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.

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