On April 10th, 1987, twenty-nine years ago today, the Packers selected Don Majkowski with their 10th round pick. If you, like me, remember that day, then you are getting old.
The brash and athletic, if unheralded, quarterback out of Virginia was damaged goods already the day the Packers drafted him. He had separated his shoulder the fourth week of his senior year and never had it properly mended. He knew that if he sat out a month, he wouldn’t be drafted. Majik got his way. He played. Virginia finished 3-8, and Majik was drafted, just barely.
With Majkowski being a 10th round pick and a still young Randy Wright on the roster, virtually nothing was expected from Majkowski. However, those of us who remember the late 80’s know how it went. Randy Wright did little but absorb punishment the hapless years he was with the Packers. When he had enough, Majkowski got to start five games already his rookie season.
Then Lindy Infante came to town. Seeing his chance for the starting job, Majkowski attended all the offseason programs. By time the preseason rolled around, his shoulder hurt so bad he missed half the preseason. Still, mostly by default, Majik won the starting job and started the last nine games of the season.
Knowing he would be the man for 1989, Majik worked hard to rehab his shoulder, which had already been diagnosed with severe tendinitis. He changed his throwing motion slightly. For one year, it worked.
The Cardiac Pack of 1989, led by the Majik Man, would put up one of the most exciting seasons in Packer history. After a clunker loss to the creamsickle-panted Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 1, the Packers looked to be a complete clown-fest in falling behind 24-7 in the first half to the New Orleans Saints in Week 2. Then, the Packers stormed back. A 4th-and-17 conversion to Jeff Query highlighted the game-winning drive that ended with a Majik-to-Sterling Sharpe touchdown pass. The Packers won 35-34, the first of an NFL record four games won by a single point during one season.
The 1989 Packers repeatedly followed disappointing defeats with exciting comeback wins, typically pulled out in the final seconds. The Packers finished 10-6, their best record since 1972, but they missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaker that went to the Minnesota Vikings.
That fact, and the penchant for miraculous comebacks, has clouded how good that team and Don Majkowski were that season. Majik, Sharpe, Tim Harris and Brent Fullwood all went to the Pro Bowl. Everyone remembers the miraculous 14-13 win over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, but no one talks about the fact that the Packers went to Soldier Field later that season and crushed the Bears. It also is largely forgotten that the Packers beat the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. That was the last game the Joe Montana-Jerry Rice-Ronnie Lott juggernaut would lose before crushing the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl that season.
If you know this story, then you also know how it all came crashing down. Don Majkowski was a restricted free agent and held out in 1990. Majkowski was named as one of eight plaintiffs by the NFLPA in a lawsuit agains the NFL, pushing for the free agency that would come to be just a couple years later. Partially perhaps because of that, and partially because Lindy Infante believed in Anthony Dilweg, the Majkowski holdout lasted until the season started.
Having missed the entire offseason and preseason, Majkowski was shaky when he returned to the field in the second half of a loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 2. He started slowly and the Packers started 2-4 before the bye. After the bye, Majkowski and the Packers began to regain their prior season form. They won four out of five to get to 6-5 and appeared to be a solid contender for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, at the end of that run, Freddie Joe Nunn of the Phoenix Cardinals caught a scrambling Majkowski from behind and threw him on his shoulder. This time it was a torn rotator cuff. He missed the rest of the season and would never really be the same player. Brett Favre entered the scene, taking over for an injured Majkowski, of course, in Week 3 of 1992. The rest is history.
They say it is better to burn furiously and then out rather than fading away, and such was the Majik Man’s career in Green Bay. In honor of one of the greatest single seasons in franchise history for both a team and a quarterback, Don Majkowski entered the Packer Hall of Fame in 2005 with Edgar Bennett.
For those who have come to fandom during the tenures of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, they may look at the brief career of Don Majkowski and wonder why he has a place among the Packers’ all time greats. But for those of us that remember the Cardiac Pack and the Majik Man, we remember the athletic and charismatic player that at the least breathed hope and excitement back into a dormant franchise.
Majik was a bright star in the dark years …..
A true scrambler and proto gun-slinger !!
Never forget his win against the Bears with the disputed line-of-scrimmage step-over call ….
I was at the game in ASU stadium when his career ended …. Tony Dilweg mania ensued – without success – the rest is history ….
I was there too. Was stationed in San Diego and me and my buddy were there with another guy we were stationed with when overseas. We were in LA the year before when Mandarich made his debut. That game was 38-7 at the half, and they almost pulled it out, but lost 41-38. Good times, but we be getting old! Ha ha!
It’s amazing what someone can write when doing some research instead of looking for material from TMZ, Life & Style, or the Hollywood gossip scene. No offence to the others though (cough).
Nice work shawn.
Greatest Mullet. Ever.
It’s Creamsicle not Creamsickle. Everyone hated those including Bucs fans. They look good not though as throwbacks.
Great article. Nice change of pace from TMZ and articles throwing jabs at TT.
He was on his way to a really great career. I’ve thought of how things would’ve been different for the Packers if his shoulder hadn’t been destroyed.
Infante doesn’t get fired, no Wolf, Holmgren, Farve?
No Reggie White, that’s for sure.
The Packers were in a unique position of not having a QB with a huge salary allowing them to outbid the 49ers and Redskins. There were other financial restrictions for the 49ers and Redskins based on NFL record.
Did anyone see where Favre basically says Majiks ankle injury in 92 wasn’t as bad as it looked. I cant remember where I saw that now, damn. He kind of throws Don under the bus for that season, ha. But then he quickly added that him and Don are great friends.
Awesome article. Lots of stuff I didn’t know here.
Majkowski is clear evidence that the Packers were on the right track before Favre came along. At this point, the general manager had equal power to the coach, unlike when Starr and Gregg coached and had complete control and proceeded to screw up draft after draft.
It took Favre about 5 years before he performed as well Majkowski did in 1989.
On youtube there is a video where Sterling Sharpe basically says Majkowski was better than Favre, having played for both.
And for all those who judge Favre to be superior to Rodgers because of his 4th quarter comebacks, well Majkowski was better than either of those guys.
Favre was already better in his 4th year/3rd as a starter than Majik ever was, (he was arguably at that level in his first year in GB); by his 5th year he was league MVP. Majik had talent, but he only ever had 1 good year and was nowhere the calibre of a top 10 QB of all time, you have allowed your Favre hatred to cloud your judgement.
Majkowski passed for 4318 yards in 1989, leading the league in passing yardage. Not until his MVP year did Favre surpass this. Favre threw for 33 TDs in 1994, however Majkowski RAN for 5 TDs in addition to his 27 TDs. Majkowski didn’t play in the quarterback friendly West Coast offense.
Don’t let your love of Favre cloud the facts.
That was ONE majikal season, and yards mean fuck all-Matthew Stafford has had MORE yards than Aaron Rodgers in every FULL season they’ve been starters except for one (A-R0dg beat him by slightly more than 100) and NO ONE is questioning who the better QB is; same goes for Drew Brees, Dan Fouts, etc.
Favre added 3,2, and 1 rushing TDs in his MVP years, and 2 a season prior.
Don’t worry my love for Favre the football player won’t cloud my judgement because a major reason I love him as a football player is how dominant he was, for MORE than ONE season. The Majik Man also lobbed 20 picks that season in additions to his 27 TDs, giving him a TD/INT ratio of a majikal 1.35.
All this doesn’t matter because Jeff Janis could whip Favre and Malik any day of the week.