Packers fans grew accused to things over the past couple of decades: annual playoff appearances with the occasional division title flecked in. Lambeau invincibility. Consistent if not dominant QB play. And, a pair of annual wins over the Lions.
No more to all of the above.
Sunday's season ending loss to the Lions–a 31-0 setback that is the second shut-out in a little more than a year at the Frozen Tundra–is also the first pulled off by a Detroit team in Titletown in 48 years. I know, because I watched that 1970 debacle.
It was the season-opener, played on a sunny September afternoon with a Packers roster that still sported some Lombardi-era relics including Bart Starr, Willie Wood, Gale Gillingham, Carroll Dale, and Donny Anderson. Sad thing was, most were past-prime, having played their best ball for coach Phil Bengtsen's predecessor.
The Lions prevailed 40-0 as the offense mustered all of 114 yards for the day. It got so bad that the Lambeau faithful booed Starr. So bad that his Detroit counterpart, Greg Landry, was able to scamper 76 yards…on a quarterback sneak. It was one more sign that the Glory Years were gone and that the Gory Years were upon us, proof that wins over formerly beatable foes could no longer be assumed, much less postseason appearances or even winning records. Bengtsen's charges would end the year at 6-8. He got replaced by Dan Devine who led Green Bay to a 1972 postseason berth, one that ended with an opening round loss to Washington that revealed a glowing Packers weakness at quarterback. Fllling that void would cost Devine his job–his 1974 trade for over-the-hill QB John Hadl accelerated his Green Bay demise as well as the Pack's slide to the bottom. The top draft choices Devine sent to the Ram to land Hadl hamstrung his successor–Starr–for years moving forward. It would take Starr until 1982 to guide the Packers back to the playoffs, but even then it was in a strike-shortened season. The losing continued until Starr who got canned in favor of Forest Gregg a couple of seasons later. Things only changed when Bob Harlan hired Ron Wolf.
You know the rest.
What you may not realize, younger Packers fans, is that winning isn't a birthright. Decades of Packers success may have left you unprepared for the onset of mediocrity. Green Bay may not have hit bottom with today's loss to the Lions, but let's hope this is as low as it goes.