Monday, July 14, 2008

Does It All Come Down To Protecting Aaron Rodgers?

As I sift through the "Fire Thompson"'s and "Screw Favre"s out there in the blogosphere, it really seems like everything has come down to either Ted or Brett as the patsy in most people's eyes.

But why?

As much as I think that Favre has mishandled this situation, and that he really is better off retired, looking at some of the comments of other writers not from the Gannett newspapers in Wisconsin really made me think a little bit about this situation.

Many fans and local media are pretty brazen in their vilification of Favre. Mike Woods had a particularly scathing article today, calling Favre the outright "bad guy". But when you think about it, the fans and local media have been dealing with the media blitz of all things Favre for about ten years now, once all the other stars left the Super Bowl team and Favre became the face of the franchise.

But, when you look at the comments of others writers who don't have a connection to the Packers, you might wonder if they aren't the more objective voice:
I didn't realize that the cheddar in Green Bay was starting to affect their brains...In their minds, they've officially closed the Favre era. They whisked the future Hall of Fame quarterback out with the spring cleaning. They've lost their minds. - Gil LeBreton, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Look, I understand the Packers don't want to keep changing directions. I am an advocate of the prioritizing of drafting, developing young players and sticking with long-range blueprints. I can see the value of a coach selling a team on a concept in the offseason and doing everything possible to follow through with it. I know that team derive beenfits from having players bond in off-season activities. But there can be no bigger mistake a team can make that to overvalue its own decisions. Confidence in your plan is a wonderful thing, but talent like Favre's cannot be schemed or created. When did the object of assembling a team become proving your point? Isn't it supposed to be about winning? - Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

Favre wants to play at least one more year. Why any fan wouldn't want to see that baffles me. How the Packers are handling his return is just plain stupid. - Tim Cowlishaw, The Dallas Morning News
So, let's balance this out a bit. If you read Silverstein, Woods, Pellisero, Wilde, or Vandermause, or really, any of the local Wisconsin beat writers, they all tend to fall on the side of Thompson and against Favre.

Yet, when you read nearly any out-of-state writer, they are flabbergasted at the notion that the Packers would not want Brett Favre.

Again, I am not a proponent for Favre's return. I think he's better off retired, and have my own reasons for it. I am not attending any pro-Brett rallies at Lambeau Field, though I don't fault those folks any more than I fault the folks signing online petitions demanding that Favre retire.

What gets me, though, is how the folks not as familiar with the season-to-season media-driven drama see it. Is it that they are just so far removed from the situation that they can't possibly understand it?

Or, do they understand it more clearly, without the tinted glasses that many local writers and fans have built up over the years?

When you are in a dysfunctional relationship, it is almost impossible to see the situation from the outside, and you almost need an objective voice and observer from the outside to bring any clarity to the situation. Are the Packers in a dysfunctional relationship with Favre? Sure seems like it right now, doesn't it?

But, dysfunction or not, do you cut off your arm to spite it? What if these writers are seeing this more clearly than those of us who are just "Favred out"?

The question, then, would be "why?"

would Packer management hesitate at bringing back their All-Pro?

Why would a little thing like temporary indecision (which they should have expected, given the last three offseasons) make a player like Favre disposable?

Why would the Packer management become so enamored with their own cleverness in building a team without Favre that they would push him away just to see it work?

Let's take away our own tempest of being outraged at Favre's waffling, and assume for a moment that this was his first attempt to return from retirement. What is to be hurt from his return?

Salary cap space? Never been a problem before. In fact, we still have over double Favre's 2008 salary still available in the cap.

Already have experienced quarterbacks? Daunte Culpepper was the only name that seemed to be a possibility, and after that didn't work out, we are left with three quarterbacks without an NFL start among them.

Want to prove to Favre that he can't always have his way? That's a great idea in theory, but how do you think it is going to impact the team, potential free agents, and public opinion to spite players just to prove a point?

The why comes down to one thing, and one thing only: protecting the plan. And the only difference in what "the plan" is with or without Favre is one guy.

Aaron Rodgers.

The fear is real. If Favre were to come back for one more year, chances are Aaron Rodgers will throw a tantrum and demand to leave, either this year or next year after his contract runs out. Or, worse, he will demand a huge salary renegotiation after this year, which Thompson will be loathe to pay to a guy who, in essence, hasn't proven a thing playing behind Favre.

So, if Favre would be done after 2008, Rodgers could also be gone, and Thompson has the real possibility of having no quarterback for 2009.

This is assuming, of course, that Rodgers has so fragile of an ego that he needs to be protected. His recent snipe in the SI article telling fans to "shut up" or "get on board" certainly suggests he's already tired of the pressures without starting a game yet. Thompson and McCarthy have worked the local press hard to let them know how much they believe in Rodgers.

And the local press has bought in, with plenty of "feel-good" articles building up Rodgers as the ultimate teammate.

So, in essence, they have two egos they are trying to placate...the indecisive, emotional Brett Favre, and the young, no-longer-patient Aaron Rodgers.

Have they decided that they must protect one over the other, made this into a one-or-the-other kind of decision? Has Rodgers privately made it clear to the GM and head coach that if he has to spend another year on the bench, he will be asking for a trade or seeking his fortune elsewhere when his contract expires?

Aaron Rodgers was Ted Thompson's first draft pick as Packer GM, and the fact that he bottomed out from a potential first pick overall to sitting for hours in the Green Room at the draft before finally taken by the Packers hasn't been lost on any of us. Rodgers has had something to prove for years, and has quietly changed his demeanor from chip-on-the-shoulder rookie to dutiful clipboard holder for three seasons.

I'm sure this isn't how Rodgers predicted his career going, though had he gone #1 to San Francisco that year, I'm sure it wouldn't have fared much better than Alex Smith's.

So if, as the out-of-town writers suggest, the Packers are insane to be even be playing poker with Favre, how much faith must they have in Rodgers? Is that faith worth spurning your true legendary quarterback from another season? Or, are they simply and desperately trying to preserve their investment from flying the coop?

As I said, I am not a proponent for Favre returning. I think that he's better off on his tractor, but I am only a fan and an unpaid blogger who just likes to type too much. Apparently, Thompson thinks that Favre is better off on his tractor, too, which to the outsider, seems to be a completely ludicrous proposition.

Not because the outsiders are worried about "giving in" to Favre, but because they see Favre as a great player that makes a team...any team....better.

Maybe they are too far from the situation to truly understand it as well as Mike Woods and many others who place Favre clearly in the role of the bad guy who must be defeated at all costs.

Or, maybe they are the ones on the outside looking in, who see it much more clearly than those of us Packer fans who are (strangely enough) fighting amongst our own over who is truly "The Packers"....Ted Thompson or Brett Favre.

But, let's not forget Aaron Rodgers. Many fans out there desperately want him to get his chance to prove himself. It appears that Thompson may be willing to go to extreme measures to get him that chance, or at least, to keep him around a while longer.

So, if we didn't have Aaron Rodgers, would Thompson be playing hardball with Favre at this juncture?


Rich Beckman said...

If I had to put money on it, I would bet that Farve gives the Packers the best chance to win this coming season.

If I had to put money on it, I would bet that Rodgers gives the Packers the best chance to win any game played in temperatures below 10 degrees.

But I don't have to bet and I'm not sure how anyone can be so certain about who gives us the best chance to win.

If Farve returns, Rodgers is getting the shaft. Farve has missed most of the off season activities, we don't know what kind of shape he's kept himself in (and the older the player, the more important this is, right?), and he is on record saying that he no longer wants to put 100% into prep.

I see the point out of state writers have. But in a way it is trading the future for now. Rodgers has gone through this process to be the quarterback of the future. If Farve returning causes Rodgers to leave, then we are without a quarterback next year (at least then we'll ALL be relieved when Farve changes his mind and comes back).

And with all cases of trading the future for now, there are just too many unknowns. Even if Farve plays well, there is no assurance that we get to the Super Bowl. And if Farve doesn't come back, there is no assurance that Rodgers will get us to a Super Bowl even if he plays well for many years.

Farve has done a lot for the franchise, but the franchise has done a lot for Farve. The only thing either side owes the other is respect.

From what I know of what has happened this summer, the Packers organization has given Farve that respect, but Farve has not given the Packers respect.

All of that said, I support whatever the Packers organization decides to do.

LosAngelis said...

Great thoughts, rich, and I don't know how much I disagree with them. I just wanted to put myself out of the whole "who's getting more of the shaft" way of thinking and boil it down to an objective outsider view.

When you do that, no matter how you slice it, it comes down to protecting Aaron Rodgers.

I have nothing against the kid. But I will say this...

If Thompson is willing to send Favre up the river in favor of Aaron Rodgers, who is putting the pressure on him now?

Anonymous said...

I think you've just about got it here. It appears that Rodgers' ego is fragile as his body, and if TT is willing to put one player ahead of the team, well....

I'd add TT's unspoken desire to call the Packers "his" team as another motivation to shed himself of Favre.

Dysfunctional? Whew. How much more "enabling" can the team/TT be than professing to want to protect Favre's legacy, presumably from himself?

TT's statements of Saturday last were based on the reality of the day, namely, Favre's retired. However, if/when Goodall makes Favre an active Packer, TT will be dealing with a new reality.

Wonder what Wolf, from his new Green Bay home, is thinking? His prize acquistion vs his protege. Has he declined comment or have none of the local media asked?

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