has had 15 head coaches in its 101 year history. These are the men that are truly worthy of remembrance at the position. Hopefully Matt Lafleur’s stature grows in the coming years.
Will he be the fifth coach in Packers history to win a World Championship?
The men on these lists have shaped the entire history of the Green Bay Packers. The ups and the downs… but mostly the ups.
George Calhoun, Jack Vainisi, Ron Wolf, Ted Thompson among others would be included in a ‘builders’ category, too. Perhaps we’ll add that group to this collection of infographics at some point.
It’s humbling isn’t it to look at the first 100 years of Packers football, an entire century, from 1919 through the 2019 season. The game of football has changed dramatically in a thousand ways, but the Packers have remained. It’s because of the guys outlined in these lists.
Here’s to another 100 years – Go Pack Go!
This is really nice. Great idea and great outcome.
Please consider adding Verne Llewellyn to the Special Teams group. He was the premiere punter of his era, an era in which punting for field position played a dominant role in the game (https://www.packers.com/news/verne-lewellen-is-former-packer-most-deserving-of-canton-induction-20381335).
Upon his retirement, Al Carmichael was the NFL’s all-time leader in kickoff return yards, twice led the league in kickoff returns for touchdowns and held an NFL record for a return of 106 yards that stood for more than 50 years (https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2853256-packers-hall-of-fame-member-al-hoagy-carmichael-dies-at-age-90).
And Lavie Dilweg was a premiere end in the NFL until some guy name Hutson joined the league. Dilweg was a six-time consensus All-Pro and two-time second team All-Pro in nine seasons. Add 27 career interceptions and he might be worth a mention on the defensive side as well (http://www.profootballresearchers.org/Lavvie_Dilweg_Fact_Sheet.pdf).
Great input Ron!