Did you hear? Brett Favre retired! Then he wanted to come back, but the Packers didn’t want him to! Next, he came back, but he got traded to the New York Jets! Okay, okay, if you didn’t know that, you obviously haven’t seen Rachel Nichols’ face every day for the last six weeks and you should be glad. However, besides the fact this was thrown down our throats unwillingly, it is a pretty interesting story. Publicly owned franchise rids themselves of the biggest icon in the NFL. I felt like it was pretty interesting and wanted to konw what Packer fans thought of the whole ordeal. My good friend, Buffalo, is a Packer fan so we e-mailed back and forth about it and here is what transpired…
Smoothron: I’m pretty sure ever since I’ve known you, you have been a Packer fan. That’s been over a decade, so obviously Brett Favre was the QB. You’ve been an unabashed Packer homer: jerseys, an actual cheesehead, multiple trips to Green Bay for games and you always carve out time to watch them on TV. How does the trade of Brett to the Jets change your view on the Pack? Are you still a Packer fan? Are you a Jets fan? What is your assessment of how the Packers handled the whole situation? I anxiously await your response.
Buffalo: I’ve always loved the Packers and I still do, but this whole stinking saga has definitely affected me as a fan. I want to make it clear that I’ll always root for Green Bay, but I feel a tempered excitement coming into this season. It’s not that Favre is gone, it’s that he could be here but isn’t. Every Packers fan has thought about the day Brett would retire from football and live a life of killing deer and squirrels in Mississippi. It almost happened. And herein lies the problem for me.
Favre has said repeatedly that he felt the Packers brass pressured him to make a decision on his future as a Packer. He said he didn’t feel ready to make that decision, but under pressure succumbed to their requests–he is, after all, employed by the Packers organization. Favre explained that the reason he decided to make the retirement announcement was because he felt it was the safe decision to make. That is, it would be better to be retired and still want to play than to be the starting quarterback and lose some of your desire. I believe Brett when he says the Packers management prodded him to decide to retire or return and I believe Brett when he says he made the safe decision–it makes sense.
Here is where it gets tricky. This situation suggests to me that the Ted Thompson and Co. had decided shortly after the NFC title game at Lambeau that it would be best if Brett retired a winner–trying to protect his legacy. I don’t think they would have told him this, but that they ad come to this decision and decided to “move forward.” They only hoped that Brett would retire–not that they didn’t think he was good enough, only that he was no longer in their plans. To suggest, like the McCarthy and Thompson did, that the Packers are better off this year without Favre is just dumb. The NFL is not about preparing for the future–it’s about winning now. I think anything less than the NFC championship game is a failure for the Packers. The Packers apparently didn’t think they’d make it back and didn’t want Brett to “go out like that.” But the Packers would have a better chance getting back to the NFC title game with Brett than with Rodgers.
When Brett decided he wanted to play, he wanted to play for the Packers. Naturally. 16 years in one jersey is a long time; Brett might be the most iconic football player ever. He epitomizes the Packers. Of course, the Packers fans up in Wisconsin (like Wildcats fans in Kentucky) realize that no one player is bigger than the team and the tradition. I will agree with that, but the argument that Favre wanting to play for the team he loved to play for was bigger-than-the-team posturing is ludicrous. Brett wanted to be the quarterback in Green Bay, but the brass had moved on like an ex-girlfriend–not like a spouse for 16 years. It’s unfortunate the situation his change of heart put the Packers in, but he deserves some leeway. He is a legend. A Packers legend. It wouldn’t be nice to have to deal Rodgers after he’d endured so much benchtime (assuming he’d want a release if he had to be backup another season), but I’d rather tell a guy with 1 career TD pass to pack it up than my Hall of Famer with 442 TDs.
If anyone thinks he is bigger than the Packers in this situation, it’s Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. Now I support Coach McCarthy–he showed me a team defense last season that was just great. But I get the sense he just doesn’t like Brett. As for Thompson, if the Packers struggle too much this year, he might be run out of town. Those poor seasons Favre (the Packers) had a couple of years back weren’t all on Brett’s shoulders–Thompson let half of the starting veteran offensive line go. He refused to even interview a good coach in Steve Mariucci, and didn’t go after Randy Moss when he was available.
I wish the Packers great success, as always. But it’s hard for me to get excited about Aaron Rodgers when Brett Favre could still be the quarterback. Coming off the excitement of a 13-3 season, it’s depressing to feel tepid about September. I doubt they will make the playoffs. Tough games versus Indy, Jacksonville, Seattle, not to mention the improving NFC North division. Packer fans will support Rodgers and their team, but they may be asking “what if?” at the end of the season.
As for Favre and the NY Jets, I am rooting for them. He brings an energy and excitement to the Jets and other than the Patriots, the division is pretty weak, for the AFC. They have a shot at a wild card berth–I think they can go 11-5. Now, I have another team to root for.
I just hope at some point in the future, the Packers do something that makes us all forget about the way they handled the best quarterback that ever wore their uniform. I just hope.
Smoothron: Really good stuff. You’re a really good writer, you should teach English to college kids or something. I think your comparison of Packer fans to UK basketball fans was right on. They both have a rabid fanbase which is (too?) close to the situation at all times. Both follow with unabashed homer tendencies and want to know every inner detail of their favorite team.
I agree with you when you said that no one player is bigger than the team, but do you agree that Favre was almost AS big as the Packers? There is an entire generation of Packer fans who grew up (you included) knowing only Brett Favre as the leader of this team. Coaches, running backs, wide receivers and even Reggie White came and went during Favre’s tenure. Could he be as big as the Packers?
Conversely, was Ted Thompson so wrong in pushing Brett Favre to make a decision on his future as soon as possible? Thompson is managing this team both from a business standpoint and a football standpoint. Brett had toyed with retirement for a couple seasons, almost leading the team on with his “maybe I will, maybe I won’t,” routine. Thompson probably didn’t want to deal with that all spring and into summer
The more mind-boggling response was that of Mike McCarthy. When Favre initially talked about returning, McCarthy seemingly shut off the possibility of him starting in 2008. As if Aaron Rodgers was the one who had led the team to the NFC Championship Game and Brett Favre was the backup best known for his clipboard-holding-skills. Something was really fishy with that whole deal. I liken that to if the Chicago Bulls had told Michael Jordan he wouldn’t be starting at shooting guard in 1998-99, because they were going in a new direction with Brent Barry as the starter. Why would McCarthy not like Favre? Does McCarthy not appreciate the fact that Brett won him a lot of games last year?
So, you’re rooting for the Jets now. What does that look like for you? Are you going to buy a Jets t-shirt? Are you going to make special trips to sports bars to be able to see their games out of your market? If the Pack and the Jets play at the same time, what game are you watching?
Buffalo: I do think Favre is almost as big as the Packers–recent history is the clearest. Not to mention, there was an enormous drop-off in Packer success since the days of Bart Starr up to when Brett took over. I think the Packers owe as much to Favre as they did to Starr–hell, they let Bart coach the team with mediocre results. I think at the very least Brett Favre deserved to have as much time as he needed to decide if he wanted to retire or keep playing.
Thompson was wrong to push Brett to decide when he wasn’t truly ready. From the cold, heartless, capitalist-business standpoint, he acted accordingly. But the Packers are different. Publicly-owned, the shareholders entrust the decision making to a few men, not the least of which is Ted Thompson. They had a solid backup in case Favre would decide to retire. But it’s not like they had to come up with a new offense for Aaron Rodgers–he’d been watching Brett for 4 years, studied the playbooks, called in the plays. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there was no urgent need to get Rodgers in the pipeline. It would have been a seamless transition. And even if Rodgers had decided to bolt (which he wouldn’t have–he was living the life), there were other options. Thompson not wanting to deal with Brett’s end of season decision is like a judge demanding a five-minute verdict. It takes time to make big decisions. And a legend should get all the time he needs.
I cannot fathom where Mike McCarthy is coming from. One thing we know about him is he is not the best offensive coach–his 49er offense was completely futile, I think they were very close to being the most inept offensive team in the league when he was the coordinator. He proclaims to be defense-first (then why was he an offensive coordinator?), which is fine with me. But being defense-first is not synonymous with shipping out Hall of Fame talent on offense. I don’t think anyone can imagine if Phil Jackson had benched Jordan after his “retirement.” So the only explanation for me is that McCarthy doesn’t get along with Brett. It might have to do with the fact that Brett is respected more than McCarthy. Maybe McCarthy feels that Brett has too much power and too much control. I’m not sure what it is, but I know they had some disagreements in the past. But I think I’d put up with it if we had another chance to go to the Super Bowl. And apparently we don’t have that chance–if McCarthy is planning for the future, how much faith can he have in this team that won 13 games last season? It’s not that McCarthy doesn’t appreciate Brett’s responsibility for 13 of our 13 wins , it’s more that McCarthy thinks his system is so amazing that some kid who has never really played pro football can run it with the same level of success. It’s a big gamble. No one has a system that good in the NFL.
I am rooting for the Jets, but I’m also rooting for the Pack. I won’t go out of my way to watch the Jets (well, I might), but if they are both on TV at the same time, I will be forced to make use of the “Last” button on my remote.
Smoothron: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the Packers are different than every other sports franchise. They are publicly owned and shouldn’t be run like every other team. Not to mention, if I’m running a franchise, I would beg my Hall of Famers to come back until they literally were hurting the team to be out there. Everyone can agree that Brett at the least wouldn’t HURT the Packers this season, so he should have been starting, regardless of when he decided to return to the team.
What if Aaron Rodgers had left after this year? Who cares? Obviously, the Packers couldn’t have felt that confident with him as the starter when they drafted Brian Brohm in the second round of the Draft this year. There were a ton of good players still on the board, and they got a QB. If they just wanted someone as a backup for Rodgers, they could have gotten someone in a later round or even through free agency. None of this really makes sense in that Thompson just seems to say what’s easy for him. He will do anything to make his own ass look good, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but he’s in a position where everyone can see most things he does.
The biggest mess the Packers are looking at is when/if Rodgers falters. Sure, he looked decent last night in a pre-season game against the Bungles, but it will be very interesting to see how he does over the course of an NFL season. If Rodgers fails, is Brian Brohm the answer? Um, no. No other QB on that roster is good enough to lead that team to many wins. That’s when Thompson loses his job and is run out of town. McCarthy probably also takes the fall with him, because of his huge ego.
Iin the end, I can see things as being very bleak in Green Bay for a while a la after Bart Starr retired. They have some talent, but Brett Favre took that team to a different level. I think they’re going to feel the effects of this debacle for a few years, too. Guys in the NFL like Brett Favre, hell, a lot of them grew up WATCHING him play. They respect him and that may in turn result in people not wanting to play in Green Bay (along with the fact there is nothing there).
This is probably nearing 6,000 words, so I’ll let you have the last word…
Buffalo: I agree, Brett wouldn’t have hurt the team. He would have made them as good as they could be. It’s obvious he can still play–the Jets are looking to win, so they dumped a guy who’d been there for many years and picked up Brett. All they want to do is win, which is why the situation in Green Bay is so weird. Do they want to win?
I feel bad for Aaron Rodgers, but I agree with your point about picking up Brohm when now they are fawning over Rodgers as “the guy” saying it’s “his time” and other such garbage. It’s only his time because the management decided it was his time. His performance against the Bengals wasn’t that impressive. Here’s a team in Cincinnati with absolutely no defense and Rodgers didn’t exactly light things up. It’s clear to me he will have his moments, but he’ll struggle to maintain a level of success.
I think the fans will give Rodgers a lot of leniency, but they won’t be so kind to the coaching staff and management. Green Bay fans are like Kentucky fans in that they expect to win. They don’t demand championships, but they demand a team that can compete every year for the championships. They expect to have a team that can win any given Sunday. This team, if they get off to a slow start, will still have fan support, but the radio shows will be buzzing with people questioning the decisions of the Packers brass.
The Packers will most likely struggle, but I think they still have a lot of talent. A great receiving corps, a solid defense, and youth. But if Brett has a better season in New York than Rodgers has in Green Bay, it could get dicey for Thompson and Co. I don’t think it will have much of an effect on players wanting to come to Green Bay, but it certainly doesn’t show that the organization has much respect for its players.
Just think about how bad it could have been if Favre had gone to Tampa Bay (Packers play @ Tampa this season) or, God forbid, Minnesota.
Smoothron: I know I said I’d give him the last word, but no one actually believed that was going to happen… Good shit, Buffalo. We are honored to have someone of your caliber on APIAS and hope you can join us again soon. I guess we’ll know how this has all played out at the end of December. At worst, we’ll know if the Madden Curse still exists. Also, Buffalo had a blog once and this is one of the funniest things ever to be put on the interweb.