Best QB Trio Ever? Local sports editor pens new book about Packer greats

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MTT News's picture
Matt Geiger
Middleton Times-Tribune sports editor Rob Reischel recently sat down to chat about his new book, Leaders of the Pack.
For a signed copy of the book, contact Reischel at
Q: The book makes the case that Green Bay’s trio of Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers is better than any threesome an NFL team has ever had. Was this an easy case to make … or tough? 
A: Truthfully, when you break down all the number, it was a pretty easy argument. Bart Starr won five championships in a seven-year window (1961-’67), was the NFL’s MVP in 1966 and has the greatest postseason record of any quarterback in league history (9-1). Brett Favre rescued a downtrodden franchise and brought it back to prominence. Favre remains the only quarterback in NFL history to win three straight MVP’s, played in two Super Bowls and won one. In addition, he set virtually every passing record in NFL history. And Aaron Rodgers has the highest quarterback rating in NFL history, already has two MVPs and one Super Bowl title. Oh yeah, and Rodgers is still just 31 years old. 
There are a number of teams that have had two remarkable quarterbacks. San Francisco had Joe Montana and Steve Young. There was Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning in Baltimore/Indianapolis and Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. But when the third-best quarterback from those franchises is identified, there’s a huge dropoff. And that’s what separates Green Bay from the others and makes the Packers the runaway winner.
Q: Brett Favre wrote the book’s foreword. In it, he has this great line about how Green Bay is different from other football towns. About how it’s centered on football: “[I]n Green Bay, you’re here to play football.” The timing of your book’s release couldn’t be better, because for the first time in several years, Packers fans are once again celebrating Favre’s time playing football in Wisconsin, rather than some of the drama that followed when he went on to play for the Jets and Vikings. By writing about the Packers history and its present in a primarily positive way, were you hoping to bring fans together?
A: That wasn’t the primary goal, but I understand if that’s a byproduct. 
Experiencing Favre’s return to Lambeau first-hand in late-July was remarkable. Where else would you get 70,000 people to pay money to hear a man to give a speech? And not just pay money — but to yell and scream like it’s a playoff game.
Of course, Favre is kind of like Elvis, James Dean and Frank Sinatra rolled into one … and I don’t think his popularity can ever be equaled in Green Bay. You saw that during his Homecoming. People have forgiven him, so perhaps the timing of the book is pretty good.
People get a chance to read about three of the greatest players in Packers history and what makes them all so unique at their craft.
Q: In the introduction, you make the following statement: “No franchise anywhere has had a better trio than Green Bay’s threesome of Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers.” I’ll bet that statement gets a strong response from people. What types of reaction have you heard so far?
A: I think when people truly examine the evidence, they’ll agree. Personally, I don’t think any of Green Bay’s quarterbacks merit discussion as the best in NFL history. I would argue New England’s Tom Brady or San Francisco’s Joe Montana is No. 1. But I would put Favre in the top-7, Starr no worse than 10th and Rodgers inside the top-25 right now. Of course, Rodgers is still climbing, and with a few more rings, would join the discussion as the best ever. So when you add everything up, the Packers really are runaway winners in this competition.
Q: You’ve written a lot about this team over the years. Did you learn anything new while researching this book?
A: I learned a lot of new stuff about Bart Starr, and I think readers will love that chapter. I learned about how stern his father was and how he was always trying to please him. The toughness of Starr’s father made it a lot easier to play for a demanding coach like Vince Lombardi.
I learned how close Aaron Rodgers was to giving up his football dreams altogether when he was leaving Pleasant Valley High School (Calif.). And I learned a lot of the intricate details about the Brett Favre trade in Feb., 1992 from Ron Wolf himself — the man who pulled off the greatest heist in Packers’ history.
Quite honestly, I also learned a great deal about the other franchises represented in the book, as well. We do a top-10 list inside the book of the greatest quarterbacking trios. Then I wrote a chapter on each of the quarterbacks from that list. Many of those quarterbacks played before I was alive or studied football like I do today. So through research and several calls to former coaches and teammates, I was able to learn a lot about those other terrific quarterbacks.
Q: What is your favorite story from the book?
A: It might not be the best story, but it’s my favorite line.
During a long talk with former Packers general manager Ron Wolf about Brett Favre, I asked Wolf, “What would you have done if you didn’t make the Favre trade?”
His response? “What if the queen had #@*$?”
This was Wolf at his best. Open. Honest. Unfiltered. His bold and bombastic approach is what allowed him to trade for Favre and eventually turn the Packers from an NFL laughingstock into Super Bowl champions.
Q: You cover some pretty legendary pro athletes, but you also write about our local high school’s student athletes. Do you need to switch gears when you go back and forth?
A: Without question.
High school athletes play for the love of the game. They don’t make a nickel, they’re playing the sport for the sheer joy of it, and they’re still just kids.
While my job is to tell people what happened and why something occurred, I will never criticize a high school athlete. We almost always try to emphasize the positive and find silver linings.
When it comes to professional athletes, it’s a much different story. They’re grown men with large salaries and every move is open to scrutiny. It’s a big-boy game and criticism is part of that game.
Winning at the highest level can be intoxicating. But when you lose, the “why” has to be explored. People are criticized for that. Feathers can be ruffled.
Most coaches and athletes understand this. They may not like it, but it’s part of the deal.
The difference in the two levels of competition — professional and high school — is something I enjoy immensely.
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