Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Revisionism Week In the Packers' Blogosphere: The Tom Braatz Edition

Two recent posts, one at Tudravision and one at CheeseheadTV take a revisionist look back at Mike Sherman's tenure and conclude that he was not all bad.  I agree with some of their arguments (and strongly disagree with others) but few can dispute that Sherman seemed like a nice guy and he was a hard worker.

Anyhow, it reminded me of one guy who I doubt will ever get his due in Packer lore: Tom Braatz.

Braatz will go down in history as The-Guy-Who-Drafted-Tony-Mandrich.  Which is too bad.  First of all, the Packers simply had the misfortune of picking second in the draft instead of third.  I truly believe that any team that picked second in the'89 draft would have selected Mandrich.  He was that heralded a prospect.  The question in the media was whether Mandrich would be the greatest offensive lineman of all time, or merely a Hall of Fame player.  I don't recall anyone second-guessing the selection at the time. 

Mandrich aside, look at some of the players that were on the roster when Wolf and Holmgren took over: Chuck Cecil, LeRoy Butler, Bryce Paup, Sterling Sharpe, Jackie Harris, and Chris Jacke.  These were all good or great players that Braatz drafted---there was no such thing as free agency yet---in his tenure.  Each of these players would start on the '09 Packers.  

Add in solid players like Johhny Holland, Tony Bennett, and John Jurkovic (who was an undrafted rookie signed by Braatz) and contrary to the conventional wisdom the cupboard was hardly bare when Wolf and Holmgren came to town.  

While only Butler and Jacke were on the team when the Packers won the Super Bowl (Sharpe got hurt, Wolf let Paup leave and become the NFLDMVP with the Bills, etc.), Braatz's players helped keep the Packers competitive during the transitional years.  Once free agency arrived, being competitive made signing players possible.  You think Reggie White would have signed with the Packers if they were 4-12 and in transition instead of 9-7 and on the rise?

Sort of like John the Baptist, Tom Braatz paved the way for the greatness to come.  So let's finally give him his due.

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