Bart Starr was ‘the boss,’ but he was ‘such a gentleman’

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They loved him because as a quarterback he led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships.

And they even loved him after a nine-year tenure as the team’s head coach that resulted in only one playoff appearance.

Bob Harlan loved him for an entirely different reason — the one that only those who knew Starr behind the scenes could fully articulate.

Harlan, a former Packers president, was in his early days with the organization when Starr was in the final year of his playing career. It was 1971, after all the championships had been won and after Lombardi was gone. Harlan joined the team as the assistant general manager. His primary job was to help negotiate player salaries.

“I actually signed Bart to his last contract,” Harlan recalled in an interview with “In fact after five world championships, I gave him his all-time high salary of $100,000.”6

That was Dan Devine’s first season as the Packers coach and Starr’s last as a player. Devine lasted three more years, posting only one winning season after Starr retired as a player.

“I said, ‘Bart, it’s going to be an honor to work for you.’ He said, ‘You won’t work for me, you’ll work with me.’ And that was just the way he handled things. He was the boss, but yet he was such a gentleman.”

Starr’s coaching tenure (1975-83) ended with a 52-76-3 record (and a 1-1 playoff mark).

“He just was so raw in the position; he probably got the job too early,” Harlan said. “In ’83 we were so close, and I think a couple more years — and he had been here nine years, but the fans weren’t really screaming about it — if he had a couple more years we weren’t that far away.”

Still, Starr’s coaching tenure had a lasting impact on the franchise in large part because of the impact it had on Harlan.