A Trophy Apart
Not so deep in the confines of the Hall of Fame of the most-storied franchise in the NFL, four iconic silver statues named after the same franchise’s most-famous coach stand as a testament to 13 NFL Championships.
Most would say that the trophies represent the four greatest of these championships: four Super Bowl victories, champions of a merged NFL and AFL.
I could argue that point, but that would be another story. What I’m interested in here is how we view those championships. Are they like children where you love them all equally though they are different? Maybe… or maybe not. Just because they are all great doesn’t mean they are all equal.
A good argument can be made for all four.
The first is the first, and there is always something special about your first. This trophy, along with the next, made the Packers the original dynasty and had the most to do with the trophy being named after Vince Lombardi. No matter who wins what Super Bowl forevermore, the Packers will always have won the first, and it will always be the Lombardi Trophy that goes to the winner.
The second trophy was perhaps the least likely. The Packers were an old team at the end of its run, nearly all of its stars over 30. They were 9-4-1 during the season and finished in the bottom half of the league in points scored. Fortunately for the Packers and Cowboys that year, the 11-1-2 Baltimore Colts didn’t even make the playoffs. They were in the same division as the Los Angeles Rams, who also finished 11-1-2 and won the division on a tie-breaker. Since the wild card hadn’t been invented yet, the Colts became the only team with a .917 winning percentage in league history to not make the playoffs.
Lombardi’s team always had a habit of playing its best football in the biggest games.
That was probably no more evident than the game largely forgotten — the game BEFORE the Ice Bowl. The Packers, losers of their final two games of the year, soundly beat the Rams 28-7 in Milwaukee in the balmy 13-degree weather.
Of course, everyone knows what happened the following week in Green Bay against the Cowboys. I would like to say the younger and faster Cowboys were the favorites in that game, except they were only 9-5 themselves.
The Ice Bowl almost made the easy victory in Super Bowl II anticlimactic, but it was still Lombardi’s last game as the Packers’ coach, the end of a dynasty, the last three-peat in NFL history, and probably Lombardi’s greatest victory.
Then, of course, we have the third trophy: [intlink id="1451" type="category"]Super Bowl XXXI[/intlink], in 1997. For the older generation, my parents’ generation, that will forever be their trophy. They suffered through the 70s and 80s, and believe me, we’ve all had to hear about it. From the way they’ve described their three decades of suffering, you would think the Packers were [intlink id="29" type="category"]Oakland Raiders[/intlink] bad instead of just the paradigm of mediocrity they actually were.
Anyway, it was a 29-year wait between Super Bowls, and yeah, unless you are a sequoia, that is a long time. Long enough to inspire the kind of feverish loyalty that led to the Favrenites, those so thankful for one trophy, strangely to one person, as if [intlink id="474" type="category"]Reggie White[/intlink], [intlink id="392" type="category"]LeRoy Butler[/intlink], [intlink id="180" type="category"]Mike Holmgren[/intlink] and Ron Wolf had nothing to do with it, that nothing short of a lifetime pass to unconditional love is acceptable.
For the rest of us, there is the fourth trophy, [intlink id="1425" type="category"]Super Bowl XLV[/intlink]. The 2010 Packers were 10-6 while being the best team in the league all along. Screw the 14-2 Patriots. The Packers played them in New England, with a second-string quarterback and lost by four. The Packers never trailed by more than seven points all year. The last team to perform that feat was the 1962 Lions, one of the best teams in NFL history not to win a championship. That team went 11-3, never trailed by more than seven, lost by a total of eight points in its three losses, and most famously, was the only team to beat the Packers, the team that I would argue was the greatest to ever play.
The 2010 Packers had to win their last two games to even make the playoffs, and once they did, they played the top three seeds in the NFC in their stadiums and beat them all.
The journey included a breakthrough win in Philly that erased the stain of the wild card loss to the Cardinals the previous season, a revenge demolition of Atlanta, and ended with a victory in the only NFC Championship game in history between Green Bay and Chicago, with two of the three games ending with last-second interceptions.
Then, of course, there was the Super Bowl itself. In a mirror of the entire season, the Packers dominated the first half, and made the plays to win it in the second half, even with [intlink id="143" type="category"]Charles Woodson[/intlink], [intlink id="76" type="category"]Donald Driver[/intlink] and [intlink id="1061" type="category"]Sam Shields[/intlink] out with injuries.
You only have go online and watch the video of fan reaction to the end of the game to know what the 2010 Packers overcame and what that trophy means to Packers fans everywhere: a trust restored, a regime vindicated, a fan base unified again.
Redemption and glory. Titletown again.