Viewpoint: Packers should pick a QB high in draft

Perhaps Packers fans take Brett Favre for granted. It's not that we don't appreciate his excellence. It's just that Favre has been so good for so long that a great performance is expected every week. For 12 seasons now, Favre has delivered Hall-of-Fame caliber performances for the Green and Gold. It is no coincidence that the Packers have not had a losing season since Favre became the club's starting quarterback.<p>

But every once in a while, Packer fans have to remember that we've been spoiled. Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks don't come along every day and Favre won't play forever. Case in point, the Packers went 21 seasons between the time Bart Starr retired (1971) and when Favre arrived in Titletown in 1992. In between, quarterbacks like Scott Hunter, Jerry Tagge, David Whitehurst, Jim Zorn and Randy Wright were mediocre at best. The Packers had exactly three winning seasons in non-strike years during that time.

Favre is 34 years old and although he clearly is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he is also on the downside of his glorious career. For the past two seasons, Favre has engaged in a very public debate as to whether or not he would retire from pro football. It seems that as long as football is still fun to Favre and the Packers remain competitive, he will consider continuing his NFL career.

Favre has committed himself to play for the Pack in 2004, but beyond that, there are no guarantees. His body has taken a terrific pounding in the 208 consecutive regular season and post season contests he has started and he is physically wearing down.

With so many potential franchise quarterbacks available this year and Favre's career winding down, the Packers should use one of their first two picks on a quarterback this year. The quality of quarterbacks goes down after the first five (including Henson) and the Packers should try to get one of them. By selecting a quarterback now, the Packers will allow their young heir apparent to learn the complex offense in a low pressure environment so that when the day comes when Favre hangs them up, the Packers will be ready.

There are a number of reasons the Packers should select a quarterback high in the draft. First, this year is a banner year for rookie QBs. There could be as many as four quarterbacks selected in the first round of this year's draft including Mississippi's Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger of Miami of Ohio, Philip Rivers of North Carolina State and Tulane's J.P. Losman. The man making the decisions, Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman has said, "This is a good year for quarterbacks. There are a number of them out there. I think this is one of the stronger years. I think there's a good chance we could add a quarterback through the draft." The buzz around the NFL is that the Packers are impressed by Losman and are seriously considering selecting him with the 25th selection in the first round.

The wild card in all this is a potential franchise quarterback who has not played football in three years, former University of Michigan signal caller Drew Henson. The Houston Texans hold the rights to Henson, who has spent his time playing minor league baseball in the Yankees organization. Once scouts discovered that Henson couldn't hit a curve ball consistently, Henson was bought out of his contract by George Steinbrenner and decided to return to football. The asking price for Henson is rumored to be a second round pick with incentives that could go higher depending on Henson's performance. The Packers are intrigued by Henson as Green Bay's coach and GM Mike Sherman was one of only two NFL head coaches present at a workout the Texans held for their most available commodity in early February. By trading for Henson, the Packers could draft their QB of the future and still have a first round pick in this year's draft to select a player to provide immediate help elsewhere. If the Texans are unable to sign or trade Henson before the draft, he will re-enter the draft and be eligible to be selected by any team.

The second reason this is the time to bring in Favre's heir apparent is that he can learn by watching Favre. Being Favre's backup has been a ticket to starting elsewhere in the NFL for many, like Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks.

Hasselbeck recalled his first day with the Packers when then quarterbacks coach Andy Reid told the rookie some of the things he could learn from Favre. "Watch his leadership style in the huddle," Hasselbeck recalled Reid saying. "Watch how he is with his teammates in the locker room. Watch how he has the ability to intimidate the opponent, kind of take the wind out of their sails."

Hasselbeck also remembered another lesson he acquired from observing Favre every day in practice for two seasons. "One of the things I learned from Brett is you have to play with intensity and passion and a fire inside. You've got to let your emotions drive you a little bit."

These are among the invaluable things an impressionable rookie can learn from one of the games' all-time great quarterbacks. It is the reason the Packers should acquire their quarterback of the future now and bring him along slowly, rather than rush him into action with the immediate pressure of being Favre's successor.

As hard as it is to believe for Packers fans, soon, the post-Brett Favre era will begin in Green Bay. It's now up to Mike Sherman to show he is prepared to meet that challenge.

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