Monday, December 30, 2013

All's Right With the World

Now this is what Packer fans have been waiting to see:

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates his game winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on December 29, 2013. The Packers beat the Bears 33-28. (Todd Rosenberg/NFL)
After missing seven games with a collarbone injury, during which the Pack went 2-4-1, Aaron Rodgers is back under center. And he was magnificent. Couple early interceptions, but he shook them off and finished strong with a come-from-behind touchdown drive in the final minutes.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The Packers' defense continues to worry, but the offense is finally back on track. And what a game! Soldier Field in late December, Packers/Bears for the divisional title, loser starts the off-season. The Packers began their run of knockout games last night, and were definitely up to the challenge.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) gets spun around as he works for red zone yardage in the first half of the Packers' 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on December 29, 2013. (Todd Rosenberg/NFL)
Love Coach McCarthy's Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man jacket. Just the thing for a cold Chicago evening.

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy talks to quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
So the Packers are in the playoffs. My dream of a Meadowlands Super Bowl is still alive.

Next up, the 49ers at Lambeau Field. That should be another great-looking game.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Ugly Game on a Beautiful Evening

Well, at least the snow looked good.

Green Bay Packers' Matt Flynn during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
It should have been such a great looking game; two traditionally-minded teams (shame about those Steeler numbers) playing in the snow and mud.

Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy (27) falls into the end zone for a touchdown run during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Didn't end up well, though. Steelers 38, Packers 31.

I love a snow game, and have been hoping against hope that the Packers can earn the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl next February in New York. Today, that seems farther away than ever. The Packers take a loss they can ill afford, and Clay Matthews injured his right thumb while sacking Ben Roethlisberger.

Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews walks off the field after an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Look what the super-sretchy fabric continues to do to his jersey numbers. Ugh. I do like the pom-pom sideline tuque, though.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"The 26 Teams"

This poster comes from the 1970s, showing the wordmarks of all the teams in the league at the time.

Information on these old wordmarks is hard to come by, but we can narrow down the timeframe. The presence of all the former AFL teams, and the absence of the Seahawks and Buccaneers, helps us date it between 1970 and 1976.

What strikes me today is how many clubs are still using these marks. Here's a version I worked up using the logos from 2013:

In addition to the Packers, the Bears, Bills, Cowboys, Colts and Washington have retained their classic looks virtually unchanged. Those old Browns and 49ers wordmarks endured until relatively recently (2003 and 2004, respectively). Also worth noting that the Vikings have since reverted to an earlier wordmark that predated our poster (the Browns might have, too).

Then there are the minor changes; the Chiefs introduced a modified upper-case version of their old lower-case logo sometime before 1983, the Raiders tightened up their kerning a bit, and the Saints made the most subtle change, losing the dot over their "i".

As for the others, you can see a trend towards arcs, arches and protrusions, meaning the names don't all fit together in my version as neatly as their 1970s counterparts did.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Infographic: The Comeback has a wonderful infographic exploring Sunday's comeback win against the Cowboys in Dallas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Looking Good in Dallas

Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields #37 throws the ball into the stands after intercepting Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (not pictured) during an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday December 15, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL)
What a magnificent performance against the Cowboys yesterday, as our Packers came back from a 23-point second-half deficit to win the game, 37-36.

This would have been one of the better-looking games in the NFL, if only Dallas would do something about all the different shades of their silver.

Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (81) scores a touchdown as Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Cameron Lawrence (53) and Sterling Moore (26) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Is anybody else getting a Zeke Bratkowski vibe from backup QB Matt Flynn? As Bratkowski did for Bart Starr, Flynn is keeping the Packers in the playoff hunt while Aaron Rodgers is injured.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn #10 celebrates after the Packers scored the winning touchdown during an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday December 15, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL)
Flynn looks pretty good back in the old Green and Gold, too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Story Behind the Amazing Quartebacks Photo

Last summer, we took a look at Robert Morse's amazing group photo of every starting quarterback in the NFL:

(back, L-R) Milt Plum, Bobby Layne, Sam Etcheverry, Bill Wade, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Norm Snead & Zeke Bratkowski, (front L-R) Jim Ninowski, Fran Tarkenton, Don Meredith, John Brodie, Sonny Jergensen & Y.A. Tittle.
Now Ben Cosgrove at Deadspin has the story behind the photo.
In 1961, LIFE magazine managed to get every starting NFL quarterback — including six future Hall of Famers — together in a studio for a group portrait. The photographer, Ralph Morse, was never one to have his subjects just stand there and smile, so he asked Unitas, Starr, Tarkenton and the rest to, in effect, act like quarterbacks. The result is somehow ridiculous, charming and kind of cool, all at the same time.

Morse knew that there was no way he could follow 14 professional quarterbacks around the country individually — the way LIFE's sports editors wanted him to.

"Those editors were crazy," Morse, now 96 years old and still spry, recently told me. "One week I might fly to Dallas or St. Louis or Detroit to photograph one of the players, and maybe he'd be great. Or maybe he'd be awful. Either way, the assignment would take weeks — months! — and there was no guarantee we'd end up with what we wanted, anyway. I thought the only way I could make a decent picture is if I took it in one place, at one time, with all of the players. I called the NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, and told him what I wanted to do. He said I was crazy. He told me they'd have to do it on their day off, and they'd never agree to that.

"I said, 'Look. You're the commissioner, aren't you? They'll do what you tell them, won't they?' I suggested we do it in Chicago, somewhere in the center of the country. All they had to do was bring clean uniforms, and show up. We set a date, and I flew out to Chicago a week early to rent a studio. I had a local high school football team come to the studio every day for that week, and we practiced all sorts of scenarios until we had one that worked — the guys in front tossing the ball underhand, the guys in back throwing overhand. We also set up a sheet of plexiglass with a hole cut in it for the camera lens to poke through, so I wouldn't get creamed by 14 footballs coming at me.

"All the quarterbacks arrived on the scheduled day, and we had the whole thing figured out ahead of time. These guys were famous. They were busy. They didn't want to mess around. They wanted to get into their uniforms, take the picture, get out of their uniforms and go. And that's what happened."
Brilliant. You can read more of Cosgrove's work here.

In addition to Bart Starr, there are five additional Hall of Famers in the photo: Bobby Layne, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Sonny Jurgensen and Y.A. Tittle.

Zeke Bratkowski, although not a Hall of Famer, was go on to become a key contributor to several Green Bay Championships as Bart Starr's backup. When Starr was injured in the 1965 Western Division championship game against the Baltimore Colts, Bratkowski came off the bench to lead the Packers to a game-tying field goal to force overtime, and then another field goal for a 13-10 victory. One week later, he Packers would top the Cleveland Browns to win the World Championship, the first of their three-in-a-row under Vince Lombardi.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow Day!

Ah, football in the snow. The best the game ever looks.

Green Bay Packers' Jarrett Bush (24) celebrates with Datone Jones (95) after Bush intercepted a pass during the final seconds of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 22-21. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
I am looking forward to a Super Bowl played in real elements, not an antiseptic, air-conditioned tropical dome. And with by squeaking out a win against the Falcons, the Packers kept alive our hopes that they could be the ones to play in it next February.

Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy runs during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
You can see that Eddie Lacy had an issue with his Braisher stripes. I don't know if the cold made the decals more brittle, or if he just took a hard hit across his helmet, but he lost a chunk of a green stripe (and picked up a large wad of Tundra as well):

That's an issue we often see with the Bears' logo decals, but it's not one the Packers frequently have to deal with.

The photo at top also gives us another look at the various jersey templates the Packers employ. Check out the different chest seams on Datone Jones (l) and cornerback Sam Shields (r):

Once again, we see the minor variations behind the uniform sense of the uniforms.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Flynn Lives (And So Do the Packers' Playoff Hopes, Barely)

Not much to celebrate in Packerland these days. At least they didn't lose this one, but a tie isn't exactly a win.

Interesting to see quarterback Matt Flynn back in green and gold again. He did a fantastic job filling in under center in 2010, but couldn't put the Packers over the top in this one.

Again, the most important player on the Packers' roster was wearing the wrong team gear:

Speaking of sideline gear, I did like the jackets the cheerleaders were sporting:

Monday, November 18, 2013

We Needed Him Wearing White, Not Green

Yesterday, I got to watch one of the few Packer games on New York free television. Unfortunately, it was an ugly loss to the Giants.

The uniform matchup was pretty good; the Giants have one of the best looks in the sport (or did, before they started messing up the smaller details.

Of course, for Packer fans, the real shame was the uniform Aaron Rodgers was wearing:

That just ain't right.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Giving Thanks for New Merchandise

The Packers' players will apparently be wearing these special caps on the sidelines during the Thanksgiving game at Detroit.

It's available now at the Packers Pro Shop, along with a gold-crowned version for the coaches:

There are actually two Gs in 'Thanksgiving', but whatever.

The Packers have played on Thanksgiving before, of course, including throwback events in 2001 and 2003, but this is the first time they've had special sideline merchandise to celebrate the occassion.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Auction Gold from Heritage

Heritage Auctions has a fantastic auction ending this weekend, inclding some amazing Packers artifacts.

First and foremost is this incredibly rare, game-worn 1940s helmet, worn by Packer Hall of Famer Charley Brock.

From the second era of Glory Days, this flag flew over Lambeau Field in the 1960s:

The 1962 Packer squad is widely regarded as one of the best teams in sports history, let alone the NFL. This ball was signed by the entire squad:

Turning to sideline gear, Mary Jane Sorgel occupies a unique place in Packer history. During the Vince Lombardi era, she was the Lumberjack Band's majorette and romantically involved with team founder and former coach Curly Lambeau. This is the outfit she wore as the "Golden Girl" in those days:

There's something from every era in Green Bay's glorious gridiron history. I love this 1989-90 Tony Mandarich game-worn jersey, one of the last before the NFL added its logo to the collar:

I'm also partial to this 1980s helmet worn by Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud. Single-bar facemask cool! It's signed by Stenerud and others such as Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Ray Nitschke.

This lot of ticket and two buttons from the first Super Bowl at the LA Coliseum show us that the nickname "Super Bowl" was applied to the game from the start, even if it didn't become official for a couple years:

They also have programs from many championship games - the 1962 World Championship against the Giants in Yankee Stadium, 1965 World Championship Game against Cleveland at Lambeau Field, the 1966 NFL Championship in Dallas and the Ice Bowl, as well as Super Bowls I and II.

This just scratches the surface of Heritage's amazing offerings - check out the whole assortment here. Bid early, bid often!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fangs For the Memories

Today's Halloween-themed photo comes from 2010, featuring linebacker Nick Barnett during his eighth and final season in Green Bay.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett shows off his mouth guard before an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 34-7. (AP photo/Mike Roemer)
It wasn't a holiday special; Barnett wore the custom mouthguard all season long. He wore a blue version when picked up by the Buffalo Bills, I don't know if he has a burgundy one now that he's with Washington.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sock Hopping in Minnesota

Last night the Green Bay Packers played circles around the Vikings in Minneapolis. The Packers dressed like pros, and the Vikings... well, the less said the better.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs toward the end zone in the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Sheesh. Purple is a fine color in moderation, but that's just nasty.

There was one Packer uniform quirk worth noting; several of the Packers wore their white sanitaries pulled up high over their green socks, running back James Stark was among them:

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) runs against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) and defensive end Brian Robison (96) for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
This has been going on for several years. The effect reminds me of the first version of this uniform, from 1959; for one season only, Vince Lombardi's first season in charge, the Packers wore white socks with stripes to match their road jerseys:

I'm not a big fan of the look today. White socks on all players would be one thing, but this homemade customization ruins the "uniform" part of the uniform:

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) and the rest of the team warm up before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The Packers look best when they all look the same.

Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) gets tackled by Green Bay Packers' M.D. Jennings (43) and Morgan Burnett (42) after making a reception in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
I've heard that these types of individual aesthetic gestures are against the NFL's uniform rules, and that fines may be handed down. I'm curious if we'll hear anything about these socks from the league.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Auction Gold - Charley Brock's 1940s Leather Helmet

If you liked the clean gold shells the Packers were wearing yesterday, Heritage Auction has something special for you: a 1940s leather helmet worn by center Charley Brock.

Heritage Auctions
1940's Charley Brock Game Worn Green Bay Packers Leather Helmet.   An esteemed member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Charley Brock was also named as part of professional football's 1940's All-Decade Team, and was a key player of the offense on the Packers' 1939 championship squad.
Heritage Auctions
Offered here is Brock's yellow leather helmet from the 1940's, complete with his number "29" stenciled in green ink on the back and "Brock" noted in the interior.
Heritage Auctions
Exhibiting great wear throughout, it is one of only a handful of game-worn leather Packers shells ever sold at auction. "Rawlings" is branded in the front, while "Rawlings VMI [SIZE] 7 1/4" and the player's numeral is in the rear. Style-matched to a 1943 photo of teammate Don Hutson, with the notable four large airholes on top and rounded front piece, this is a superb artifact from the days of Curly Lambeau, Tony Canadeo, Hutson and the like. LOA from MEARS. LOA from Heritage Auctions. Guide Value or Estimate: $3,000 - up.
Brock was a center who played 90 games for the Packers from 1939-1947. He was selected out of Nebraska by the Packers with the 24th pick in the third round of the 1939 draft. In his rookie year, he played eight games for the squad on its way to the World Championship. He was one of eight players to pick off nine passes against the Lions on October 24, 1943, setting an NFL single-game mark. The record was tied in 1965 by the Philadelphia Eagles against the Steelers, a record which the teams share to this day. After missing the last half of the 1943 season due to appendicitis, he returned to play all ten games in 1944 on the way to his second (and the Packers' sixth) title.

In nine years with the Packers, he only missed seven games, all in either his rookie season or the illness-shortened 1943. Brock was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1973.

This photo shows Brock in front of Rockwood Lodge, the Packers' training camp facility from 1946 through 1949. He's wearing the same style helmet, perhaps even the same one.

You might remember that I profiled this same helmet a little over four years ago.

Leather Packer helmets are exceedingly rare. I'm only aware of a half-dozen in private collections.

This is your chance to join a select group of Packer fans. Bid early, bid often.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"History Wins Again!"

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers looks to pass as Cleveland Browns' Paul Kruger applies pressure during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Today, the Packers wore their navy blue 1929-inspired throwback uniforms, the first time since Nike took over the manufacturing contract. And, as I reported yesterday, the standard gold shells required by new NFL regulations were accompanied by the regular green facemasks.

You can clearly see it here in this photo of running back Eddie Lacy. Click to enlarge:

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) is tackled by Cleveland Browns' Tashaun Gipson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
As much as I appreciate the attempt to replicate leather helmets with brown polycarbonate shells, I prefer the look of the gold helmets. They certainly brighten up what could otherwise be a drab uniform, especially under cloudy, rainy skies.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns.(AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
Speaking of the helmets, Jermichael Finley took a hard hit to the head, suffering a neck injury that required him to be carted off the field and already leading to much speculation about helmet safety. Here he is earlier in the game:

Green Bay Packers' Jermichael Finley reacts after catching a pass for a first down during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (USA Today Sports Images)
The Packers looked pretty good, as they always do in these throwback games. These will remain the official Packers alternate uniform through next season, although I don't know if we'll see them worn again.

Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson (87) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammate Jarrett Boykin (11) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 31-13. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
The on-field uniforms were only part of the story. There was also a surplus of blue and gold on the sidelines:

And, when I got my win-or-lose postgame email from the Packers Pro Shop, they made sure to tell me where I could pick up all that gear:

"History Wins Again," indeed.

I think I should a little irritated about conflating the 1921-22 "Acme Packers" years with the 1929 chest-circle uniforms, but anything that spreads the word about the Blue and Gold glory days is probably a good thing. When I was a kid, I had no idea the Packers' history ever extended beyond green jerseys and gold helmets. Today it's not possible for any fan to say the same.