For the Green Bay Packers, the trip to Canton, Ohio, for the Hall of Fame Game will be a business trip. But watching Brett Favre’s enshrinement the night before the game is on Ted Thompson’s itinerary.
“We’re certainly hoping to make it and we think we will by hook or by crook,” Thompson said on Friday morning.
Ron Wolf was hired by the Packers as general manager on Nov. 27, 1991, Wolf, in turn, hired Thompson as a scout on Jan. 17, 1992. “My birthday,” Thompson pointed out. By that point, Wolf was hot on the trail of Favre, the strong-armed quarterback from Southern Mississippi who the Falcons had drafted in the second round in 1991.
Not long into Thompson’s tenure, Wolf told Thompson to watch the film of that wild, untamed quarterback who languished on the Falcons’ bench for almost all of his rookie season.
“He wanted to me watch him,” Thompson recalled. “He left me in a dark room and I watched some of it and he comes back in and he goes, ‘Well, what do you think?’ And I said, ‘What do you think?’ And he goes, ‘I like him, I think I’m going to trade a No. 1 for him.’ I said, ‘I think you ought to do that.’ None of which he was listening to me. He didn’t need any help.”
What did Thompson tell Wolf?
“I hadn’t been Ron very long but I’d been around Ron long enough to know that he wanted an answer that was tilted in a certain direction and so I was perfectly glad to tilt in that direction,” Thompson said.
But a first-round draft pick for a quarterback who went 0-for-4 with two interceptions as a rookie? Did Thompson think Wolf was out of his mind?
“I wasn’t smart enough to think, ‘You’re crazy,’” Thompson said. “It was, ‘Whatever you say, Ron.’ But it turned out really good and one of the great trades of all-time, probably.”
On Feb. 11, Wolf pulled the trigger on a deal that will end with Favre’s enshrinement on Aug. 6. Favre’s potential for greatness was evident from the start.
“I can remember all that stuff and I’m sure you guys can, too,” Favre said. “We lost the Tampa game (in Week 2 of the 1992 season) and he played a little bit in that game and he was the ‘Crazy Brett’ in that game. There was ‘Crazy Brett’ always around somewhere – I mean that in a loving way.”
The following week, against Cincinnati, Favre replaced an injured Don Majkowski and famously threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor.
“He’s running around at like the 40-yard line with his helmet off and he’s twirling his helmet like a baton,” Thompson recalled, “and he throws it up in the air and I’m on the sideline watching the game and I’m sitting there thinking he’s our only holder left and the game was tied so we had to kick an extra point and our holder just threw his helmet halfway across the field. So, we had to get all of that squared away. It’s always fun.”
Favre won one Super Bowl and three MVP awards with the Packers, and rewrote the franchise and NFL record books during a legendary tenure with the team. It all ended with a bitter divorce between the 2007 and 2008 seasons, with Favre dealt to the Jets and eventually working his way into two years with the rival Vikings. The relationship has been mended, though, with Favre set to return for the Oct. 16 game against Dallas, when he'll have his name unveiled alongside the team's other Hall of Famers on the Lambeau Field facade.
“I think it’s important for the organization and the player to be in a good place,” Thompson said. “For me, it’s a selfish thing, it’s like I’ve said before, we never had a cross word and still haven’t. But circumstances put us all in situations that we were uncomfortable with. I think that happens in life. Life throws you curve balls sometimes and sometimes you think you’re doing the right thing and maybe you’re not, or vice versa. For my small part in the relationship angle in terms of Brett and the Green Bay Packers and stuff, I’m glad that part is over with.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.