The Last Go Around?

While the Bears are on a tremendous upswing, it appears an era is coming to an end in Green Bay.

Provided he still has a job himself, Packers coach Mike Sherman implied Wednesday that he will get an answer out of Brett Favre regarding his intentions for next season before the quarterback repairs to his Mississippi home following the Jan. 1 season finale.

"He and I will sit down immediately after the season and discuss that," Sherman said.

Favre deliberated on his tractor for more than two months following the completion of last season before announcing he would return for a 14th year of directing the Green Bay offense. The organization can't afford to be so accommodating and patient with its star attraction in the ensuing off-season, what with the damage control that requires immediate attention in the wake of a horrendous season.

Favre is admittedly frustrated by all the adversity and turmoil that has factored into the 3-11 record the Packers will take into their Christmas Day home game against NFC North-leading Bears.

Yet as he has been peppered with an array of questions aimed at getting him to drop a hint about his future plans, Favre held his ground. He continues to say that the dubious outcome of this season won't be the basis for his decision.

"More than anything, do I want to play?" Favre said. "There's no guarantee next year will be better or worse (from a team standpoint). No one knows that. We run the risk of having the same situation. I don't know what we're going to do personnel-wise, and it's not for me to decide. My commitment has to be to myself and how much am I willing to give to this team."

The uncertainty of what lies ahead for the Packers - what with Sherman's job security not guaranteed and 16 players due to become unrestricted free agents - could ultimately be what drives Favre away.

He rededicated himself last off-season to get in shape and undertook an intensive workout program at home so he would have the stamina to continue to make plays. All of those well-intended efforts went for naught, however, because early-season injuries to key offensive players doomed the Packers to their first losing season since Favre's arrival in 1992.

Of course, Favre has exacerbated matters by trying to overcompensate for the substantial losses that left him with not much of a supporting cast. His 24 interceptions are a career high, and his 73.1 passer rating is threatening his single-season nadir of 72.2 in 1993.

Favre has been his own worst enemy in the last eight games, in which his interceptions (16) are more than triple that of his touchdowns (five). His passer rating in the span is an abysmal 58.1.

He's in the throes of his first three-game streak without a TD pass and is coming off the utter embarrassment of a 48-3 loss at Baltimore on Monday.

Sherman pulled a struggling Favre at the end of the third quarter in favor of rookie heir apparent Aaron Rodgers.

Now, at age 36, Favre must decide whether it would be worth his time to jump off the tractor in a few months if there's no assurances a youth-laden team can quickly turn it around.

"What direction they want to go in next year, what direction I want to go in, we'll cross that bridge when the off-season comes," Favre acknowledged.

Favre has a 21-6 record against the Bears over his career, which is one big reason no one associated with the franchise will be sad to see him walk away from the game when it happens.

"I'm kind of happy if it is his last game, and if not, you hate to see a guy like that go," said MLB Brian Urlacher of Favre. "But that's the way this league is. You play and then you're done. That's the way it works."

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