Commentary: Couch adds intrigue to training camp

So on Saturday, like everyone else in Green Bay judging by the lines, I was shopping at a warehouse sale held by one of the city's major furniture stores. The Packers got a jump on the rest of us and got their Couch earlier in the week.

The addition of Tim Couch will be the storyline when training camp opens Aug. 2.

Obviously, Brett Favre is the starter. About the only thing that's certain beyond that is undrafted rookie Scott McBrien should probably be polishing his resume, because he ain't going to be here once the season opens.

From there, it's three quarterbacks battling for two spots. And that's where the intrigue is.

You'd figure Couch will make the team if he shows anything during camp and the preseason. With the Packers selecting near the end of each round year after year, quarterbacks with Couch's tools just aren't available. And getting a player with his skill and experience at such a young age and low price is unheard of. But what if Craig Nall is lights out during training camp? What if he shreds opposing defenses during the preseason? Would the Packers decide Nall is their quarterback of the future, making the Couch experiment null and void?

Let's assume, however, Couch makes the team, because that is the likely scenario. Now it's Nall vs. Doug Pederson for the final quarterback spot on the roster. Nall, of course, has the higher upside just because of his youth. He was impressive during the recent minicamp. Pederson, however, is the experienced veteran. When pressed into duty against the Redskins in 2002, he was excellent. Because they are close to the same age, Pederson and Favre have some common ground. On a team in which so many of the top players are so young, that's important for Favre. But beyond all of that, Pederson is someone Favre trusts. And as Favre has said, Pederson isn't afraid to tell Favre what he doesn't want to hear. That's invaluable. Darrell Bevell may be a quality quarterbacks coach, but he hasn't seen or done half of what Pederson has experienced.

So what do you do if you are Mike Sherman the head coach? What do you do if you are Mike Sherman the general manager?

Sherman the coach keeps Favre, Couch and Pederson because those are his best three quarterbacks and because Pederson is someone Favre likes and trusts.

Sherman the general manager, however, has to think about other things. If he keeps Favre, Couch and Pederson, Nall almost certainly will be grabbed by another team in a heartbeat. If Couch winds up taking a starting job somewhere else next off-season, then the Packers would be back at Square One in their search for the heir to Favre.

Let's fast forward to February. The ultimate scenario is Favre leads the Packers to a victory in the Super Bowl and, his legacy as an all-time top-five quarterback etched into granite, rides off into the sunset atop his lawn mower. In that case, Couch almost certainly signs a long-term contract with the Packers and everything is solved.

Or Favre, still close to the top of his game, promises Sherman he'll play for another couple of years, in which case Couch signs elsewhere and the pursuit of the quarterback of the future can wait.

There are, of course, other scenarios. And this is when things really get interesting. For instance, Favre loves what he's doing and says he's coming back for 2005. His play in 2004, however, showed clear signs of deterioration. More than once when faced with unexpected pressure off the edge, Favre just threw it up for grabs. Couch, meanwhile, tells Sherman that he wants to stay but he has an offer to start on a playoff-caliber team. Now what?

Does Sherman say so long to Couch, knowing Favre won't be any better in 2005? Would the ever-loyal Sherman ever consider releasing Favre for the long-term good of the team? Eight years of Couch obviously would be better than another year or two of a fading Favre.

Under that not entirely far-fetched scenario, here's what Sherman would have to consider. The 2004 season was Super Bowl or bust for this Packers team. The juggernaut offensive line came back intact. In fact, all 11 offensive starters returned. Ahman Green was at the pinnacle of his game. Favre still had game. The defense wasn't great — regardless of how the Mike McKenzie situation worked out — but it was good enough to win with because of the explosive offense. If they didn't win it all in 2004, Sherman probably would realize they likely wouldn't win it all in 2005, either.

That's because the offensive line is sure to lose at least one of the starters, likely Pro Bowler Marco Rivera. Favre is getting older. Green can't possibly keep up his extraordinary level of play simply because of all the punishment he's taken and given out over the years. The Packers might not have to rebuild in 2005, but they will have to embark on a large renovation project.

Going with Couch over Favre certainly would usher in that new era, and clearing Favre's salary would help accelerate things. But if Sherman never wins a Super Bowl here, a couple generations of fans would only remember Sherman as "the guy who got rid of Favre." How would you like that on your tombstone?

Huber is a writer for the Packer Report and a copy editor at The Green Bay News-Chronicle, where this commentary originally was published. Contact him via e-mail at

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