A Wisconsin Love Affair Gone Sour

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 23, 2008
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The line has been drawn in the snow. The marriage is broken. The dishes have been divided, the CDs painfully argued over, the furniture sold off, the cars assigned and custody granted. What had been for years one of the most inspirational hookups in sport has dis-integrated into a bickering feud between the jilted lover and the one who won’t return phone calls. The only thing missing is Brett Favre sitting alone in his room, eating a pint of Cherry Garcia while listening to Avril Levine make a hard press for Ted Thompson’s affections. It was a breakup that never should have happened.

Favre’s time in Green Bay had come to an end. After waffling about retirement for three years and after putting together two of the worst seasons of his career (2005 and 2006) in which he handed out nine more interceptions than touchdowns, the time had come for the franchise’s greatest player to move on to a life of hawking comfortable outerwear, heartburn treatment tablets and Pagrus auratus riding mowers. Unfortunately, ego and stupidity on both sides have made it impossible for an amicable split.

The Packers were correct in giving Favre an ultimatum. With Aaron Rogers just eating cap space on the bench, it was time for the team to find out if its 2005 draft pick is capable of taking over the team or if he’s going to join the long line of post-super star busts at the quarterback position. Favre, for all he has done for the team and the game, deserves to go out on his own terms, and any concerns about his legacy are really no one’s business but his own. So with both sides being right, how did everything go so wrong?

If Favre, as he recalled during his interview with Packers’ share-holder, Greta Van Sustren, did in fact speak to the team about a possible return on June 20, he sure didn’t give the team much time to determine what it would do with a roster that would have been bloated with four quarterbacks upon his return. During the 20-minute interview in which he played the standard semi-victim whose magnanimous gestures to his former club bordered on the angelic, Favre still found time to slam Thompson and tossed the entire franchise under the proverbial sausage truck thereby burning any bridge that may have remained.

While “The Pack is Back” bumper stickers had been a Wisconsin staple for 20 years, it wasn’t until the former Falcon party boy arrived that the annual prediction begin to have any merit. More than just winning a title, Favre resurrected a team and turned a backwater franchise into a major NFL player. The Packers should have realized that anything but the most lavish send off and post retirement hand-holding would make the team appear ungrateful and cheap. Filing a complaint with the league charging the Vikings with tampering after Favre had a get together with old buddy Darrell Bevell, who also happens to be Minnesota’s offensive coordinator, did nothing to smooth the rough edges.

Had both sides decided to bury the animosity and the determination to prove whose is bigger, the next step in Favre’s professional career may have already been decided.

Though the QB and his agent say the first play begins with Green Bay - a statement designed to further implicate the Packers as the bad guys - the true first move involves Favre applying for reinstatement. Until he is no longer “retired,” there is little anyone can do. Until then he is the Packers’ property and he can’t “legally” discuss options with anyone else.

There is no way the Packers can just release Favre and risk him signing with another NFC Central team. For all the mileage on his tires, Favre still has value, and the NFL is not in the business of giving away valuable merchandise. Which means the only alternative is a trade - preferably out of the NFC, but definitely one that would keep him out of the Central. Easy enough except that the best fits for Favre are teams within the conference.

If the Mississippi native really wants to play, he needs to forget any shot of playing deep into the playoffs and that’s a major problem. Favre wants to win and any team with a real shot is set with either an established veteran with more upside than Favre or a youngster in whom they have entrusted the keys. Favre will stay retired rather than go to Buffalo or to the Jets which means the only real way for both sides to save face and to squeeze even the smallest benefit from the deal is to give the Panthers a call.

Carolina is a perennial top NFC pick with a quarterback who is trying to return after missing 13 games last season following Tommy John surgery. Unlike Chicago or Minnesota, whom the Packers will face twice, Carolina appears only once on the schedule and not until week 12 and in Green Bay. That should give Rogers enough time to adjust to his new role and provide both Favre and the Packers with valuable PR as Lambeau welcomes back its beloved son. The only problem is how to sell this idea to Carolina.

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