Green Bay Packers: It’s not always about the numbers


Green Bay Packers fans and those who love the NFL can get caught up in numbers, using statistics to back their arguments about the “best ever” lists that tend, unfortunately, to dominate the coverage of the game these days.

Could it be that the passer rating measure is a flawed tool that doesn’t tell the whole story behind a quarterback’s place on the field?

Could you determine Bart Starr‘s rating without figuring in the championship games he won?

Could you determine Bart Starr’s rating without figuring in the championship games he won?

How about figuring Brett Favre‘s games without how his enthusiasm and spunk added to his teammates’ performances; the nature of his success and attitude carried over to his fellow players and into the game.

Could you figure Aaron Rodgers‘ rate without his accuracy or willingness to follow the plans his head coach has ironed out for the game? Then there are things such as “longevity,” “pure form” of their “drop-back,” their “quick release” and ability to hit the “check-down,” or their skills in “reading the receivers.”

These are all factors that matter and differ from one quarterback to the next.

Today we make our case for Lynn Dickey, and if you were watching the 1983 game we describe here, Dickey was the greatest thing since sliced bread at that point in time.

How many times have we seen great skills come to the surface by Starr, Rodgers, or Majkowski? Even Zeke Bratkowski comes to mind as the greatest backup a team could have, after he saved the season for the Packers to compete in a championship.

Over the decades the NFL has seen changes in teams, players, coaches and rules. The game today has more “action,” because the fans want it that way. Fine, play by the rules and let’s talk about our best players over that time, and our favorite position and the guy who takes blame and inherits glory for losses and victories.

Let’s think positive about this team. They were all the greatest at the time they played, while this one holds a record for yards, that one holds a record for the most points in a game, and that one owns it for passer ratings.

Names like Rodgers, Starr, Favre and Dickey are like a woman’s charm bracelet, filled with special gems.

Who’s the best?

Give it to them all, they were the best in their time.

That is what Packers fans had and continue to have in our present quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who respectively is as good as Starr, and as good as Favre in his own time.

But it’s time to look back at how good some of our players added to the greatness this Packers’ franchise has built through the past 94 years.

Let’s take a look at the numbers, and make no judgments.

After looking at a long series of comparisons, we might be able to tell which quarterback was the best ever in Green Bay.

But we will focus on Lynn Dickey today.

Dickey was a phenomenal leader and passer who came in, stepped up to the plate, and slammed the team into the end zone, quickly and with the skill of a finely-tuned set of instruments with which a renowned surgeon would operate.

Why is it he’s seldom mentioned in the “who’s best” arguments?

If one game could be used as a measure of his importance to his team, it was this one … a Monday Night affair against the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field 31 years ago, Oct. 17, 1983.

Bart Starr was the head coach. You might picture it being a cold night in October, but the game-time weather was cloudy and 80 degrees at the start. I believe it was the first game with extra lights brought in for a televised Monday night game.

The final score says it all.

Monday Night Football is a staple of the NFL, thanks to gems played the way these two teams played. It was the start of a new era in the NFL, calling for “pass to daylight” a change of strategies marked by Vince Lombardi and his methods in game plans.

The new trend reversed what was described by Lombardi as running the football effectively to control time on the clock and score points through balanced attacks, thus opening the window to pass without the heavy pass coverage, making the pass more effective.

This Monday Night game provided one record that still stands. There were more points scored of any Monday Night game – 95 total. Washington, which was 5-1 and the defending World Champions at the time, was favored to win, as the Packers started 3-3.

A total 771 yards passing and 254 rushing yards highlighted a battle of two of the all-time best quarterbacks in Lynn Dickey and Joe Theisman.

Theisman, who completed 27-of-39 for 398 yards on the night, while Dickey put together 22-of-30 for 387 yards with three touchdowns, and even running back Eddie Lee Ivory got into the act throwing a pass good for 35 yards that night.

Both team defenses struggled that night, as the Packers averaged an unbelievable 9.1 yards per play.

No typo there, it was 9.1 yards per play on average for Green Bay.

Theisman went on to add two passes to John Riggins for touchdowns along with Riggins’ 98 yards on 25 carries.

Bart Starr’s team racked up only 23 first downs to Washington’s 33. The Packers’ defense scored the first seven points of the game on a fumble recovery taken 22 yards for the TD.

Then Dickey took over in the second quarter. After a couple of field goals, he threw for two more touchdowns and Green Bay went to the locker room at the half leading 24-20.

The Packers came out of the half with a quick touchdown, to increase the lead to 31-20.

Washington came out with three scores for 13 unanswered points (1 TD and 2 FGs) to take the lead, 33-31, but it lasted for about 25 seconds, as the Packers took the lead back, 38-33, followed by another Riggins touchdown, making it 40-38 Washington.

And the game was on, a see-saw battle of bombs away.

Halfway through the quarter Green Bay led on a 31-yard TD catch by fullback Mike Meade. The Redskins answered right back on a 72-yard drive to take the lead back 47-45 followed by a Stenerud field goal, making it 48-47 Green Bay.

For ping-pong and tennis fans, this was the best game ever. The lead changed hands five times in the fourth quarter alone.

The game concluded with the Redskins pushing the ball down the field as they had the entire game. Within the final two minutes, Washington moved to within field goal range as the clock wound down inside 10 seconds.

Always-consistent Washington kicker Mark Mosely lined up what was to be the game-winning field goals as the Packers faithful said their prayers, while also thinking the game was over.

But that’s why they play the game; it’s why statistics don’t determine the final score.

Mosely followed through like he had thousands of times before … but this time the football gods were on the Packers side as the ball sliced right and missed. The Packers fans at Lambeau and watching on television exploded with relief and joy.

So, how do you measure this type of performance? Do you measure it with quarterback ratings or other statistics?

There’s much more to this sport than statistics, and this 1983 showdown at Lambeau is a perfect example of why we have come to love the NFL.

It’s been players like Dickey, Starr, Favre and Rodgers who have been great statistically, but it’s the intangibles that seem written in invisible ink between the statistical lines that keeps us coming back for more.