Friday, July 11, 2008

Counterpoint: Tom Pelissero's "Truths" Article

As the Favre non-drama continues to become more and more of a media- and fan-fed drama, Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has, like most of the GBPG beat writers, taken the "con" position on the Favre issue, as opposed to the "pro" position taken by ESPN.

If you're going to take a "side", it's a pretty wise one to take for the local beat boys. You don't want to ostracize yourself from the biggest wigs on the team (namely Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy). I would question why journalists need to take a "side" anyway, but since Mike Vandermause set that ball in motion, Pelissero seems to have joined in.

In his article today, Pelissero writes an article suitable for a blog or a message board. I don't say that to offend bloggers or forum rats, many of whom have writing skills beyond that of many journalists. But, bloggers and forum rats aren't being paid to write objectively, which is what makes it so much fun to read those types of opinionated writings. Pelissero is a journalist, and when you take a biased side (as Havel did with Favre, and later, against Mike Sherman), it eventually cuts down your reputation as a journalist.

Anyway, I just wanted to address Pelissero's facts (which are really opinions) with my own facts (which are also opinions, but I am willing to admit it).

Aaron Rodgers doesn't respect Packers fans

Just before the speculation started anew, Sports Illustrated quoted Favre's successor as saying, "I don't feel I need to sell myself to the fans. … They need to get on board now or keep their mouths shut." Some are using the excerpt as proof Rodgers doesn't "get it." Knowing Rodgers, though, all he meant was that people who don't believe in him ought to wait until he gets his chance before writing him off. He could have said it more tactfully, but is it an unrealistic request?

Now, I don't truly believe that Rodgers is a malcontent, and agree wholeheartedly with Pellisario on this point. But in his ever-so-brave question, he misses the mark. Is it unrealistic for a player to ask for the team to back him up?If he's proven himself, sure.

But would we tolerate Justin Harrell speaking out that the fans better get on board his train because he's the future?

No, we wouldn't. Harrell hasn't proven anything to us, and while we'll give him our continued hope for developing, we're not going to give him our unadulterated faith and trust. You have to prove something on the field first.

Rodgers has our hope to do well, and many of us are ready for his era to begin. But let's not fool ourselves. Some of the unwavering faith we're giving to this kid is because of the legacy he has to follow, and there's no guarantee he's going to be adequate, much less great.

Favre suffered the same kind of questioning when he first played for the Packers, and he didn't get carte blanche from the fans (I still remember the guy sitting next to me in the stands, crying "Put in Detmer!" after every interception in those formative years). Favre had to earn his respect, and so does Rodgers.

Don't take that as some sort of cut on Rodgers. I have hope in his promise. I just realize it's not a literal "promise".

Everyone in the Packers' locker room is praying Favre returns

It would be foolish for anyone to say publicly he doesn't want Favre back, but there is a substantial faction of younger players who are eager to play with Rodgers. Favre is at least a decade older than all but six guys on the roster. He dressed in his own locker room. He had minimal social interaction with teammates. Rodgers is one of the guys, and plenty of them are pulling for him.

I don't doubt that there are those, especially younger players, that are quietly hoping for the post-Favre epoch to keep moving along. However, Pelissero promoting the "dressed in his own locker room" lie is incredibly irresponsible. This was never the case.

Favre, who was obligated to give a post-game press conference after every game, would use a side area reserved for the training staff when the media horde entered the locker room (not before). He did this because when the horde came in, they would create a crowd around one locker, waiting for the quote no one else might get later on in the press conference.

Naturally, the reporters were miffed at this, and Lori Nickel of the MJS decided to start perpetuating this lie in some chats and emails with fans. When this all hit the fan, the truth eventually came out. However, apparently no one let Pelissero in on this secret, and he doesn't mind using the lie to further his own agenda in this article.

If Favre stays retired or ends up playing elsewhere, it's Ted Thompson's fault

Favre's emotional retirement media conference on March 6 — during which he absolved the Packers' general manager of blame — convinced the organization and most observers he was really, truly done. That's why Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy felt comfortable moving forward with their plan for the post-Favre era. Things would be different had Favre said four months ago he wanted to play. He didn't, and that choice was his.

No argument on the choice issue here. However, it is still Ted Thompson's job to handle the situation correctly. This doesn't mean he has to cater to Favre or the fans, but he does need to be a professional about it. Favre made the choice to retire, and while I think he has an itch to play, nothing will end up coming of it.

Thompson has mishandled personnel decisions before, starting with the nine-month "evaluation" of lame-duck coach Mike Sherman, then firing him only five months later after his evaluation warranted giving him a two-year extension.

But handling these kinds of situation is a part of his job description, and he can really cement his new-found reputation as a great GM by handling it like a pro, communicating privately with Favre and saying the right things to everyone else. Or, he can completely drop the ball and let it blow up in his face and play the victim.

My hope is that he does the former option.

This whole thing is a media-driven rumor

Favre has inquired about returning to the Packers. That's a story. No, he has not made a public statement, other than texting a semi-denial to a Mississippi reporter. No, the Packers have not commented. Both sides have logical reasons to (officially) keep quiet. That doesn't mean it's some grand conspiracy.

Huh? ESPN hasn't made this the top NFL news story for the last week or so? This hasn't taken a life of its own? How does Pelissero objectively call Favre's text message a "semi-denial"? That's quite a judgment statement to made by someone who is trying to say that the media has no culpability in this case. That sounds like someone making an excuse to give them the right to make this a "story".

I still haven't heard one Packer official confirm that there has been an inquiry. It's all been "sources inside the organization", not Murphy, Thompson, or McCarthy. And even if he did make a feeler discussion, Favre did it professionally and privately, not through the media.

However, it is the media who has taken this information and ballooned it out of control, with daily updates of "nothing new" and all-out wars breaking out on nearly every blog and Packer forum.

This is an example of the media circling the wagons around their own. They know Favre news, good or bad, is easy press and easy money. It's all about the Benjamins, and Pelissero is doing his part to make sure his posse can continue to avoid accountability for creating a stir out of unsubstantiated rumors.

Pellisero even jokes about this in a previous entry in his GBPG blog, stating, "It's been more than 24 hours since we've had a Brett Favre-related update here, so try this on for size."

The Packers would sacrifice this season by not embracing a Favre return

Favre had one of his best seasons in 2007. Rodgers has everything to prove. But the Packers are a young, gifted team that was a field goal away from the Super Bowl last season, and Favre, for all his talents, was only one part of that. The Packers believe Rodgers can play effectively enough to put the team in position again. Could they be wrong? Absolutely. But opting to sever ties with Favre — if it comes to that — would not be tantamount to waving a white flag toward 2008.

This is kind of funny. "Could they be wrong? Absolutely." How about "Could they be right?" How about "Could we have no idea how this would work out?".

I get so tired of forum posters who make their points in the form of some vague question and then answer it just as vaguely, and Rodgers is usually the latest prime example. Pellisero should know better than to pull the same tactic. Read that again. What was his point? "Maybe?"

Point is, we have no idea if Favre, at 39, would be able to match his 2007 campaign. And, we have no idea if injury-riddled Aaron Rodgers will be on the field for more than 10 games this season. That's the risk of any professional sports team, making the decisions and rolling the dice on players. Sherman rolled the dice on Joe Johnson and lost. Thompson rolled the dice on Marquand Manuel and lost. That's the way injuries and, quite simply, player performances play out, and why championships aren't won on paper.

I personally don't think that Favre would match his 2007 numbers, but frankly, but I also don't think the whole team is going to match the 2007 season. Favre was counted on heavily this past season again to compensate for an inconsistent (and early on, invisible) running game and a shaky line. Is Rodgers ready for that? Is Favre able to continue doing that?

As I said before, this is Ted Thompson's job to make these decisions, and neither I nor Tom Pelissero, for all our blustering, are qualified to make them. When Ted makes the right ones, we praise him. When we go 13-3, we praise him. But when he messes up, we second-guess him. That's the great part about not being the guy who actually has to make the decisions. We can just sit and talk about what we'd do in that case.

That's about the only "truth" we can really get out of Pelissero's article today...that we all are just spouting off opinions passed off as truth, and the boys at ESPN who continue to perpetuate it are no different.

Perhaps my "truth" will be that Pelissero grew up in Minnesota and was a Viking journalist for several years before coming to Green Bay. Vague question: Does that make him a bad pick for a Packer writer? Vague answer: Maybe, maybe not.

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