My first year of watching football was 1989. Chris Jacke was the first kicker I had ever known. I knew he was a rookie but I never thought much about how he got there or why the Packers used a draft pick on him. I came to find out that 1988 was a terrible year to be a Packers kicker. I didn’t realize that the Packers were as futile as the Bears and Vikings at finding kickers. This is a story of redemption and how a young mulleted kicker from Texas would revive the Packers and lead to some of the most consistent kicking in the past 30 years.
The Four Kickers of 1988
Let’s start a year before Jacke was drafted and the Packers had four (FOUR!) kickers.
Max Zendejas was the incumbent kicker. He became their kicker midway through the 1987 after the Packers cut Al Del Greco (after the strike) who had been their kicker the previous three years. Zendejas had a respectable season in 1987, making 16 of 19 field goals (84%) with a long of 48 yards. He did however miss 2 of his 15 extra point attempts. Zendejas was cut midway through the 1988 season after going 1 for 3 in field goals against the Washington Redskins including a 24 yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the game.
Next they brought in Dale Dawson who had kicked for the Vikings in 1987 making 1 of 5 field goal attempts. He played for the Eagles in week four of the 1988 season making all three extra point attempts but missing his only field goal attempt. Dawson would play four games with the Packers, going 3 for 5 on field goal attempts and 1 for 2 on extra point attempts. The final straw for Dawson was a loss against the Lions where he missed a 36 yard field goal and an extra point. Dawson was the last Packers player to wear number 4 until Brett Favre.
Keeping up with the alliterative double-D theme, the Packers next kicker was Dean Dorsey, who ironically was on the Eagles in 1988 as well, before they brought in Dale Dawson. In Dorsey’s debut against the Bears, he went 0-2 on field goal attempts. In his final game, we made a 20 yard field goal attempt but missed an extra point against the Vikings.
Finally this brings us to Curtis Borrow who was brought in for the final week of the 1988 season versus the Phoenix Cardinals. He missed his only field goal attempt and went 2 for 4 on extra point attempts. One can only wonder how he would have fared with the current extra point placement at the 15 yard line.
As you can imagine, by the time the 1989 draft rolled around, the Packers decided to spend a pick on a kicker. In the sixth round (pick 142) the Packers selected the first kicker in the draft, Chris Jacke out of UTEP. There would be three more kickers drafted (the draft was still 12 rounds at this point) including Pete Stoyanovich by the Dolphins in the 8th round (pick 203), Kendall Trainor by the Cardinals (round 9 pick 234), and Dan Plocki by the Browns (round 11 pick 301). Neither Trainor nor Plocki would play in a regular season game. The only other rookie kickers that year to kick in a regular season game were David Treadwell with the Broncos and Bjorn Nittmo with the Giants.
In his rookie season, Jacke had the 8th highest field goal percentage (78.6%) despite kicking in some of the worst environments in the league. In fact, his field goal percentage that year was better than both Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson.
The Packers went 4-12 in 1988, due in part to their poor kicking performance. In 1989 the Packers went 10-6 and Jacke had 4 game winning kicks and helped that year’s team earn the nickname “The Cardiac Pack”.
Week 4 vs the Falcons
Earlier in the game he made a 35 and 52 yard field goal in the unfriendly kicking conditions at Milwaukee County Stadium. With under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, he made the game winning 22 yard field to help the Packers beat the Falcons 23-21.
Week 8 vs the Lions
Also played at Milwaukee County Stadium, he made three kicks in this game as well including a 49 yarder, a 21 yarder, and 38 yarder in overtime to help the Packers beat the Lions.
Week 9 vs the Bears
In the next week the Packers hosted the Bears in what would become known as the Instant Replay game. On that famous play, Majkowski hit Sterling Sharpe for a touchdown, tying the score at 13 with the extra point to come. Keep in mind that the previous year, extra points were far from a certainty. Jacke made the extra point and the Packers would hold on for a 14-13 win.
Week 13 at the Buccaneers
He saved his most impressive game winning kick for last. The Packers were trailing 16-14 late in the fourth quarter with no timeouts. Majkowski completed a pass to Carl Bland and had to rush to the line to spike the ball with 1 second left. This setup a 47 yard field goal attempt. Jacke made the field goal and the Packers would go on to win 17-16.
Rest of Packers Career
Jacke remained a steady presence at kicker through the rest of his Packers career, making at least 73% of his field goal attempts every year and even being named first team All Pro (AP) in 1993. He would also win a Super Bowl ring in 1996 and made two field goals in that game to help the Packers defeat the Patriots 35-21.
After that 1996 Super Bowl season the Packers decided to move on from Chris Jacke for “mysterious reasons” that may or may not involve a coach’s daughter. We may never know the real reason the Packers decided to move on. What we do know is that they tried to replace him in the 1997 draft with Brett Conway – a 3rd round pick out of Penn State. Conway would never kick for the Packers in a regular season game. The Packers went with Ryan Longwell that season and he had a good career but not nearly as good of a haircut as Jacke’s mullet.
It is a testament to the stability that Jacke brought to the kicking game that the Packers have had fewer kickers since he left (3) than they did the entire 1988 season: Ryan Longwell, Dave Rayner, and Mason Crosby. And we owe it all to the abomination that was 1988.