Ten Things You May Not Know About the 1996 Green Bay Packers

It’s hard to believe that this season will be the 25th anniversary of the Packers 1996 championship team. The Packers went 13-3 that season and defeated the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.

It was a special year for the Packers who won their first championship in 29 years.

Here are 10 things you may not know about that magical and memorable season in Packers history:

1. The Packers Finished First In Points Scored and Points Against

The Packers offense led the NFL in 1996 by scoring 456 points, an average of 28.5-points per game. The next highest team was the AFC Champion Patriots who had 418.

On defense, the Packers allowed 210 points, an average of 13.1-points per game. The next best scoring defense that year was Carolina with 218.

The 1996 Packers became the first team to lead the NFL in points scored and points allowed since the 1972 Miami Dolphins who remain the only team in the playoff era to finish a season with a loss or tie and win the Super Bowl.

2. The Packers Featured Five Pro Bowl Selections

Despite the Packers dominance that season, they had only five Pro Bowl selections. Brett Favre at quarterback, LeRoy Butler at safety, tight end Keith Jackson, defensive end Reggie White and center Frank Winters.

For Jackson, it was his final pro season and he went out with a Super Bowl title. Winters played 16 seasons in the NFL and it was his only Pro Bowl.

Return specialist Desmond Howard did not make the Pro Bowl because no return specialist was named to the Pro Bowl teams until the 2000 contest which was played after the 1999 season.

3. Favre Started the Season in Rehab, Ended with 2nd straight MVP

This was a dramatic season for Packers quarterback Brett Favre who was in his fifth season with the team. In May of 1996, he admitted his addiction to Vicodin and entered a rehab facility for 46 days.

He emerged in time for training camp and ended up leading the league with 39 touchdown passes. That ended up being his career high.

Favre finished the campaign by throwing for 3,899 yards and he won his second of three straight NFL MVP awards and earned All Pro honors as well.

4. Injuries Hit the Packers Hard that Season

The Packers were beset by injuries over the course of the season. Wide receiver was the position that was hardest hit with starter Robert Brooks being lost for the season in Week 7 with a knee injury. Antonio Freeman suffered a broken arm in Week 8 and tight end Mark Chmura also went down with an injury midseason.

The Packers turned to Don Beebe, Terry Mickens and Derrick Mayes before signing Andre Rison late in the year to supplement the receiving corps.

The Packers also lost starting middle linebacker George Koonce during the playoffs and he was replaced by former Bears MLB Ron Cox who started in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXXI.

5. The Packers Were Perfect at Home

Green Bay was a perfect 8-0 at Lambeau Field during the 1996 season, outscoring opponents 252-101 in those eight games. That’s an average score of 31.5 to 12.6.

This was the first time the Packers had gone undefeated at home since 1962 the year the Packers finished 13-1 and Vince Lombardi won his second NFL championship.

6. The Defense Set a Record

The 1996 Packers defense doesn’t get all the respect it deserves in hindsight. The defense set a new NFL record for a 16-game season by giving up only 19 touchdowns in 16 games. Yes, that’s better than the 1985 Bears defense which gave up 22.

The Pack allowed only 12 touchdown passes and seven rushing touchdowns all season and allowed more than 20 points in a game only three times.

7. The Packers Did Not Have a 1,000-Yard Rusher or Receiver

Despite having the league’s top scoring offense and the league MVP at quarterback, the Packers offense did not feature a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver in 1996.

Edgar Bennett led the team in rushing with 899 yards in 222 carries while Dorsey Levens added another 566 yards on 121 attempts.

The fact that the Packers split the carries between these two talented backs was the biggest factor that prevented them from having a thousand yard rusher. The Packers also emphasized the short passing game more than the running game for most of the regular season. The Packers still finished 11th in the NFL in total rushing yards for the season.

Injuries were the biggest reason the Packers didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver. Freeman came the closest with 933 yards in 12 games. Had he played a full season, Freeman would have almost certainly topped the 1,000 yard mark.

The Packers did have three receivers who topped 500 yards with Freeman, Beebe and Keith Jackson all exceeding that mark.

8. The Packers Romped Through the Postseason

Although it wasn’t always easy, the Packers won all three of their playoff games by decisive margins. The closest of their three playoff games was Super Bowl XXXI which they won by 14 points.

In their three postseason games, the Packers outscored their opponents by a combined total of 100-48.

9. Desmond Howard Was a Record Setter

Desmond Howard barely made the team out of training camp and didn’t clinch a roster spot until returning a punt for a touchdown in the preseason finale. But Howard was a big part of the Packers success in 1996.

The former Heisman Trophy winner out of Michigan set a new NFL record with 875 punt return yards in a season. The old mark was 692 yards which was set by Fulton Walker back in 1995.

Howard averaged 15.1-yards per punt return and returned three punts for touchdowns during the regular season. In the playoffs, he returned a punt for a touchdown in the mud against San Francisco and then scored on a 99-yard kickoff return in the Super Bowl to give the Packers their final touchdown of the game and clinch the victory.

He finished Super Bowl XXXI with 244 return yards and was named the MVP of the game. He is the first and only return specialist to be named a Super Bowl MVP.

10. The Packers Repeated…as NFC Champions

The Packers had another 13-3 season in 1997 and reached Super Bowl XXXII against Denver, only to fall to John Elway and the Broncos 31-24. After the game, GM Ron Wolf said, “We’re a one-year wonder, just a fart in the wind.”

While the 1990s Packers never became a dynasty like the Lombardi Era teams, they did provide the franchise with its first championship in 29 years and returned a title to Titletown.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (29)

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Since'61's picture

July 17, 2021 at 12:29 pm

The 1996 Packers were the best Packers team since the Lombardi era. They were also the best Packers since 1996 until now.
The current Packers have a better QB (Rodgers) who is a smarter player and a better QB in terms of ball security and picks. Jaire Alexander is also a better shutdown than the '96 Packers had.
Beyond that the '96 roster was better than the current/recent editions at just about every position. The '96 Packers also had a better GM, HC and DC than any Packers edition since 1998.
As for the items in the article I think that those of us who watched the '96 Packers were aware of them.

I'm pretty confident that the '96 Packers would obliterate any team in the league over the last 20 years, including the NE Cheatalots. They were that good.

Thanks, Since '61

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 17, 2021 at 02:08 pm

Leonard Frank "Fritz" Shurmer!!

What a great HC/DC combo! They worked so well together. He was about to follow Holmgren to Seattle, but sadly, he died before he had the chance at 67.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for the comment, Since'61. I agree that the 96 team was the best Packers team since the Lombardi Era. Because the salary cap was fairly new, they were able to compile more depth than any NFL team can have now. The defensive line was outstanding, four quality starters. I also agree Rodgers is a better overall QB than Favre although you can probably debate that all day long. Some great memories.

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NitschkeFan's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:42 pm

For fans who had been following the team through the 70's and 80's, 1996 felt like one of the best season's a sports fan could experience. There was the gradual rise of the team to making the playoffs and winning playoff rounds the previous few years. And then the final breakthrough and winning it all in 1996.

Maybe influenced by that journey and those emotions I too feel like that squad was the best Packer's team since the Lombardi era.

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Johnblood27's picture

July 17, 2021 at 01:01 pm

The coaching staff of that era Packers was a veritable all-star cast of who's who in coaching for the next 10-15 years.

Coaching makes a big difference.

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Crankbait's picture

July 18, 2021 at 08:45 am

And that's why the Packers never won another Super Bowl with Favre.
Coaching.
Favre's mentor and the best head coach we had since Lombardi, abandoned GB.....even before the Super Bowl with Denver.
The statement that Wolf made after the loss to Denver and their "juiced" defense was childish and asinine.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:37 pm

The coaching didn't change in 1997 when they went back to the SB but lost to the Broncos. I wish Holmgren didn't leave after 1998, but he wanted more say over personnel and Wolf wasn't going to give it to him. That's what happens sometimes with successful coaches. Thanks for the comment, crankbait.

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Crankbait's picture

July 24, 2021 at 05:54 pm

It was clashing egos... Holmgren against Wolf. They were both childish and selfish... put them selves before the team.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:25 pm

That was a great coaching staff and the tree from Holmgren's staff was impressive. The Packers did benefit from that staff and they made their impact on the league for years to come as you said. Thanks for the comment.

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splitpea1's picture

July 17, 2021 at 01:25 pm

That season was by far the easiest to be a Packers fan. There were a lot of lopsided scores, which meant I could waltz out of the bar late in the third quarter knowing the game was in the bag. I did stick around for the thumping of the Vikings in the season finale to make sure we clinched home field for sure, and what a joyous moment that was. When the Packers had that advantage back then, you knew it was clear sailing ahead....It was also fun to watch the Vikings fans go berserk in the parking lot after a loss, as usual....Jeez, all of this was such a long time ago.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:29 pm

I still can't believe it was 25 years ago. It was a fun season and the team was so dominant especially early in the season. Thanks for sharing your memories. splitpea1.

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Packer_Fan's picture

July 17, 2021 at 04:54 pm

Gil, you are a good writer. Thanks

The defense was a combination of signing a couple of major guys like Dotson and Robinson, a couple of guys stepping up like Gilbert
Brown and an outside backer who escapes my memory. And Howard really made an impact. I was at the Lions game in Detroit when Howard returned a punt 93 yards for a TD. There was a roar in the stadium because there were so many Packer fans there.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Packer_Fan. Year, the defense was very good and deep. Are you thinking of Wayne Simmons at LB? Desmond Howard made a big difference for the Packers, 3 returns for scores in the regular season and of course he had a big impact in the postseason as well. Thanks for the comment.

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stockholder's picture

July 17, 2021 at 05:05 pm

Ron Wolf was a good GM.

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fastmoving's picture

July 18, 2021 at 03:53 am

He wasted Favres prime! Only one SB win!

So maybe he was good, but so was TT and Gute is great. As WE all know....

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Crankbait's picture

July 18, 2021 at 08:48 am

He was a selfish egomaniac along with Holmgren. They got so full of themselves after the first Super Bowl win and screwed the team from achieving a dynasty.

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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

July 18, 2021 at 09:05 am

Geez - enough already with the childish comments about the FO wasting guys' prime. Favre, like Rodgers, had multiple chances. Like Rodgers, he was surrounded by talent. Wolf didn't throw all those picks, just like Gute didn't try to force the ball to Adams instead of running it in on 3rd down last January. Great players sometimes make bad decisions. Those losses are just as much on the player as the FO.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:32 pm

A very good GM. He built the team using the draft as the foundation but got Favre in a trade and White via FA. Thanks for the comment.

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Crankbait's picture

July 24, 2021 at 05:58 pm

Then he fucked everything up by not handing the reins over to Holmgren. It was time. Wolf was not a spring chicken anymore and he could've easily stepped aside and took a part as advisor for the organization which I'm sure Holmgren would've welcomed.
And then Holmgren took his ball and went home.
We could've won at least two more Super Bowls if those two ego maniacs didn't clash.

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NickPerry's picture

July 18, 2021 at 07:47 am

I remember the Packers were on the front of a SI cover of the NFL Preview Issue at the beginning of that season. On the cover the caption read "Super Bowl XXXI Its's going to be Green Bay vs" Reggie, Brett, and Robert Brooks were on the front of the cover.

SI figured it was a forgone conclusion the Packers and they were right. Too bad Wolf couldn't have brought back Keith Jackson, Sean Jones, and even Rison. I think it would have made a difference in SB XXXII against Denver. No "Farts in the wind" then.

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stockholder's picture

July 18, 2021 at 08:04 am

Santana Dotson and Gilbert Brown were pretty good too.

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Crankbait's picture

July 24, 2021 at 05:59 pm

Gilbert could never stay on the field.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:33 pm

I remember that SI cover, NickPerry. The SI Cover Jinx didn't end up hurting the Packers that year. Jackson retired after the SB as did Jones. Probably would have helped to have them back but those two pros went out on top. Thanks for the comemnt.

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HarryHodag's picture

July 18, 2021 at 07:50 am

Moral of the story:

You need a great defense before a great offense. The defense will keep you in games. Then you can lose both starting receivers, etc. and still win the Super Bowl.

As much as the younger generation thinks scoring is all you need, here's another lesson on the reality of football.

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nstewart1's picture

July 18, 2021 at 10:07 am

Of course, Defense was easier to play in those days; with all their handicaps today, I don't think they can do more than contain a decent Offense.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:34 pm

It was easier back then and even easier before 1978 when they started opening things up for the receivers. Thanks for the comment, nstewart1.

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GilMartin's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. I'll stand by that saying any time. Thanks for the comment, HarryHodag.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 18, 2021 at 02:12 pm

I always felt our 1996 defensive line with Reggie White, Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown, and Sean Jones was the best one we've ever had.

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Crankbait's picture

July 25, 2021 at 08:23 am

That season was just magic and glorious beyond compare.
And so many people forget that Favre was in rehab before that season !
He was just the most incredibly gifted quarterback there ever was in the NFL during his reign as MVP.
He wasn't just a diva quarterback surrounded by an iron curtain like Tom Brady, he was a beast on the field and could improvise like no other quarterback in NFL history.
Such a rotten shame that Holmgren and Wolf effed it all up at the end.

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