Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1992 + 20

20 years ago this month, the Packers were 24 years removed from the glory years of the 1960s. In that interregnum, they posted just 5 winning seasons, and two playoff appearances. Their one playoff win came in the strike-shortened season of 1982.

In 1991, the Packers hired Ron Wolf to be their general manager. Wolf made some sweeping changes: he brought in Mike Holmgren to be head coach, traded for quarterback Brett Favre, and brought in some big-name free agents like Reggie White, Santana Dotson, and Sean Jones.

Those changes had an immediate impact. In 1992 and 1993, the Packers posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the end of the Lombardi era. Every year, they had more success, returning to the playoffs, winning their division, and culminating in 1996 with a victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

The Packers returned to the Super Bowl in the 1997 season, but the loss in that game was a portent of a team already in decline. In 1998, the Packers lost a home game for the first time since week 1 of the 1995 season. As a wildcard in the playoffs, they were 1-and-done for the first time since the start of the Holmgren era.

After the 1998 season, Mike Holmgren left to be Head Coach and General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks. Reggie White had played his last game as a Packer, and many of the other players that made up the 1996 championship team were either retired or gone in free agency by the start of the 1999 season. Following the 2000 season, GM Ron Wolf retired as well.

Comparisons between the Lombardi and Holmgren eras are inevitable. In terms of championships won, there can be no question that Vince Lombardi was far more successful. But along with a victory in Super Bowl XXXI, Mike Holmgren has some successes that Vince Lombardi never accomplished:

  • Holmgren had a number of assistant coaches (Jon Gruden, Dick Jauron, Steve Marriucci, Jim Mora, Marty Mornhinweg, Andy Reid, Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman, and Jim Zorn) that went on to be head coaches in their own right, to varying degrees of success.

  • Perhaps more important, the Packers didn't plunge back into mediocrity after Holmgren left. In the 13 seasons played since he left, the Packers have had just two losing seasons. They've made it to the playoffs 8 times, and won Super Bowl XLV.

There are very few teams in the league that can match the level of winning seasons, playoff appearances, and Super Bowl victories the Packers have enjoyed in the last 20 years. In spite of the sweeping changes in players, coaches, and managers, the Packer era that began in 1992 continues to this day.