Not as bad as the Buccaneers: The Packers of the 80s

This article is written for a very special Mrs. Skidmore. Enjoy, you magnificent cheesehead.

The Packers’ history is filled with tons of bad teams, from the 1958 1-10-1 disaster, the 1945-1959 playoff drought, and the bumbling teams of the 1970s. I personally believe, however, that the Packers were at their worst in the 1980s, amassing a crap-tastic 66-102 from 1983-1992.

In 1982, the Packers were actually not bad, as they put together a 5-3-1 record in the strike-shortened season behind the chemistry of Lynn Dickey and James Lofton. They lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Cowboys.

1983 swung around, and there were high expectations for the Pack. They had a sturdy defense and an offense that could let ’em loose, so why not buy into Green Bay-mania? Well, immediately, the defense went from “sturdy” to “terrible”. The offense was very good at times, and at others was worse than the defense. Green Bay had to take 2-14 Houston to OT, but then scored a record 49 points in one half against Tampa Bay. In Week 7, the Packers, with their league-worst defense, set off to face the defending champion Washington Redskins. In what became the highest scoring Monday Night game ever played, Lynn Dickey pulled the Packers past the future-NFC champion Redskins 48-47. That brought Green Bay’s record to 4-3, but they stumbled down the stretch and finished 8-8, taking a record 5 games into over-time in the process. They went 2-3 in those games. At the end of the season, Packer legend Bart Starr was fired as head coach.

Forrest Gregg was hired as the new head coach, after taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1981. The Packers drafted the immensely-talented Randy Wright in the 6th round, as he amassed a 7-25 career record with Green Bay, throwing 31 touchdowns to 57 interceptions. Gregg’s hard-nosed, disciplined approach didn’t pay off immediately, as Green Bay fell to 1-7. Teetering on the brink of disaster, the team then came alive, winning 7 of their last 8 games. It wasn’t enough to avoid a second consecutive 8-8 season, however.

1985 again began with a whimper, as Green Bay started out 3-6 before righting the ship, finishing 8-8 for a third year in a row. Thanks to a weak division, the Packers finished in second place, behind the 15-1 Chicago Bears, but failed to make the playoffs. In Week 13, Green Bay faced Tampa Bay at home, in a game that is now known as the Snow Bowl. Sheets of snow fell down, and the announced attendance for the game was 19,856, a record-low for the franchise. Green Bay won the game 21-0.

1986 was one of the worst years for the franchise in the decade, as they plodded through a 4-12 season. Randy Wright was named the starting quarterback, and he finished the year with 3,247 yards, 17 touchdowns and 23 interceptions for a rating of 66.2.

Randy Wright

Their offense was ranked 25th/28th in the NFL, while their defense was ranked ranked 27th. Randy Wright never started more than 7 games in a season after 1986. One notable tidbit about this team is that Tom Coughlin coached the wide receivers, while Dick Jauron coached the defensive backs.

1987 began with the draft, in which they took Don Majkowski. He would become instrumental in the future, but in 1987, he was only a rookie that sat at the bottom of the depth chart. The season began with an ugly 20-0 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders, and then a tie with the AFC Champion Broncos. During the 1987 players’ strike, Forrest Gregg went 2-1 with replacement players. However, the Packers finished with a predictably poor 5-9-1 record. At the end of the season, Forrest Gregg resigned.

Lindy Infante

Lindy Infante with his confused yet concerned look.

Lindy Infante was brought in as head coach, and he coupled a great draft decision with a horrible one the next year. The great one came in 1988, as the Packers took wide receiver Sterling Sharpe in the first round. Sharpe would become a big target for Brett Favre in the 1990s, and was a big part of the 1989 team.

However, Sharpe’s impact on the team wasn’t felt at first. The team started 2-12, before beating the Vikings and Cardinals in the season’s final two weeks.

Because of their dreadful 4-12 record, Green Bay earned the No.2 pick in the 1989 draft. 4 Hall of Fame players were picked in the first five selections…and the Packers picked the only player in the Top 5 who wasn’t. OT Tony Mandarich was taken from Michigan State, and he only lasted a few years in Green Bay due to his inability to play without steroids being revealed. Mandarich couldn’t compete with the skilled defensive ends he was matched up against, particularly Reggie White, who threw Mandarich around in a matchup with Philadelphia. Although Troy Aikman was picked with the No.1 overall draft choice, the Packers could have had Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, and Derrick Thomas. Other players that were passed on included Trace Armstrong, Eric Metcalf, Steve Atwater and Andre Rison.

There probably aren’t many other draft mistakes that were as big as this one.

Despite the stupid draft choices by Infante, Don Majkowski was named the starter, and along with Sterling Sharpe, the Packers soared to a 10-6 record with an extremely potent offense, beating 14-2 San Francisco along the way. The 1989 Packers also hold the record for the most 1-point victories in a season with 4. Majkowski threw for over 4,500 yards in 1989, but never again eclipsed 2,000 in his career. Despite the strong 10-win finish, the Packers tragically missed the playoffs due to a second-place finish within the division.

Don majkowski

In 1990, the Packers bumbled through a season that was uglier than the final record suggested. With Green Bay vs. Tampa Bay matchups now earning the title “The Bay of Pigs” thanks to ESPN loudmouth Chris Berman, the Pack finished 6-10 primarily thanks to an offense that turned the ball over 43 times and only averaged 16.9 points per game.

By 1991, the Packers were lightly regarded as an NFC joke along with Tampa Bay. They turned the ball over constantly, and the offenses could never score. In 1991, this didn’t change, thanks to the constant pressuring of defensive players being matched up against Mandarich. Although they were average stat-wise in 1991, and a projected W-L record of 7-9, the Packers finished with a 4-12 record, and Infante was fired. As of 2014, 1991 marks the last time the Packers lost at home to the Lions (or were swept by the Lions).

Mike Holmgren was hired at the start of 1992, and instantly turned the Packers around. No longer were they a stumbling offense with inconsistent quarterback play. Brett Favre arrived on the scene in Green Bay, and although he didn’t instantly play like a Hall of Famer (his first pass was a deflection that he caught himself for -7 yards), he was named the starter after Don Majkowski went down due to injury. The defense became much stronger, and on a team with assistants like Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron and Andy Reid, the Packers were finally a consistent team. They finished 9-7, and although they missed the playoffs, Green Bay was now regarded as a threat.

In 1993, the Packers finished 9-7 and won their Wild Card playoff game, before reaching unbelievable levels of success in the mid-90s under Holmgren, including a Super Bowl title in 1996.

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One thought on “Not as bad as the Buccaneers: The Packers of the 80s

  1. Thanks for the insight. I mostly watched the Pack in the 90’s so those were some good times for America’s Team. They are the team we hate to love. I missed out on seeing them on the Frozen Tundra — I think I was writing papers for Comp Lit 342 or having babies or marking essays.

    Like

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