Including four Super Bowls, the Packers have won 13 NFL championships and 18 division titles and, in the process, fielded some of the greatest teams in league history. The following is a list of the 10-best Packers teams not to have qualified for the postseason.
10. 1981 – The Packers of the early 1980s – 37-35-1 from ’81-85 – were fairly similar. They were heavy on offensive production, had a handful of playmakers, a tough, strong-armed quarterback in Lynn Dickey who endured a lot of sacks, and defenses that gave up a ton of points. In ’81, Green Bay won six of its final eight, including victories over the Bears, Vikings and Lions, and in three of the final four games scored at least 31 points. It set the stage for ’82, when the Packers won their first three contests. Green Bay would finish 5-3-1 in the strike-shortened season and go to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. In the first round, the Packers would defeat the Cardinals, 41-16, at Lambeau Field. It was the club’s first postseason victory since Super Bowl II.
9. 1947 – A team that was more gritty than good, Green Bay finished 6-5-1, third in the Western Division, but it was as hard-luck as any in club history. The Packers’ first four defeats came by a total of nine points before a 24-24 stalemate with the Giants. Green Bay beat the Bears, who finished 8-4, and the Packers lost to the eventual NFL-champion Chicago Cardinals, 21-20. During a midseason stretch in which the Packers went 0-3, Green Bay played the Steelers and rematches with the Bears and Cardinals – three of the league’s best teams – and fell by a combined score of 59-54. The latter two losses were clinched by missed field goals in the final seconds. The Packers finished one game above .500 while outscoring their opponents 274-210.
8. 1968 – This year is forever remembered as the first without legendary coach Vince Lombardi and the beginning of the club’s downward spiral. Under Phil Bengston, the famous coach’s defensive coordinator, the Packers finished 6-7-1 and only put consecutive victories together once; however, the postseason wasn’t out of reach, with the Vikings taking the NFL Central crown at 8-6 and Chicago second at 7-7. Green Bay’s glory teams had gotten old quickly, even after thumping Oakland in Super Bowl II the year before. A big problem was special teams, as the Packers only made 13 of 29 field goal attempts while losing a trio of games by four points or less and tying the Lions, 14-14. Green Bay still ranked third in yards allowed on defense and only gave up 227 points, lowest in the division. Bart Starr missed five games due to injury but led the league with a 63.7 completion percentage. With a better kicker and a healthy quarterback, the Packers might have made one last playoff push. While Bengston would lead Green Bay to 8-6 in ’69, the club had no chance at the postseason, with the Vikings at 12-2.
7. 1984 – No Packers team has started worse to make a stronger push for the playoffs. Under first-year coach Forrest Gregg, Green Bay was 1-7 and in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. The Packers had survived in a 24-23 victory in the opener at home against the Cardinals without scoring in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t until Oct. 28 before another victory would arrive, a 41-9 thumping of the Lions in which Dickey would toss four TDs. He threw four more two weeks later in a 45-17 drubbing of the Vikings. With the offense now finding its stride, the Packers would score 27 points or more five times over the final seven games, and added a 20-14 win over Chicago at Soldier Field in a year in which the Bears went on to play for the NFC title. The Packers exited the year on a three-game winning streak but, at 8-8, it was only good enough for second in the NFC Central. Of those losses, six were by a TD or less.
6. 2006 – New coach Mike McCarthy inherited a team that went 4-12 the year before, the club’s worst record since 1988. The Packers went 8-8 in ’06, but it was the final four games that signaled what was to come. Green Bay swept through the other three teams of the NFC North to end the year, and five players from the ’06 draft class would enter the starting lineup by their second season. Charles Woodson also arrived via free agency and became a leader of the defense. It all came together the next year, as the Packers would win 10 of their first 11 games, finish 13-3 and advance to the NFC Championship.
5. 2000 – By the end of the season, the 9-7 Packers were a team that no club in the NFL wanted to play, winning their last four. A 2-5 start would be an anchor for Green Bay the entire year, including three losses by a TD or less, but young talent was developing rapidly. A new running back arrived in Ahman Green, and he would be the workhorse for years to come. Rookie Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila showed promise in 2000 and would soon be among the NFL’s top pass-rushers. A pair of rookies – Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher – started at the tackle spots and they would become cornerstones of the offensive front. Over the next two seasons, the Packers posted a 24-8 record and went to the playoffs each year.
4. 1989 – At 10-6, the ’89 season is the only time in the modern era Green Bay hit double-digit wins and didn’t earn a playoff berth. Quarterback Don Majkowski was the spark, leading the NFL with 4,318 yards passing and tossing 27 TDs. The Packers lived dangerously: The club had four victories by a single point and three other wins by four points or fewer. The Vikings also finished 10-6 but won the division crown and clinched the playoff berth because of a better conference record. The Redskins were also 10-6 that season and didn’t make the playoffs.
3. 1959 – In Lombardi’s first season, the Packers weathered a five-game losing streak at midseason, including twice to the eventual NFL-champion Colts and defeats to perennial powerhouses the Giants and Bears. The starting quarterback for the first seven games was Lamar McHan before Lombardi replaced him with Starr. The Packers would rally to win their final four games, finishing the season 7-5 and tied for third in the Western Division. Green Bay had been 1-10-1 the year before. In 1960, Green Bay went to the NFL Championship, falling to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-13. It started a streak of eight consecutive years the Packers would play in the postseason, including winning five NFL titles.
2. 1992 – This is the year that ushered in Green Bay’s return to glory but, while finishing 9-7, it wasn’t enough to propel first-year coach Mike Holmgren’s squad into the playoffs. Behind brash quarterback Brett Favre, the Packers would win seven of their final nine contests, including reeling off a six-game victory streak that was the team’s longest since 1965. Green Bay defeated three playoff teams and jumped to 12th in the NFL in points allowed on defense. New players also arrived that would eventually become household names in Green Bay, including Edgar Bennett, Robert Brooks and Mark Chmura. The Packers wouldn’t have a losing season again until 2005.
1. 1932 – Three-time defending NFL champions, the Packers didn’t lose until the 10th game of the season, a 6-0 defeat to the New York Giants to fall to 8-1-1. Green Bay would bounce back with a pair of victories before losing to the Portsmouth Spartans and the Bears to finish 10-3-1, with a winning percentage of .761. While the Packers had the most wins in the NFL, Chicago (6-1-6) and Portsmouth (6-1-4) were tied for the best winning percentage at .857, as ties were not calculated in the NFL until after 1971. The Bears and Spartans met in the title game and Chicago won, 9-0. For the season, Green Bay outscored its opponents, 152-63, including seven shutouts. The lone losses for Chicago and Portsmouth in 1932 were to the Packers. The game between Chicago and Portsmouth did generate enough interest that an official NFL championship game was created the following year, so the title would be settled on the field instead of by record. It is unlikely Curly Lambeau considered that a feather in his cap.