From ownership to the cheerleaders to the fields, nothing is the same
The Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers are two of the NFL’s most successful, storied franchises with plenty of shared history. They’ve each won multiple Super Bowl titles (or NFL championships) in dynastic fashion. Both teams have thousands of fans at every stadium they visit. Legendary Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach inadvertently coined the phrase “Hail Mary” in 1975 and Aaron Rodgers perfected it in 2015.
But the differences between the teams -- past and present -- run much deeper. As Dallas (4-1) prepares to visit Green Bay (3-1) on Sunday (4:25 ET, FOX) with hopes of exacting some revenge over Dez Bryant’s controversial overturned catch in the 2014 NFC Divisional Round game, we take a look a the ways these two franchises are polar opposites.
America’s Team vs. Titletown, USA
Let’s begin with the monikers and the locations. “[The Cowboys] appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars,” NFL Films narrator John Facenda said during a highlight film in 1978. “They are the Dallas Cowboys, ‘America's Team.’”
Established as an expansion team in 1960, they represent Dallas, Texas, a city of over 1 million people in a stadium (we’ll get to it) located in Tarrant County, the 16th most populous county in the United States.
Meanwhile the Packers nickname invokes “town,” consistent with its smaller scale in Green Bay, Wisconsin, population just over 100,000. If you exclude Milwaukee (though the NFL makes an exception for it to the 75-mile rule for TV blackout purposes), the team has the smallest home market in the league. Of course, ratings are through the roof.
And consider the teams’ valuations: Dallas is far and away at the top of the NFL with a $4.2 billion valuation by Forbes, while Green Bay is closer to the middle of the pack at No. 13, valued at $2.35 billion, right between the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.
Jerry World vs. Lambeau Field
Of course it’s actually AT&T Stadium and no longer Cowboys Stadium after a 2013 deal in which the telecommunications giant agreed to pay approximately $17-20 million per year for the stadium’s naming rights. Meanwhile Green Bay is one of the league’s few corporate naming holdouts, bound to tradition over revenue with a name that honors Hall of Famer Curly Lambeau, who founded the team in 1919, played for the squad and also served as its first head coach.
“Jerry World” was built from 2005-09 for $1.2 billion and boasts state-of-the-art everything with a league-leading 300 private suites and the Guinness-certified world's largest high-definition video display jumbotron that stretches from 20-yard line to 20-yard line.
Compare that with Lambeau Field, constructed in 1956 (and renovated several times after that), which packs in most of its fans on aluminum bleachers (without seat backs) instead of chairs.
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The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders vs. no cheerleaders
The famed Cowboys cheerleaders are basically an institution and the standard against which every other team’s squad is measured. Of course that only goes for the teams actually have cheerleaders; the Packers haven’t had them since 1988 “in large part due to fan indifference,” according to the Packers’ official website. The only cheerleader presence at Lambeau Field since that time has come from the crews at local schools -- the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Norbert College.
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Owner Jerry Jones vs. Publicly owned
In 1989, oil and gas magnate Jerry Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys from H.R. "Bum" Bright for $140 million. It proved to be a pretty magnificent investment for Jones, who has served as the team’s owner, general manager and one of the main faces of the franchise as star players have come and gone.
Meanwhile Green Bay is the anomaly among all U.S. professional sports franchises: the team is a not-for-profit publicly owned entity with approximately 360,000 stockholders who have (limited) voting rights and may attend or may watch live the annual shareholders meeting in July. Of course it’s not as if there’s thousands of cheeseheads running the team like in fantasy football -- a board of directors and seven-member executive committee led by president Mark Murphy pull the strings.
Splashy moves vs. Player development and retention
The teams' roster-building and player-acquisition strategy have starkly contrasted in the Jerry Jones era. Not one year into Jones’ ownership, he and head coach Jimmy Johnson pulled off the “Great Trade Robbery” when, they shipped Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a haul that helped them secure centerpieces of their Super Bowl teams, including Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson. And for P.R. and purpose, Jones has also made many other major free-agent signings in Terrell Owens (pictured in a game against Green Bay), Deion Sanders and La’Roi Glover. Of course Jones has also orchestrated some flops (Mike Vanderjagt, Bryant Westbrook) and morally unsound moves (Greg Hardy) and enjoyed a hard-partying team with glamour and swagger.
The Packers prefer vanilla almost every time -- to build their roster through the draft, sign their own free agents rather than those from other teams. Packers teams of the past and current general manager Ted Thompson have definitely brought in outside talent (Julius Peppers, Reggie White, Charles Woodson), but rarely do they “win” the offseason or even try. The vast majority of the current Packers roster consists of their own draft picks while only about one-third (17 players) are guys Green Bay didn’t draft themselves.
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Vince Lombardi vs. Tom Landry
The legendary head coaches from are polar opposites, too: Vince Lombardi, a screamer (what the hell’s going on out there?!) and a lecturer with a broad smile and Tom Landry, a silent tactician, one of few men who could make a fedora look intimidating. "There’s no other way for me to work than the way I do, because our whole system demands tremendous concentration," Landry once said. “Therefore if you’re really concentrating, you show very little emotion at all. I think as soon as a person breaks his concentration as an athlete he loses his effectiveness."
Mud vs. artificial turf
In perhaps their greatest moment of shared history, the Packers and Cowboys battled on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field in the 1967 NFL Championship Game in a temperatures of 13 to 18 degrees below zero. The field was like a sheet of ice, the contact was painful, and the 50,000 fans in attendance were a combination of enthralled and immobilized. So many of the best Lambeau moments are smeared in mud and cold, and the team continues to use a grass surface.
The climate and surface for Cowboys games is quite different. Although they compete in the NFC East, it’s Texas. Texas Stadium’s roof exposed it to the elements, which occasionally brought the anomalous snowfall (Thanksgiving 1993), but the surface was antiseptic, artificial turf. Now at the climate-controlled AT&T Stadium, the field is completely roofed and the surface is still turf.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Tony Romo
Notwithstanding the possibility that Romo may take a back seat to rookie QB Dak Prescott even when he’s cleared to play again this year, Romo has given the Cowboys mostly excellent quarterback play for the past decade. He’s got a career 97.1 passer rating, 247 touchdown passes against 117 interceptions and a 78-49 record as a starter. Despite the popular narrative that he’s a choke artist, he’s led 25 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, which is just two fewer than Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees and 15 more than Rodgers.
Rodgers, of course, has been mostly excellent since taking over as Green Bay’s starter in 2008, probably one of the two or three best QBs in the league. But over the course this season and the last, his play has dropped off; perhaps he’s pressing a bit and the supporting cast isn’t as great, but he certainly has a lot of apologists whereas Romo has always attracted detractors. The reason being, haters gonna hate the Cowboys.