Months ago, Brett Favre ended an illustrious NFL career with a tearful and emotional press conference. Across the country, Favre was honored by everybody, from San Francisco to New York, from Dallas to Chicago. Favre, one of the most beloved player in the game, seemed poise to ride off into the sunset, a wizened, tired, but noble hero in the eyes of all.
But almost immediately after his retirement, the whispers started. A slow but steady drip of rumors trickled from Green Bay and Mississippi. Is Favre really retired? Will he come back at training camp? What if Rodgers is hurt? But it was only hearsay, from the notoriously unreliable “anonymous sources close to the Favres/the Packers/Favre’s agent.” So, for the most part, Packer Nation went about their lives, dismissing the murmurings of a possible return and the speculation by the talking heads on ESPN as nothing more than conjecture on slow news days. Eventually, as training camp neared, the rumors slowed down.
And then, we heard that Favre had “an itch” to play again. Would he scratch that itch? How would Aaron Rodgers, who has waited in the wings with remarkable patience for years, react if Favre really returned? The speculation started all over again.
Finally, less than 48 hours ago, the bad news came. Yes, Brett is coming back. No, he’s probably not playing with the Pack. And maybe, just maybe, he’d end up with the hated Bears or Vikings. Favre had requested an unconditional release from the Packers. Today, the Packers front office refused to grant this release. General Manager Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy tepidly offered a spot on the team to Favre, but gave a thinly veiled expression of their unhappiness with the situation by suggesting that Favre might be a backup.
Favre had better tread carefully. He is in danger of ruining one of the most polished reputations in American sports, especially in light of the surprising news that Favre had all but come out of retirement in late March. Apparently, Thompson and McCarthy had welcomed Favre back with open arms, chartered a jet to fly down to Mississippi, and planned to announce the news enthusiastically. Two days before the announcement, Favre changed his mind yet again. It’s easy to see why Thompson is frustrated by this situation. However, Ted Thompson had better tread carefully as well. He avoided the first potential public relations disaster by refusing an unconditional release that might have seen Favre ending up with Chicago or Minnesota. But if Thompson trades Favre, and Favre succeeds elsewhere, Thompson will always be remembered as the guy who traded away Green Bay’s best chance of winning. If Thompson sits Favre, he will be remembered as the guy who forced a legend to end his career in the humiliating role of “benchwarmer.”
But who does this hurt the most? Aaron Rodgers. This only puts more pressure on Rodgers to succeed. It creates an atmosphere of uncertainty in the locker room, and undermines his ability to lead the team. Any slip up that this guy makes will be overly scrutinized. Now more than ever, his success will be compared to Favre’s. To be honest, anything less than a deep playoff run will reflect negatively on Rodgers. I sympathize with Rodgers.
So Brett, it’s been a great run. I’ll keep my #4 jersey and I’ll always love the way you played the game. But this is Aaron’s team now.
And I’m in Aaron’s corner.