The Brett Favre Saga — Prelude to Implosion
Yes, let’s go there — the Brett Favre saga. Like Kevin Greene once said, “IT IS TIME.”
Brett Favre will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame prior to the 2016 season. It stands to reason that the Green Bay Packers will want to preempt that ceremony with an honor of their own. That gives them just two seasons to make it happen. As diligent readers of this site, you already know that the Packers were considering having Favre on the sideline last season, but were never able to work their way onto his calendar.
With that being the case, you can expect to see Brett Favre at Lambeau Field at some point in 2014. The Packers will want to verify Favre’s warm reception before going with the full-on, ring of honor ceremony probably in 2015.
Such a precaution is unnecessary. One needs only to check out the fan reception to Ryan Braun in Milwaukee to see proof of that. But the Packers have the time to make sure, and they will.
It has been six years since Packers Nation endured the most traumatic and divisive offseason since Curly Lambeau fought the board of directors for control of the franchise. Though the Super Bowl win in 2010 largely vindicated the organization and healed the fractured fan base, some division still remains and is obvious any time Favre and his divorce from the team become a story.
Many of the events and actual facts of the saga seem conveniently forgotten depending on which side of the fracture you’re on. It’s with that in mind and in light of the fact that no one has put the ENTIRE saga together before that I strive to achieve the impossible. I strive to present an objective retelling of all the relevant events as they occurred.
Of course, it is inevitable that I will fail. The Favre fanatics will say I am unduly biased against him while simultaneously the Favre haters say I am too kind. I accept that fate.
Due to the immensity of this undertaking, I will be splitting this retelling into two parts: the first being the lead-up to 2008, and the second being 2008 and beyond. All events, details and quotes hereafter are easily verifiable on the Internet.
1992 — Yes, for the full story you have to start in 1992. That is not only the year that Ron Wolf traded for Brett Favre, of course, but it is also the year that Ted Thompson joined the Packers as a scout. It is humorous to think it is entirely possible that the two sat in some sort of team orientation together. It is a usually ignored fact that Ted Thompson’s hiring as GM was not Brett’s first run-in with Ted. As a scout, Ted spent most of his time away from 1265 Lombardi, but as the director of player personnel from 1997 to 1999, he would have regularly observed practice. As such, even if they never spoke, they both likely had at least some impression of each other prior to Thompson’s promotion in 2005.
Years later, Brett would say, “Ted and I, I thought, have always had a good relationship.”
January 2005 — Bob Harlan has finally had enough of Mike Sherman as a GM, and on Ron Wolf’s recommendation, he hires Ted Thompson back from the Seattle Seahawks. Whatever Brett’s impression of Thompson was, Ted could hardly have gotten off to a worse start in his QB’s good graces. Brett said years later that he asked Teddy to re-sign either guards, Mike Wahle or Marco Rivera or both. Ted signed neither. Ted also let Darren Sharper walk to the repugnant Minnesota Vikings. Ted tried to replace the Pro Bowl guards with low-rent free agents Adrian Klemm and Matt O’Dwyer; neither would become even mediocre replacements.
As if that weren’t enough, with the 24th pick of the 2005 draft, instead of picking a player to help Brett, Ted selected a quarterback to eventually take Brett’s job. A new GM selecting a QB with his first ever pick is about as strong a statement as a GM can make.
The Packers and Favre would both follow with terrible seasons. Bereft of the running game of the past and the protection he was used to, Favre would try to do too much and throw 29 INTs on his way to being 31st in QB rating. The Packers, ravaged by injuries, would fall to 4-12, the only losing season Favre had as a Packer. The media would often cite the holes on the offensive line as key contributors to the catastrophe.
However, let’s not omit all the facts. The Packers, in 2005, were coming off their third consecutive NFC North title, but the last two titles were won with mere 10-6 records leading to embarrassing losses in the playoffs. What success the Packers did have was also partially a facade. Their GM had been mortgaging their future with overpaid free agent busts and poor draft classes. When Thompson took over, the Packers were over the salary cap and the opportunity to extend either Wahle or Rivera was past. Thompson was left with only two options: match whatever the market offered those guys or let them walk. He wisely chose the latter.
Both were offered premium contracts. Neither would finish that contract. Wahle would be cut by the Panthers after three seasons. Rivera would be cut and out of football after two. As much as the media would to this day bemoan their loss, Favre was sacked an unexceptional 24 times in 2005, and the running game, even reduced to Samkon Gado at one point, would rush for 1,350 yards for the season. Hardly the disaster it was played out to be.
Thompson also wisely let future dead-fisher, Darren Sharper, ply his wares for the Vikings. Thompson drafted Nick Collins the following year.
With his veteran QB having just completed his 14th NFL season, capitalizing on the good fortune of having a quarterback considered for the top spot in the draft fall all the way to No. 24 and right into his lap was a no brainer for Ted Thompson. A GM’s job isn’t to cater to the feelings of his best player. His job is to pick the best player available. There is no doubt that Thompson did that.
January 12th, 2006 — Ted Thompson hires the generally unknown Mike McCarthy to coach the Packers.
Brett would say years later that he asked Ted to at least interview Steve Mariucci for the position, and that Ted told him “OK,” taking that as confirmation that he would. Brett would find out after the hire that Mariucci was never interviewed.
Ted also refused to re-sign kicker Ryan Longwell or center Mike Flanagan. Both left in free agency: Longwell joining Sharper in Minnesota. Longwell and Flanagan, according to Brett, were two of Favre’s best friends remaining on the team at the time.
Four months of speculation that Favre would retire followed the end of the disastrous 2005 campaign. During those four months, many speculated that Brett’s best years were behind him and that if the Packers were going into rebuilding mode with a new coach, then Brett would likely retire since he could no longer play for a winner. A trade, previously unthinkable, was even suggested.
January 31st, 2006 — Brett does an interview with Chris Mortensen of ESPN. In what would become familiar comments, his answers foretell what is to come. “I wish I knew where I stood… If I had to pick right now and make a decision, I would say I’m not coming back.”
“I’d like to wait til training camp. But I know I have to make the decision in the next month for their sake.”
In the interview, Favre also says that he told Ted Thompson if the Packers can’t wait for his decision, then he should be “cut loose.”
March, 2006 — Even though he’s operating without knowing if Brett’s $12 million salary is going to be available to use or not, Ted has the Packers well below the salary cap and uses that room to sign three free agents who will be starters: Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Marquand Manuel.
April 26, 2006 — Two days before the draft, Favre finally announces he will return for the following season.
Ted says he’s glad to “get past that hurdle.” When asked if Brett said anything about future seasons, Ted says he’ll worry about 2007 “probably in a couple of weeks.”
It is reported that there’s a good chance 2006 will be Brett’s last year. He is quoted as saying about 2006, “it will be my last. There’s no doubt about that.”
New Year’s Eve, 2006 — After leading the Packers to a win over the unconcerned division champion Chicago Bears in the final game of a resurgent 8-8 season, Brett gives a tearful interview, confirming that he might have just played his last game.
February 2, 2007 — Unlike the prior year and despite his own comments, Favre announces fairly quickly that he’ll be back for the 2007 season. He believes the Packers will make the playoffs and he later stirs up some controversy by saying the 2007 Packers are the most talented team he’s been on.
April 28, 2007 — Randy Moss is traded to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick. All offseason it was reported that the Packers were in the running for Moss. The Boston Herald even alleged the Packers were willing to offer Aaron Rodgers for Moss. The Packers adamantly denied that story — and they better.
It was also well known that Brett was lobbying hard for the Packers to acquire Moss. Just over a year later, Brett would express his disappointment on national TV, saying he “worked his butt off” to get the deal done and claiming that he knew for a fact that the Packers would have had Moss if they would have offered the same $3 million that the Patriots did. He had even offered his own salary to cover it.
Brett was even more angered (according to him) by the fact that when Thompson was asked to confirm that Brett had pushed for the deal, Ted denied any knowledge of it.
Brett was not alone in his criticism of Ted’s inability to close this deal. The Green Bay media was nearly hysterical with the failure, having wasted three months babbling about it. And of course, we all know that Moss went on to set NFL receiving records with the Patriots, clearly worth whatever he was paid for that one season at least. In fact, Moss would have three good seasons for the Patriots before being traded again and becoming irrelevant.
On the other hand, despite the Green Bay media’s assertion that the Packers were vacant at the receiver position, Greg Jennings and James Jones would blossom for the Packers in 2007, combining with Donald Driver to give the Packers one of the better receiving corps in the league. The Packers would finish second in the league in offense that season, behind only the Patriots.
Also, it is interesting to note that the Packers’ fourth-round pick that year was No. 112 overall. The pick that the Patriots traded to the Raiders for Moss was No. 110. That means if, as Brett suggested, the Packers would have essentially matched the Patriots’ offer, they still would NOT have gotten Moss. Brett is likely speaking from Randy Moss’s perspective, meaning he knows Moss would have accepted the $3 million. The problem is the Raiders are the ones making the trade and obviously they are going to take the higher draft pick. The Packers would have had to offer higher than a fourth-round pick to get him, which was the likely deal breaker, despite what Brett said.
January 20, 2008 — In bitter cold at Lambeau Field, the Packers would lose a tight game to the New York Giants, who would then go on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Packers had their offense on the field with a chance to win in OT, but a Favre interception would set up the winning field goal for the Giants.
Years later, rumors would surface that Mike McCarthy was vocal in the locker room about his frustration with the final pass. However, Brett would never mention it and McCarthy, by all accounts, still wanted Brett to return to the team in 2008.
On the other hand, considering Brett’s retention of slights from year’s past, the aftermath of that loss could have been the final straw.
What comes next is not pretty, but you’ll have to wait for it.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.