The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up for the NFC Divisional against the Green Bay Packers. For those of you too young to remember or fortunate enough to repress the mental scars, the Packers sit right behind the Dallas Cowboys as the ultimate in retro-rivals. For many, last week was hard to watch because both teams are so hated on the level of the Seattle Seahawks.
Ask any 49ers fan who grew up in the 80s or 90s, and their first response would be the Dallas Cowboys as their most hated team. After that, you’ have a good chance of hearing the Green Bay Packers.
So what made the Packers into this realm of hate? Pull up a chair.
The 90s and He Who Must Not Be Named (...but we’ll name him anyways)
Our story begins with the 1995 NFC Divisional game at Candlestick Park. The 49ers were ready to two-peat off their Super Bowl XXIX win the year prior. Well, that never happened thanks to some no-name country bumpkin named Brett Favre showing up at Candlestick and pulling an upset to ruin the party. The following two years were not much better; 49ers meet the Packers in the playoffs, 49ers go home. It was a butt-kicking thanks to San Francisco’s awful special teams play in 1996, and the loss of Jerry Rice helped in 1997’s defeat.
Of course, then came 1998 and this happened:
Sure, the 49ers found redemption, but that was three straight years of playoff losses to Favre. It wasn’t like the 49ers beat the Packers to get a monkey off their backs on their way to the Super Bowl. The year of The Catch II, the 49ers wound up losing the next game to the Atlanta Falcons after running back Garrison Hearst suffered a broken ankle on the first play.
After the aforementioned season where The Catch II happened, the 49ers became ordinary. Steve Young retired and Jeff Garcia took over. The Packers had Favre, but eventually the 49ers would help them, yet again, in a strange way.
The 2000s and that quarterback who can’t coexist with Mike Nolan
The Mariucci coaching years brought a slow death of sorts. The 49ers were efficient, but something felt “off.” Mariucci was ran and in came Dennis Erickson from Oregon State. Erickson’s resume also included making the Idaho Vandals a powerhouse in division 1-AA and never getting a winning record in his four seasons coaching the Seattle Seahawks. He lasted two seasons with the 49ers, his final season in 2004 delivered a crowd-pleasing 2-14 record.
The 49ers held the first pick in the draft and had a simple choice: Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers. New coach Mike Nolan and offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy, yes, that Mike McCarthy, evaluated both and decided on Smith.
The reason? Nolan thought Smith was more cerebral while Rodgers’ attitude rubbed him the wrong way. This decision would haunt the 49ers in several games ahead as they stumbled through seasons while the Packers would swap Favre for Rodgers and continue their offensive dominance.
2010s and Jive-Turkey Gobbling
With the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers began a sudden transformation into a team no one wanted to face. During Harbaugh’s first year in 2011, the 49ers won one of the best playoff games ever with the Catch III (or The Grab, depending on who you ask), and it was assumed after the No. 1 seeded Packers took out the New York Giants, it would be 49ers-Packers for the Super Bowl.
Except the Giants took the wood to the Packers in that divisional game. There goes that idea. The Giants then came to Candlestick, and Kyle Williams fumbled away a game that had a putrid offensive performance leading up to said fumbles.
The 49ers opened 2012 against the Packers in Green Bay, where Smith essentially outplayed Rodgers. The 49ers were none too happy about their NFC Championship loss to the Giants the previous January, and the Packers were the poor recipients of their built-up rage from the offseason.
Concluding 2012 was the NFC Divisional playoffs, another contest against the Packers, but this time without Alex Smith and a new kid. A kid named Colin Kaepernick. Much like Favre in 1995, there wasn’t much on this Kaepernick kid besides the fact he had a cannon for an arm, ran Tim Tebow packages, and somehow stomped the New England Patriots for three straight quarters.
Well, Kaepernick began with this:
Yes, that is how the 49ers’ first offensive drive went. It turned out Kaepernick was just spotting the Packers seven points because what followed was a beatdown any 49ers fan in the 90s can enjoy. Starting with this:
I had never seen a QB kill the Packers defense the way that Colin Kaepernick did. pic.twitter.com/GvsbQlgilQ— Fire Mike Groh (5-5) (@Damon089) November 14, 2019
and you can’t forget this:
But this was the true highlight of the night:
In case you’re curious, that was a touchdown.
The rivalry was back. This time, it was the 49ers who were breaking the hearts of Packers fans everywhere. The two met in 2013 to start the season, which wound up being one of the best games of Kaepernick’s career. Selling out to stop the run, Kaepernick turned to the air and threw for 412 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 69 percent completion rate. There was even a scuffle during the thing due to the frustration of the Packers being unable to stop Kaepernick.
The 49ers met again in the postseason that year, but thanks to rules and questionable officiating during the New Orleans Saints Game had the 49ers as a wild card team. The 49ers were going to Green Bay for the wildcard round. A cold Green Bay. Five degrees Fahrenheit temperature with -10 wind chill in Green Bay.
And Kaepernick did it again. Getting the 49ers out of Green Bay 23-20.
From there, the 2014 season brought the end of Jim Harbaugh’s coaching, and the 49ers went back to mediocrity just as things were getting good. The fact the 49ers and Seahawks weren’t playing nice was taking precedence over anything at the time, anyway. There was one meeting during the Jim Tomsula era between the 49ers and Packers, but the less said of that, the better.
Present Day: Enter the Shanahan
The 49ers-Packers rivalry didn’t heat up much when Shanahan began as head coach. They met in 2018 during a season from hell where quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was already lost on a torn ACL. The Monday Night Football game started well, but a young Greg Mabin was picked on constantly, and eventually, the game had 1:00 left for Aaron Rodgers to put the Packers in field goal range. And this was against one of the worst defenses in BNB (Before Nick Bosa).
Despite the rawness of the team and how the defense had been giving up games like this to every quarterback, including Josh Rosen, Rodgers was glorified as a football god regardless, and his “legend,” as some call it, had grown for beating a crippled 49ers team. This, of course, led to a week of replays at various angles of how he systematically picked apart the 49ers and their young secondary.
If only he knew what awaited him one year later.
The 49ers met the Packers in the 2019 regular season, and Green Bay was absolutely demolished. While it’s still a fun game and impressive, it was the NFC Championship that very season that 49ers fans loved. In the regular season matchup, Rodgers was utterly dominated by the 49ers.
Not much changed in the playoffs until the final quarter, when the 49ers started letting their foot off the gas. A pick by Richard Sherman thwarted any chance of heroics at the end and the 49ers were off to the Super Bowl. This was the game where Raheem Mostert became known as Raheem Mostert and the king of Green Bay. No, really, he was called the King of Green Bay after this game.
The 49ers met up with the Packers the following season. The Packers won the game convincingly, but as a “Revenge” that was a little far fetched; the 49ers were devastated by injuries in what already was a weird season with the Covid-19 pandemic. Half the offense was already sidelined with injuries and whatever else and what remained was a shell of the 2019 Super Bowl team.
Things resumed in 2021. The 49ers hosted the Packers in a weird game. Trey Lance came in at half to run a touchdown in, which seemed more like Kyle Shanahan on tilt than anything else. The 49ers took the lead in the final minute, but that proved too much time for Aaron Rodgers who moved the team downfield for the go-ahead field goal.
Once again, the 49ers had the last laugh. That same year in the NFC Divisional, the 49ers went to Green Bay once again. After a shaky first half with a bonehead Jimmy Garoppolo pick, the weak link of the 2021 team, the special teams, put the team on its back and forced a few crucial blocks. Robbie Gould kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
And that brings us to here. The 2023-2024 NFC Divisional. Another playoff game between the Packers and the 49ers. Man, the mid-late 90s were rough childhoods for many a young 49ers fan. Not only did they get beat by the Packers, but they also were the start of the legacy of He Who Will Not Be Named.
With Jordan Love playing phenomenally against the Dallas Cowboys, things are set up for the 49ers to possibly once again have a hand in the legacy of a third quarterback.
No fan of the 49ers in the 90s wants the 49ers to lose to the Packers. Ever. Losses to the Packers sting. Losses always sting, but Packers losses carry this weirdness that seems to fester far into the offseason. Fortunately, Love’s predecessor was 0-4 against the 49ers in the Playoffs. Hopefully Love himself won’t begin the opposite way.