As one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers have a history that stretches well beyond the Super Bowl era. The team has maintained prestige in the modern era, tied for fourth in Super Bowl championships with four rings in five appearances. Green Bay has witnessed numerous legendary performances by elite Packers in those games.
Super Bowl odds have been in Green Bay’s favor each time they earned a spot in the final game. The sole upset took place in Super Bowl XXXII, when the defending Packers were ran over by Terrell Davis and the Denver Broncos. The stars showed up for the rest of Green Bay’s championship games, with the following five shining the brightest as the best Super Bowl performances in Packers’ history.
5. Max McGee
Some would argue that Max McGee should have been awarded the MVP for the first Super Bowl, but his sordid pre-game ritual probably eliminated him from contention regardless of his on-field performance. McGee didn’t expect to play that day. He was a vet on the verge of retirement, a wide receiver who was no longer a top option on his team. So the night before he decided to host an impromptu party with two flight attendants he met at the hotel bar. Legend has it he returned to the hotel and passed Bart Starr in the front lobby at 6:30 a.m. Shortly after, coach Vince Lombardi called his number in the big game.
McGee would become the instrumental receiver during the win, catching seven passes for a pair of TDs on 138 yards. This performance still stands as one of the best by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history. In addition to a 37-yard strike to open the scoring, he scored a 13-yard TD after catching three receptions, responsible for 40 yards of a 56-yard drive. Hilariously, a Sports Illustrated cover photo of McGee makes him look like a regular guy who unexpectedly got called into work after a night of imbibing, struggling to cope with a severe hangover. Truly, McGee is a legend.
4. Reggie White
One of three Green Bay Packers Super Bowl alumni to make the 50th anniversary team, White is one of the finest defensive players to take part in the championship game. As the Minister of Defense, he joined Green Bay to help orchestrate the type of defense required to excel at the top levels of the NFL. During his hall-of-fame career, he finished with 198 sacks, two behind all-time leader Bruce Smith. Despite the fact that he specifically joined the Packers to win a Super Bowl, his number was still retired in Philadelphia – a town which tends to be notoriously tough on pro sports defectors.
His Super Bowl XXXI performance reflected the very best of Reggie White, as he went on to set a Super Bowl record with three sacks. Him and the Packers defense forced four turnovers against the New England Patriots offense, which was ranked seventh in the league, including a top three rank for passing during the regular season. Crucially, White recorded back-to-back sacks after Desmond Howard’s spectacular kickoff return touchdown. This helped to drive New England into the turf for good, signaling that a Patriots comeback wasn’t in the cards.
3. Aaron Rodgers
There’s no other quarterback that matches Aaron Rodgers’ style. During his tenure in the NFL, he’s responsible for some of the most spectacular last-minute antics, including immaculate Hail-Mary passes and clutch plays straight out of a backyard pickup game. He’s currently tops on the list for career passer rating at 104.1, and ranks fourth in career playoff passer rating at 99.5. So far, his crowning career achievement was his performance in Super Bowl XLV, where he earned recognition as Super Bowl MVP.
Similar to Bart Starr, Rodgers made big completions in long third-down situations, maintaining the Packers lead whenever Pittsburgh cut the margin. Rodgers 29-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson, along with the subsequent pick six by Nick Collins, put the Steelers in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. Rodgers kept them out of reach the rest of the game, completing 24 of 39 attempts for 304 yards and three TDs. Crucially, Rodgers didn’t throw an interception, which is his usual modus operandi.
Moving on from the Brett Favre era was made a lot easier by the emergence of Rodgers, who looks to earn a second Super Bowl appearance to grow his legacy.
2. Bart Starr
He created the Super Bowl quarterback template for all to follow. As the MVP of the first Super Bowl, Starr completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards, throwing two touchdowns and an interception. His 116.2 passer rating ranks among the best in the history of the big game, and he’s still sixth in terms of Super Bowl career passer rating. Starr required few plays to make his mark, averaging 10.87 yards over two consecutive championship wins, which ranks seventh all-time.
Whenever the Packers needed yards, Starr seemed to conjure them at will, including several third-down conversions of 10 or more yards. He helped make the most out of the talents of unlikely hero Max McGee. Starr never lost a Super Bowl. He also won an incredible five NFL championships with Green Bay between 1961-1967, cementing his legendary status in American football lore.
Considering the hardships that Starr endured on his way to national stardom, it’s not a surprise that he was unflappable in big game situations.
1. Desmond Howard
There’s no performance like it in Super Bowl history. Fittingly, Desmond Howard is the sole special teams player to win a Super Bowl MVP, when the Packers beat the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI. He also joined a rare club of players who won the Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP, including Marcus Allen, Roger Staubach and Jim Plunkett. This performance landed him on the 50th anniversary team as one of the best Super Bowl players of all time.
His showcase run was a 99-yard kickoff return TD in the third quarter, which would be the last time either team scored big in the game. This took place after the Patriots marched down the field to cut the lead to seven points, helping to destroy the momentum and morale of New England. Howard set a Super Bowl record for longest kickoff return TD, punt return yards gained and the highest kickoff return average. He also tied a single-game record with 244 combined yards.
Howard’s 99-yard TD record would eventually be eclipsed, but his impact on Super Bowl XXXI might never be matched by another return specialist.