I remember the first time I saw Green Bay Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey throw the football while warming up on the sidelines of the Metrodome in Minneapolis prior to a game against the Vikings in 1983 and thinking, ‘good God, that guy can throw!’
His tight 30-yard spirals were caught on the other end by wide receiver James Lofton, who snared them out of the air with sticky, sure hands. I always enjoyed watching Dickey play. When given time by his line, he was one of the best at picking apart a defensive backfield and it was on this date, April 2, in 1976 that the Green Bay Packers traded quarterback John Hadl, cornerback Ken Ellis and two draft choices to the Houston Oilers for Dickey.
Dickey had languished for five years on the sidelines behind quarterback Dan Pastorini after being selected in the third round (#56 overall) by the Oilers in the 1971 NFL Draft. At the time, the Packers had been looking for a consistent quarterback who could amp up the team’s offense. Since Bart Starr had retired in 1972, the Packers had gone without a decent quarterback who could lead the team – team officials pointed to Dickey as the player who could carry the team into the future.
Between the time Starr retired and Dickey became a member of the team, the Packers had under center these forgettable quarterbacks: Scott Hunter, Jerry Tagge, Jim Del Gaizo, John Hadl, Jack Concannon, and Don Milan – not your list of hall of famers. As you could guess, the team was looking for a player who could push the offense down the field. Dickey would do so for the next 10 years, though there were a couple of seasons of injury mixed in.
In 105 games over that stretch of time, Dickey completed 1,592 passes in 2,831 attempts (56.2 percent), for 21,369 yards, and 133 touchdowns. The only downside of Dickey’s time with the Packers was his overall record. Though the franchise had some decent talent on those teams during the late 1970s and early- to mid-80s, the Packers managed a record of only 45-56-2.
But Dickey was always positive. Upon arrival after the trade to Green Bay, here’s what he said: “No, I don’t feel any pressure on me because of the price. There’s always pressure, but if you don’t like that, you’re in the wrong business.”
Dickey would lead the Packers to the Playoffs in 1982 – the strike-shortened season. The Packers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of that playoff series, but would lose in the second round in a wild shootout in Dallas.
His best season came in 1983 when he completed 289 passes in 484 attempts (59.7 percent), for 4,458 yards and 32 touchdowns. Those were numbers that stood for years as Packers bests – that was until Aaron Rodgers started throwing the ball around the yard and broke the yardage number in 2011.
It wasn’t until after he retired in 1985 that his Packers records were fully appreciated. He has the highest completion percentage in a single game with a minimum of 20 attempts – he set that record against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 13, 1981, when he completed 19-of-21 for 90.48 percent. And it wasn’t until Matt Flynn – yes, that Matt Flynn – threw for 460 yards on Jan. 1, 2012, that Dickey’s record for most yards in a single game (418) was broken. Dickey accomplished that record on Oct. 12, 1980, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dickey also holds the highest average gain of 9.21 yards per attempt (400 or more attempts in a single season) – that’s an NFL record.
Had the Packers not swung the deal for Dickey in 1976, it’s difficult to say how far the franchise would have fallen. He brought consistency and an excitement back to Green Bay. Though the wins didn’t come while he was here, he was by far one of the top quarterbacks in franchise and league history during that span of time.