Packers coach Mike Sherman has made it clear in recent weeks that he intends to play Brett Favre through the end of the season. At 2-10 with four games to play, Sherman needs to seriously consider beginning the 2006 training camp this week and give Aaron Rodgers some meaningful playing time in this Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.
Let's face it, Favre is struggling with his decisions and, at times, his accuracy. It's a fact that he is moving the offense up and down the field, as he did in Sunday's 19-7 loss to the Chicago Bears. However, he's not helping the Packers score points, and he's letting the team down with some ill-advised decisions at crucial points in the game. For example, in a fourth-and-one situation in the first quarter, Favre declined to run for a first down when it appeared it was within easy reach. He instead opted to pass to tight end Donald Lee, but threw the ball well behind Lee, and the Packers' drive ended on Chicago's 34.
Late in the first half, he opted not to go with the called shovel pass and instead tried to throw the ball away toward Robert Ferguson in the end zone. The only problem is the pass was underthrown and fell right into the hands of cornerback Charles Tillman, who took off in the other direction. The Bears got a field goal in the final seconds of the half and used the "swing" to take a 9-7 lead. Late in the game, Favre was way off the mark on a pass to Donald Driver, and his pass was intercepted by Nathan Vasher, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
Favre has all the physical ability to lead the Packers to victories, but for whatever reason, he's in a slump. That's fine. It happens to the best of athletes. So why not give him a break at the most opportune time of the season? Like now. Besides pride, the Packers have nothing else to play for. Sherman could treat the remaining four games like a preseason schedule and start Favre, but allow Rodgers to play one or two quarters. This gives Favre time to snap out of his funk, and it gives the Packers a chance to evaluate Rodgers in regular season conditions.
Just because Rodgers was a highly regarded quarterback coming out of college doesn't mean he will do well in the NFL. He has a good arm and should have a good understanding of the offense by this point in the season, but we'll never know until he gets into a real game. If Favre decides to retire this off-season, the Packers head into 2006 with Rodgers at the helm, but he'll have no hands-on experience. Playing Rodgers now is a win-win situation. The Packers learn more about their top draft pick while giving their veteran quarterback a break.
The Packers have gone with Vonta Leach ahead of William Henderson at fullback. They're using rookie Mike Montgomery more on base downs instead of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. They went with rookie Will Whitticker and second-year pro Scott Wells at the guard positions ahead of other veterans. Why not begin addressing the most important position on the team?! It's one thing for a quarterback to be playing in the preseason surrounded by players on his own team and the opponent's team who will be cut before Labor Day. It's another thing to be playing when the games count.
The Packers have absolutely nothing to lose and all to gain by playing Rodgers in the final four games. Favre has clearly struggled this season. With the exception of a few games, the veteran has thrown more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (19). Favre needs a break, and now is the perfect time to give Rodgers some valuable experience.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.