Drawing Parallels: Charles Woodson & Reggie White
The last time the Green Bay Packers won a Super Bowl was in 1996. Fifteen years later, the Green and Gold find themselves back in the big game playing for the trophy named after their immortal coach — Vince Lombardi.
As Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, there are some eerily similar parallels to the ’96 and ’11 Packers.
When the Packers defeated New England in Super Bowl XXXI — the organization’s last NFL Championship — quarterback Brett Favre was 27 years, 3 months and 16 days old. When the Green Bay meets Pittsburgh next Sunday, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 27 years, 2 months and 4 days old.
The 1996 season was Favre’s sixth in the NFL, just like this is Year 6 for Rodgers.
In 1996, 48-year old Mike Holmgren was in his fifth season as Green Bay’s head coach. His record (including playoffs) heading into Super Bowl XXXI was 57-32 (.640).
Today, 47-year old Mike McCarthy is also in his fifth season as Green Bay’s head coach. McCarthy’s record (including playoffs) is 52-34 (.605).
Ron Wolf was hired as Green Bay’s general manager on Nov. 27, 1991. So when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI, the 58-year old Wolf was into his sixth season as Green Bay’s G.M.
Today, Ted Thompson is completing his sixth year as Green Bay’s general manager. Like Wolf back then, Thompson is also 58.
Another similarity is the play of the defense. Specifically, both teams had future Hall of Fame players leading the way. In ’96, it was defensive end Reggie White who was aptly nicknamed “The Minister of Defense.” In 2011, it’s cornerback Charles Woodson.
Through no choice of his own, the usually soft-spoken cornerback has become the vocal leader in the locker room this year.
“Coach (Mike McCarthy) allowed the captains to come up with who was going to talk before the team before games and that sort of thing,” Woodson told Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee. “The other captains kind of nominated me without any voting process.”
The 13th year player out of the University of Michigan doesn’t just talk a big game either. A year after being named the Defensive Player of the Year, his statistics may have slipped, but he still plays with the vigor of a rookie.
“His contract is what, fifty-some million dollars?” said safety Charlie Peprah. “You see a lot of guys turning hits down and they quote-unquote say, ‘I made a business decision,’ when they do things like that. Not ‘Wood,’ man. He’s out there like it’s his first year, flying around, sticking his face in stuff, putting his body on the line for us. I really respect him for that.”
And while it may be teammate Clay Matthews who takes home the individual accolades this season, there’s no doubt as to who is the leader of the Packers’ defense.
“He’s been our leader. His messages have been on point,” said defensive end Ryan Pickett. “He is normally quiet, but he’s been speaking out. Just letting everybody know, ‘Man, this is hard, this is rare.’ We have players that have been on this team 13, 12 years, never been to a Super Bowl. So we have to seize this moment and capitalize on it.”