Favre Returns to the Home He Helped Build

The Packers were a "dormant" franchise for more than two decades until Brett Favre led a renaissance. Now, the small-market Packers are one of the league's crown jewels. "What we did I know is very special," Favre said.

Favre addresses the fans during Saturday’s ceremony at Lambeau Field.

Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field, aka “The House That Favre Built,” for Saturday night’s Packers Hall of Fame induction.

Think about the state of the Green Bay Packers. From 1968, the first season after Vince Lombardi stepped down, to 1991, the year before Favre was acquired from Atlanta for a first-round pick, the Packers had just four winning seasons – never winning more than 10 games – and reached the postseason only twice.

In 16 seasons with Favre as the starting quarterback, the Packers had only one season with a losing record, recorded more than 10 wins seven times and reached the postseason 11 times – including two NFC championships and one Super Bowl crown.

Because of the success started with Favre at the helm, then-team President Bob Harlan was able to persuade the people of Brown County to foot the bill for $160 million of the $295 million Lambeau Field renovation. Even with the Packers being one of the league’s elite teams and led by one of the league’s most popular players, the vote passed by just a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. It was a critical moment in franchise history. With capacity increasing by more than 12,000 and with more suites to give revenue another boost, the smallest-of-the-small-market Packers joined the league’s high rollers. That’s given the team the financial war chest to remain a perennial contender.

“It’s great to welcome him, really, great for the organization,” team President Mark Murphy said on Saturday. “It’s also historic in that this is the first time in our history that we have inducted somebody into the Hall of Fame and retired their number at the same time. Obviously, Brett has meant so much to the organization over the years. I think back over my long involvement with the NFL going back to the 1970s, I really can’t think of a player that has had a larger impact on a team or an organization than Brett Favre has. He’s obviously very, very deserving of this honor.”

Harlan echoed those sentiments. Harlan hired Ron Wolf as general manager late in the 1991 season. Wolf then hired Mike Holmgren as coach and acquired Favre. Because of them, what Harlan called a “dormant” franchise roared back to life.

“Our fans were actually giving up on our future,” Harlan said. “Once Ron Wolf came to town and took charge of this football operation, he hires Mike as coach, sends a first-round draft choice to Atlanta for Brett, signs Reggie White. The character and dignity were restored to this franchise immediately. We started winning right away.

“Thanks to those three gentlemen for what they started in 1992 and what Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are doing today, after having a 24-year period where we were down and dormant and mediocre, we’re going into year No. 24 of being a team that’s a contender every year and has one of the best winning percentages in the NFL. I appreciate Brett as the greatest competitor I ever saw play and his passion and enthusiasm reminded me of a kid on the sand lot. Great leader, great competitor and has to be regarded as the greatest player we’ve ever had.”

Favre, who curiously chose to wear a light purple shirt for the event, called all the fuss “embarrassing.” He continually deflected the credit to Wolf, Holmgren and his teammates. Regardless, Favre watched the franchise go from the outhouse to the penthouse. With Favre, Lambeau Field went from an historic but out-of-date facility to arguably the best venue in the league and the equivalent of an ATM for the Packers to continually improve their facilities and retain the talent needed to stay on top.

“I haven’t really thought a lot about it,” Favre said of his legacy. “I think as time goes by that will become more and more important. I found that, much like all of us, I’m sure, as you get older, you find that things that you thought really mattered at a younger age don’t matter at all. Things that you worry about at 21, at 45 you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what an idiot.’ You’re kind of worried about things that are of importance that day or that week and you don’t really think about legacy or long-term things until later on.

“What we did I know is very special. It’s not four Super Bowls but, in my mind, it’s equally important because, as Bob said, it was a resurgence, if you will, of this organization. It was always really a great organization, but it just kind of got, I don’t want to say boring, but everyone was sort of used to being OK, at best. I heard the Lombardi years, the glory days, I heard that so many times because that’s what you had to hold onto. Taking nothing away from what those guys did back then (because) really, if anything, it’s much respect to them that that’s all you had to talk about. For us to be able to be a part in turning that around and all of a sudden now you’re just sort of used to winning. The fear is you don’t get too used to winning. You stay hungry and that’s the key. That’s what Mark’s up against. But I take pride in that everyone’s just kind of used to winning now. That’s not a bad thing and we were the ones that kind of started that off.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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