The Long Search for the Future


When a Quarterback is selected in the first round of the NFL draft, the team is heavily committing to the QB of the future. While Green Bay has a long and great history at the position, boasting 2 of the all time greats, the one place it has consistently failed is drafting the QB of the future. Time and time again Green Bay has tried, and come up empty handed, instead fielding QB’s acquired in trade, or later round picks that they got lucky on. A QB is always a hit or miss proposition, even in the first round, but GB’s long an history of failure is especially bad. It seems with Aaron Rodgers though, that Green Bay has found some success, time will tell if it was fleeting, or if greatness was found. A first round failure at QB can set a team back years. Unlike other positions, rarely does the team carry more than one good one, and virtually every first round attempt gets a chance to be the good one for a year or two. Having spent 6 first round picks one the position, including 3 in the top 10, Green Bay has come up remarkably empty handed over the years.

Vito Parilli

Vito “Babe” Parilli
Round 1, Pick 4, 1952 Draft

Vito was GB’s first attempt at a first round Quarterback. He was a 2 time all-American, the star of the Kentucky Wildcats. When he left school he held the NCAA career record for TD’s, completions, and yards, and the single season TD mark. Taken by coach/GM Ronzani to be QB of the future and part of GB’s new shotgun offense (though it not clear, some references point to this time period in GB as the origination of the shotgun formation), Vito played 2 fairly nondescript years with the Packers before enlisting shortly after coach Ronzani resigned during the 1953 season. He returned after the 1955 season and was promptly traded to the Cleveland Browns. After one season he returned to the Packers to play two more nondescript years for Coaches Blackbourne and McLean. After the 1958 season he left Green Bay for Canada to play in the CFL. Unfortunately for the Packers, he returned to the USA after only one season, and joined the Oakland Raiders of the AFL. After one season he went to play 7 very productive years for the Boston Patriots. He is enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and is a member of the AFL 1960’s all-decade team. He finished his career a Jet as Joe Namath’s backup, earning a Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl III. Unfortunately, as a Packer, he was a first round bust.

Randy Duncan

Randy Duncan
Round 1, Pick 1, 1959 Draft

The first draft pick of the Vince Lombardi era in Green Bay, and Green Bay’s most recent #1 overall, Randy Duncan, Quarterback of the Iowa Hawkeyes. He led them to consecutive Big 10 championships, was the 1958 Big 10 MVP, and leader of the most powerful offense in college football. His time in Green Bay was short lived. He never reported, instead going to play in Canada. After two years he left for the Houston Texans of the AFL, floundered for a year, then retired after only 3 years as a professional football player. Unfortunately Green Bay got nothing in return for it’s first round pick. When asked later on why he chose Canada, he responded “That was Green Bay before Vince Lombardi, and Canada offered a lot more dough.” He could have been GB’s QB of the future under Lombardi had he shown up, instead a late round pick from a few years earlier, Bart Starr, stepped up to be Lombardi’s QB of the future.

Don Horn

Don Horn
Round 1, Pick 25, 1967 Draft

Don was the last first round pick during Lombardi’s time as coach of the Packers, brought in to be the QB of the future after Bart Starr retired. Don was an all-American out of San Diego State University. He got off on the wrong foot to start his career, prompting Lombardi to famously say to his team “three or four of you are here for the money and are sorry souls”, Don was one of the primary instigators of that speech. He floundered as a backup until Dan Devine took over as head coach in 1971. During the 1971 draft he was traded to Denver to move from pick #12 to #9 in the first round. He had a short nondescript career in Denver and retired. As a Packer, he was a first round bust at QB, and gave the Packers little in return for the money he earned.

Jerry Tagge

Jerry Tagge
Round 1, Pick 11, 1972 Draft

After trading away Horn, the retirement on Bart Starr left Green Bay in need of a QB of the future. Coach Devine spent the 11th pick in the 1972 draft on Tagge, the star out of the University of Nebraska. Jerry seemed like the perfect fit. He spent his childhood in Green Bay and worked selling concessions at Lambeau for a bit, prior to going off to college. But he was not just the hometown boy, he led the Cornhuskers to back to back undefeated seasons and back to back national championships in the 1970 and 1971 seasons. He was named the Orange Bowl MVP both times that he played for the prize. Jerry was quickly thrust into the lineup midway through 1972, and he struggled through the 1973 and 1974 seasons before Devine made the trade to replace him that will forever be known as one of the worst trades in NFL history, the trade for John Hadl. After the 1974 season Jerry left for the world league, then the CFL, retiring 4 years later after a leg injury. The trade for Hadl set the franchise back years and doomed Devine, but the failure of first round pick Jerry Tagge is the spark that lit the fire.

Rich Campbell

Rich Campbell
Round 1, Pick 6, 1981 Draft

Drafted by Coach Starr to replace Lynn Dickey, who had his moments, Starr looked high in the first round for his QB of the future. Campbell was a star at the University of California. Known for his incredible accuracy and efficiency, Campbell shattered every school record in his time there. Most have been beaten, though his single season completion percentage record stands to this day. Aaron Rodgers got very close to breaking it in 2004, finishing the season just behind Campbell’s mark. Campbell was a complete failure with the Packers, attempting 68 passes during his 4 year career. Following the 1984 season he was released, ending his football career. Of all draft picks that actually reported, Campbell is perhaps the biggest bust in Packers history, only getting playing time in 5 games, never as a starter. For their investment of the 6th overall pick in 1981, the Packers got next to nothing. Unfortunately the belief in Campbell’s potential prevented the Packers from looking for the QB of the future in the 1983 draft, a draft famously laden with HOF passers.

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers
Round 1, Pick 24, 2005 NFL Draft

Taken from the same school as Rich Campbell, Cal, Aaron was long thought to be the first overall pick leading up to the 2005 draft, but through a miraculous combination of fear of his college coach and lack of need, after San Francisco passed on Aaron at #1 overall, he fell all the way to the Packers at #24. Ted Thompson promptly spent his first pick as Packers GM, taking the QB of the future to one day replace Brett Favre, hopefully. Aaron’s claim to fame in college is not that dissimilar to Campbell, he was noted for his accuracy and efficiency, and setting the NCAA record with a long string of completions against one of the best teams in the nation. Entering his second season now as starter, Aaron is already the Packers first round passer career leader in every stat but int’s and TD passes, needing 3 more passes to surpass Vito Parilli for the all time TD mark, and the future looks very bright. If he can duplicate his 2008 effort, will have thrown for more Packer career yards and TD’s than all 5 of Green Bay’s previous first round quarterbacks combined. After a long string of utter failure trying to find the QB of the future in the first round, it is beginning to look like Green Bay finally got a good one.

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