Sunday, July 13, 2008

So, Are You a Favre Fan, or a Packer Fan?

As my head has been spinning the past few days, this question has suddenly become one of great importance in the fandom of the Green Bay Packers. For some reason, Packer Nation has divided itself along two party lines: you are either a Packer fan, or a Favre fan.

Now, mind you, the only reason my head has been spinning is because I had a 24-hour stomach flu all day Saturday, which gives you a lot of time in bed to contemplate the true mysteries of life...like Brett Favre, who certainly has made himself more enigmatic as the week has plodded on.

The funny thing about this whole comparison (which isn't a new one for the Favre Critics) is that it implies you either must take the side of Brett Favre or not. What often goes unimplied is that "The Packers" is really Ted Thompson or Aaron Rodgers, for the sake of argument. Since a lot of the recent criticism seems to be Brett vs. Ted, or Brett vs. Aaron, it's ironic how Brett isn't considered a "Packer".

And, of course, its silly. And loud. I like to think that this whole squabble amongst the media and fans in the blogosphere really do mirror the political spectrum. Most people are quiet, thoughtful, and hang around in the middle, looking at all the facts available, acknowledging the positives and negatives that both "sides" have to offer. However, as you follow the fans who have increasingly extreme views, their numbers dwindle, but they get exponentially louder.

For the "Pro-Favre" side, a Pewaukee man has started a website, bringbackbrettfavre.com, promoting Sunday picket lines to Lambeau Field demanding that the Packers bring back Brett Favre. They are offering T-shirts and bumper stickers with "Favre 08" and "Fire Ted Thompson".

The "Pro-Thompsons" and "Pro-Rodgers" folks have a website of their own, retirefavre.com, dedicated to blaming the Giants loss on ol' number 4 and pleading with people to sign their petition to be sent directly to Brett.

As the extremists continue to bellow and rant, it leaves the rational thought to those of us who are willing to not only sift through the facts, but are also willing to see how this plays out before creating our scapegoat.

The Plusses and Minuses of Brett Favre

Certainly, the most easy target of this castigation is Brett, who is looking more and more the patsy as the timelines come out. In short, he retired, began regretting it immediately, communicated it with the coaching staff, who then wanted to reinstate him, only to be told he changed his mind again. Then, with Bus Cook leading the charge, he apparently asked to talk to Ted about playing again, didn't get a reply, then applied for a release. In return, Thompson has refused a release and told Favre that he will have to be a Packer, though not necessarily as a starter.

Many fans have clamored for Favre's return, and their rationale isn't bad, especially when viewed from the perspective of the other 31 teams (particularly those with quarterback issues over the last 17 years). Favre is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who recently enjoyed a renaissance last season with a 13-3 team. The Packers have three quarterbacks on the roster who have never started a game, and only one who has ever played in an NFL game. Many fans and writers of other teams are flabbergasted that the Packers would even hesitate to bring Favre back.

However, the retirement flip-flop is enough to raise concern, not only for Thompson, but for even the most fervent of Favre fans. I do believe that Favre is very emotional about this (as was evident in his retirement press conference) and he is a willow-in-the-wind, getting blown whichever way pushes the hardest.

Seems like when Deanna has his ear, he seems more content with retirement. But, when Bus Cook and Al Jones have his ear (both of whom have something to lose with Favre's departure), he can be led to believe that he can/should return, and that perhaps there are some conspiracies in the works against him.

The fact that Brett himself hasn't spoken yet seems to give this a little more credibility. However, this doesn't excuse his lack of commitment to his decisions, and he's given Ted Thompson every right to handle this with the perceived "lack of respect" that he has. How serious is Favre now? Is this just another emotional roller coaster?

Is Favre hurting his own image or legacy? I've commented on this a dozen times...I don't think he gives a rat's arse about his image or legacy as long as he's playing. And, therin lies the conflict.

Are the Packers a better team with Favre? That's a great question, and a lot of it depends on Aaron Rodgers. If he is as good as McCarthy and Thompson are touting him, then maybe its a good move to go forward without an indecisive old veteran who is going to want his contracted salary.

But, like it or not, Brian Griese, Steve Bono, Jeff Garcia, Quincy Carter, and Jay Fiedler didn't bring any more promise than the guy they replaced, and with the perceived feeling that the Packers are on the cusp of a Super Bowl, Favre brings more instant credibility to such a drive.

But, Favre had his option to be a part of such a drive without all this drama. In fact, he had it twice. So, the problems that he is dealing with now, both in terms of dealing with his contract status and public dissent are his own fault, and it will be up to him to handle it delicately if he truly does wish to play football in 2008.

And, he may want to get a new agent.

The Plusses and Minuses of Ted Thompson

Or, is that "The Packers"? I don't think that I can recall another Packer GM who has come in and been defined as "The Packers". Certainly, I don't think Mike Sherman was. I don't know if Ron Wolf even had that kind of distinction. But, Ted Thompson, somehow, has gotten such a groundswell of support that when it comes to Brett Favre, Ted and his plan for rebuilding the team has become "The Packers".

I don't know how comfortable I am with that. But I digress.

Thompson has been the stoic, Teflon general manager since the day he walked on the job. When fans have decried his quirky drafts, his lack of free agent moves, and his tendency to leave entire squads with barely any experience among them, he has generally ignored it and kept on.

Certainly, I find some respect with that. If you're going to have a plan, stick with it, and live or die with it. Holmgren had that same plan with Brett Favre early in their careers, and true dat, Holmgren lived or died on the decision to stick with him through thick or thin.

Thompson was given a retirement notice in early March, well in time before the draft, and according to reports, tried to encourage Favre to stay. When Favre started to reconsider, Thompson appeared to be open to allowing him to return, but then accepted Favre's flip-flop again.

Thompson has been vocal, along with Mike McCarthy, in his support for the new starter, Aaron Rodgers. After two rebuffs from Favre, he's moved ahead and tried to get this team ready for the next phase.

But, has he? Yes, he took two quarterbacks in the last draft, but one was much like Rodgers, in that he was great value that fell out of the first round and into Thompson's lap. Given Thompson's draft history, that might have been a likely pick whether Favre had retired or not. The Packers again eschewed any major moves in free agency, again passing on Randy Moss, and have left $32,000,000 in salary cap space yet to be used.

It almost looks like Thompson was still keeping space for Favre. Was he?

Thompson is being made out to look like a helpless, hand-wringing putz who has been placed into a "no-win situation" by Favre. I find this insulting to Ted Thompson. It is his job to prepare for all contingencies, and as the 2007 NFL General Manager of the Year, you would expect him to be better prepared than the average general manager.

To presume that Ted Thompson is a victim is a pretty treacherous cut by those who are actually looking to defend him. He's not paid that much money to be a victim, he is paid that much money to handle these situations well. Yes, Favre has given him a difficult hand, but not an impossible hand.

While many celebrated Thompson's refusal to respond to Favre's use of text messages while Thompson was on vacation, one has to think that had he picked up the phone, called Favre, and told him "You have my number, quit texting me. You have my ear, talk to me," much of the subsequent drama might have been avoided. Certainly, Bus Cook wouldn't have been able to say, "Look, Brett! I told you he's out to get you!"

The old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me", and after offering Favre a chance to come out of retirement once, you would think that was strike two. But, that's not the way it works, because at any time Favre changes his mind and follows through, Thompson is stuck with that contract and must accept him on the team or get rid of him.

While I understand the indignation many are feeling about Favre's flippity-floppiness, that's for us to stew about, not Ted. His job is to solve it. His statements on Saturday caused a little bit of concern, in which he implied that Favre would not be traded or released, that he is a Green Bay Packer, and that he would not necessarily be the starter.

A good hard line, but Thompson followed it up with his own tentativeness.

The interview, reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, portrayed a confused Thompson not quite sure what to make of Favre's latest change of heart regarding his playing status.

"We have to go with what's real," Thompson told the Journal Sentinel. "We don't know what the options are right now. We'll talk about it internally. It's all guess work.

"This is a very difficult spot we're in. It's a very volatile situation and we don't have all the answers yet."

Thompson admitted that it's possible that Favre could return to the Packers roster this year, but affirmed that Aaron Rodgers is the club's starting quarterback for 2008. link

If you're going to take a hard line in this situation, perhaps sounding confused and put-upon will help you in the short-term, p.r.-wise. But in the long-term, Thompson may find this particular interview one he wishes he could take back. Why would you say you don't know? Why would you say this is difficult? Why would you say that you're not sure what to do?

If you are going to be defined as "The Packers", I sure hope "The Packers" know what the heck they are doing. No, this isn't easy.

Actually, it is. You decide whether you want this guy as your quarterback, or at least on your roster. Then, if you want him, you tell him so, and if necessary, tell him you'd like him to redo his contract so we can afford him (after all, its the love of the game that is bringing him back) and that he will have to compete for the job. Or, if you want, tell him the starting job is his.

If you don't, you let him know that. You also let him know that there will be strings attached to anything he wants to do to leave Green Bay.

And, you should already know this answer. You should have had this answer in your head from the moment he first indicated to James Campen that he was really fighting with whether or not to come back. You shouldn't be surprised or confused.

So, Favre (or so I like to think, Bus Cook) laid down his cards and Thompson has called his bluff. We fans are all wrestling with the thoughts of Favre playing for us next year, to Rodgers whining and leaving the team, to Favre playing for the Vikings.

None of which has happened yet. No, it hasn't been pretty, and both sides certainly could have handled it better, but until there is really some finality to all of this, maybe we should all settle down and see how it shakes out before we castrate the quarterback or the general manager.

But, in the end, we're all Packer fans. Right?

4 comments:

Bob Head said...

Excellent blog. I write a blog as well and had a very similar take on the situation. It is refreshing to see someone else keep an open mind and not feel the need to pick a side and angrily stand by it.

LosAngelis said...

Thanks much, bob.

I think we're all going to look back at this not too long from now and some folks are going to be a bit embarrassed about how they reacted.

I know when Sherman was fired, I was pretty upset at Thompson, and in retrospect, while my feelings wouldn't have been any different, I do regret shooting from the hip, knee, and nearly any other joint I had.

Older, wiser...call it what you will. Maybe its just the realization that I have a family to take care of and that takes a little priority over stressing out about this kind of stuff.

thevegas66 said...

You certainly do have a way with words. Excellent, excellent, excellent article, as always. It's always nice to hear your view on things, as I respect it all the time and agree with it, most of the time.

Have you written professionally at all?

LosAngelis said...

LOL, nope...kind of honed it on PackerChatters for a while and found I like writing longer pieces than the "chuck and duck" you get too often on forums.

Wouldn't mind a side job, though. You hiring? ;-)