The Green Bay Packers have won more championships than any other franchise in NFL history. They are also the only franchise to win three championships in a row, a feat they have accomplished twice. Vince Lombardi’s Packers famously won three titles from 1965 through 1967 including the first two Super Bowls. And team founder Curly Lambeau’s squad won titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931. But what few people know if that an outdated NFL rule denied the Packers a chance at an unprecedented fourth straight NFL championship.

The Packers Had a Powerhouse Team

It happened back in 1932 when Lambeau was still running the team. The Packers were loaded with talent back then including future Hall of Famers like Arnie Herber who was named All Pro that season, fullback Clarke Hinkle, linemen Mike Michalske and Cal Hubbard and the great Johnny “Blood” McNally.

Players played 60 minutes back then and helmets were made of leather and were not yet mandatory. But the Packers success in that era allowed them to survive as the NFL made the transition from town teams across the Midwest to a national sport played in the biggest cities across the country.

A Strong Defense and a Strong Start

The Packers played 13 games that season and recorded seven shutouts. In fact, the defense allowed more than 10 points in a game just twice all season and they won one of those contests. The most points they allowed was 19 in a late season loss to the Portsmouth Spartans who later became the Detroit Lions.

The Packers got off to an amazing start that season. They beat the Chicago Cardinals at home in the season opener and then played the Chicago Bears to a scoreless tie. Then Lambeau’s team won seven straight contests including victories over the Spartans, the Bears, the Brooklyn Dodgers, Staten Island Stapletons, Chicago Cardinals and Boston Braves.

The streak ended when the Giants edged the Packers 6-0 in Week 10, but the Pack bounced back with impressive wins over the Stapletons and Dodgers to improve to 10-1-1 on the season.

The Packers schedule wasn’t very balanced. They opened with four straight home games and six of their first seven in Green Bay. But they finished the season with seven straight road contests.

The Packers Stumble

The Pack looked like they were headed for their fourth straight title with a 10-1-1 record. They had two games remaining on their schedule and were in first place. The two teams they still had to play were the teams still in the running for the title, the Spartans, and the Bears.

The game in Portsmouth was a revenge game for the Spartans after the Pack beat them out for the title the previous season. A huge crowd (for that time) of 15,000 crowded the field and the national guard had to be brought in to keep things safe and manage the crowd.

Then the Pack lost their season finale to the Bears 9-0 at Wrigley Field. So, the Packers finished with a 10-3-1 record.

Strange NFL Rules Deny the Packers a Championship

In 1932, there was no regular season overtime. In fact, tie games did not count in the standings at all. It was as if those games were never played. So, the Packers were 10-3-1 and officially had a winning percentage of .769. The Bears held a 6-1-6 record which gave them an .857 winning percentage. And the Spartans were 6-1-4 which by the old NFL rules, tied them for first place with the Bears. Note that the league schedule was hardly balanced. The Packers played 14 games, the Bears 13, and the Spartans 11.

The Spartans and the Bears arranged to play the league’s first ever playoff game after they finished the official season standings tied. They had to move that game indoors to Chicago Stadium, home of the Blackhawks hockey team, because of poor weather conditions. The game was played on a 60-yard field that forced some interesting adjustments.

The Bears won that game and the title, the Packers were named runners up and the Spartans finished third since the unofficial “playoff” counted in the regular season standings.

What Denied the Packers a Championship

Had the NFL’s present rules been in place in 1932, where a tie is counted as half a win and half a loss, the Packers would have won their fourth straight NFL championship with a .750 winning percentage. The Spartans would have finished second with a .727 winning percentage and the Bears third with .692. Unfortunately for the Packers, that rule change in the standings didn’t come until 1972.

This controversy and the popularity of the unofficial playoff game led the league to make changes the following year. In 1933, the NFL went from eight to 10 teams and divided them into two divisions of five teams each. The winners of the two divisions met for a scheduled NFL Championship Game from then until the start of the Super Bowl more than three decades later.

The Packers led the league in wins and by modern standards, winning percentage in 1932, but the rules at that time left them in second place in the official league standings. This rule denied the Packers an unprecedented fourth straight NFL championship.


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