9

January

How the 49ers Started, and Ended the Holmgren Glory Years

Terrell Owens

WR Terrell Owens’ clutch catch was the dagger in the heart of the Mike Holmgren era in Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers face off Saturday night in an NFC Divisional Playoff game which will be the sixth time since January 1996 that the two teams have faced each other in the playoffs.

The Packers and 49ers became quite familiar opponents in the 1990s as they played each other in the playoffs each year from 1996-1999 (note I am going by the year the playoff games were played, not the year of the ‘season’).   It was a rivalry for the ages as the Packers won the first three games and the 49ers won the fourth in dramatic fashion.

Even though the four games included an NFC Championship which the Packers won en route to Super Bowl XXXII, it’s the first and the fourth of the 1990s contests that have the highest historical importance.

They almost serve as bookends for the Mike Holmgren era.  The Packers’ 27-17 victory over San Francisco at Candlestick Park on January 6, 1996 served notice to the entire NFL that Green Bay was now one of the league’s elite teams.  The Packers lost to the Dallas Cowboys the following week in the NFC Championship, but the win over the 49ers served as a springboard for the great 1996 season.

On the other side is the 49ers’ epic 30-27 win over the Packers on January 3, 1999. Not only did it bring an end to the Packers’ reign as the kings of the NFC but it was the final game Holmgren would coach for the Packers.  Terrell Owens’ touchdown catch to win the game is forever etched in the mind of Packers fans as it marked the end of an era for the Packers that saw the team return to NFL prominence.

The Packers would have strong years afterword, but never again were they true contenders until the arrival of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

In that first win over San Francisco in 1996, the Packers were flying high after winning the NFC Central title thanks to an incredible Yancy Thigpen drop in Week 17 and after a strong performance in the 37-20 victory at Lambeau Field over the Atlanta Falcons.  In fact, Holmgren felt so strongly about his team’s chances that he proclaimed after the win against Atlanta, “we’re going to win it all.” Packer fans were feeling it but not many outside the state of Wisconsin gave Green Bay much of a chance against the defending champion 49ers.

8

August

How Much To Get Matt Flynn Back on the Packers?

Seattle Seahawk QB Matt Flynn

Seattle Seahawk QB Matt Flynn

While not exactly Packers news, I don’t think there are many readers of AllGreenBayPackers.com who aren’t at least a little bit interested in one Matt Flynn, who parlayed a couple solid games (including a spectacular week 17 game against Detroit) into a stepping stone to a NFL starting quarterback.  Most fans were sad to see Flynn go, who might have been the best backup quarterback in the league, but with the demand for quarterbacks as high as it is in the NFL, many fans were happy with the compensatory pick that Flynn would likely net the Packers.

Fast forward a couple months, and the story is quite different; Flynn was signed to a lucrative contract, but nothing remotely close the deal many were expecting; I was the first to assume that Flynn would get something in the ball park of Kevin Kolb, another backup with lots of potential but not a lot of tape, who had received a 6-year $65 million contract, but Flynn got a 3 year, $19.5 million deal instead.

Also inexplicably, the Seahawks front office has decided the best way for Flynn to get used to his new team is to throw him into a quarterback competition with Tavaris Jackson (who realistically is first trying to make the team) and 3rd round rookie Russell Wilson (also signing Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards makes little sense to me either).  To me this means that Seattle isn’t all too confident in Flynn’s abilities, which is understandable considering Flynn played with some of the best offensive talent in the NFL and didn’t play all that much to boot (then again Seattle did pretty well with another Packers backup in a similar situation named Matt Hassellbeck).

With all this in mind, one interesting question is: Could the Packers get Flynn back?  While he might not be a starter, I would say that he’s definitely capable of playing at a high enough level to cover for any Aaron Rodgers injuries and probably win a fair share of his games as well.

Here are the specifics of Flynn’s deal:

v Base: 3-year, $19.5 million total

  • $10 million guaranteed (divided into three parts)
    • $6 million signing bonus
    • 2012 salary ($2 million total)
    • $2 million of his 2013 salary ($5.25 million total)
  • Additional $5 million of escalators
1

June

New Contract In Hand, It’s Time To Honor Donald Driver

Donald Driver

Quickie's trademark grin will be in Titletown for 2012

I propose a toast.

It’s time to raise our glasses and salute not only one of the greatest players in Green Bay Packers history but also one of the most beloved.  A man who is “Packer People” personified from the way carries himself both on and off the field and his various charitable endeavors. A man who came from literally nothing and who beat the odds and made it on the NFL’s biggest stage despite being the Packers’ final selection in the 1999 NFL Draft.  A man who not only made it in the NFL, but rewrote the record books for one of the most storied franchises in league history.

Donald Driver, stand up and take a bow.

Parts of this column may sound like I am writing a farewell column despite the fact Driver hasn’t retired yet and in fact is coming back for his 13th NFL season.  I guess I’m guilty as charged, but I argue that it’s never too early to pay tribute to man of such importance to a franchise and its fan base as Driver.

Driver’s path to the NFL was an odyssey that would have even made Homer’s jaw drop.   One of five children, Driver spent a decent amount of time in his teens living out of a U-Haul truck and sometimes spending holidays without either of his parents.  Even at that age, Driver’s athletic gifts were apparent.  Given the nickname “Quickie” by his mother because of how fast he was when she would chase him around the house, Driver continued to mold his body and stay in shape.

His father was a quarterback at Texas A&M who won an athletic scholarship and could have played in the NFL, but gave it up to support his mother after his father (Donald’s grandfather) passed away.  It was a very large sacrifice to give up his dream to help his family and it’s a lesson Driver never soon forgot.

As he grew up it would seem Driver was determined to live his father’s dream and make it in the NFL.   He scratched and clawed his way to Alcorn State where he became a world class high jumper (he could have made the 2000 Sydney Olympics but lucky for Cheeseheads he didn’t) and was selected in the 7th round of the 1999 NFL draft by the Packers.