Thursday, July 10, 2008

Brett Favre...You Didn't Think I Could Let This Pass Did You??

On March 4, 2008, the world thought it would never again be faced will the will he or won't he question when dealing with Brett Favre. Favre retired from the Packers after 17 NFL seasons, saying, "I know I can still play. I'm just not sure I want to." Most people chose to believe the NFL's all-time leader in nearly every passing category, while some remained skeptical. Then he had his tearjerking press conference to officially announce his intentions, convincing most of the others. Every major sports magazine devoted about a third of their next issue on Favre and his career, and Sports Illustrated even had an 84-page hard-cover tribute published. (I own it, by the way.) Everyone thought it was the end of an era.

But wait just a second...

Last week, ESPN's Chris Mortensen cited an anonymous Packers source, saying that Favre reported to the team that he has the "itch", and might be interested in a comeback.
Then, Packers CB Al Harris came on the show, confirming that Favre had confided that same information to him.
Comeback rumors began swirling, and ESPN was once again dominated by Favre's mug on their shows. Experts of all kinds came on to talk about whether a comeback will happen, what will happen to Favre, the Packers and the rest of the NFL if it does and all of the other related topics. With just the word "itch", Brett Favre again became a top story.
Favre told his local newspaper in Hattiesburg, MS that it was all just a rumor, and that he had no plans, and his agent, James "Bus" Cook, Jr. said as far as he knew, Brett was still retired and planned to stay that way.
All week, though, reports have been coming across ESPN's website claiming Favre has been texting Packers GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy. Thompson reportedly texted Favre back that he is on vacation and will talk to him another time. McCarthy, meanwhile, has been mum on the issue, even telling children in the Green Bay Boys and Girls Club that he can't talk about things like that when they riddled him with questions about a Favre return.
Then, there was the front-page article on Sports Illustrated's website July 7th from Peter King. This article holds a lot of merit for me because there is no hiding that Peter King is probably Favre's best friend in the media. They talk and text frequently, and King has even stayed in Favre's house while in Mississippi for Favre's annual charity golf tournament. That's why I took it so seriously when King said to expect Favre's agent, Cook, to contact the Packers in the next 10 days about a comeback.

That's the news as of right now, so let's slow it down a little bit and talk about different points of this situation.

First and foremost, is Favre going to return??
In my opinion, unless the Packers front office and McCarthy can convince him not to, Brett will be back in the NFL for the 2008 season. He feels great, is coming off one of the top three statistical seasons of his career, and he has a lot left in the tank physically. Should he return, though? That's the question. Favre called it quits not because he was physically tired, but because he was emotionally and mentally exhausted. He has had time to rest up that part of his body too, but when does that mental distress start to take its toll on a 38-year-old quarterback expecting to play at the highest level week in and week out? This is something Favre needs to think long and hard about.

Second, do the Packers want him back??
All signs are pointing to "no" so far on this one. The Packers have changed their offense in the last four months to fit Aaron Rodgers' strengths, and they do not want to have to change it back. Also, the reins and the torch have been passed on to Rodgers, and the team isn't sure it would be the right move to just tear those away because Brett has the "itch". Favre and McCarthy have an excellent relationship. McCarthy was his quarterbacks coach a few years ago, and he isn't afraid to stand up to the veteran and tell him he's not getting the job done. Thompson, on the other hand, has had an icy relationship with best. Favre has never taken too kindly to Thompson for his passive approach to free agency and his draft choices, specifically his failure to acquire Randy Moss last season and this season. And Thompson has all but said he is ready to move on and make this his team and not Brett's team. would appear, the Packers are ready to tell Brett to hit the road.

Third, if Brett does come back and the Packers are uninterested, what happens??
This is a tough situation. If Brett asked to be taken off of the inactive/retired list, the Packers will have very little time to trade him to another team. On top of that, two factors will hinder their trading ability. The first is that most teams will not give a top player for Favre because he will probably play only one or two more years. Second, and most importantly, teams likely won't be willing to trade because they can sign Brett without losing anything if they wait it out. What I mean by this is that, if the Packers can't get a trade done, Favre will have to be released. Then, any team will be able to make him an offer. If a team can get him this way, why would they trade for him?

Assuming the Packers are forced to release Favre, who would he end up with??
There are a few teams that would work out for both parties if Favre decides to go a different direction. Those are Baltimore, Chicago, Minnesota, and possibly Houston or Carolina.

Minnesota is clearly the best fit. They have a young quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson that still needs time, and they have all of the other pieces in place for a Super Bowl run. Their offensive and defensive lines are stellar, their running game is one of the best in football, and the rest of their defense is more than adequate. With Favre, this team would easily be the Super Bowl favorite out of the NFC. The question is, would Favre be willing to alienate all of the fans he has made his entire career for another shot at a ring? Regardless, it would definitely be intriguing to see him run out of the Lambeau Field tunnel on the first Monday Night game of the year and on the night his Packer jersey is to be purple and gold.

Baltimore is next, and the most likely fit. As of right now, they have Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco on their QB depth chart. Boller has been a major bust to this point, and the other two are very raw. If Favre comes in here, he inherits a good running game and an exceptional defense, and he can compete for a title immediately in the AFC North. Also, this is the safest place for him to go to not alienate the Packer faithful.

Chicago is next. They have a good receiving corps but one of the most pungent quarterback situations in all of football. Also, their running game is non-existent, but judging from the Pack's first 8 games last year, Favre can obviously handle that. Also, when healthy, the Bears have a strong defense led by Brian Urlacher. Favre would definitely be alright with having the return game offered by Devin Hester as well. This situation seems unlikely too, though, just because of who it is. It just doesn't seem likely that Brett would stay in the division.

The last possibility is the Carolina Panthers. Jake Delhomme was out most of last year, and appears to be healthy now, but it wouldn't be completely surprising to see this happen. Favre would love to stay in the south, and he could follow in Reggie White's footsteps as a Packer who retired and then came back for a swan song in Panther blue. This team may not have all the pieces for Favre, though. They were expected to compete for a title last year and flopped dramatically. The defense wasn't great, and some of it is obviously attributed to Delhomme's injuries. There are plusses, though. You can't say Brett Favre wouldn't love to be throwing passes to All-World wideout Steve Smith, and the running game, although it lost injury-prone bruiser DeShaun Foster, got stronger in April with the drafting of Jonathan Stewart of Oregon to team with DeAngelo Williams.

Next...what should the Packers really do??
If you're the Packers you have to really think about what you want to do here. The decision isn't as easy as just telling Brett you've moved on. ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski wrote an article the other day that I thought was very smart. If you're an NFL team, you need to do whatever has to be done, within reason, to make your team the best it can be. That being said, the Packers should take Brett back if he wants to come back. I'm not saying this as a Favre supporter, I'm saying it in terms of smart business. First, it's not going to alienate the lockerroom because Favre was always liked as a player and team leader. Second, it won't alienate most of the fans because they want their team to do well, and if Favre does well, the Packers do well. Bottom line...the Packers with Brett are better than the Packers without Brett. Aaron Rodgers could be a star quarterback in the making, but there's no telling if that will truly be the case. It also doesn't give a lot of hope when you look at his college coach's record of sending star quarterbacks to the NFL. Jeff Tedford coached Rodgers in college, along with Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, AJ Feeley, and Billy Volek. Dilfer, Smith, Harrington, Boller and Rodgers all went in the top-25 of their respective drafts and none have had memorable careers, forgetting the fact that the Ravens' defense led Dilfer to a Super Bowl title. So...why deny Brett because of Rodgers? He hasn't even tried to be a fan-friendly quarterback, telling Packer fans recently to "get on or shut their mouths." It becomes even easier to accept Favre back when you look at what's waiting. If Favre comes back, Rodgers will almost certainly leave the Packers when his contract expires in two years, but that leaves Brian Brohm to take the team. Brohm, who was projected as the number one pick in the draft in 2007, stayed at Louisville for one more year. The Cardinals were terrible, but Brohm was not, posting the best numbers of his career. He still fell to 57th in the draft, though, to Green Bay, and in my opinion, he shows as much or more promise than Rodgers. So...if you're Green Bay, you don't turn away a legend.

Finally, what does Brett Favre mean to sports??
The fact that a rumor of his comeback has garnered this much attention from ESPN, SI and the like, shows what a force he is in the media. The man has been a sports celebrity for 15 years, and just the mention of his name gets amplified more and more. John Madden's in love with him, announcers choose not to notice when he messes up, and blog sites can't wait to spoof his every move. Love him or hate him, Brett Favre is a phenomenon, and it appears that the old "gun slinger" could be on his way back for one last ride.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Methinks that Brett Favre will come back, but won't be with the Packers. I think the Pack should take him back, but I don't think they will...

just thought I'd add my two cents. Or at least a cent and a half.