The Brett Favre Saga — Jets, Lies and Videotape
This is continued from The Brett Favre Saga — Prelude to Implosion, which detailed the years preceding and setting up the turbulent 2008 offseason for the Green Bay Packers.
March 6, 2008 — Brett Favre gives an emotional presser, retiring from the Green Bay Packers and allegedly from the game of football. He goes out of his way to say that the actions of the Packers had nothing to do with his decision. To anyone that was listening, he basically says he can no longer take the pressure. Echoing words of his from 2006, he says that he does not want the ball in the final two minutes of the game. A couple notable teams would find out how truly he was speaking.
The Packers, local and national media all go out of their way to salute Brett’s career. Most believe this time that he is done. One contrary voice is Darren Sharper of the Minnesota Vikings, who says in an interview the following day that Brett will be back.
Late March 2008 — The infamous aborted visit to Brett. According to Brett, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson were going to stop and see Brett on their way to Orlando for the yearly spring break NFL owners’ meeting. The reason for this, as confirmed by friends and family of Brett, was that Coach McCarthy wanted to talk Brett into coming back to play for the Packers. Brett cancelled their visit by calling McCarthy and telling him that his feelings had not changed and therefore they shouldn’t waste their time.
When news of this was first reported, it was said that Brett wanted to come back, encouraging the visit, but then changed his mind and decided to stay retired after all. Brett later bristled at this story because it made him look like he was waffling again. He said “that isn’t how it went down” even though his version of the story was exactly the same as reported, except that in his version, he had not prompted the visit by ever saying he was coming back. Apparently, McCarthy’s visit was completely his idea.
Regardless, this seems to be the point where “the train left the station” for Mike McCarthy. To their credit and the frustration of the media, the Packers’ brass would remain quiet about most events related to Brett. About this event, McCarthy would only say afterwards that when he last spoke with Brett at the end of March, Brett was still determined to remain retired. When Brett would talk to Mike a couple months later, he would find Mike of a totally different mind.
April 2008 — Reports begin surfacing that Bus Cooke, Brett’s agent, is contacting teams to gauge their interest in trading for Brett. When Brett is asked about it, he disavows any knowledge and says he is retired.
April 26, 2008 — The NFL draft occurs. Ted Thompson drafts Brian Brohm in the second around and Matt Flynn in the seventh. This is ostentatiously to back up Aaron Rodgers, but some in the media suggests this shows a lack of confidence in Rodgers.
June 20, 2008 — The phone drops. OTAs are completed and the players are on their break before training camp opens. Favre calls Mike McCarthy and tells him he is thinking about returning. Once again, the description of this event only comes from Brett, who says that McCarthy first dropped the phone at the news. Then, when he came back on, he told Brett that the Packers had moved on and that playing for Green Bay was “not an option.”
July 2, 2008 — Things will move fast now. Reports surface that Brett had contacted the Packers about a possible return. This is essentially news of the June 20 phone call finally getting out. Impressively, the organization kept a lid on it for nearly two weeks.
July 5, 2008 — The PR war begins already. Friends and family of Favre are quoted as saying the Packers didn’t do enough to make Brett feel he was wanted back, which is directly contrary to what Brett said during his retirement presser. Specifically, the blame is being focused on Ted Thompson. Allegedly, Brett emailed Ted and got a reply that Ted was on vacation. This is claimed to be an example of the lack of respect Thompson has for Brett.
July 8, 2008 — With Ted now back from vacation, he, McCarthy, Brett and Bus Cook have a conference call to discuss where Brett is at. No one talks about what was discussed, but obviously the meeting didn’t change anything.
July 11, 2008 — The Packers receive an official request to release Brett Favre so he can join another team. The media scrambles to come up with possible suitors for Brett and the Minnesota Vikings are an obvious candidate.
Forced to respond, Ted Thompson says the Packers will not release Brett and that Aaron Rodgers is their starting quarterback. He says Brett is free to return as a member of the active roster, essentially putting the ball back into Brett’s court for now.
Curiously, on the same day Al Jones, a writer for the Sun Herald and a friend of Brett and his brother Scott, writes a story that Brett will likely be playing for another team this season and the first team he lists is the Minnesota Vikings.
July 14, 2008 — Brett gives a national interview, appearing on Fox News for two nights in a row. On the first night, Brett reaffirms his love for Green Bay, the fans, and his desire to play football again. He says he is “only guilty of retiring too early.” In what would become his “we both reached for the gun” refrain, he claims the team pressured him into making a decision and that he was honest about his desire to retire back in March. He feels that he has to go public with his case now to defend himself against misleading stories in the media. He insists that he wants to play for the Packers again, but has been told that is not an option.
This obviously sets the Packers up as the black hats here. Brett just wants to keep playing football and the Packers won’t let him.
July 15, 2008 — Having vindicated himself and impugned the Packers, Brett goes for the jugular during the second part of the interview. He basically airs his laundry list of complaints against the Packers, with most centering on Ted Thompson. He mentions Wahle and Rivera, Steve Mariucci, and Randy Moss, going so far as to make public what the Packers were offering Moss during the negotiation. He also claims the story about the aborted visit back at the end of March was twisted to make him look bad.
Brett sums it all up by stating the obvious — there is a trust issue between he and Ted Thompson because Ted has given him plenty of reasons to not trust him.
Again, let’s add some more pertinent facts. Brett is undeniably right that Ted pressured him to make a decision. Ted wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t. Besides being the most important player on the field, Brett is the highest-paid player on the roster. Free agency starts mid-March and it certainly helps to know if one-eighth of your salary cap is going to be available to you or not. And then of course there is the draft in late April.
The fact that the “pressured me into a decision” leaves out is that the Packers had zero leverage on Brett. Until mandatory OTAs, which he could be fined for missing, there was nothing the Packers could do to force Brett to make a decision. What were they going to do? Release him? That’s what he was asking for in the first place.
Yes, Brett did the respectful thing by making his decision before free agency started, but that decision is on him. Was he pressured to do it? Of course. But was he forced to do it? Absolutely not. The Packers had no way to force him.
Also, there is something obviously ironic about insisting you want to play for the Packers and then using the second part of the interview to blast the man in charge of football operations for the Packers. Either Brett was honestly being obtuse here, or he was knowingly being disingenuous. To paraphrase Brett in the two parts of this interview, I want to play for the Packers. I don’t want to play for Ted Thompson.
Frankly, I understand if Brett was upset and lost faith over the three GM moves that he mentioned, but he is not the GM. Ted Thompson is. If Brett goes home and tells Deanna, Ted Thompson is a jackass, that is all fine and dandy, but when you go on national television and say that, you are essentially making a reconciliation impossible. I can sit at home and blast my boss all I want. Hell, who doesn’t? But if I post my thoughts on Facebook, I can expect to be cleaning out my desk.
July 16, 2008 — The Packers file tampering charges against the Minnesota Vikings. The story comes out that Favre spoke over the phone with Darrell Bevell, the offensive coordinator for the Vikings and possibly to Coach Brad Childress as well. Details later emerge that the Packers found out because Brett used a phone that they issued to him.
Again, Brett would deny this entire story while only refuting a single detail. He and Bus Cook assure everyone that the Packers never issued him a phone. The Packers don’t deny that is true.
However, the Vikings never deny a conversation with Bevell took place. They instead release a statement that Bevell and Brett are friends and that Brett coming to the Vikings was never discussed. They deny that a conversation with Childress ever occurred.
It would be rumored later that the source was actually a friend within the Packers’ organization that still talked with Brett. This friend let it slip that Brett had mentioned talking with the Vikings and that he might end up playing there.
Regardless, the NFL would find no evidence of tampering and clear the Vikings. Obviously, with the fiasco reaching a boiling point, the last thing the NFL wanted to do was throw another organization into the fire. Future events would all but prove the Vikings indeed tampered, unless you believe it all a wild coincidence, and the Packers to this day would get nothing out of it.
July 25, 2008 — It is reported that the Jets and Buccaneers have been given permission to talk to the Packers about trading for Brett Favre. It is confirmed that both teams are interested. Other teams also confirm that the Packers contacted them to judge their interest. Favre has the right to deny any trade and has made it clear that he would prefer the Vikings or Bears. It is reported that the Packers will not allow a trade to either.
July 27, 2008 — Training camp opens for the Packers.
July 29, 2008 — Brett Favre seeks reinstatement from the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell holds off on reinstating Favre as a favor to the Packers, giving them more time to make a trade.
July 30, 2008 — Packers President Mark Murphy flies down to visit Brett. He offers Brett a $25 million contract for merchandizing and marketing for the Packers. This would keep Brett connected to the Packers while at the same time keeping him retired. Brett rejects it and insults the organization by calling it “buyout” money. The media follows suit and characterizes it as such.
I wish someone would insult me with $25 million.
July 31, 2008 — The commissioner reinstates Brett Favre to the active roster, effective August 4. With Brett now free to show up at camp at any time, turning camp into a five-ring circus, the Packers are reported to be willing to consider even a trade within the division if that would end the standoff. Allegedly, the Packers are seeking a first-round pick for Favre, which makes the chances of a trade within the division very unlikely.
August 3, 2008 — Brett arrives in Green Bay immediately before the Family Night scrimmage.
August 4, 2008 — Mark Murphy releases the infamous “crossing the Rubicon” statement. The Packers are now stating that Brett can return and be in an open competition with Aaron Rodgers for the quarterback spot.
Brett meets with Mike McCarthy. McCarthy has a press conference scheduled for after the meeting. It gets canceled because the meeting goes for five and a half hours.
August 5, 2008 — Rather than practicing, Brett meets with McCarthy again and then goes home afterwards. Reportedly, Deanna and Bus Cook wanted Brett to “call their bluff” by practicing. Undoubtedly, the fans would have immediately pushed hard for Brett to get his job back and would have ramped up the harassment of Aaron Rodgers another defcon.
In an oft-forgotten interview with Wendy Nix — the original ESPN Brett Favre girl — that same day, Brett would explain why he chose not to practice. He says he could practice and that “we all know what the end result would be” if he wanted his old job back, but that too much “damage has been done” that he “can’t forget.” In short, Brett explains that he no longer wants to play for the team, despite what he said on Fox News.
Brett says stories were “planted” and when asked what stories, he refers again to the aborted late March visit by McCarthy and the tampering story. Brett also confirms that he is asking for a trade within the NFC North, preferably to the Vikings or if not, then to the Chicago Bears.
August 6, 2008 — The Packers announce they have traded Brett Favre to the New York Jets for a fourth-round pick with the chance of it becoming a higher pick, depending on the Jets’ success.
Apparently, the Packers have Mike Tannebaum, GM of the Jets, to partially thank for this development. Brett appeared skeptical of the prospect of playing for the Jets even after approving the trade. However, he would later say that Tannebaum “wouldn’t shut up” and talked him into it.
Mike McCarthy is trotted out to the media and faces their full-on wrath. He is especially besieged over the question of whether the Packers were really going to allow Brett to compete for the starting job. He refuses to answer the question, instead repeatedly insisting that “it never got to that point” and that Brett “wasn’t in the right mindset” to play for the Packers.
Some in the media would take this as confirmation that the Packers never intended on having Brett compete for the job, which is a logical assumption except that this completely ignores Brett’s own words the day before. During the seemingly forgotten interview with Nix, Brett had confirmed he “wasn’t in the right mindset” to play and that McCarthy was offering an open competition.
McCarthy refused to confirm the offer of the open competition because with Brett now traded to the Jets and Aaron Rodgers now clearly your No. 1 quarterback, what would be the point? At this point, the organization is clearly in back-Aaron-Rodgers mode and they should be.
The media would be in heaven with a trade to another team, especially a big market being the preferred outcome all along. Obviously, Brett simply returning to the Packers is a boring story once he has his old job back, but Brett playing for someone else is a media frenzy. Brett playing for a division rival with whom he’d get to face the Packers would be the best of all worlds, but if not that, then at least he’s in New York.
Much of the local media wonders if the Packers traded away their best chance at winning in 2008 — a reasonable question. Much of the national media thinks the same with some being more vociferous about it. Gene Wojciechowski, writing for ESPN, who was essentially a Favre button-man during this whole fiasco, suggests that Packers fans should buy Jets jerseys.
He would get his wish as a Packers Nation civil war would follow, spilling into training camp as fans with Jets jerseys would voice their opposition to Aaron Rodgers, and in the bars among friends, and even at home among family.
We would hear it all. Aaron Rodgers has been hurt twice already. He is fragile. He will never make it through a full season. He is a nobody. Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson are morons. The three stooges. The Packers were losers before Brett got here. Brett saved the franchise. This team won’t win again until the stooges are gone. And on, and on, and on…
Meanwhile, Reggie White rolled in his grave…
But if there was one relief to this civil war, it was that Brett was playing in the AFC and far away from Green Bay.
The retelling of the Brett Favre saga will conclude with part three. Coming soon!
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.