Favre's offseason will begin when he finally climbs onto the John Deere and takes time to think. Here's hoping he ponders the following factors and decides in favor of furthering his football career.
1. Blame the media. That's right, we're the bad guys. Sometime after Favre's 30th birthday, talking about Favre's retirement became the thing to do. This topic has been pestering Favre for years, based only on his age and tenure with the team. No one can blame Favre from taking a pass on meeting the post-game press lately. He knew exactly what would happen – he would have to endure reporters rewording the "will he or won't he" question ad naseum, as if on the 50th revision Favre would finally blurt out his final answer. Favre should not be penalized simply for staying with one team since the first Bush administration. When older free agents join new teams, the talk doesn't immediately turn to retirement. Drew Bledsoe signed with Dallas this past season at age 33. Was the first question at his inaugural Cowboys' press conference, and every subsequent press conference, about retirement? I wonder if the press in Denver had John Elway all but registered with the AARP when his career experience hit double-digits. If he had retired at the same age Favre is now the Broncos would still be without a Lombardi Trophy.
Too bad the Bucks' and Brewers' current resurgencies couldn't have come sooner; the world of Wisconsin professional sports hasn't given talking heads much to talk about over the past few years. Monkey-see, monkey-do reporting spiraled Favre's someday retirement into the non-story that wouldn't die long before it was relevant.
2. He is "of sound mind and body." Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Steve Young are all examples of guys who hung it up because they had to. Busted knees, shoulders and Achilles' tendons are not something that even the hardiest QB can tough out. More importantly, Aikman and Young had their bells severely rung so many times that they could no longer make the same physically sound claim that weighs in Favre's favor. Their spirits were willing but their bodies were not. What would their decisions have been if injuries were not a factor.
Packers' GM Ted Thompson wasn't exactly eloquent in Monday's press conference, but one phrase stood out. Thompson stated that Favre had not suffered an injury to his "core." He's had broken thumb here, an ankle bone chip there, but the main cogs are still running like that proverbial well-oiled machine. I imagine that hordes of today's pro players would gladly trade their younger but more broken down bodies for Favre's older but healthier model.
3. Back to the Future: Here's a sentence that I hope is never again heard in the Lambeau Field press box: "Favre's pass incomplete, intended for Ron Gardner." Ron Gardner?? No disrespect intended to Gardner or the other brave souls who had to step up way too far, way too soon – they are merely bit players in the retirement talk drama, but Favre cannot be a top-notch QB without more than one top-notch offensive teammate. He deserves a solid line, a stable of receivers and a running game that can share the load. He also deserves a defense to put the offensive in a position to win. Jim Bates held up his end of the deal with a better-than-expected defense. Injuries stole some of Favre's weapons, but time will restore them. Now it's up to Thompson to demonstrate that he appreciates being handed a future hall-of-famer at the helm. The alternative is the dreaded rebuilding stage, which is another word for planning to lose. If Thompson does his job in convincing Favre to stay and providing him with the support he needs, '06 could feel like '96 in contrast to this past season.
4. Lies, damned lies and statistics: This year's career-high interception mark should not be interpreted as a sign of diminishing skills. It may be a sign of someone's diminishing skills, but probably not Favre's. Routes gone wrong, receivers' unpredictable reactions, and mostly desperate times and desperate measures played a huge role. With no running game and a shockingly shallow stable of receivers, Favre had a choice of Donald Driver or, um, Donald Driver to get the job done. It doesn't take a Fritz Shurmur-type defensive guru to game-plan against that offense. Don't forget the train wreck that is the Packers punting situation. Faced with third and long, heaving up a long pass with a 50 percent chance of being picked off was pretty much as good as a punt.
5. Give the people what they want. Favre doesn't seem like the type to go in for such a thing, but a farewell tour would give fans all over the league one more chance to say that they saw Brett Favre play. Years after he does hang it up, millions more will say they did anyway. The Packers could even retire his number while he's still wearing it. This bitterly disappointing year is no way to finish. If next year ends up 4-12 as well, at least we could go out on a high note of seeing Favre off in the respectful fashion he deserves.
6. He's still having fun. Given Favre's history, this could be the biggest factor of all. We all know the personal loss and stress that Favre has had to deal with in the past two years. He said recently that the reason he came back in '05 was that his wife Deanna advised him to go back and have fun. Unfortunately, it's tough to have fun while a hurricane wipes out your town, a beloved grandmother suffers a stroke and your spouse continues cancer treatment. Maybe '06 can be the year that no personal tragedies befall Favre and he can truly take his wife up on her wise advice.
Is he still having fun? The trademark celebrations say yes, but Favre's quip to Matt Hasselbeck after Sunday's coin toss may be the best evidence of all. Favre took a good-natured and hilarious jab at Hasselbeck, reminding his former teammate of the ill-fated prediction that Seattle would score first when the Packer-Seahawk playoff game went into OT.
If he can still joke around just before his team closes his first-ever losing season, and he can still go out there and fight for it like it was the aforementioned playoff game, then for Brett Favre football is, indeed, still fun.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.