GREEN BAY – Ron Wolf is brutally honest. Always has been; always will be. If you ask the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning GM a question, do so at your own peril, because you may not like the answer.
Who is the greatest Packers’ player of all-time?
That interesting if not impossible question was posed to Wolf by a local newspaper reporter covering a recent charity golf outing.
Wolf explained that he viewed Don Hutson as the Packers’ greatest player when he arrived in 1992. By the time Wolf walked away in 2001, he had come to regard Brett Favre as the franchise’s greatest of all-time.
“I think everybody will tell you now the greatest player ever to play for the Packers is Brett Favre,” Wolf said. “That’s his legacy.”
Actually, not everybody would agree.
Judging by readers’ responses in the online comment sections of several state newspapers, many fans believe it is Hutson, and if not him, surely it is Bart Starr. Sadly, if not surprisingly, Favre is referred to disparagingly, if at all.
Favre’s NFL record number of wins is canceled out by his longevity.
His touchdown passes are diminished by his interceptions.
His indisputable passion, work ethic and leadership are somehow erased by whatever decisions were after the Packers traded him to the New York Jets on Aug. 7, 2008.
The arguments in favor of Hutson and Starr are incredibly compelling. Hutson was a Hall of Fame receiver whose impact in the passing game changed forever the way the game was played.
That’s pretty amazing.
The calm, cool and collected Starr merely quarterbacked the Packers to five world’s championships in seven seasons. That’s also heady stuff.
Clearly, Hutson and Starr belong in any discussion of the Packers’ greatest players of all-time. There also is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. It is simply an opinion, no more, no less.
What caught my attention and drew my ire is how easily Wolf’s opinion and Favre’s legacy were cast aside. The prevailing criticism seems to be that Favre didn’t win enough Super Bowls, and that Wolf’s impartiality is corrupted because he was the GM who traded for Favre.
Hutson’s impact on the game is indisputable. So is the fact that he played a co-dependent position in an era when the passing game was in its infancy.
Starr’s standard of excellence is irreproachable. So is the fact that he played for the NFL’s greatest coach, Vince Lombardi, and was surrounded by what is arguably the greatest collection of players.
Favre showed up in Green Bay as a game but untested quarterback who loved to play and hated to lose. When he arrived the Packers were still thought of as an NFL laughingstock. When he left, they were considered one of the league’s finest football teams.
Favre’s departure was painful to many fans, but not as unforgivable as his subsequent signing with the despised Vikings.
“Bart Starr wouldn’t have played with the Bears,” many fans say.
“Favre’s a traitor,” others suggest.
I say Favre’s ego was deeply hurt by the team’s obvious desire to move on with Aaron Rodgers after the 2007 season, and that feeling grew into full-blown bitterness by the end.
Favre may have handled rejection badly, but that shouldn’t discount what he did on the field for nearly two decades.
Wolf believes Favre to be the Packers’ greatest player ever.
I agree with him.
Now, I may be accused of lacking objectivity because I co-authored two books with Favre. That’s fair. Shoot me down. But don’t dismiss Ron Wolf’s so lightly. When it comes to NFL history in general and the Packers’ history in particular, I will take Wolf’s opinion every time.
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.