Analysis: Reading sign language

Note: This is part one of a two part analysis on Favre's future. Part I: Trying to read the signs. Part II: Why Favre must stay.

The 4-12 season is in the books, ending as pleasantly as could be expected with a win over the Seahawks and Papa Holmgren on the visitors' sideline. With nothing to gain nor lose for either team, the season finale had the look and feel of an exhibition game. The afternoon was not measured in points, yards and downs. Instead, it was spent trying to interpret every nuance of Favre's performance as we look for answers to a question bigger than the new coach.

Will he or won't he? Favre was as fired up as ever, reasoning with officials, jawing at a wayward teammate on a crucial down, characterically celebrating at every opportunity. Does this mean that Favre is obviously still having fun and will be back? Or does it mean that he is savoring every moment of what he knows to be his swan song?

What about the emotional moment he shared with former coach Holmgren at midfield? Did Holmgren say goodbye to his former protégé, or did he offer more encouraging words about Favre's football future like the ones the coach used to describe the QB in a nationally televised interview this week? Favre walked off the field to a thunderous ovation, graciously acknowledging the fans. This is impossible to interpret because of the Packers' winning ways over the past decade-plus. This was one of exactly two times that Favre has exited for the final time in a season with a smile on his face, and these two instances couldn't have been more dramatically different. The first was in the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 26, 1997. The second was Sunday. In between, the end came on a devastating post-season loss or with the hopes that the impossible would happen and the Packers would play on. Favre chose not to speak at the post-game press conference Sunday and issued a statement apologizing for any inconvenience. Cornerback Al Harris said that the team had awarded Favre the game ball, and that emotions were running high. With a couple of previous no-shows, the bad season in the books and his family in tow for the holidays, it wasn't a shocking development. But Favre is ever eloquent and usually has a lot more to say than his former coach, so rather than an inconvenience, Favre's absence was more of a sad disappointment for the waiting reporters.

Another sign. Did his unwillingness to appear before the press reveal that he's finished with the part of his career that most players dislike the most? Favre has rarely shied away. He bravely faced the media before and after rehab, after every type of football loss and even after losses of a much bigger and much more personal nature. So I don't think that he'd turn his back now.

The less-than-warm words of Ted Thompson in Monday's press conference announcing Sherman's firing definitely do not bode well for those of us who can't bear to imagine the Packers without Favre just yet. Thompson offered little hope, claimed he did not discuss the future of the team with Favre and said that would not be appropriate to do so with a player. He said that as if Favre, Vonte Leach and Ahmad Carroll all have an equal stake in what's going on.

Does this mean that Favre is not part of Thompson's plans or that Thompson is simply not a gifted communicator. What we need now is for Bob Harlan to come in an say something to make us all feel better about the team, and about Favre's importance. Favre is an emotional guy who has given his mind, body and soul to the Green Bay Packers. He can react anyway he wants to the sad ending of a season or the end of a coach's tenure and it doesn't mean he is leaving the game behind.

No matter how one interprets all the signs sent out Sunday, I still believe that Favre will return. He is physically better prepared to play than many quarterbacks several years younger. As the 40-something Doug Flutie drop kicked an extra point Sunday, Favre should know that age is irrelevant.

The selection of a new coach will go a long way to decide Favre's future. I'm waiting to hear the words "Welcome back to Green Bay, coach Mariucci!" Then we'll know for sure.

Tomorrow: Part II – Why Favre must stay.

Laura Veras Marran

Note: Laura Veras Marran was raised in Green Bay and is a longtime sports writer from Kenosha, Wis. E-mail her at

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