Bates is gone; is Favre next?

Latest change could push quarterback over the edge

"In the National Football League, as I've had the opportunity to take different jobs, you're either purchasing the dream house, or building the dream house. My last two opportunities were building programs … I think the situation I'm walking into here, clearly, we're purchasing a dream home. Now, we might knock down a few walls and give all the rooms a fresh coat of paint, but this definitely is not a rebuilding process." — Mike McCarthy, new Packers coach.

"Bring in the wrecking ball!" — Ted Thompson, Packers general manager.

The second quotation isn't real, but it might as well be. Thompson is wasting no time putting his personal imprint on the team this off-season. After suffering through one long, losing season, Thompson has guided a renovation big enough to make Bob Vila proud.

Not surprisingly, the firing of Mike Sherman and the hiring of McCarthy has caused the most far-reaching aftershocks. The aftershocks may very well end with the retirement of Brett Favre.

First, it must be said Thompson's job is to turn the Green Bay Packers into winners. It's not Thompson's job to make Favre happy. Nor is it Thompson's job to make decisions with the sole intent being to prevent Favre from retiring.

With that said, Thompson must have considered the following: Hiring McCarthy over Jim Bates would likely mean Bates would not return as Packers defensive coordinator. If Bates isn't defensive coordinator, the Packers' 2006 season by definition has to be a rebuilding season, since it's impossible to believe a 4-12 team can return to the playoffs with the defense learning another new playbook, the offense line — minus longtime line coach Larry Beightol — learning a new scheme and the skill-position players learning McCarthy's version of the West Coast offense.

Favre has said that he wants nothing to do with a rebuilding football team. Is there any doubt the Packers are rebuilding?

Favre isn't saying anything, but he must be taking a keen interest in all the changes coming out of Green Bay. The hiring of McCarthy had more to do with Aaron Rodgers than with himself. Thompson has said there will be no quick-fix improvements in free agency. Building through the draft is probably the right plan for the Packers, but it doesn't do a bit of good for Favre, who won't be here to see those draft picks pay dividends in two, three or four years.

At least if Bates were on board in some capacity, Favre could hang his hat on the defense. If the defense could make another couple steps forward and the offense could get healthy enough to at least be middle of the pack, perhaps the Packers could capitalize on what appears to be an easy schedule.

Bates isn't coming back, though, which should come as no surprise. The Hate Thompson crowd is blaming the GM for Bates' decision to quit, but there's no reason to point fingers when Bates' own explanation makes the most sense.

"I want to give Mike the opportunity to pick those guys that he has worked with over the years and built relationships with," Bates said. "I didn't want to step in his way and not be 100 percent committed to do what I need to do as defensive coordinator."

Bates said he put himself in McCarthy's shoes and saw how awkward the situation could become. Yeah, especially if the Packers are off to another dismal start. The pressure will be building on McCarthy, and having the runner-up for his job pacing the sideline, for all of Packers Nation to see every week, will only increase the heat.

That heat is now going to be thrust on Thompson. If Favre sees the situation — new coach, some changes to offense, fourth defensive coordinator in as many years, no big-time help coming via free agency — as hopeless as most Packers fans see it, then the next time we'll see Favre live on television, it will be him delivering his retirement speech. And the decision to leave by Bates, triggered by Thompson passing him over as head coach, will be the coup de grace.

Wrecking ball, indeed.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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