I welcome you back, Packers fans, to what I call, “The Packers Multiverse.” If you haven’t been following along with each episode, where have you been? This is where I take a piece of Green Bay Packers history, and twist it a little, or a lot. Along this journey, we will be traveling to different Multiverse’s where decisions or outcomes were made different. Does it turn out better? Or does it turn out worse? We can only find out by entering, The Packers Multiverse.

Sterling Sharpe Suffers a Career-Ending Injury

This is a sore one for yours truly, as Sterling Sharpe was the first Packers player, I called my favorite. In the early 90’s Sterling Sharpe was the one Wide Receiver who came close to Jerry Rice. He was on his way to likely a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, when it was all cut short right in the middle.

It was the final Packers game at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1994. Week 16 vs the Atlanta Falcons. Sharpe had contributed 3 catches for 33 yards and a touchdown up until this point. But when heading out to block on a running play, Sharpe’s head snapped back while blocking Falcon’s safety Brad Edwards. He was down on the ground for a few minutes before walking off under his own power. Sharpe did not return to the game. This game famously saw the Packers snatch victory in the closing minutes when Brett Favre ran in the game-winning touchdown. This sent the final game at County Stadium out with a bang.

Sharpe returned the next week vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and had a Sharpe-like performance. He hauled in nine catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns. But he aggravated the injury during the game and would not play in the Packers following two playoff matchups.

Sharpe had sustained an abnormal loosening of the first and second cervical vertebrae. Post-surgery he would’ve had an eight-month recovery. Even after this, his limited range of motion and the high risk of reinjury forced him to retire after seven seasons.

But what if the injury wasn’t career-ending? What if Sharpe recovered and played a full career?

We now visit the Multiverse where that indeed happened.

Sharpe Recovers from Scary Neck Stinger

Sterling Sharpe had suffered a neck injury in the Week 16 match against the Atlanta Falcons. He was examined and cleared to play but re-aggravated it during the Week 17 match against the Buccaneers. After further examination it was found Sharpe only suffered a scary neck stinger and avoided serious injury. But the Packers decided it would be wise to keep him out of the following playoff matches as a future precaution.

Unfortunately, the Packers season was cut short. Many were upset that Sharpe was shelved for the season but everyone on 1265 Lombardi Ave knew it was the right choice to keep the star healthy for the future. The Packers knew they needed to load up Brett Favre’s weapons a little more if they were serious about contending for a championship. So, they traded a second-round pick to Miami for Tight End, Keith Jackson. They also drafted a promising young Wide Receiver named Antonio Freeman.

Jackson initially wasn’t thrilled about the trade. Miami to Green Bay? From Dan Marino to this young Favre kid? He wanted to hold out. But his old friend, Reggie White, convinced him to report to camp that summer. After all, Sterling Sharpe had been having great success with the kid and the whole offense wouldn’t be on Jackson, so why not give it a shot?

The 1995 Season

The Packers came flying out of the gate in 1995. There was a newfound weapon in Tight End, Mark Chmura, while he and Wide Receiver Robert Brooks enjoyed huge breakout seasons. Sharpe of course had a Sharpe-like season scoring over 11 TDs with 1200+ yards receiving. And Keith Jackson also contributed greatly with over 5 TDs of his own and 500 yards. With Brett Favre having an MVP season slinging to this receiving arsenal, the Packers had a 13-3 record and held the number 1 seed in the NFC. After steamrolling the 49ers in the Divisional round, The Dallas Cowboys had to visit Green Bay for the NFC Championship.

The Cowboys had lucked out, sort of. Temperatures in Green Bay at kickoff were just under 30 degrees but set to drop to the teens later in the game. So, it was cold, but it could’ve been colder for January in Green Bay. However, the Packers didn’t need the cold air to pull off a victory. After a quick start to the game for the Cowboys the Packers were able to counter and pull away in the 2nd half to win and head to Super Bowl XXX.

The Packers then faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl and were able to pull off a victory. Their aerial attack led by Sterling Sharpe was too much for the Steelers to overcome, and the Packers were World Champions for the first time in 29 years.

The Beginning of a Dynasty

The Super Bowl XXX Victory was just the beginning. To bolster their already powerful attack, the Packers signed Don Beebe and Desmond Howard in the 1996 offseason. Once again, they dominated the season. In week 7, they lost WR Robert Brooks to a season-ending injury. But with Sharpe still leading the way, contributions from Don Beebe and the emergence of second-year WR Antonio Freeman, the Packers were still able to clinch homefield advantage in the NFC.

Sharpe and Favre continued to connect, producing record numbers and the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 vs the New England Patriots. The following year was then no different. Though they faced some heavy competition, they still went on to defeat the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XXXII. They had achieved a three-peat.

With three rings on his fingers, Sterling Sharpe was starting to step in to the twilight of his career. As was the rest of his team. Many trades and free agent signings to achieve greatness had started to catch up with the Packers. They were getting older in a league that was getting younger. Many players had elected to retire after the Super Bowl XXXII victory. There were a lot of new faces in the building, but the Packers were still poised to win. Unfortunately, they exited the playoffs in the Wild Card round.

Career Winding Down

The next few years were moderately successful with a few playoff wins. But, as the Packers focused on getting younger under a new coaching regime, Sterling Sharpe never reached the summit again until 2003.

With some different faces in the Receivers room in Donald Driver, Javon Walker, and Robert Ferguson, Sharpe was teaching the next generation. He wasn’t as effective as he once was, but he’d still pull off 500 yards and 4-5 touchdowns a season. What he did help with most, was better teaching the future.

Donald Driver and Javon Walker had grown to be two of the NFL’s premiere receivers under Sharpe’s guidance. And with a big running back in Ahman Green, the Packers were nearly unstoppable again. They defeated the Eagles in the Divisional round of the playoffs and faced the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of the 1997 NFC Championship. In a low scoring game, the Packers were victorious and met the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 38.

However, the Packers defense wasn’t quite able to overcome the Patriots offense and the Packers were simply outscored in their loss to the Pats.

Sharpe decided to retire following the 2003 season after 15 years in the league. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013 as a first ballot inductee.


This multiverse showed a healthy Sterling Sharpe win three Super Bowl rings as well as earn his Hall of Fame induction immediately.

It’s tough to realize that taking away one injury could’ve brought the Packers so much more success. But Sharpe really was that difference maker. Jerry Rice might no longer be the “G.O.A.T.” receiver, it could’ve been Sharpe.

Until we meet again in the Packers multiverse, Go Pack Go.

Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.