On Sunday morning, NFL Hall of Famer and former Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr passed away. Not only is he one of the greatest Packers of all time, but he is also one of the most successful football players ever. Here is a look back at the late Bart Starr’s career in the NFL.
Late Draft Pick
Bart Starr was born and raised in Alabama and played high school football in Alabama. Then, he joined and played college football for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Although he played for a powerhouse college football program, Starr was not a highly rated draft prospect. Bart Starr’s career began when the Green Bay Packers drafted him with the 200th overall pick in 1956. That was in the 17th round of the draft.
Early Career Struggles
Starr started splitting time as starting quarterback in his second season, but struggled during his first couple years. The team went 3-8 his first season as starter and was even worse the next year. In 1958, Starr played seven games, completing fewer than 50% of his passes and throwing a meager three touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Even by the standards of those days, when passing numbers were extremely low, those were awful stats. In the seven games he played, the Packers had an 0-6-1 record.
Full Time Starter
In 1959, the Green Bay Packers hired Vince Lombardi to be their head coach. Midway through the season, Lombardi decided to bench the starting quarterback and give Bart Starr the job once again. Starr was solid and the team went 4-1 with him as their primary quarterback. The next season, he played eight games, in which the Packers had a 4-4 record. They actually went undefeated without him and ended the season with an 8-4 record, earning a berth into the NFL Championship Game. Starr was actually solid in that game, completing over 60% of his passes for one touchdown and zero interceptions. However, Green Bay lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
First Two Championships
Yes, Bart Starr lost his first playoff game in the NFL. But that loss to the Eagles would also be his only playoff loss as the starting quarterback. The very next season, Starr led the Packers to an 11-3 record, throwing for over 2400 yards, which was good for fourth in the NFL. The Packers once again made the NFL Championship. This time, Green Bay dominated their opponent, the New York Giants, and won 37-0. Starr had a great game, completing 58.8% of his passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The next season, the Green Bay Packers were even more dominant. Starr led the NFL in completion percentage at 62.5% and led the team to the best record in football yet again. After going 13-1 in the regular season, Green Bay made the NFL Championship for a third straight year. Starr was not very good in the 1962 championship game as he completed only nine passes for 85 yards and no touchdowns. However, the defense came through and the Packers repeated as NFL champs. They beat the New York Giants for the second straight year, this time at a score of 16-7.
The Packers were still a very good team in 1963, but were not able to defend their championship for a third straight year. Starr started 10 games, in which he led the team to an 8-1-1 record. However, he suffered a hairline fracture to his hand midway through the season and was forced to miss multiple games. Green Bay finished with an 11-2-1 record. However, both losses were to the Chicago Bears who represented their conference in (and won) the Championship.
In 1964, Bart Starr, who played a full season again, was accurate with the football, throwing 15 touchdowns to only four interceptions. However, Green Bay only finished the season at 8-5-1 and once again missed the playoffs.
Back to Winning
Even during those two seasons when they missed the NFL Championship Game, the Packers were a very good football team. In 1965, they returned to being a great football team. The team went 10-3-1 in the regular season and were tied with the Colts for a berth into the Championship game. Starr did not play in the tiebreaker game, but neither did Colts starting quarterback Johnny Unitas. The Packers won in overtime and Starr returned for the Championship Game against Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns. Starr threw for 157 yards, one touchdown and one interception, which was good enough to win the game. Green Bay won 23-12 and the Starr/Lombardi had their third championship.
1966 was the best season of Bart Starr’s career. First of all, he helped lead his team to an 11-2 record and a victory in the first Super Bowl in NFL history. But Starr accomplished a lot individually as well that season. He led the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt, as well as threw 14 touchdowns to only three interceptions. For his performance, Starr won the NFL MVP (Most Valuable Player) award from both the Associated Press and Football Writers Association.
In the postseason, Starr led the Packers to two playoff wins including Super Bowl I over the Kansas City Chiefs. Over the two games, he completed 68.6 percent of his passes, compiled 554 yards and threw six touchdowns to only one interception. During that time, those were tremendous statistics for just two games. Because of his terrific play, Starr also won the Super Bowl MVP award that season.
The very next season, Bart Starr’s Packers finished with a 9-4-1 record, making the playoffs yet again. After winning two playoff games including the NFL Championship over the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay earned a second straight berth into the Super Bowl. They would also win Super Bowl II, beating the Raiders 33-14. That was the first and last time a team had won three straight championships in the playoff era. Through the playoffs, Starr completed over 62% of his passes for over 600 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. He earned his fifth NFL championship and yet again won Super Bowl MVP.
The biggest statistical accomplishment of Bart Starr’s career is his postseason passer rating. Starr finished his career with an 104.8 playoff passer rating, which still stands as the best career playoff passer rating of all time.
Because of his accomplishments, the NFL inducted Bart Starr into the Hall of Fame in 1977. The Green Bay Packers organization have long retired his jersey number and inducted him into their own Hall of Fame. He has five NFL championships, an NFL MVP award and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Even though he ended his career nearly 50 years ago, in 1972, Bart Starr still stands as one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks, and players, ever.
Featured Image by Press-Gazette Media
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