Just like the Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers have a rich history and tradition. The only difference between the two franchises post merger is the four Super Bowl titles the Packers have in their trophy case.
Obviously the Packers didn’t have their franchise stolen from them and have to wait several years to get it back, a shell of its former self. If you remove that caveat from the equation the history and tradition between the two franchises is pretty close, with one other separating factor. Yup, we come back to the Super Bowl titles.
Just like the Cleveland Browns, the early Packers, which had a 27 year head start, won a slew of championships during those early years. The Packers from 1929 to 1965 had won nine championships. They won those nine titles with several quarterbacks at the helm, including the most notable Arnie Herber. On the flip side, the Browns from 1946 to 1964 had won eight championships, including five in a row. Not too bad for a team that was founded almost three decades later. Unlike the Packers, seven of those Browns championships were lead by Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham, who is arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
It would be very remiss of me if I didn’t mention Browns quarterback Frank Ryan who led the Browns to their last championship to date back in 1964, however since then it has been a lot of near misses and what might have beens.
After the Packers won their last championship in 1944, they went through several quarterbacks, most notably Tobin Rote, but couldn’t find that franchise quarterback that would lead them back to greatness. It would take thirteen years, before the great Bart Starr rolled into town and took the Packers back to the promised land, winning Super Bowl I and II.
As for the Browns, from 1964 to 1976 saw the Browns go through several quarterbacks until Brian Sipe stepped into the role. There is no denying Sipe was a very good quarterback, but if you take away the 1980 season, the year of the infamous “Red Right 88″, the Browns only had four seasons in which they were above .500.
Now at this point, the Green Bay Packers had problems of their own. After the departure of Bart Starr, the quarterback position would be a revolving door for the next 21 years, and arguably some of the most difficult years to be a Green Bay Packers fan.
Only six years removed from the 1980 season and “Red Right 88″ away from going to the AFC Championship game, entered Bernie Kosar into the fold. Taking over the Browns in 1986, Kosar became one of the most popular Browns in the history of the franchise. Drafted in 1985 in the NFL supplemental draft, he came to the Browns with some lofty expectations and didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, he would only get as close as Sipe did, taking the Browns to within one game of the AFC Championship game twice.
For Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar, two very good quarterbacks, their names will never be linked to a championship. When hearing their names the first thoughts that come to mind for Browns fans, is “Red Right 88″, “The Drive”, and the “Fumble”. If any of you haven’t heard these three phrases, I implore you to look it up. You might then get a good understanding of the heartache felt in Cleveland for too many years.
At this point in Green Bay Packers history, the fans had been suffering through two decades of bad quarterback play and just like the Browns fans of today, wondering when and if they would ever have find a franchise quarterback again.
Then in 1992 enter the one and only Brett Favre. Taken in the 1991 NFL draft by the Falcons against head coach Jerry Glanville’s wishes, he was traded to the Packers that next year for the Packers first round pick in the 1992 NFL draft. For the next sixteen years the Packers would ride the arm of the eleven time pro bowler, and in 1997 he lead the Packers to their first Super Bowl Championship since 1967.
At this point the Cleveland Browns were no more, having been moved by owner Art Modell to Baltimore, in one the most heart wrenching moves in professional sports. Finally in 1999, the city of Cleveland was granted another NFL franchise, and having to leave the colors and records behind in 1995, the Browns were reborn. Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have gone through 19 different quarterbacks searching for that elusive franchise quarterback.
Back to the Packers, they had been living the good life behind the arm of Brett Favre for over a decade, when in 2005 with the 24th pick in the first round, they selected quarterback Aaron Rodgers from Cal. Rodgers would sit on the bench, learning from one of the best, biding his time before he would get the starting nod. Finally in 2008, after one of the most on again off again retirements in the history of retirement, Favre stepped aside and enter into the fold, Aaron Rodgers. Since Rodgers has taken over for Favre, he has led the Packers to another championship, winning Super Bowl XLV, and being named Super Bowl MVP.
Now this takes us to the present day, and Sunday’s matchup between the Packers and Browns at Lambeau Field. Both teams had their share of years where the quarterback play was less than spectacular and had to wait for some time to find that franchise quarterback to lead them to a championship.
In the early days it was Arnie Herber for the Packers, and Otto Graham for the Browns. While the Browns struggled, the Packers found Bart Starr, and he led them to two Super Bowl championships in the 60’s. For the Browns, it was several quarterbacks here and there, with Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar being the best of the bunch. Being moved away in 1995 and then reborn in 1999, the Browns have swung and missed more times than major leaguer Mark Reynolds.
Since then the Packers parlayed Brett Favre right into Aaron Rodgers, and for the last 22 years have had the stability at the quarterback position that Browns fans long for.
You might say well 22 years and only two championships to show for isn’t all that impressive.
I’m willing to bet that Browns fans everywhere would trade the heartache of the past 25 years since “The Fumble” for that in a hearbeat!!