Starr knows greatness when he sees it
August 23, 2006 - By Dave Johnson - Courier & Press Executive Sports Editor
Bart Starr hasn't taken a snap from center in 35 years, but he still follows football.
When I asked if he has a favorite quarterback, he answered without hesitation.
"Brett Favre," Starr said. "The most noble form leadership is by example, and that's how Brett Favre's always done it."
You could say the same thing about Starr, of course. He and Favre are not only the greatest quarterbacks in Green Bay Packers history, but also two of the greatest in NFL history.
They're both great leaders - hard-working, intelligent, never-give-up field generals who always found a way to get the job done.
Favre, the current Packers quarterback, has put up better numbers. He heads into his 16th NFL season with 53,615 passing yards, 396 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 86.0 in 225 games.
"He's far more talented than I was," said Starr. "He can throw the ball better from his knees than I can standing up."
Maybe so, but then Starr is 72 years old. In his day, he was as good as any quarterback. His career stats: 24,718 yards, 152 TD passes and an 80.5 quarterback rating over 17 seasons and 196 games.
Favre has won three NFL Most Valuable Player Awards (1995-97). Starr was chosen MVP once, in 1966.
But few quarterbacks can match Starr's success in leading a team to victory - especially in big games. Between 1960 and '67, he led the Packers to a record of 62-24-4, including 9-1 in the playoffs. They won six division championships, five NFL titles and two Super Bowls.
But Starr, who was the MVP in Super Bowls I and II, downplays his role in building the Green Bay dynasty.
"I was very proud to be a part of a great organization - an organization that has so much history and tradition," said the Pro Football Hall of Famer, who will be in town on Thursday to appear with Len Dawson, his rival quarterback in Super Bowl I, at the Evansville Cancer Center's annual prostate awareness program.
"I'm very grateful to have been surrounded by such great teammates and such a great coach, Vince Lombardi, and his staff."
Starr's Packers won the NFL crown in 1965, then tacked on Super Bowl titles the next two years after the NFL and AFL merged. Since then, 16 different teams have won NFL titles and seven have won them back-to-back. But no team has won three in a row.
Asked if he thinks a team can put together a six- or seven-year run similar to the Packers' in the '60s, Starr was unsure.
"It's going to be tough - although, a few years ago, New England made a real surge," he said, referring to the Patriots' reaching the Super Bowl three times between 2001 and 2004 and winning two of them.
"But with the number of teams we have today, and the way the draft is handled, plus free agency and the salary cap, it's difficult to maintain that type of strength."
The Packers made six playoff appearances when Starr was their quarterback. They've made 10 under Favre. However, their 4-12 record last year was the franchise's worst in 15 seasons.
Some people say maybe it's time for Favre to retire. Starr isn't one of them.
"Put 10 good guys around him," Starr said, "and look out."