Green Bay Packers Flashback Sunday: So Close in ’78

If you were a Packer fan in the 1970’s, success was often difficult to find.

Following the dynasty of the Lombardi teams of the 1960s, the Packers of the 1970’s were often the complete reverse of that. More familiar with losing than winning for most of the first half (save for one playoff season in 1972) the success of the previous decade was in the rear view mirror, and growing more distant with every passing losing season.

By 1975, it was clear that the Packers needed a change. Any success Dan Devine had during his tenure disappeared following the worst trade in Packers history, of which they would feel the aftershocks for years.

Exit Dan Devine. Enter Head Coach Bart Starr.

Hoping to find some of the magic from the 1960’s, Starr was hired as the Packers’ coach prior to the start of the 1975 season. His first three seasons on the job were anything but magical. A 4-10 record in 1975 followed by 5-9 in ’76 and 4-10 in ’77 made it seem as though the magic of the ’60s was left firmly behind in that decade.

And then, out of nowhere, the 1978 season happened.

Despite being without the services of starting quarterback Lynn Dickey for the entire season, still recovering from a broken leg, the Packers found ways to put up points. Second year running back Terdell Middleton was a good portion of the reason for this. Rushing for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns, he was able to compensate for the less than stellar passing efforts of David Whitehurst.

Not even standout rookie wide receiver James Lofton could have made Whitehurst look like a viable replacement for Dickey.

Over on defense, the Packers sported the 8th ranked defense in the league during 1978. All NFL cornerback Willie Buchanon led the way with 9 interceptions during 1978. Rookie ILB John Anderson pitched in with another five interceptions, and the defense kept the team in many games throughout the season, keeping playoff hopes alive.

Sadly, it was not meant to be.

The Packers ended 1978 with a record of 8-7-1, their first winning season since 1972. They missed out on the playoffs on a tiebreaker with the Vikings. Losing 5 of their last 7 games didn’t help matters either.

One thing that the ’78 season was seen as was one of hope: hope that Bart Starr had finally captured some of the magic of the ’60s, and a new era of success was right around the corner for the Packers.

So sit back, grab your beverage of choice, and enjoy some of the highlights of the season that was so close: the 1978 Green Bay Packers.

 

 

When you’re done watching, don’t forget to head over the AllGBP.com and check out this week’s edition of Surviving Sundays. It’s must read material during the off season.

Hope everyone has a great Sunday!

GO PACK GO!

John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com and co-host of Cheesehead Radio. To contact John follow him on Twitter @jrehor or email johnrehor@yahoo.com

 

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  • MARK KING

    Thank you VERY MUCH for this article! I think this particular Packer team is too often overlooked. 1978 is the year I became a packer fan. (Acutally Spring of ’78 when I read Instant Replay) Those guys will always be my heroes ! Bart Starr is an incredible human being !!

  • Thanks for the comment Mark! During a decade where success was seldom achieved, this particular year is one which should get more attention than it does.