The Nation of Cheese is facing a nasty dilemma these days. Anyone living on this side of the planet has no doubt recently read countless accounts of the on-going saga of Brett Favre's retirement/non-retirement. Sadly, Titletown is being torn apart by the controversy less than two weeks before training camp is set to open.
Space doesn't permit a full chronology of events, but here are some facts. The soon to be thirty-nine-year-old Favre has teased Packer management and Cheeseheads for years with indecision regarding retirement. In March 2008 he seemingly pulled the plug and announced the end of his brilliant football career at an emotional press conference. A couple weeks thereafter Favre had second thoughts and inquired as to whether the Packers would welcome him back for another season. General Manager Ted Thompson and Coach Mike McCarthy said yes and a meeting was set to formulate the revised plan. Before that meeting took place, however, Favre advised that he and his wife had a long talk and that he was going to stick by the original decision to retire.
Thompson and McCarthy then focused on the team's future with heir apparent Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Rodgers was the Packers' # 1 draft pick three years ago and has been groomed for his chance to play. The team's Organized Team Activities this spring were schemed around Rodger's quarterbacking strengths and the team got psychologically adjusted to their new leader. The Packers also selected two quarterbacks in the April collegiate draft including highly rated Brian Brohm to fill the void.
In late June, Favre let word slip out through his agent and family that he still had the itch to play. Shortly thereafter Favre communicated those desires directly to Thompson and McCarthy. They responded by telling him that his latest decision put the Packers in a very difficult situation having gone forward with their plans with Aaron Rodgers. That exchange led to Favre's agent sending Thompson a letter requesting an immediate release from his contract that has two years remaining on it. Thompson responded by saying he was not going to do that, citing that such would not be in the Packers' best interests.
The latest news from Thompson is that Favre could come back to the Packers for the 2008 season to play in an undetermined role (whatever that means, presumably back-up).
So what is it with all this retirement indecision? All of us fortunate to live long enough eventually end up with our own retirement decision. And while for most of us financial considerations weigh heavily in that decision, surely that is not the case with Brett Favre.
It seems like there are three prevailing retirement "camps." The first camp is filled with people who can't wait to retire. These folks generally have plenty of friends and have developed hobbies that will fulfill their lives post-retirement. The second camp contains those who love their work and live to work. These folks tend to be very good at what they do and put off retirement as long as possible. In the third camp reside the indecisive"¦ those who just can't make up their mind what they want to do next. Brett Favre is at the head of this list.
So where does this leave the Packers now? The ball is back in Favre's court (to borrow a basketball clichÃ©). Favre can either report to training camp July 28 or he can stay home and retire. I can't see Favre reporting to camp as the second-stringer to Rodgers after 275 consecutive games as the Packers' starter. If that situation were to develop it would be poisonous for everyone. Thompson and McCarthy would be second guessed with every move, Rodgers would endure incredible pressure, and other team members would have divided loyalties as would Cheeseheads. It would be a formula for a disastrous season.
If Favre insists on playing this year, the logical solution to the dilemma is a trade. A trade would allow the Packers to select which team gets Favre's services. Ironically the two teams with arguably the weakest quarterback situations in the NFL are within the North division"¦Chicago and Minnesota. Thompson won't trade him there, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or possibly the Baltimore Ravens might entertain trading a draft pick or two.
This is a sad way to end a career, but Favre is not unique to the situation. Great quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Joe Namath ended their careers with teams other than where they garnered their fame. None of those players had much success with the team they signed on with in the twilight of their respective careers. Perhaps Favre should have looked at their examples"¦ or perhaps he is better than those players and can still have success with a different team. Time will tell how this all plays out.
Some Cheeseheads are squawking loudly demanding Favre's return and Thompson's scalp. Those thinking more clearly see Father Time marching on and support management's decision to go with Rodgers. Right now there is a stinky wad of limburger cheese right in the middle of Lambeau Field and the stench won't be cleared up until Favre marches on.
Football is the ultimate team sport and no player, even the great Brett Favre, is more important than the continued success of the Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre needs to be held accountable for his flip-flopping decisions and his contract obligations. Packer management needs to be accountable to its fans and committed to the long-term success of the organization. It is time to say farewell to Favre.
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