Thursday, July 31, 2008

Snatching Victory....???

In what appears to be a tremendous sigh of relief for Favre and Packer fans alike, Tom Silverstein decided to clarify the whole "$20 million bribe" rumor his JS Online blog started yesterday.

(Incidentally, at what point is JS Online going to get smacked down for feeding us incomplete or incorrect information? This is two firestorms they have started in a week's time, between the phone and the bribe....yeesh!)

Anyway, according to Silverstein,

An NFL source who wanted the Packers' side to be explained, said Murphy first proposed a 10-year formal relationship with Favre in March after the quarterback's retirement and did not first bring it up during his nine-hour visit to Hattiesburg Thursday. There were occasional talks about it between March and June before Favre started making noise about wanting to return to football.

Murphy, the source said, decided that with the two sides at an impasse to meet with Favre face-to-face to finalize a post-retirement deal. He told Favre and Cook that the deal was on the table regardless if Favre decided to come back.

"He felt it was important to let Brett know face to face that he was serious about a long-term relationship regardless of his intentions to play football," the source said. "Regardless of how it was interpreted, it was a continuation of a discussion in March to formalize a long-term relationship."

So, there we are! All is good! Right?

Well, for the most part, though there are still some things that need to be worked out. In order to collect this deal, he has to be retired, otherwise the money goes against the salary cap. So, this deal, originally brought up in March, was done with the thought that Favre was already retired and this would segue a role for him.

It's interesting, though, that this is re-brought up now. Essentially, according to the NFL source speaking for the Packers, this is going to offered to Favre regardless of whether or not he comes back. The implication may be that he could go play a year for the Vikings, and that deal takes effect when he retires.

Now, I'm not sure that's how it will all play out. IF Favre were to go to the Vikings and have success there, I'm not sure the Packers (or their fans) would be in the mood to welcome back the Vikings hero as their own hero. So, there is a lot that goes into reiterating this deal to Favre that seems to suggest "stay retired".

This is as much a tug on Favre's realization of his own legacy as it is on his pocketbook. And, it is probably a smart move on Murphy's part, though I don't buy the idea that some are selling, that this proves that "The Packers have always had Favre's best interest at heart." Make no doubt this is being done with the Packer administration's and Aaron Rodgers' best interests at heart first and foremost.

There is still the point that Favre wants to play, and the Packers are unwilling to allow him to join their camp. They have also, with Favre's help, prolonged any moves to trade him. They have also refused to comply with his request to be released.

This reiteration of the PR offer can serve as a graceful exit for both parties. The Packers look the noble ones, and Favre accepts an offer to continue to be a part of the team. Water under the bridge and all goes back to what we thought was going to happen a month ago.

Favre appears to be considering it, but (according to his new favorite interviewing style, text messaging) seems to still have an equal amount of desire to play.

UPDATE: Favre has confirmed he is strongly considering Murphy's offer. He sent the following text message to Ed Werder of ESPN:

"There isn't a perfect solution to this, but Mark Murphy is at least trying. We know what they want and where I stand. His solution, although awkward and unsettling for most, may be the best in the end."

"My intentions have been to play, and with Green Bay," Favre told Werder. "They say no, so I still want to play in this division for obvious reasons, which I made clear to management. If they won't let me play in Green Bay, let me play against you. That's where I am."

So, go figure at this point. Favre is considering the offer, but it still seems like he wants to play. And, to a point, this reiteration of the PR deal seems like something less like a despicable mafia bribe (as originally presented by JS Online), but still an offer of money and responsibilities that is being used to dissuade Favre from coming out of retirement.

Maybe not a bribe, maybe not quite as slimy as we thought. Speaking of slimy, did anyone else notice:
After the meeting was over, Favre refused to comment and Cook made no mention of an offer Murphy made during his visit. Curiously, Murphy also didn't comment on the meeting even after it was reported that he was offering Favre $20 million not to report to training camp.
It was widely assumed the "source" that leaked the bribe was Bus Cook, but now, not only was it not Bus Cook, but we still have no idea who the "source" is!

I guess those that piled on Murphy owe him somewhat of an apology, as do those that piled on Bus Cook (at least for this particular instance). Please don't get me started on irresponsible journalism again, but let's all please start telling JS Oline to start citing their sources.

So, here we are.

A deal was and is on the table from the Packers to Favre to do some PR work for them for the next ten years, essentially reiterated to convince him to stay retired and away from camp. This is reiterated because they have committed wholly to Aaron Rodgers and don't want Favre in camp as a distraction or to compete for the job.

Favre still wants to play, though he is considering this offer as he is seeing his choices limited and Roger Goodell continuing to force him to come to a resolution before playing.

If Favre refuses the offer this year, the Packers are apparently in serious negotiations with the Jets, and are considering offers from division foes. Favre still controls much of his own destiny here. He has the right to essentially void any trade he doesn't want to be a part of by refusing to report. We don't know if the Jets are really in his vision, but we'll soon find out.

The Packers are getting a bit more anxious, considering teams for a trade that they all but ruled out a few days ago.

This deal isn't perfect, it isn't being offered in complete good faith, but it may be the one way this whole nightmare can end with fans accepting and continuing to be fans of both Favre and the present administration. Favre can say he wants to be a part of the "team" as a goodwill ambassador (or whatever he'd be doing) and essentially gives up his drive to play by being a "team player" for the organization. The Packers make a show of faith by offering him a lot of money to be the "face of the PR department", and avoid some really icky PR to boot, plus keeping their chosen QB of the Future in the present.

Still a bribe? Somewhat, but a bribe that could put an end to all of this.

If Favre refuses, I don't blame him, especially if his passion to play can't be bought off. But, I can't blame the organization for trying in this kind of way, either. If this continues to its endgame, there will still be drama to be played out. But it seems that there is more communication and understanding between the two parties now that Murphy and Goodell have gotten involved.

Too bad this didn't happen a long time ago.

$20 Million Ways To Completely Lose Respect

Now, trust me, I am in no way placing my 100% faith in a news source that broke the "Favre has a Packer phone" story, mainly because this story is so much more idiotic and sickening than that one.

JSOnline has reported in their blog that part of Mark Murphy's goodwill journey to Hattiesburg included an offer that few in the world could refuse. I was watching Fox11's Training Camp Report and I listened to Drew Smith report this, I felt like I was watching TJ Rubely all over again. Johnnie Grey, incidentally, looked as stunned as I felt.

According to this report, the Packers are willing to offer Brett Favre $20 million over the next 10 years to end this, stay retired, and let the "moving forward" thingy go on unimpeded.

That's $2 million a year for ten years. No report on where this money is coming from...Pro Shop sales, Brown County sales tax, whatever.

But, if this report is true, I can tell you one thing.

One of the most rational Favre fans will lose all respect for Brett Favre if he accepts this offer.

And it takes a lot for me, a guy who has intelligently and vociferously defended Brett from his rabid critic base for the past five years, to have to come to grips with that. But it is true.

Waffling on his decision to retire? Yeah, I wish he wouldn't, but that doesn't make me want to disown all my admiration for him. I see him as emotional and irrational, but still passionate.

Throwing interceptions? Any true football fan knows that an interception comes with the territory when Favre is concerned. You take the good with the bad, like most quarterbacks.

Torching Packer brass in public? Wish he wouldn't do it, but when you are frustrated and emotional, you do lots of things you shouldn't. Not excusing it, but again, he's passionate about this.

But, allowing your passion for the game to be paid off? Nope. I can't forgive that. I've always had this impression that Favre would be willing to negotiate most of his salary down to nothing to play this year, if he didn't feel he'd be letting Ted Thompson waste the cap space he'd be gaining, instead of using it to make a run this year.

In whatever defense you could make for Brett here, in today's economic times, we've all assumed that he's rolling in money from his career and endorsements. Thinking about Deanna's stoic stance at his retirement announcement, it does make you wonder if perhaps the Favre's have spent what they've earned and like many other Americans, are fearful of foreclosure. In that case, perhaps the money will talk to Favre.

But, it wouldn't be enough to save Brett's reputation in my eyes. He has many opportunities to make money...probably even that much if he entered the world of media prognosticating. And, he'd be
earning it.

To accept such a sleazy offer from the Packers would go against everything we've known about Favre. We've excused his interceptions, his childish response to retirement, we excused
everything because we fell in love with his passion for the game, the excitement he has when he gets the ball in the end zone.

How can you put a price on that? If he were to accept that offer and slink away into the night, after professing he has a passion for the game again, I've lost respect for him. Even if he desperately needs the money, I have no doubt he could get it without the Packers having to pay him hush money.

So there.

Which brings us to the other side of the coin.

There are folks out there who have vociferously defended the way the Packers have handled this drama, even in the face of some poor planning and public relations on the part of Ted Thompson and his staff.

If Favre accepts this alleged offer, I will admit defeat in my defense of Favre's character.

However, if the alleged offer is true, and he declines it, will those who have defended Thompson and the current administration in this situation be able to do the same?

This is an offer that is insulting. Insulting to Favre, insulting to the fans, insulting to all of us who purchase tickets, jerseys, anything that goes to that all-important bottom line for the franchise to remain competitive in today's NFL.

Where is this money coming from? And for that matter, why would you spend it in such a manner? Are the Packers so enamored with Aaron Rodgers that they are willing to spend $20 million over the next ten years just to see if he can stay healthy for more than three games in a row?

If you really believe in Rodgers, why insult Favre this way? Give him the release he wants, and quit worrying about the fan base or getting some mid-round draft picks as some sort of "compensation". This officially goes beyond any "business sense", and it comes down to "common sense".

You are gaining value with a release. You gain $12 million in salary cap space. You get your chosen quarterback to move forward with without any competition. You allow your team to start having attention on the guys playing on the field, instead of on the guy who isn't.

That's not only decent business sense, it is darn good common sense....far more sensible than trying to buy Favre's passion with millions of dollars.

Or, bring Favre into camp. Redo his contract so he has one year, and take the $13 million he would get paid next year and put that money into a Rodgers' contract extension. Or, if you believe in Rodgers so much, give that $20 million to him now and seal him up. Let the two battle it out and let Favre go out on top or flame out. Either way, Favre is gone after 2008 and Rodgers is the starter in 2009 and under contract for a couple more years.

It was Favre's choice to return, for better or worse. It is his choice to request a release, for better or worse. Instead of letting Favre deal with his own karma, though, the Packers are pusuing a sickening game of cat and mouse, allegedly becoming so desperate to keep him away that they will pay him a ridiculous amount of money to do so.

So, I have placed it on the table. IF this offer is true, and IF Favre accepts it, I lose respect for him. Period.

However, IF this offer is true, and IF Favre refuses it, I sure hope those that have defended Thompson (and now, Murphy) so relentlessly take their own step back and realize the idiocy and sleaziness of this move. I hope they also realize that those two are NOT "The Packers", but the administrators of the moment who will pass, just like Tom Braatz, Ron Wolf, Bob Harlan, and Mike Sherman.

I commented earlier on leadership. Being able to manage a football team is easy when there are low expectations and few trials and tribulations along the way. Leadership is defined when the expectations are high, and challenges mount.

Managing is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.

Making such an offer to Favre is terrible leadership, paying a man who is able to play, contracted to play, and has the right to play somewhere in this league a ton of money to simply go away. The only way it is a good play for the Packers is if he accepts it, which will reflect terribly on his character.

It's not good business sense, and is sure isn't common sense, either.

I have never liked rumors, and usually make fun of them more than comment on them. But this particular rumor is one that is so potentially damaging for both sides, I am hoping that, like me, most true Packer fans (and this includes Favre fans and Thompson fans alike) are praying that this rumor is completely unfounded and false.

The ramifications if the rumor is true is titanic.

Results of Grant's Tomb Poll: Expectations of Grant in 2008 Mixed

Grant's Tomb: Ryan Grant is still unsigned with training camp looming. Do you believe Grant can repeat his success from the last half of last season?
Yes! 1,200 yards+ in 2008!
6 (30%)
Pretty much, but will struggle more this year. Close to 1,000 yards.
4 (20%)
Holdouts and new QB, bad karma. Will be closer to 500-700 yards.
4 (20%)
He's another Samkon Gado. Jackson will be the starter by midseason.
6 (30%)

Talk about an inverted bell curve. It's all over the board with what we really think Grant can do to repeat his success in 2008. Certainly, the fact that I started this poll before training camp, and with all the news since...I wonder if we redid this if there wouldn't be more votes near the bottom.

I like Ryan Grant, and hope he does well. But, there comes a point where both sides need to get him on the field, especially when you realize that the Packers not only eschewed any FA running backs, but also any running backs in the draft.

It appears Brandon Jackson is being touted as the potential breakout players, and for the Packers' sake, he better overcome his injury history and do so, because there isn't' another true starting-caliber guy on the roster, and Aaron Rodgers is going to need a legitimate running game in order to be successful.

TundraVision Prediction: Like most holdouts, Grant will struggle with his own injuries and conditioning and not amount to much this year. It will be another rotating door at RB, with Jackson eventually winning the job when healthy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sign Grant: We Don't Need Any More Drama

Back in March, I wrote an article advising the Packers to hold up on giving in to Ryan Grant's demands to be paid as a top RB in the league. I rationalized that he was a guy who was the beneficiary of a well-established passing game that minimized mistakes, forcing defenses to honor the pass and forsake run coverage at times. I also rationalized that Ryan Grant was far from proven, that Brandon Jackson had a career game at the end of the season, and that he should "prove it" before cashing in.

That was then. This is now.

The biggest difference between then and now is quite simply, the furor over Brett Favre. It shouldn't play a factor in the negotiations, but for Ted Thompson, it does.

There is no doubt that Grant's agent, Alan Herman, is fully aware of the maelstrom that is circulating at 1265, and that Ted Thompson is presently in the middle of a huge controversy in which an iconic player is being shown the door.

This has placed Thompson in a difficult position, with the fan base polarizing either in defense of him or on the side of Favre. As the situation has played out, and especially since the Greta Van Susteren interview, public opinion has leaned toward the Packer GM as holding the Packer organization above the needs of a malcontent quarterback who can't make up his mind.

But, in the past few days, more criticism has been directed at Thompson. Favre mentioned that the apparently false "Packer cell phone" story had to be corrected by someone in his own posse, Bus Cook, and that the Packers remained mute on the topic until Favre confronted Thompson over the story.

The organization is starting to even turn some of the most fervent Thompson Supporters in the local media to acknowledge that Thompson could have handled this better from the start.

With those cracks starting to show, Alan Herman decided to give it to the Packers with both barrels in the media yesterday, calling the offer from the Packers "a punch in the face" and refusing to even deal with new contract negotiator Russ Ball until he gets serious. He also accused Ball of making excuses for not negotiating for five months before lowballing him on the eve of training camp.

While Ball's name is mentioned, the buck ends up with Ted Thompson, who had to answer questions today from the media as to the ongoing negotiations, which he looked as excited to talk about as the Favre situation.

Which is exactly the point.

The Favre situation has place Thompson in a rather vulnerable position as it deals with public opinion and perception. Alan Herman knows this, and is taking full advantage of a fan base that is already torn, with Thompson in the middle.

It's low, indeed. But when have we known sports agents to be abiders of any moral code? This is akin to kicking a man when he's down, making the Packers and, in turn, Ted Thompson out to be cheapskates.

Perhaps this is a moment when Ted Thompson isn't all that excited about being "The Packers" when compared to Favre. Even though Thompson may not be directly involved in the contract negotiations, its apparent now that Thompson is the one who is getting the accountability for this.

And, its rather a big hit, and will continue to loom larger for as long as Grant holds out and Herman continues to spew his victimization story to the public. Because, it seems, there is an audience for those who are already a little frustrated with Thompson, and this adds more fuel to their fire.

But, even worse, the perception of those fence-sitters, who have seen their starting quarterback blocked from returning to the team in order to usher in an uncertain future, are now seeing their starting running back lowballed and frustrated.

Ted Thompson, to his credit, is a good manager. But, his people skills and public relations haven't always been as glowing as, say, Bob Harlan or Ron Wolf. He's allowed himself to operate with a teflon coating when it comes to public criticism, moving forward with his plan despite criticism of his drafts, his free agent approach, and lack of shoring up positional groups with quality players.

And, to his credit, a 13-3 record goes a long way in making you look like you were right all along.

But a 13 win season seems like pretty long odds with a new quarterback and the loss of your starting halfback, not to mention the drama and distraction both situations are bringing to the team. While I have always admired Thompson's teflon skin, this may be the time to consult your PR people and keep the criticism coming only from the Favre camp, not the Grant camp, too. Criticism has a tendency to keep spreading.

Some may accuse me of encouraging Thompson to give up his principles, to do exactly what he shouldn't do in a good business model, or most importantly, to do exactly what I told him not to about four months ago. As a leader, he should indeed be worrying more about what is best for the team and not what is best for his image.

But the Packers don't need any more tarnish on their helmets this offseason, and having a guy like Alan Herman make them look like lowballers with the hero of the second half of last season isn't removing the tarnish that is already there.

It's time to honestly consider what Grant would make on the open market right now if he were released outright, and pay him something in that ballpark. The Packers, according to Herman, have offered a $1.75 million signing bonus, when Grant would like something more in the ballpark of what Brady Poppinga was awarded ($3 million).

With the Packers swimming in salary cap room and few players up for extension at the end of the season, it seems kind of silly to not end this potential PR nightmare sooner than later. Grant may end up being a complete washout, perhaps even the next Samkon Gado.

But for now, he is viewed as our starting halfback, and when we've already got the furor with our former starting quarterback, this is a headache Ted Thompson and the Packers don't need right now. If the Packers seem willing to swallow $12 million to tell Favre to stay home for the season, why wouldn't they be willing to spend an extra million to tell Grant to come to camp?

Hager Column: Thompson's Business Moves Questionable

I normally don't provide links to articles, but I read this article in today's Green Bay Press-Gazette. In it, Mick Hager, a business consultant, speaks objectively about how the Packers have handled the whole Favre situation.

He is critical of Thompson, but doesn't come off as one of the "crazy Favre fans". In fact, he claims in the article that he's not even that much of a Packer fan. His critique is purely from a business perspective.

The link to the article is here

And here are some selected quotes from Mick. Take it for what it is worth, but it sure rang true with an article I wrote not too long ago.

From a leadership perspective, I was extremely disappointed that you decided to speak out when you did and even more disappointed in some of the things you said. First of all your timing was way off. You need only look to Vince Lombardi for advice on this one.

The greatest man to coach this game would probably have said this to reporters, "I haven't talked to Brett (Favre) and more importantly we haven't squared this thing up yet, so get the *&%$ out of here with your questions until we do."

The point here is: Vince knew when to talk to reporters and when to keep quiet in order to maintain the integrity of a situation.

It would have been far better if you had maintained that you wouldn't disclose anything until you "squared it up" with Brett. People may not have liked your answer, but they certainly would've had no doubt about your respect for him and the situation.

Mike Vandermause finally edged himself away from the Thompson altar and conceded in his article today that while Favre has certainly done his part, the Packers organization has demonstrated a lack of communication to boot.

When Favre isn’t throwing one of his former colleagues under the bus or divulging private conversations to the entire nation, someone in the Packers organization is taking veiled shots at Favre by uttering self-serving references about taking the high road.

No one is above reproach in this untidy affair, and there will be no winners when it’s over. We will be left to sift through the ashes and scorched earth.

How could such a wonderful relationship, involving arguably the most popular and best player in franchise history, degenerate into such an ugly mess?

If neither side has the fortitude to address difficult issues, it’s not surprising their relationship is on the rocks.

Had Favre and Thompson been more forthcoming with each other, the controversy swirling around the team could have been avoided.

Hager continues by pointing out strong leaders rise in the face of adversity, not shrink away and make excuses.
Secondly, you didn't do the Packers any favors by sharing how troubled you were and how difficult the situation was — anybody following it probably knew that. Perhaps, you were trying to garner sympathy, but given the circumstances you inadvertently showed that you're not a strong leader. Effective leaders don't show such weakness in the face of adversity, they show strength, genuine concern, humility and resolve. The measure of a leader isn't found in the good times but during the worst possible situations.
You can take these quotes for what it is worth: some selected quotes by a blogger trying to prove some point. But, that point does bear consideration. Thompson may keep claiming that he's making his moves for "the greater good" of the team and its future, but there is always room to question the "how" in making that greater good a reality.

Thompson is paid an awful lot of money to lead this franchise. Yes, Brett Favre has made this situation difficult, but it is during difficult times that leaders rise above it.

Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lack of Competition for Rodgers Glaring

Mike McCarthy reiterated on Saturday his own personal commitment to Aaron Rodgers as the Packer starting quarterback, and in doing so, forced his own hand to the Packer fans everywhere.

A lot of people continue to criticize Brett's behavior, and rightfully so. But, when you boil away the emotion, the accusations, the indignation, and the history of events, this all comes down to one thing.

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are not open to any competition for Aaron Rodgers, whether that last name be Favre, Culpepper, Rattay, Frerotte, or Carr. They have gone "all in" on Rodgers, and like any game of high stakes cards, this is the one that will win them the pot, or send them home early.

This decision was probably made at the beginning of April, following Favre's flip-flop at the end of March, and was edified by the selection of two quarterbacks a few weeks later in the draft: second-rounder Brian Brohm will likely need a season or two under his belt to legitimately challenge for a starting spot, and Matt Flynn is seemingly assured of the #3 spot despite his seventh-round selection that usually predicts practice squad status, at best.

In other words, Aaron Rodgers is not only the starter, but will not have to face any competition for that spot. This really contradictory to the often-stated philosophy of the Thompson regime, which cites competition to create quality at a position. Just apparently not in this case, in which Rodgers has been anointed the starter long before training camp even started.

The Favre situation has been emotional and tumultuous at best, but in the end, the Packers will enter the 2008 campaign without Favre and with a new level of pressure on Rodgers. Also, there is now an exposed commitment on the part of Thompson and McCarthy.

Had Favre elected not to threaten to come out of retirement, we would have continued on with the company line, that Thompson and McCarthy believe in Rodgers. But, we would have taken that with a grain of salt. His injury history and early struggles would lead us to believe that management was making a very public effort to bolster his confidence and encourage fan support for a young player who will be following a legend.

We never thought, though, that this was an "all in" situation. We all felt that if Rodgers struggled Thompson would be willing to look for another quarterback, or even (ironic in retrospect) be willing to call up Favre out of retirement. The lack of bringing in any veteran leadership to help guide Rodgers along the way was eyebrow-raising, but not out of character for Thompson.

What Favre did was force the hand of Thompson and McCarthy out in the open. While Favre admitted that he wasn't open to competing for the #1 spot, Thompson and McCarthy have now stated that Favre wouldn't be allowed to compete for the #1 spot anyway.

This calls into question Thompson's decision to not bring in any veterans to back up Rodgers along the way. Thompson commented on this last week [1]:
"I think, when faced with the facts as we are, we did not feel that comfortable with any of the available veteran guys. I think in a perfect world, you’d have a veteran guy that’s played some that can still play and be a mentor and all those sort of things. The problem is, you have to have somebody that you think can go into a game and help you win. We felt comfortable with these two guys during the draft. … Everything is a gamble. You could say, what happens if Chad Clifton gets hurt, what happens if Donald Driver gets hurt or whoever? That’s just the nature of the NFL. You can’t really overly concern yourself with it. We like our young guys."
But, in the view of Thompson and McCarthy's apparent refusal to allow Favre to compete for a starting spot, it casts into doubt how much Thompson valued any veteran leadership.

Admittedly, when you think of the free agent quarterbacks that had the most rumors connected to Green Bay, you would imagine that they would want to come to Green Bay to at least compete for a starting job. Certainly, a player like Daunte Culpepper wouldn't want to be facing his former team twice a year watching from the bench, without even having had the chance to win a starting job.

Can we undervalue the importance for a young quarterback taking his first shots in the NFL as a starter without having the guidance of someone on the sideline who has been there? Wasn't there a cry amongst many of the Favre Critics when he stated it "wasn't his job" to tutor young Aaron Rodgers? So now, in the end, Rodgers actually doesn't need a veteran tutor?

In particular, the variance between the starter that Rodgers has watched for so many years and the type of play we are going to want to see from him is quite different. We're not expecting Rodgers to be a gunslinger, fitting rockets into tight spaces as Favre did. The idea of having a Tim Rattay, a Gus Frerotte, or a Mark Brunell who can explain things from a more traditional quarterbacking perspective would seem rather valuable.

But, for whatever reason, Ted Thompson has decided that those veterans weren't valuable enough to have on the team. In light of recent events and the strong assertation that Rodgers would not be subject to competition from Brett Favre, it sure seems to follow that he wouldn't want any competition from Daunte Culpepper or Quinn Gray, either.

In fact, it was reported that Thompson offered Culpepper a one-year, $1 million contract to back up Aaron Rodgers. Culpepper spurned the offer, and remains unsigned to this day. Why on earth would you turn down a chance to be a part of a team that reached the NFL championship game last year, especially after playing on the pathetic Dolphins and Raiders the past two seasons?

It makes you harken back to Randy Moss's controversial comments last year, when asked why he wasn't particularly taken with the Packer approach for his services[2].

"The Packers were really talking about the wrong things, and not the right things. When they started talking more about the wrong things, I just hung up the phone and didn’t want to talk to them anymore. I thought at first it was something that could have worked, for the fact that Brett Favre was there, but I think as the conversations occurred throughout the day and the next day, I didn’t really want to go to Green Bay.”

Moss was pressed on what exactly those wrong things were and went into detail.

“They were just talking about their team concept and the wide receivers and Donald Driver," he said. "It was like they were telling me that they were going to somewhat take a chance on me but, ‘if you do come here, these are the things you have to watch out, and be on your best behavior, and Donald Driver is the top receiver here, so don’t come in and try to step on his toes,’ and things like that.

"I didn’t think that was right because my whole career I have been taken out of context sometimes, but at the end of the day all I wanted to do was win games. ...I didn’t really feel they wanted me. I felt that Brett Favre wanted me, but I didn’t really feel the Packers wanted me.”

Now, it is not my effort to dig up old wounds or old arguments by bringing up Randy Moss, particularly those that debate whether or not he should be a Green Bay Packer. So, look past that a moment and consider the point.

According to Moss, Thompson and/or his staff told Moss that when he came in that he would have to abide by the "team concept", which included respecting Donald Driver as the #1 receiver.

So, Randy Moss would not be given the opportunity to compete for the #1 WR position? Despite his many faults, you would not give him a chance to prove himself at all, that he had to settle for, at best, a #2 spot?

What if all these quarterbacks who came to Green Bay looking for a position were all told similar stories, that Aaron Rodgers is "the man" and they wouldn't be given an opportunity to compete for the starting spot? According to the Journal-Sentinel, Trent Green, Gus Frerotte, Mark Brunell, David Carr and Quinn Gray all visited the Packers the offseason, but apparently all left without a contract offer.

Before Favre pushed the issue, you probably wouldn't have thought twice about it. But now, it raises concern that Thompson and McCarthy are going to great lengths to eliminate any quarterback controversy for 2008, and that means eliminating any real competition for Aaron Rodgers.

In essence, there's nothing "wrong" with this, and there are story after story of GMs and coaches who have been deemed geniuses for starting young players over more experienced veterans. Both Favre and Culpepper, early in their careers, were risks, youthful promise trumping experience and wisdom.

But the NFL is also littered with the disasters of when those risks didn't turn out, as players like David Carr, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Alex Smith have hindered teams with their own lack of development. And those GMs and head coaches were often sent packing.

So, in essence, this is a tremendous risk taken by Thompson and McCarthy, and as a result, a lot of pressure placed on Aaron Rodgers. Yes, Favre's actions this past months have been condemnable, but as an side effect, it has forced Thompson and McCarthy to show all their hand.

They have committed unequivocally to Aaron Rodgers, so much so that they may have spurned any veteran leadership to come aboard as a Plan B. Favre's actions indirectly place that much more pressure on Rodgers, because the pressure is coming directly from Thompson and McCarthy.

Before Favre's attempted comeback, the two still had the opportunity for a fallback plan, to sign a veteran if Rodgers were to struggle. Now, it is clear that this is Rodgers' ship, win or lose, and Thompson's and McCarthy's fortunes will lie with his successes or failures on the field. Signing someone at the first sign of struggles by Rodgers will undermine a lot of what has been said the past few weeks.

It doesn't come down to spurning Favre anymore, but the decision to essentially spurn any competition at the position. That in itself is puzzling, because competition was always a key piece of Thompson's credo. Just back in April, he alluded to this, particularly at the quarterback position [3]:
(Can you get a starter with the 30th pick or are you resigned to just getting somebody to add to your depth?)
Oh no. We're expecting to get a really good player there. Whether they come in and start right away, that's not as important as whether it's a good long-term investment for the organization. We're going to try to put some heat on these guys and let them compete and see what happens. We want to create competition, as we've always done, create as much competition as we can at every spot, and there is no spot that doesn't need more competition.

(Do you have to find a backup for Aaron Rodgers this weekend?)
No. I mean, we don't have to. The quarterback position is an important position, and we feel very good about Aaron. There are other ways to get quarterbacks as you go through the spring and the summer, so we don't feel compelled to do anything. But again, if we can create more competition, that's a good thing.
This was the apparent belief of Thompson before the Favre controversy hit the fan.

So, which is it? Is competition the way to go, or anointing starters and limiting competition to draft picks?

Is it any wonder that Favre would have expected to be handed his starting job back?

As training camp starts today, we'll definitely see this all play out, and all eyes will be on Aaron Rodgers and how he handles this team, hoping that he has the cred he needs to command the leadership role.

A role that has been apparently given to him without competition. Let's all hope for the Packers' sake that this risk made by Thompson and McCarthy ends up being the right one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Results of "Favre and Away" Poll: All Over The Board

Favre And Away: Realistically, how is this going to turn out?

Thompson relents, Favre starts 6 (16%)
Thompson relents, open competition 2 (5%)
Favre calls bluff, takes #2 spot 0 (0%)
Fave calls bluff shows up, re-retires 1 (2%)
Favre calls bluff, Thompson trades Favre 4 (10%)
Thompson trades Favre before TC 8 (21%)
Thompson releases Favre 6 (16%)
Favre re-retires after Winters induction 10 (27%)

Oy...this is what you get when you have too many options in polls.

However, if you look at it, about 21% believe that Thompson will relent from his hard-line with Favre.

Only 12% believe that Favre is going to show up for training camp before a resolution is made.

Only 16% think he will be released.

Nobody thinks Favre will accept the #2 spot without any level of competition for it.

30% think he will end up re-retiring.

31% thinks he will end up being traded eventually.

So, one-third thinks he will be traded. One-third thinks he will be retired.

The leaves the other third split between thinking he will be released or be a Packer this year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thompson's Defining Decision

February 10, 1992: Newly-hired Packer GM Ron Wolf trades the team's first round draft choice to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-year quarterback that was only a second-rounder in 1991 and showed little sign of progress his rookie year.

April 24, 2004: HC/GM Mike Sherman trades up in the third round of the NFL Draft to take BJ Sander, a punter.

These dates and these decisions, for better or worse, ended up defining the tenure of these two Packer GMs, who had far more executive powers than their predecessors, such as Ton Braatz.

Ron Wolf is looked at not only as one of the most successful GMs in Packer history, but is very highly respected in terms of NFL history. He made many great moves over his tenure as Packer GM and had many productive drafts. Like any GM, he also had his share of clunker decisions, such as drafting Terrell Buckley, John Michels, and signing TJ Rubely.

But those plusses and minuses are minuscule compared to the Big Decision, the one that essentially defines your savvy as a GM. And, even when we turned the calender to the new millennium, when pundits spoke of Ron Wolf and his managing acumen, he was always regarded as "the man who traded for Brett Favre."

Certainly, at the time, the idea of trading a first-rounder for a guy who missed the team photo his rookie year didn't sit well with a lot of fans. I remember vividly having a conversation with my uncle, who told me "this kid better be the next Dan Marino."

Even Ron Wolf talked this past weekend about his accountability as a general manager, referring to his Defining Decision as a huge risk, one that could have easily cost him his job. But, as it turned out, that decision ended up being one of the most genius moves in recent NFL history, and Wolf's legend all starts spinning from that one trade.

That decision gave him a Teflon coating over his career, one that even Jamal Reynolds couldn't penetrate.

On the other hand, Mike Sherman had been going through several seasons as a head coach/general manager, and people were already lining up on both sides as to whether or not he was doing a good job in that dual role. Some folks, like myself, were less critical at that point of whether or not he was doing a good job, but were more critical of the dual role itself.

Sherman had his plusses and minuses, like Wolf, but didn't have the benefit of a historically advantageous trade before his team actually hit the field, tipping the scale in his favor. Critics balanced the trade for Al Harris versus the free agent signing of Joe Johnson, the drafting of Javon Walker and Nick Barnett versus Kenny Peterson and Jamal Reynolds. Even at the time of the 2004 draft, Sherman's reputation as a GM was already in question.

But the selection of a Day One punter sent shrill screams through the rafters of the Atrium, especially when he traded up to get that punter. He had already made two shaky picks in that draft with Ahmad Carroll and Donnell Washington. But Sander closed the book on Sherman's GM abilities in the eyes of nearly anyone who followed football.

It didn't take long for Sherman to be held accountable for that Defining Decision, and at the end of the 2004 season he was relieved of his GM duties, replaced by Ted Thompson.

These are two decisions that, despite all the other positive and negative decisions made over the course of a career, remain to this day the Defining Decision of that particular GM.

I hereby predict that Ted Thompson has just made his Defining Decision.

The decision is not, as you might suspect, the one to go on without Brett Favre, at least not directly. Many people will make that assumption, but it is incorrect.

Ted Thompson's Defining Decision will be the one he made to christen Aaron Rodgers his starting quarterback for 2008. Period.

Thompson certainly has the right. Rodgers was his first draft pick as Packer GM and has been watching him develop for three seasons. When Favre announced his retirement, Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy declared Rodgers ready for the job, and gave it to him.

This has come with other repercussions that will play out in time, the recent drama with Favre just one of them.

Thompson avoided adding any veteran quarterbacks to the roster this offseason, despite having a selection of experienced guys that would be able to fill the "#2 and ready to go in a pinch" role you would think Rodgers would need. Instead, he added two draft picks, neither of whom are expected to develop enough to seriously challenge for the starting job, much less make it through the season as starter, if needed.

Amusingly enough, despite the well-deserved criticism of Favre for not being open to competition for the starting job, Aaron Rodgers is effectively being given the starting job de facto, with no real discussion of the competition at the position Thompson has been so noted for desiring on his team.

It makes you contemplate why Brett Favre would presume that he would be given the starting job if he returned. It appears that the starting quarterback position on the Packers is one that is assigned, not competed for.

The pressure that Aaron Rodgers is going to be under this year is going to be coming from a lot of places, most notably the media, who will be looking for any comparison that can be made to the old media favorite, Favre.

But, with Favre's recent request to return to the Packers, the pressure has shifted from the "Spectre of Favre" to the Defining Decision of Thompson. It is indeed admirable that Thompson and McCarthy have so much faith in Aaron Rodgers, and certainly, we all hope it is well-placed.

But Thompson has now eschewed the services of not just one, but many veteran quarterbacks in christening Aaron Rodgers the starter. Rodgers will enter this training camp without any true competition, and all talk is that he is now "the guy".

Whether or not you feel he is deserving or even able isn't the point. The point is that Ted Thompson has decided to make 2008 the year to enter the "next phase" of Packer history by pinning his hopes on Aaron Rodgers. The fact that Favre is available this season only adds to the level of commitment that Thompson has made to Rodgers.

This is reminiscent of Mike Holmgren and Favre. When Favre was young and undisciplined, Holmgren considered benching him. But, in that famous story, the coach took the young mustang and said, "You and I are attached at the hip. We are either going to the top of the mountain together, or we're going to wind up in the dumpster."

That proved true, and was perhaps Holmgren's Defining Decision, too. When you think of it that way, this also places a lot of pressure on Mike McCarthy to make Rodgers successful. Certainly, Wolf put Holmgren in an unenviable position with a unbridled gunslinger as his quarterback. What is Thompson putting McCarthy in the position to work with?

Rodgers, a second-rounder, and a seventh-rounder.

Thompson is no stranger to leaving position groups young and inexperienced. His approach to the offensive line in 2005, the safety position in 2006, and the running back position in 2007 all attest not only to Thompson's belief that competition makes better players, but that the most likely remedy for a lack of production is to wait until next year's draft.

But, this year we don't have that competition. We have Aaron Rodgers as the anointed starter, and precious little in the way of a Plan B.

Aaron Rodgers will, hopefully, live up to the pressure and Thompson's belief in him. Maybe he will be the next Joe Montana or Tom Brady and lead the Packers to a new era of success.

Or, maybe Rodgers will get injured in the pre-season and leave the Packers in a lurch, a revolving door at the position. Of course, it will leave Thompson open for criticism as to how he handled it.

Certainly, he's had many good decisions before this, thus earning his GM of the Year award last year. He's also had some brow-raising mistakes, just like any other general manager. For every Charles Woodson, there's a Marquand Manuel. For every AJ Hawk, there's a David Clowney.

But, one way or another, when we look back on the career of Ted Thompson, we will likely look back on the offseason after he won the GM of the Year award as his Defining Decision.

Thompson may be remembered as the man who had the foresight to move ahead with a guy he believed in, despite the questions and doubts of those around him.

Or, he may be remembered as the man who put all his eggs in one basket, rebuffed veteran leadership, and paid the price.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wolf: Thompson has a job to do

Ron Wolf is the real guy who brought glory back to Titletown. As the GM hired back in 1992, he was the mastermind who brought in guys like Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre, Reggie White, and won a Super Bowl in a brilliant five-year plan.

Last night at the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, nearly everyone put the recent Thompson/Favre drama on hold, except the media, of course, who made sure to pepper everyone with a question about the situation. Most of them, thankfully, declined to comment, including Favre, who despite concerns about whether or not he'd show up or be a distraction, was a classy pro all night.

But one guy who did make a comment was Ron Wolf, and interestingly enough, his comments seemed to go against what has been the anti-Favre tide that has surged since the Greta Van Susteren interview.

Retired GM Ron Wolf, who made the trade to bring Favre to Green Bay from Atlanta, said he has spoken to Favre since the news broke of him considering a comeback but hasn't spoken to Thompson.

Asked how tough a position Thompson is in, Wolf said, "Hey, this is real. You're getting paid a lot of money. It isn't all smooth sailing here. You get paid the big bucks, you've got to ride the tide. Not everything you do is right, not everything you do is correct." link

Now, Wolf wasn't defending Favre or attacking Thompson, but did exactly what a voice of reason, especially a respected voice of reason needs to do: keeps everyone aware of their accountability.

Favre doesn't have a whole lot of accountability, other than public opinion. But Thompson, the general manager, does. As I've stated many times, this is his job, his responsibility. He is a big boy who is paid a lot of money to do this job, and if he is curled up in the fetal position in his office, in fear of what circumstances have wrought on him, he shouldn't have the job.

Ted Thompson is the reigning GM of the Year, and you don't get that way by playing the victim, making bad decisions, or passing the buck. Ron Wolf was a successful GM and knows this personally. He went on to talk about his own first year as GM, when he gave up two first-day draft picks for an offensive coordinator to become coach and a third-string quarterback to come in and be the future.

That's the risk you take, and handling controversial situations comes with the territory. He admitted that had those decisions been handled poorly, the buck would have stopped with him.

This isn't the first time that Wolf has ticked off the Favre Haters. In 2005, when Favre was throwing 29 interceptions and the object of torches and pitchforks, Wolf made the infamous comment that Favre was doing his best while surrounded by "NFL-E talent and stumblebums". The reaction to this implied lack of talent around Favre was pretty harsh, and some folks even went as far to insult and belittle Wolf.

Certainly, last night's comments go against the flow and may not sit well with some. I emailed Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, to ask why he didn't include Wolf's words in his article today, where he talked about all the different comments made by LeRoy Butler, Marco Rivera, and others. He replied he didn't hear it personally and can't be everywhere at once.

However, the Press-Gazette has been pretty much towing the Thompson line, and I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't print such a quote anywhere in the paper today, claiming they didn't hear it personally.

But, in the end, it is going to come down to one thing: how Thompson handles this, and how he does will be a major defining moment of his tenure.

He doesn't need defenders. He doesn't need excuses or blind support. Ron Wolf called it: it's a difficult situation, indeed, and Favre is acting like a spoiled prima donna.

Thompson needs us to make sure he handles this correctly. There's no reason he can't be supported, as well as accountable.

Favre Fanatics Storm Atrium

From the Capital Times:

GREEN BAY -- Brett Favre fans let their feelings be known on Sunday with a rally at Lambeau Field. Approximately 400 fans showed up, but organizers are banking on an even larger crowd on Thursday prior to the annual stockholders meeting.

People from as far away as Arizona, and from as many as eight states came to the Bring Back Brett Favre rally. Organizers are ramping up support as the stockholders meeting and training camp begin.

Organizers are asking all Favre fans to get tickets to the stockholders meeting from any stockholder that isn't planning to attend. A set of two tickets is available on eBay with no bids on them

Just amazing. Now, mind you, I'm not marching in any parades, but I do find the continued support of Favre interesting.

Try making a pro-Favre statement on any Packer message board, and you will get smacked. Check the Green Bay Press-Gazette and look for anything other than pro-Thompson news, and see what you find. The tide has been profoundly against Favre as late.

But here are some crazy Favre fans continuing to press for his return, silencing the people that mocked the quickly-organized movement last weekend. Over 400 people marched at the Atrium today, more than the 100 last week.

And, at the Packer Hall of Fame ceremony last night, according to reports, Favre received a standing ovation and plenty of positive shout-outs from the crowd, with nary a boo amongst them.

Now, my take:

I don't like seeing the "Fire Ted Thompson" movement in all of this. This doesn't have to make either side out as the bad guy. In essence, Thompson is doing what he thinks is best. He isn't perfect, and hasn't come out of this smelling like a rose. But, he is the reigning GM of the Year and there is no way he is going to be fired.

The best way to get through this, if you are a Favre fan, is to continue to encourage both sides to drop the hard line and get together and hammer something out. If that means Favre returns and all are content with it, then get it done. If it means that the Pack and Favre amicably part ways via trade or release, then get it done. If it means the Favre re-retires and perhaps comes back in some other capacity with the team, then get it done.

But the more we all continue promoting the bad blood between the two parties, making this a win-or-lose situation, the more it is going to hurt all of us in the long run.

If the Favre Fanatics are going to march, make this something positive for Ted Thompson to look at, not something negative.

Miracle Max: Goodbye! Have fun storming the castle!
Valarie: Think It'll work?
Miracle Max: It'd take a miracle.
Both: Goodbyyyee!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Favre's Emotion and Our Emotion: Which Is Worse?

I've often been accused of being a Favre Fan. I've also been accused of being a Favre Acolyte, a Favre Apologist, a Favre Worshiper, and a Favre Sycophant (the latter by folks who make good use of when they run out of impressive words they actually know the definition of). I've taken it all in stride. I have no problem, like most Packer fans, to admitting I am a Favre fan.

The Apologist label, though, I always smile at. When I think of an "Acolyte", I think of folks who constantly recite the litany of MVP awards, Pro Bowls, and the Super Bowl ring that, in their minds, erases any criticism that could ever be thrown at him. That has never been me.

I like to consider myself, according to Jason Wilde's #2 definition of Packer fans as "reasonable people who effectively argue that Favre still gives the Packers the best chance to win this season", except for the fact that I have never wanted him to come out of retirement. This is where my interesting mix of feelings comes in.

A) Like almost everyone else, I am frustrated and sad with this whole situation. It seems like it could have been avoided, and instead has turned into a circus that makes everyone look bad. Favre's actions and timing have been questionable and disappointing.

B) However, the transgressions are on both sides of the issue, and I'm not comfortable with making scapegoats either way. It seems like that's what's happening, and most of the negative (deserved or not) is falling Favre's way.

C) I wish Favre would stay retired. Simply put, I don't think this team will match its 2007 form, I don't think that Favre will match his own 2007 form, and its time that Rodgers gets a clean shot and Thompson gets to show off his GM of the Year award without his favorite lighting rod.

D) But, now that he has expressed his willingness to play, I don't see a lot of reason why he should have to sit against his will. It may be completely not in his own best interest to do so, but that is his right to try and play if he wishes. Many Packer fans wrote him off in 2005, saying we'd never get to a Super Bowl with him as a quarterback, and yet, we came within a field goal of doing so two years later.

So, I end up with this mixture of feelings, vying between wanting to defend Favre and wanting to slap him around at the same time. I feel like I'm irritated with Ted Thompson, but also understanding of the moves he's making right now, given the circumstances.

So, when I go back and think about why certain folks like to label me as some sort of "Favre Worshipper", I realize it wasn't because I gave them easy arguments to shoot down, like "he won 3 MVPs and should play as long as he wants", but sensible counters that brought it make to the reasonable middle.

One good example is when people keep claiming that Favre is a terrible playoff quarterback. Instead of saying "He won a Super Bowl", I delicately point out that, since 2000, only once has be truly let the rest of the team down. In all but one of the losses the Packers have suffered in the playoffs, every squad didn't show up for the game, either...a reflection on poor coaching over the impact of one player.

When they counter with "Quit trying to blame the rest of the team!", I gently point out it was they who was just insisting that no man is greater than the team, or that Favre had a lot of help in the 90's, or that they are sick of the Packers being known as the Green Bay Favres.

He can't be "the team" only when it suits the purposes of the argument, and tend to agree that, regardless of what the media has tried to blow out of proportion for the last seven years, the Packers will go as far as the entire team and coaching can take them, not just Brett Favre.

So, with that in mind, and with what I've seen as a pretty incendiary* shift against Favre over the last week or so, I am offering some food for thought. I'm sure many will consider me some sort of Apologist, but I don't see any reason for me to apologize for his actions. That's something he is going to eventually need to do, and doesn't need me to do it for him.

"Brett Favre started this public mudslinging."

I've heard this claim, and many similar to it, over the past few days as Favre's miniseries of interviews on FOX News has aired. In it, he launched some emotional and aggressive salvos towards the Packer brass, and has since seen his words sliced, diced, interpreted, and condemned by many.

But, he didn't start the public mudslinging. While he certainly has some leaks in his camp, all of Favre's communications with the team were done privately. "Professionally" may be in some dispute, if you're not a fan of text messaging, but regardless, Favre didn't make this a public media show of posturing and accusations.

As the news started trickling out, I noted that these words weren't coming from Favre or Thompson, but from "sources close to the organization" or family members, and that we should hold off on judgment.

Once Favre sent his release request, though (again, not announced to the press by Thompson or Favre, but by unnamed sources "close to" both sides), it was Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy who held a press conference, met with numerous reporters for one-on-one interviews, and essentially spilled out a timeline of everything Favre had said and done this offseason.

What came with that was a somewhat passive "we're not sure what to do" and "this is really hard for us", making Favre out to be the bad guy in the situation.

They did not have to do this. Yes, we were ravenous for information, but I thought then (and still do now) that once those papers were sent, they should have booked a flight to Mississippi and hammered something out that both sides could agree to. They didn't have to make any comment other than "We're aware of the situation and are working to rectify it."

It is possible. How are the Vikings responding to the Packers' charge of tampering?

It's clear there was a communications breakdown, but it was Thompson who initiated the foray into making this a public battle, not Favre. Furthermore, the passive approach Thompson took was quite possibly done to bait Favre into the emotional, angry statement he ended up making.

All in all, neither side has shown itself worthy. Favre's words have been louder and more on the attack, but don't underestimate the art of the understated slight in the eyes of the media and fans. If Thompson wanted Favre to react, he got it.

And Favre hadn't done that publicly any time before that.

There's no I in team, and Favre is trying to sabotage it.

Must admit, I find this funny. Favre isn't being a "team player"? He's not on the team! He wants to be on the team. He isn't wanted on the team.

How can you be a team player when you aren't a part of the team?

Now, I'm the first to cast stones at Favre for waffling and the timing of what he's been doing. It's been, at best, suspicious and at worst, condemnable. While there are those at ESPN who like to say, "Well, he wants to play, and he should!" there is no doubt that he has really burned his bridges with his own indecision.

But to say "Favre should take one for the team" and just retire is contradictory to human nature...all of our human nature.

I love Coke Zero. Been drinking it for a year or so now, and have lost 40 pounds after switching from a non-diet soda. I want the Coca-Cola Company to be successful, because I want them to keep making what I want. Period. If there is some internal politics within the company, I really don't care who's getting fired or promoted because all I care about is going to get my soda in the morning.

I want that company to be successful. However, that changes drastically when I am an employee of Coca-Cola. If I've been there for a length of time and make a pretty good salary, I don't want to lose my job. If I end up having my employment and my income challenged, whether through my own fault or that of others, do I expect to "take one for the team" and leave the company, unemployed? "Come on, LA...the company needs you to just leave and not make any noise. That way, everyone can get their Coke Zero without any problems."

No, way. That employee is going to file grievances, contact a lawyer, contact Employment Counsels and insure that if there is a way to maintain his job, it is going to happen.

And, if he doesn't get his job back...he is going to look for similar work elsewhere.

This is what any of us would do in this situation. This is no longer a matter of that employee or Brett Favre being a part of a "team". Favre is trying to preserve his right and ability to play professional football, especially since his own window of opportunity is closing rapidly. He said up until June 20, he wanted to do nothing more than play with his old company. When they rejected him, he wanted to look for similar work somewhere else.

Does he need to take accountability for his retirement and flip-flops? Absolutely, and he's getting it now from the Packer brass. But it doesn't change the perception that we think he should be willing to give it all up now to preserve the team we love, that he should sacrifice any remaining games he has left in him because it is convenient for us, Ted Thompson, and Aaron Rodgers.

No one is going to take that road. When the team rejects you, all you have left is "I".

Favre has been trying to run the team and is crying when he doesn't get his way.

Oh, this is a fun one. We've been talking about the presumed BatPhone Favre has had in his locker for all these years, calling up and telling Sherman or Thompson who he wanted signed, cut, or fired. This, of course, was in his personal, private, gold-plated locker room.

Now that Favre started talking about why he is upset with Thompson, he brings up some things that have bothered him, and people are attributing more to it than what he said.

For one, people are attributing to Favre that he demanded that Thompson keep Marco Rivera and Mark Wahle, and threw a fit when he didn't.

This isn't true. According to what Favre said:

But we had two of our guards, fine football players, Marco Rivera (ph) on the right and Mike Wall (ph) on the left, were both up for contract. We knew that going into the season that year.

Ted takes over towards the latter part of the season. The season is over. I'm weighing my decision. Ted called me. You know, this is right - - right after the season. I said, Ted, you got to re-sign my linemen. As a quarterback, that's important to you. I said, you know, You got to -- at least one of them. OK, I'll do that.

So when I decided to come back, the following day, both guys signed elsewhere. OK. No big deal. I mean, it was a big deal, but you know

Favre wasn't demanding it, he was asking for it. He knows that the health of any quarterback depends on the line in front of him. Now, while we know both of those players were going to be difficult to fit in the salary cap that year, and even one would be difficult, Favre is expressing frustration that he a) asked for Ted to re-sign at least one b) Ted said okay and c) they signed elsewhere the next day.

In a microcosm, it seems pretty petty on his part. But, looking at the big picture, Thompson gave new coach Mike McCarthy a very raw group of interior linemen, players to this day we are still questioning whether or not they are going to be able to keep their starting jobs. They weren't given veteran competition, and we have gone through documented periods where we have run the shotgun excessively, kept in so many extra blockers that there were only two or three non-blockers out to run routes, and relied on the pass more and more when the running game disappeared completely.

As a fan, I have questioned that for years.

Secondly, fans have attributed that Favre demanded Thompson hire his buddy Steve Mariucci so that he could continue to be as unaccountable as he was under Mike Sherman. This isn't what he said or why he said it.

And so when our season is over and we don't have a coach, I said, Ted, would you do me a favor? Would you interview Steve Mariucci? Not would you sign him, or I'm not coming back. I said, Would you interview him. His exact words to me were, From when I understand, he doesn't want to coach again right now. And I said, That's true, but I talked to him two days ago, a day ago, whatever, and I said, Would you be interested in coaching at Green Bay? And he's from Iron Mountain (ph), Michigan, an hour-and-a-half north. And he said, That's always been a dream job. Sure I would. So I tell Ted that.

And he says, OK. So I go home, and I'm down here, and the next thing I know, Mike McCarthy's hired as the head coach, which -- so what? You know, he may do a fine job, whatever. No problem. And (INAUDIBLE) So I called Steve. I said, How did the interview go? What interview? He said, There was no interview. I said, Did Ted talk to you? He said yes. He said, A couple days after McCarthy was hired, he called me and just wanted to know if everything was OK, How're you doing, and all that stuff. And I thought, OK.

Favre didn't demand Ted hire Mariucci, he asked him to interview him. And if you remember at the time, the Packers were going through quite an interesting time. Jim Bates was factoring heavily into the picture, and there were very few experienced coaches that were available other than Mooch. Many of us even hoped for Mariucci, despite his lack of success in Detroit, which can never be helped with Matt Millen as your GM.

When McCarthy was hired, it ended up being the best thing for Favre (which you wish he might have mentioned), but the point of bringing it up wasn't to complain he didn't get what he wanted, but because he felt he was told that his friend would get an interview, and then never followed through on it. He didn't communicate it to Favre, and didn't communicate it to Mariucci.

The third thing that Favre gets attributed to him is crying because he didn't get Randy Moss. This might have the most validity, and also, still gets the most controversy. Did Favre want a premier wide receiver? Yes. Is the one he wanted come with a lot of baggage? Yes. I remember commenting on this at the time, stating that while it would indeed be a polarizing move, that it could also be the most defining moment of Thompson's career.

In a way, it has. Listen to Favre say it, in his words:

The third one, that just kind of -- the trust are is not there is the whole Randy Moss deal, which I had tried to be quiet on that whole deal. I worked my butt off two years ago to try to get them to sign Randy Moss. And I mean, I'm being as honest as I can be. I told the media, No, you know, (INAUDIBLE) you know. But we had every opportunity to sign him. And had we offered him $3 million guaranteed, instead of $1.60 million and $100,000 per game if he dresses for that game, if we'd have just given the $3 million guaranteed and taken (ph) off the second year, we'd have had him. I know that for a fact.

And when they wouldn't do that, I offered to give up part of my salary, which, you know, is just an endless (ph) thing during that week, up until the draft. And so I tell him all this stuff, you know, and hey -- you know, Randy can't really run anymore. We watch him off (ph) field (ph) and he takes plays off, you know -- you know, all this stuff I'm hearing. And I'm, like, Look, the guy is scheduled to make $9 million with Oakland, $9.50 million, whatever, and he is willing to drop $6 million, $6.5 million, whatever, for one year. That tells me a lot. And I know there's been some bad blood with Randy and all that stuff. I mean, he stuck it to us on a couple things. But you know what? People can change. So I have no problem with him signing or not singing.

Yes, I lobbied hard, but after the draft that year, Ted was asked about, you know, Is it true Favre lobbied hard to get -- and there had been a lot of stuff about Tom Brady calling and getting Randy Moss, and I think a lot of Tom, but I'm thinking, Man, you know, he makes a couple of calls and get him signed. I've been working my tail off for weeks...

Offering -- and Andrew Brand (ph), who was our financial guy at the time, he knows. Now, he is not with the Packers now, but he can confirm this. So they may not, but he can confirm this. And Ted's asked about it after the draft. Hey, you know -- the fact they didn't sign him, yes, I was upset. But that -- what upsets me more is when he was asked, Hey, is it true Favre lobbied hard? Not that I'm aware of.

Now, that's bull. That's bull. And you know, I took the high road. I came in for the season. Hey, you know, the Randy Moss thing, let's let it go.

Now, once again, Favre brings this up because he feels he was lied to, let down. Now, even as a guy who didn't want Randy Moss, I was critical of Thompson's lack of effort in getting him.

Bob Harlan is ON RECORD saying that when he went to bed the night of Day One of the draft, he was sure Randy Moss was going to be a Packer the next day. The trade was on the table. This isn't a matter of Thompson deciding that he thought Moss would be a bad fit or anything like was a matter of Thompson getting a player stolen out from underneath him. Whether you like that player or not isn't the point. The Packers could have upped their offer, but Moss didn't give them the chance, based on the lobbying from the Patriots and the cool treatment from the Packer brass.

THIS is what makes people question your judgment: that if something is in the works and a part of your plan, you make it work. I totally understand (and agree) that Moss wouldn't have had a record-setting season with the Packers, or maybe with any other team besides the Pats and with Tom Brady. That's not the point.

He was an impact player who came with a low-risk, low-cost. We selected another wide receiver in James Jones in the draft, who despite his promise, wasn't an impact player in a Super Bowl drive.

So, in conclusion, as we all fall off the Favre bandwagon and do our own part to deepen the divide between him and the Packers, do well to understand the difference between what he's done that is wrong, and what we feel is wrong.

Favre responded in frustration and emotion, which many of us are decrying as reprehensible. Take the time to make sure we, the fans, don't respond in the exact same way.

*- I did not look this word up at I knew what it meant already.

The Pro's and Con's of Brett Favre

Shamelessly borrowed from "The Onion".

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Results of "Rodger Doger Poll": Aaron would demand fair shot.

Rodger Dodger: How would Aaron handle a Favre comeback?

Demand a trade
5 (16%)
Demand open competition for the starting job
15 (48%)
Dutifully take the clipboard for another year
6 (19%)
Complete nervous breakdown
5 (16%)

Interestingly enough, the poll decision is also the most likely decision. There's wasn't a whole lot that shocked me on Favre's second part of the Van Susteren interview last night, but the one thing that made me raise an eyebrow was when she asked if he would be open to competition for the job.

His response was kind of a shocked, "Why?" That communicates two things to me: number one, he does have a sense of entitlement to his starting job, which, had he not retired, would be deserved. The other, however, is that I don't think he trusts the Packers to give him a fair shot in open competition.

That's too bad (both Favre's refusal to compete for the job, as well as the Packers not willing to give it a fair shake in training camp). When you think about it, it seems to go against what we know about both parties. Favre has been an ultra-competitive player, who seems to play better when he has someone breathing down his neck (Brunell, Hasselback). Thompson and McCarthy have preached competition and letting the better man win since they got here.

There's some serious dysfunction going on here. We know what the best option would be, if Favre came back, and that's to let them battle it out.

I did laugh at the five people who thought "Nervous Breakdown". I think someone in this whole drama will have one by the time it is all over. Not sure which one, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stormin' Gorman: Why A Release Is Better Than A Trade

I was thinking about all of the trade possibilities brought up the past few days: whether or not we can get a first-day pick for Favre, who we would trade him to, etc. I find this whole process funny and pretty hypocritical for the people who are lambasting Favre, though.

One one hand, there are folks who are absolutely villifying Favre, calling him a cancer, washed up, and of course, the entire reason that we lost the playoff game against the Giants. We are completely better off with an untested and injury-prone youngster than this kind of diva.

However, this team-imploding, selfish, authority-challenging jerk should absolutely not, under any circumstances go to a team that the Packers would have to face. Because, he's so good he might beat us.

And, take it a step further, we should be able to pick up a second-rounder for him in trade, maybe even a conditional first-rounder.

Kind of funny...he's terrible, but really, really good.

In any case, on to the crux of my article today, which is the trade that everyone wants Ted Thompson to make. Favre to Carolina for a second-rounder. Favre to Miami for Jason Taylor. Favre to Washington for a conditional first-rounder.

If you want to see true career suicide, it will be for Thompson to try and trade Favre. It has nothing to do with whether or not you've given Favre what he wants, or the power to stay in the division. It has nothing to do with the Packers trying to maximize anything they can salvage from this sad situation.

It has to do with Rick Manning.

In 1983, the Milwaukee Brewers decided it was time for a change, and on the block was none other than perhaps the most popular Brewer in the lineup after the pennant-winning 1982 campaign.

Gorman Thomas was a lot like Brett Favre, a throwback guy from the Deep South who delighted fans with the long ball. He hit more home runs from 1978 to 1982 than any one else in major league history at the time, and was famed for his "load the torpedo"-style at-bats that produced a strikeout as often as a big hit.

Spitting tobacco and looking like he just rolled out of bed after a three-day bender, Thomas captured the hearts of all of us swept up in the magical season of 1982.

And then, Brewer management, sensing that Thomas might be approaching his drop-off of old age, decided to sell high and traded him to the Cleveland Indians in 1983.

Who did they get in return? An athletic .319 center fielder that was only 28 years old. Gorman was 33 and had a .183 average so far that season. On paper, it made perfect sense. You sold off an aging player that looked like he was hitting the wall for a younger, faster, better-fielding guy that would man that position for the next five years.

And maybe, on paper, it was a great deal. Cleveland finished that season with a player that barely got his average over .200 and only 22 home runs to show for it. They shipped him off to Seattle, where he was injured much of the following season.

But Rick Manning never posted more than a .254 average as a weak-hitting center field for the Brewers, and a lot of that was due to the fan derision, undeserved as it was. It wouldn't have mattered if the Brewers traded Gorman Thomas for Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, and Bruce Sutter. Nothing would have been enough.

The love affair that fans had for Thomas was beyond what they had for even players like Robin Yount or Paul Molitor. Thomas was the everyman, the guy they might work with at the factory, making good in the big leagues. He was a hero who looked like an slouch, a guy more likely to lift beer mugs than weights.

And despite his faults, his strikeouts, and his struggling 1983 campaign, the fans never forgave the Brewers for what they perceived as knocking out the glue that held that team together. And, they never forgave Rick Manning for being the guy they were supposed to love instead.

Many fans point back to that trade as the unraveling of the Brewers. The coach of the Brewers, Harvey Kuenn, was fired after that 1983 campaign, despite compiling a respectable 87-75 record in a very tough division. Harry Dalton, the man who made that trade, held on to his job until 1991, but was never seen again as the man with the golden touch.

The Brewers finished dead last in 1984, and we know the struggles they've had since then.

Ted Thompson is now tinkering with the idea of trading Brett Favre, a guy who embodies much of what Thomas did, a player with more than fans, but rabid worshippers. Is there any other player that would inspire fan rallies in the Lambeau Field parking lot?

One would have to think that Gorman Thomas might have been such a guy.

Am I suggesting that letting Favre go is career suicide for Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy? No, not in the least, though we all know that the microscope will be on "the plan" that so many of Thompson's Supporters have celebrated and blamed Favre for holding up.

But the idea of trading him? You have to look beyond the objective, statistical evidence, as the Brewers failed to do in 1983.

Yes, Favre will be 39.

Yes, Favre would interfere with the career of Aaron Rodgers and his potential interest in remaining a Packer.

Yes, Favre hasn't shown the gusto you wish he would in remaining unretired.

But, the subjective opinions, not only of those that love Favre, but those that are infuriated with him, will make any player in trade the subject of constant comparison and criticism, probably moreso than the pressure that is going to be on Aaron Rodgers.

What is the "value" of a Brett Favre? It goes beyond what is on the field, the scoreboard, or in the statistic book. He's followed as a folk hero, and you can't buy and sell that on the open market.

Can you imagine the pressure on some poor kid out of college in next year's draft, with the knowledge that he is what was traded for Brett Favre?

I know that many are angry at Favre right now and want to put this whole situation in the best advantage for the Packers. But the trade isn't the way to go.

The Packers were not expecting to have Favre this year, and apparently, didn't really want him. They are losing nothing by releasing him over what they thought they had a month ago.

Yes, the release gives Favre the option to allow teams to get into a bidding war for his services for 2008. So what? We can see what his real value is on the open market, instead of complaining about his $12.5 million salary.

Yes, the release gives Favre the potential to play in Minnesota this year. So what? If that is what he chooses, he will suffer the derision of fans that will cast his as a traitor, as they did with Ryan Longwell and Darren Sharper. And, the Vikings can put up with the media frenzy that always seems to come along with Favre, and see how they can handle it.

The Packers? They can't be worrying about who is on the other teams in the division. They have to worry about who is on their team, and getting that team to realize its potential. Could Favre "hurt" the Packers as a Viking or a Bear? Sure he could...and likely never again after this season.

Meanwhile, Thompson gets what he wanted. His plan, his quarterback, his players...and all the pressure that a GM should be under. We expect that any player or professional should accept consequences for their actions. We certainly expect that Favre takes his lumps for what's happened, as should Ted and Mike McCarthy.

So, Ted, don't put yourself in the position to be the one pulling the strings on Favre, allowing him to make you out to be the bad guy, allowing fans to analyze that trade, allowing whomever he was traded for to be the constant comparison, the source of fan derision as the "value of Favre".

Nothing is going to equal the value of Favre in the eyes of most fans, both those that love him and hate him. This isn't about "not giving in". This isn't about "protecting the team".

This is about not cursing yourself. Karma goes a long way in my book, and the act of trying to purposefully trade away our Gorman Thomas will have impacts beyond the salary cap, beyond the scoreboard, and beyond the stats.

Favre wants to be the captain of his own boat? Let him. Give him his release and let him negotiate salaries, compete for a job, learn a new offense, put up with the media scrutiny. Chances are, he'll wish he had stayed retired.

But if Thompson wants a chance, he needs to avoid being the man that decided what the value for Favre was, as Harry Dalton underestimated the value of Gorman Thomas in the eyes of those that were the fans.

He asked for a release. Let him go and find his fate. Ted Thompson needs to worry about the fate of this Packer team more than scrounging up another third-round pick.