How about a little love for the big guys up front?
Offensive linemen rarely get the credit they deserve while, oftentimes, fielding ample blame on a weekly basis in the NFL. Such is life for offensive linemen, even for those that played and starred for the Green Bay Packers over the last century.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t offer up some sorely needed praise for those who play, and have played, their whole careers in the trenches. They rarely score, they rarely sell jerseys, but they’re consistently the most important men every time they step onto the field.
Throughout the history of the Green Bay Packers there have been so many impactful offensive linemen. In fact, it’s probably the position group with the most impressive depth of talent in the history of the franchise — which makes sense when you sit and think about it.
Vince Lombardi said it best,
“Football is two things. It’s blocking and tackling. I don’t care about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you’re playing, you win.”
The NFL, despite it’s analytical-driven changes in philosophy and temperament in recent years, is still a game of blocking and tackling. And we believe that good blocking beats good tackling almost every time.
All blocking, obviously, starts with the offensive line. There is not a single play in a football playbook, at any level, that doesn’t require solid blocking from the offensive line to be as successful on the field as it was imagined when it was drawn up.
In the NFL’s ancient, brutal days offensive linemen were often the team’s star players. They were the name brand players on their respective teams as nearly every play was a run. Despite the fact that much of that star power has faded from the position, they remain as vital as ever.
The NFL is a passing league now and that isn’t going to change. However this has only bolstered the need for solid players at every position on the offensive line if a team wants to be a serious contender for the Lombardi Trophy. Sure, quarterbacks run the league, but they can’t do a damn thing if they’re running for their life or getting knocked on their ass.
It seems true to us that every football fan eventually comes to the realization that the offensive line is the most important facet of a football team — along with the aforementioned quarterbacks. Defense still wins championships, sure, but not if their offensive counterparts can’t block.
We honestly believe that if the smartest player on your favorite team is a center, your toughest is an offensive tackle and your most athletic is a guard, your team is in good shape. This is despite the fact many people consider linemen to be little more than grunt workers.
That is how interesting this position group is.
To be over 300 pounds and maintain the level of speed, strength and balance that offensive line requires in the NFL is nothing short of astounding. Defensive tackles have gotten stronger, edge rushers have gotten faster and blitzing schemes have gotten more complex, but offensive linemen are expected to flawlessly do their jobs every week. And they don’t get enough credit for reading blitzes before the snap and then executing specific blocking techniques in the midst of chaos.
There are few easily-digestible stats that measure their effectiveness and their mistakes are, seemingly, always magnified. Lots of fault to be had, but not much praise.
What we’re tripping over our words saying is, these guys deserve better.
So, to begin honoring these behemoths of professional football we figured we’d countdown the Top 35 offensive linemen in Green Bay Packers history — a lineage over 100 years in the making.
Current Packer Billy Turner recently, quite impressively, summed up what it’s like to be an offensive lineman in Green Bay:
“We’re one of the best of the best year in and year out. That is the standard. We are not shitty players.”
He’s not wrong.
Sure, fast wide receivers are undeniably fun to watch and intimidating middle linebackers are easy to root for, but it’s a fact that the game is won and lost in the trenches.
That said, we do feel like offensive linemen are appreciated more in Green Bay than in most places. Does that take reek of homerism? Perhaps, but we do believe it.
Due to the nature of the position, offensive linemen can be relatively obscure members on NFL rosters. However the peculiarity of the position (and lack of easily trackable stats) can also lead to them eventually becoming fan-favorites, which has happened many times throughout Packers history.
Elgton Jenkins very quickly grew into a leadership role on the Packers and he already fits into the category of fan-favorite at the age of 25. David Bakhtiari on the other hand, who is on a Pro Football Hall of Fame trajectory, took a few years to grow into his role as an adored player by many Packers fans.
Investing in the O-Line:
Lets be clear, the 2021 Packers will only go as far as their offensive line takes them.
Green Bay’s current offensive line unit, particularly the interior of the line, has been overhauled in recent years and the Packers have (smartly) invested heavily in their offensive line lately:
2019 Draft: Elgton Jenkins (G)
2020 Draft: Jon Runyan (G), Jake Hanson (C), Simon Stepaniak (G)
2021 Draft: Josh Myers (C), Royce Newman (G), Cole Van Lanen (G)
The Packers have also used free agency in recent years to bolster the offensive line, particularly the right tackle position. The players brought in via free agency include veterans Billy Turner (T), Jared Veldheer (T) and Ricky Wagner (T).
Honestly, Turner has a (small) chance to make this all-time list at some point if he continues to produce. Wagner, it should be noted, was a Wisconsin Badger in college. Recently drafted linemen Runyan, Sepaniak, Myers and Van Lanen (Wisconsin) are all Big Ten products, too. More on this connection later.
All NFL teams have to constantly be thinking about their offensive line, the Packers are no exception. That unit has to either be getting better or getting younger if that team wants to become or remain a contender. Green Bay has said goodbye to a couple beloved players in Bryan Bulaga and Corey Linsley — both cap casualties. Oddly, both are with the Los Angeles Chargers now.
There are a few linemen on the Packers’ current roster right now that have a chance to make or climb this all-time list in the coming years (we’ve mentioned a couple of them).
We hope you enjoy this all-time Packers offensive linemen list. Let us know if you think a player is ranked too high, too low!
Obviously the youngest linemen on the Packers aren’t mentioned in the section below, but may crack the all-time list some day. Elgton Jenkins is too young to make the all-time list (per our minimum of four years to be considered), but he is a lock to jump up the list in the coming years.
(In alphabetical order)
Daryn Colledge, LG, 2006-2010:
College Team: Boise State
Daryn put together a succinct five year career with the Packers and eight year NFL career. He was never a star, but was effective enough and didn’t shy away from the spotlight in the big moments. A Super Bowl XLV champion, his impact on that team was crucial.
Dick Himes, RT, 1968-1977:
College Team: Ohio State
Unfortunately for Himes, he arrived in Green Bay right as the glory years were coming to an end. But still, he was a reliable starter for eight of the 10 seasons when he was a Packer. He was on the right side of the line with the abominable right guard Gale Gillingham.
(Himes played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
Elgton Jenkins, LG, 2019-Present:*
College Team: Mississippi State
*Honorable Mention is a temporary placeholder
Even though Jenkins hasn’t played enough seasons to be eligible for this list, we figured he should still get a shoutout here. He’s that great of a player, even after only two seasons in the NFL.
Jenkins is a lock to make this all-time list by the time he plays his fourth season with the Green Bay Packers. And he’s not going to just squeak into the Top 35 either. Versatility, intelligence, confidence, fearlessness, these are a few of the words we’d use to describe Elgton Jenkins. It will be fun to see him continue to develop; we believe he’s a future captain of this team. Listed as a left guard, he can play at an elite level anywhere at anytime. For him, o-line should be called a skill position.
T.J. Lang, RG, 2009-2015:
College Team: Eastern Michigan
The Packers moved on from Lang when he got to the age of 30, a trend for the team in recent decades. However, his last season in Green Bay was his best individual season, earning him a Pro Bowl nod. The Michigander received that honor once more in Detroit, too. He moved from left guard to right guard for the Packers and was on the team’s roster when they won their most recent Super Bowl (although not as a starter).
Pete Tinsley, RG, 1938-1945:
College Team: Georgia
What’s most incredible about Pete Tinsley is the fact that he stood 5’8″ and weighed just 205 pounds. And he played guard in an era when offensive and defensive linemen were getting bigger by the year. A Pro Bowl selection in 1939 when the Packers won the World Championship, he was on the 1944 squad that also won a title.
(Tinsley played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
Adam Timmerman, RG, 1995-1998:
College Team: South Dakota St.
Had Timmerman played with the Packers longer he certainly would have had a chance at making this all-time countdown. However his short tenure with the team (although exciting, including two Super Bowl runs) just can’t get him into the Top 35 all-time. His eight year career with the Rams was certainly fruitful, including one Pro Bowl selection.
There certainly are others worthy of mention here, but we simply can’t list them all.
Jeff Saturday (center, 2012) deserves mention just because of his stature in the league when he came to Green Bay. The same can be said of Jahri Evans (guard, 2017). Both played the final seasons of their fantastic careers in Green Bay. Interestingly enough, both recovered a fumble for the Packers in their final seasons as professional football players.
It should be noted that Evans was the better of the two and will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame soon. I mean, he made the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team! Saturday has a chance at The Hall, but I wouldn’t count on it. He did make the Pro Bowl in his one season in Green Bay (pretty much just on reputation and likability, but still).
Walt Kiesling also fits into this unique category of special mentions. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and NFL 1920s All-Decade team member was a star for various teams in the 1920s and early 1930s, but finally won a World Championship with the Packers in 1936. He spent just two years with the team, but is worthy of mention here. The guard was massive for the time standing 6’3″ and weighing 260 pounds.
One could argue that Bruce Van Dyke also falls into this category, coming to the Packers for a few seasons in the mid-1970s after he found some previous success with the Steelers. However it is definitely true that Ernie McMillan has to be mentioned. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with the St. Louis Cardinals before finishing his career with one season in Green Bay in 1975.
And then there’s Tony Madarich…
Most of you know the story, but the offensive tackle was drafted second overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. He was touted as “the best offensive line prospect ever.” Troy Aikman was drafted first overall and the 6’6″, 330 pound Mandarich was next. Following him were Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders who were drafted third, fourth and fifth overall. Four of the five players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — guess which one isn’t.
Mandarich’s short-lived career fizzled due to a lengthly holdout, attitude problems, ineffectiveness and steroid use. We’re not trying to be negative, it’s just a fact that you cannot talk about the history of offensive linemen in Green Bay and not mention him. But hey, had they drafted Barry Sanders instead maybe Brett Favre never becomes a Packer and the franchise is in a much worse spot than it is today.
The Packers’ O-Line Big Ten Connection:
We thought this deserved mentioning, as the Packers currently have six offensive linemen from the Big Ten football conference on their roster. They had seven but Stepaniak abruptly retired this week. The Packers have a long history of finding linemen from the Big Ten. In fact, 14 of the Packers’ Top 35 offensive linemen of all-time came from Big Ten programs — that’s a whopping 40% of these men.
To be clear, 14 out of 35 players from the Big Ten isn’t a fluke or random, it’s a clearly a geographic and cultural phenomena that we have a lot of time for. Not to mention, one player was out of Nebraska, which is a current Big Ten program.
This is just an interesting observation and it speaks to the brand of football midwestern teams have historically liked to play both in college and in the NFL. For good measure, four of Green Bay’s Top 35 linemen of all-time were Wisconsin Badgers; three of the 35 were Minnesota Golden Gophers.
And again, this isn’t some ancient occurrence, as we mentioned the Packers currently have six Big Ten offensive linemen on their roster right now! This trend will likely continue for another 100 years.
In case you were curious, five of the Top 35 offensive linemen came from SEC programs (14%).
Get this, 17 out of the Top 35 linemen in Packers history spent their entire career with the Green Bay Packers (almost 50%). For some reason, that is just a special happening.
It just matters, we can’t exactly say why. But it’s awesome and we hope it continues, especially with Bakhtiari and Jenkins. If so, this stat will be over 50%, which again, just seems special.
Alright, finally onto what you came for!
Top 35 Offensive Linemen in Packers History:
(Minimum four seasons in Green Bay to be eligible for this all-time list)
35. Ernie Smith, LT, 1935-1937, 1939:
College Team: USC
Smith put together a short, but productive career with the Green Bay Packers. As a left tackle, he protected Arnie Herber’s blindside (how often he legitimately had to is open for debate). He was named First Team All-Pro in 1936 when the team won it’s fourth World Championship — first with a playoff game. He was a Pro Bowler in his final season in Green Bay, when the team won its fifth World Championship.
(Smith played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
34. Dick Wildung, LT, 1946-1951, 1953:
College Team: Minnesota
Unfortunately for Wildung, he played for the Packers as they entered ‘The Wilderness’ period. Don Hutson had retired, Curly Lambeau was on his way out and the team didn’t put together many wins in his tenure. But still, he was a notable talent. He started 73 games for the Packers and was named to a Pro Bowl 1951.
(Wildung played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
33. Scott Wells, C, 2004-2011:
College Team: Tennessee
Wells has the distinct honor of being Brett Favre’s last full-time center and Aaron Rodgers’ first full-time center. Of course, this was after he transitioned to center from guard early in his career. The starting center on the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV squad was named to his lone Pro Bowl in 2011 when Green Bay went 15-1. He’d finish his career with the St. Louis Rams.
32. George Svendsen, C, 1935-1937, 1940-1941:
NFL 1930s All-Decade Team
College Team: Oregton St., Minnesota
Svendsen was born in Minneapolis and he died in Minneapolis, a true Minnesota boy. However he made a name for himself in the great state of Wisconsin. His greatest contribution to the Green Bay Packers was being a true difference maker on the 1936 World Championship team (a squad we consider one of the best in team history). The two-way player would, perhaps, be higher on this list if he would have put together a longer career.
(Svendsen played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
31. Ron Hallstrom, RG, 1982-1992:
College Team: Iowa Central; Iowa
Hallstrom was a versatile guard for the Packers with enough size to play tackle if needed. In fact, he was especially tall for a guard at 6’6″. In eight separate seasons he started at least 12 games for the Packers, but would finish his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. Hallstrom’s legacy is ultimately hurt by the subpar teams he routinely found himself on.
30. Mike Flanagan, C, 1998-2005:
College Team: UCLA
Flanagan was Brett Favre’s second full-time center in Green Bay. Despite the fact that the quarterback didn’t have his best seasons with Flanagan snapping him the ball, with a possible exception in 2003. Flanagan did provide a certain level of comfortability to the offense for a few years. Flanagan was named to a Pro Bowl squad in ’03 as a center the year after he helped the Packers by starting at left tackle. He had an underrated versatility to his game.
29. Earl Dotson, RT, 1993-2002:
College Team: Texas A&M-Kingsville
Dotson was the Packers’ starting right tackle for the Green Bay Packers’ back-to-back Super Bowl runs in the mid-1990s. “The Big E” played in 15 playoff games for the Packers and was a crucial member of the team’s cohesive offensive line in that era. From 1995 to 1998 he was as reliable as a right tackle the team could have asked for, as he stood 6’4″ with a 315 pound frame.
(Dotson played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
28. Mark Tauscher, RT, 2000-2010:
College Team: Wisconsin
Fan-favorite alert! Mark Tauscher is a hometown (OK, home state) hero. He was a part of the Packers’ dominant rushing attack in the early 2000s and stayed with the team through the Super Bowl XLV victory season. He wasn’t the most athletic lineman that’s ever donned the green and gold, but his 320 pound frame stood firm year after year. He became a starter as a rookie and never looked back.
(Tauscher played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
27. Lon Evans, RG, 1933-1937:
College Team: TCU
Evans spent just five years playing professional football, but he made the most of it. At the ages of 25 and 26, in his final two years in the NFL, he was named First Team All-Pro in each season. He started his career on the left side of the line, but transitioned to right guard, in which he found success. In 1936, he started for the Packers as they won the World Championship. We consider that specific team one of the best in franchise history.
(Evans played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
26. Greg Koch, RT, 1977-1985:
College Team: Arkansas
A ‘Lean Years’ stalwart, Koch protected Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey and played in 133 games over his nine years in Green Bay. Koch, although not considered a superstar, was a model of consistency and health. It was rare he was ever on the sideline and in 1982 he did receive a Second Team All-Pro nod from an obscure outlet (but hey, it’s worth mentioning right?) He was part of the Packers’ electric 1983 team, one of the most interesting squads in team history.
25. Mike Wahle, LG, 1998-2004:
College Team: Navy
In the final four years of Wahle’s tenure as starting left guard for the Green Bay Packers he started and played in every single game. In each year of his career he kept getting better and he was crucial member of the Packers’ historically-great 2003 offensive line. The Packers ultimately went in a different direction as he hit his peak as a player. In the season after he left Green Bay he was named to his first and only Pro Bowl while playing for Carolina. But he was a better player than many realize.
24. Ken Bowman, C, 1964-73:
College Team: Wisconsin
When you’re the man that snapped the ball for the Ice Bowl quarterback sneak, you’re going to be remembered. He also won the first two Super Bowls with the Packers. Bart Starr only had two primary centers in his career. Jim Ringo (found much higher on this all-time list) and Bowman. He remained the team’s starting safety into the ‘Lean Years’ while blocking for John Brockington with teammate Gale Gillingham (also found much higher on this countdown).
(Bowman played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
23. Bill Lee, RT, 1937-1942, 1946:
NFL 1930s All-Decade Team
College Team: Alabama
The World War II era player didn’t play in the most games with the Packers (only 53), but he sure was impactful. Lee actually played at Alabama with the great Don Hutson and found himself a teammate of his again in 1937. In 1939 he won a World Championship with the Packers, which was also his sole Pro Bowl season. But the football writers of the time certainly felt Lee was an impressive talent, as he was named All-Decade.
22. Frank Winters, C, 1992-2002:
College Team: Western Illinois
Winters was Brett Favre’s center for his three consectutive MVP seasons and he was one of the quarterback’s best friends on the field and off. When Favre was making all of those memorable plays, it was Winters who touched the ball first. He, impressively, put together a 16 year NFL career. But still, the vast majority of his starts came with the Packers.
The most unique part of Winters’ career was that he didn’t become the Packers’ starting center until the age of 29. He then played a decade of quality football, an incredible rarity in the NFL. In 1996, the year the Packers won the Super Bowl, he was named to his lone Pro Bowl squad.
21. Ken Ruettgers, LT, 1985-1996:
College Team: USC
One of the few ‘Lean Years’ players to make it to the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI winning season, Ruettgers was Brett Favre’s first left tackle. Not overly celebrated as a player, he was reliable for the Packers for over 150 games. The former first round pick stood 6’6″ and had ideal size for the tackles of the day. Although his 11 fumble recoveries truly showcased his athletic ability and reaction skills.
To play 150 games in Green Bay is an amazing accomplishment. Green Bay’s all-time leader for games played for offensive linemen is Forrest Gregg (187).
(Ruettgers played his entire NFL career in Green Bay)
20. Cub Buck, T, 1921-1925:
College Team: Wisconsin
Born in 1892, Cub Buck was the first star offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers. No one can take that away from him. He was a consistent starter for five seasons in Green Bay and was on the team for their first season in the NFL (1921; the league was named the AFPA at the time). He was a captain at Wisconsin and was a consensus All-American talent in 1915.
Jim Thorpe called Buck the greatest lineman he ever played with or against. Buck’s part in the Packers-Bears rivalry was significant, as John “Tarzan” Taylor of the Bears punched him in the nose, breaking it. That will forever be remembered as the beginning of the NFL’s oldest, most-storied and, at times, fiercest rivalry.
If we could have seen him play, or had the highlights, he might be ranked even higher. Buck is the oldest Packer on this all-time countdown and he definitely has one of the best names.
19. Josh Sitton, RG, 2008-2015:
College Team: Central Florida
A four-time Pro Bowl guard (three times in Green Bay), Sitton was an instrumental part of the Packers run to a Super Bowl XLV victory. We’ll forgive him for going to the Chicago Bears for the final two productive years of his NFL career, as it wasn’t his choice to leave. He was a salary cap casualty; a fate that greets most starting interior linemen for the Packers as they reach the age of 30.
His reputation in the minds of Packers fans as an excellent player is more than secure, even if he did end up playing for the Bears. Some people forget how good the Packers’ offensive line was early in Aaron Rodgers’ tenure.
18. Corey Linsley, C, 2014-2020:
College Team: Ohio State
Linsley was thrown into the fire in Week 1 of his rookie season on the road in Seattle and he didn’t flinch. He was reliable from the beginning and ascended to becoming the best player at his position in the NFL by the ages of 28 and 29. Unfortunately, the salary cap is quite real and the Packers’ philosophy of walking away from interior linemen a year too early rather than a year too late (usually when they hit 30 years old) sent him on his way.
He is remembered as an intelligent, subtly hilarious Packer who was as good of a teammate as one could hope for. He’ll forever be the best center that Aaron Rodgers got to play with and no one can take that away from him. A few more years in Green Bay and Linsley could have potentially pushed for a Top 10 or 12 place. He was that good.
17. Bryan Bulaga, LT, 2010-2019:
College Team: Iowa
Bryan Bulaga (eye-wuh) was a fan-favorite in Green Bay for a handful of years. As a rookie he bolstered the left side of the Packers’ line, but developed into one of the more reliable left tackles in football. He dealt with, and mostly overcame, injuries over the years, but no one ever questioned his toughness. Unfortunately, he was a cap casualty in 2020 as he reached the age of 30. Which is part of a larger trend that seemingly won’t be ending anytime soon in Green Bay.
Nationally, Bulaga never got the respect he deserved while in Green Bay. But as his career unfolded he did one hell of a job keeping Aaron Rodgers’ jersey clean. He was one of those guys that was just easy to root for wasn’t he?
16. Marco Rivera, RG, 1997-2004:
College Team: Penn State
Rivera was a late round selection and it took several years for him to show his talent, but once it clicked for him, he was one of the best. In each of his final six seasons with the Green Bay Packers Rivera started all 16 games. Reliable would be one of the first words to come to mind. A Pro Bowler in three consecutive seasons (2002-04), he will primarily be remembered for blocking for Ahman Green.
Green’s 2003 season remains one of the very best rushing seasons in Packers history and Rivera was a big reason why. That year he was named Second Team All-Pro by the Associated Press, despite battling a knee injury all season. Some people remember Rivera for committing penalties, but his talent far exceeded his propensity for drawing flags.