As many Packer bloggers have realized, if you want to get a little traffic to your blog, you may as well post an obligatory Favre post. So, here's mine.
The yearly sabbatical of an NFL head coach to Hattieburg, MS, has already begun, as Vikings coach Brad Childress has suddenly realized how difficult handling Brett Favre really is. But this article isn't about what we already know and have scoffed at: it's not about the desperation of the Vikings throwing more money at Favre, or determining whether or not he is really injured, or the he-said/she-said of who is texting or sexting.
This is about The Favre Rules, a code that Favre has established for his coaches and general managers to follow over the years, and one that the Vikings are following to a T.
You see, Favre's hesitation isn't about money, so the extra coin that the Vikes are throwing at him is irrelevant (although, if Favre accepts it, I will have lost any residual respect I have for him).
It isn't about injury, because Favre has already demonstrated how much he will play through pain.
As much as folks will disagree, I don't think it has that much to do with Favre needing to keep his name in the press. I don't think it is that important to him, at least not from a media or fan perspective.
What it does revolve around is Favre's "Keith Jackson-itis", his intent desire to miss as much of training camp as possible, yet still be welcomed back with open arms. And, from Jackson's mid-season glorious return in the Super Bowl year of 1996, The Favre Rules have evolved.
The critical piece of the puzzle: the Vikings have kept a roster spot open for Favre. This little detail amidst all the retirement denials and text messages is actually the key to the whole enchilada.
Favre has an incessant (if not irrational) need to be wanted and respected, regardless of his actions. This is a seed that was planted when Mike Sherman started the annual tradition of catering to Favre each offseason, and Favre tested to see how far he could push it. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy continued the tradition for three offseasons themselves, each time holding that roster spot open and publicly professing their desire to have Favre back in the fold.
When Thompson and McCarthy "broke" the Favre Rules in the offseason of 2008, the former Packer quarterback showed his displeasure, if not disbelief. The Packers were supposed to beg him to come back. There was more truth in the tears Favre showed at his now-infamous retirement announcement: he wasn't sad about leaving the game, but making a public plea for the Packers to realize how much they had hurt his feelings, to pressure the fans to make them change their minds.
The Vikings could have hung unto their money. Favre would be due eight figures this year, and that's more than enough to ensure his continued endorsements for Sears and Wrangler. Whether he's making $11 million or $20 million this season isn't why he's laying low in Mississippi while the rest of the team is sweating it out during two-a-days.
It's a clever dance that Favre proposes each offseason, one that is carefully laid to allow him the longest stretch of time to repeat the pattern of Keith Jackson, who took off all of training camp and half the season before joining the Packers as a celebrated hero. It's an attitude that we can certainly cast stones at Favre for having. But, Frankenstein's Monster was created by Frankenstein, and Favre has been conditioned to have his own set of rules, to see exactly how far he can push the boundaries. Who was the greater evil, Frankenstein or the monster?
He has failed only once, when McCarthy and Thompson finally drew the line after 2008. Before you congratulate them on their hard stance, don't forget they played the same enabling game as Mike Sherman for two years before that.
Peter King has intoned that he believes that Favre will not show up for all of training camp, and that the Week 4 bye week should be circled by those watching intently. I don't doubt him. I could easily see Favre waiting it out, allowing Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson to make Viking fans pine for Favre even more, and showing up after the Week 3 Lions game as the late-arriving hero.
Most Packer fans have already given up their allegiance to Favre, and are enjoying mocking the Vikings for dealing with this drama. But, even Packer fans must admit: the Vikings are still a better team with Favre than without, and until that changes (as it did for the Packers in 2008), Favre will still be allowed to play by his Rules.
And the Rules are very simple: continue to show Favre his "respect" by essentially burning a candle for his safe return, leaving the roster spot and starting position open, and publicly and privately reassure him that whenever he's ready to return, he's wanted.
Someday, former teammates will publish books about how the Favre Rules played out amongst teammates and in the locker room. But, right now, Rule #1 is pretty clear.