Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oh, That Crazy Chris Havel....

I am a person who doesn't like to accuse other of being "on Kool-Aid", or taking some sort of foreign substance that would make them susceptible to crazy talk, loony ideas, flashbacks to the 70’s and 80’s, or dreaming of Gilbert Brown in a cheerleading outfit.

However, Chris Havel approached levels of such impossible optimistic thinking today that even Pollyanna herself checked into Bellin Psychiatric for a two-week stint treating her depression.

In his article printed in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Wednesday, January 11, Havel outlined his “plan” for future success under Thompson, which most seem to center around somehow convincing Brett Favre to resume taking snaps under center in 2006.

Now, in the last couple of months, Chris Havel has taken the approach that not only was Mike Sherman responsible for the decline of Brett Favre, but the decline of play on the field, the decline of personnel integrity, and the decline of the Roman Empire. Havel took an extraordinarily hard line against Sherman, seemingly burning every bridge he might have with the former head coach, had he been retained.

However, after Sherman was relieved of his coaching duties on Monday, Havel and many of the others who were burning effigies of the former head coach spent several days in self-congratulation. However, others questioned the move, and whether or not such a firing was in the best interest of the franchise, or at least, if Thompson had enough of a sense of direction to point the team in a different one.

Once he completed helping with the bronzing of a new statue of Thompson, to be placed between the statues of Vince and Curly in front of the Atrium (it took a while, as there was much consternation as to which of Thompson’s facial expressions to use: unaffected, cryptic, or enigmatic), Havel and many others who now celebrated Sherman’s firing now took aim at what they called the “doom and gloomers” of Packerdom, ridiculing them for being so judgmental of such a wonderful man who fired the man with the black moustache.

As we sit and wait for the puffs of white smoke to emerge from the Packer Vatican, letting us know which of the qualified, yet unproven, candidates will be taking the whistle on the sideline in 2006, Havel gave us his reasons as to why we should not be so negative. According to him, it is as easy as A, B, C…

A. We must convince a future Hall-of-Famer (and recently, Target-of-Blamers) that the $12 million he would be owed for the 2006 season is too much for his services, and that he would be happier with his salary being “downsized” because of the other changes he proposes Thompson will make.

B. Hire Jim Bates as Thompson’s “new direction” he gave as the only reason for firing Sherman, both to the fans, the media, and Sherman himself. This would be interesting, as Bates was not only 4-7 in Miami, but was a Sherman hire himself.

C. Promote one of Bates’ defensive assistants to defensive coordinator. To my knowledge, the defensive assistants, other than perhaps Bob Sanders, have come under enough criticism over past several seasons to make this a questionable move, also: Baker, Duffner, Jackson, Nunn, and Washington? Doesn’t this smack of cronyism? Wasn’t that one reason Sherman was let go?

D. Somehow convince Steve Mariucci, who is making more money to not work than Mike Sherman, that he would like to come back and work under Jim Bates as offensive coordinator, because Favre would be more comfortable with that. If not Mariucci, another recently fired head coach, Norv Turner, and buddy of Thompson, will also be willing to take a demotion with the Packers.

E. Promise Favre that, despite Thompson’s constant assertations (and one-year track record: Klemm and O'Dwyer, anyone?) that he will make a splash with at least two prime free agents, including guard.

F. Sign Terrell Owens. Yes, you read that correctly, sign Terrell Owens, because he will help turn this franchise around. He will (probably) have respect for Favre, therefore, he will (probably) behave himself and (probably) be the threat, not the distraction, he can be.

G. Draft Mario Williams. Doable.

H. Trade Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila for a pick. Also, trade Robert Ferguson for a mid-rounder. Both of these trades are questionable, in that not many folks are going to trade a valuable, first-day pick for an undersized, one-dimensional pass rusher who will also bring a $4 million dollar cap hit. As well, we will suffer a $5 million dollar acceleration on our own salary cap.

And, anyone who truly believes that Ferguson will bring anything higher than a seventh rounder is fooling themselves. Would you trade for Ferguson, if he were on another team?

Chris Havel, who at one time was regarded as a journalist with precision-like accuracy, has attempted to spin a positive future with Thompson by switching to buckshot. So, Thompson will be okay if he cuts Favre’s salary in half, convinces head coaches that they should be coordinators, signs the biggest cancer in memory, and gets trade value for the players we no longer want.

I think he forgot step I: sign Shaun Alexander, Brian Urlacher, and Antonio Gates to veteran’s minimum contracts with incentives.

There’s no reason to try and spin Thompson into some sort of genius, able to make these moves. We are in competition with 31 other teams for the same players and coaches, and like it or not, this is a team in flux, not the storied championship team we’ve been able to sell this franchise as for the past 15 years.

Thinking we can perform amazing feats as Havel described, with a second-year executive who has done little to prove his mettle so far, is simply unrealistic, and to me, seems to be a sell job by someone who got his way with Sherman, and suddenly is realizing that he opened himself (and the man who gave him his wish) up to criticism.

This really isn’t that hard. Thompson has one important job right now: hire the best coach for this team. If that person happens to be Bates, so be it, but we need to hire the best coach, not the best person for “continuity” in convincing Favre to stick around. If Thompson is a man of his word, which has yet to be proven, he will be looking in a different direction, a direction that will take us to his ultimate goal.

Once that happens, he will be expected to do everything in his power to build the best team he can. Whether that is for 2006 or for the future remains to be seen, but those choices have completely different paths to greatness. If he wants to win in 2006, it will affect everything from how we draft to how we approach free agency. If he is building on a three-year plan, look for big differences once we get past pick #5 in the draft, and don’t expect any big-name free agents to be wearing green and gold this season.

Thompson is the ultimate poker-face. His expressions and words give us no clue as to what moves he plans to make. Therefore, it is with each move he does make that we will understand if he is truly playing with a full deck.

And if he signs Terrell Owens, my guess would be he’s playing with jokers.

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