Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Playing to Win

 By Eric Goska

Vince Lombardi is one of six men to produce
a winning record while coaching the Packers

Win. It’s the goal of every coach, player and team in the National Football League.

Win. It’s what the Green Bay Packers have been doing since their earliest days.

Now, all that hard work by the Pack might pay off in a uniquely satisfying way. Green Bay – at the expense of its oldest rival, the Chicago Bears – has a chance to become the winningest team in NFL history.

The Packers enter the 2022 season with 782 regular-season wins. The Bears have 783.

Should both teams post records similar to what they have over the past three seasons, the Green and Gold will supplant Chicago at No. 1.

This run at the record has been a long time in the making. Chicago has been king of the mountain for just over 100 years.

The Bears are one of two remaining teams (Cardinals) that were part of the original NFL (then called the American Professional Football Association) in 1920. Chicago posted the most or second most regular-season wins in 19 of the first 30 years of league play (1920-1949).

A number of teams, most notably the Buffalo All-Americans and the Akron Pros, challenged Chicago for supremacy in those first two years. But after Dutch Sternaman booted a third-quarter field goal to down the All-Americans 10-7 on Dec. 4, 1921, Chicago moved out front for good.

The Packers joined the APFA in 1921. Though they produced winners in 26 of their first 27 seasons, the team could not catch the Bears.

Second fiddle – or worse – for a century, Green Bay is poised to wrest the mantle from their longtime nemesis. What’s amazing: 30 years ago this would have been unthinkable.

Back then, the Packers were coming off a 4-12 record. That dismal showing cost head coach Lindy Infante his job.

In the 24 seasons between Vince Lombardi’s departure as coach and Mike Holmgren’s arrival at the helm, Green Bay suffered through 15 losing campaigns. The team’s regular-season record during that time (146-201-9) hardly inspired confidence.

As 1992 dawned, the Bears had 561 regular-season wins to 476 for the Packers. Chicago was up by 85 wins.

The turnaround engineered by the Green and Gold after that low point has been nothing short of remarkable. That the resurgence could possibly enter a fourth decade boggles the mind as well.

Over the last 30 years, the Packers have gone 306-173-2 during the regular season. The Bears are 222-259-0. That’s a difference of 84 victories.

Only one team – the New England Patriots – won more games during a 30-year stretch.

Green Bay has been fortunate that each of its last six coaches – Holmgren (75-37), Ray Rhodes (8-8), Mike Sherman (57-39), Mike McCarthy (125-77-2), Joe Philbin (2-2) and Matt LaFleur (39-10) – all finished .500 or better over that span. That’s rare in this business.

Furthermore, the team has had two world-class quarterbacks – Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers – for most of that stretch. Favre (160-93) and Rodgers (139-66-1) were the starters for 299 of those 306 wins.

And so Green Bay enters the 2022 season having won 13 regular-season games in each of its last three seasons. The Bears have not had a winning record during that time.

Based on that, expect the Packers to pull ahead of the Bears sooner rather than later, maybe even when Chicago comes to Lambeau Field on Sept. 18 in Week 2. What not to expect: Green Bay to hold onto the record for as long as the Bears did.

Extra Points

  • The Packers already have the highest regular-season winning percentage (.572) in NFL history ahead of the Cowboys (.571).
  • Green Bay has also posted more winning seasons (64) than any team. The Bears are second with 58.

Stacking Wins Across the Decades
The 10 teams with 550 or more regular-season wins in NFL history.
     No.        Team                                                      Years
     783        Chicago Bears                                      1920-2021
     782        Green Bay Packers                             1921-2021
     706        New York Giants                                1925-2021
     652        Pittsburgh Steelers                            1933-2021
     617        Washington Commanders                1932-2021
     599        Los Angeles Rams                              1937-2021
     594        Philadelphia Eagles                            1933-2021
     577        Arizona Cardinals                               1920-2021
     570        Detroit Lions                                        1930-2021
     561        San Francisco 49ers                           1950-2021

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