If I could start a team with any Green Bay defensive player since 1970 or so there would be a few options definitely starting with either Reggie White or Clay Matthews.
I would take a circa-1974 Ted Hendricks over both.
Hendricks played for the University of Miami and his name is now on the award for college football’s best defensive end. Hendricks began his pro career with the Baltimore Colts and traded to Green Bay when his contract came to its option year. For additional leverage Hendricks also inked a ‘futures contract’ with the World Football League.
Throughout the 1974 campaign, in his age 27 season as a hybrid DE/OLB, Hendricks lurked everywhere. He intercepted five passes and a game-changer on special teams blocking seven kicks (punts/FG’s/PATs) for the season alone.
If he just had a team around him. Quarterback Jerry Tagge (a 1972 draft pick) regressed so badly that out of desperation embattled coach/GM Dan Devine traded two first, two second and a third round pick to the Rams for John Hadl, just 10 days after Hadl was benched in a loss to the Packers.
After 11 games the Packers harbored faint playoff hopes with a 6-5 record with three seemingly winnable road games at Philadelphia, San Francisco and Atlanta on the horizon.
An analyst on a local pregame show threw water on any chances Green Bay had.
“Well, Philadelphia is a rowdy atmosphere, the Packers never play well on the West Coast, and even though the Falcons have had a bad year they will be looking to end on a high note.”
Sure enough, Packers lost badly to the Eagles in an icy rainstorm and mailed in their final two games. Seeing a chance to leave a sinking ship, Devine jumped at the head coaching job at Notre Dame that opened up. The day following the regular season, Devine would be named the Fighting Irish’s new coach.
The Packers then lowballed Hendricks at the negotiating table, he would sign with Oakland with the Raiders giving up two first round picks as compensation.
But for the WhatIfSports simulation Hadl plays the entire season and Devine is focused on the team and not preparing his resume for submission to South Bend…
Both Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier exceed 100 yards rushing in the Steelers Championship win while the Packers emerged victorious in hosting their second NFC title game in three years.
The Steelers would win their second Super Bowl as Bleier, a Wisconsin native, scored the lone touchdown. Bleier rushed for 163 yards on 35 carries in an actual game against Green Bay in the 1975 regular season.
In a losing effort Hendricks recorded his fourth and fifth interceptions of the postseason. Swap the Vikings for Green Bay and Super Bowl IX was about the same as the Steelers actual 16-6 victory.
Both Terry Bradshaw and backup Terry Hanratty got hurt during the 1974 season, unleashing the legend of Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam. The heavy lifting for most of the season was done by the run game, but Gilliam goes down as the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, 13 years prior to Doug Williams actual achievement.
Other events from the sim version of the 1974 season.
- There would be no ‘Sea Of Hands’ playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Both teams missed the playoffs with the Raiders somehow finishing 4-10. Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield shocked the sports world by signing 1975 contracts en-masse with the WFL’s Toronto Northmen. By the time 1975 rolled around the team was known as the Memphis Southmen (although they kept the grizzly bear logo) and the short-lived league was on its last legs.
- The Denver Broncos win the AFC West with a 10-4 record to earn the franchises first faux-postseason appearance.
- The Minnesota Vikings did not do bad outside of being swept by Green Bay. The Vikes went 9-3 with the rest of the schedule and would be edged out for the Wild Card berth.
- With a 11-3 regular season, the Dallas Cowboys have now gone 50-6 over the last four regular seasons, without a Super Bowl appearance to show for it.