Although I believe Favre is sincere about being torn about his future, I can't believe that the Packers organization would ever allow Favre to go to another organization. If Favre decides to retire, well, that's fine. See you in Canton, Brett. But trading him or releasing him should not be an option.
Let us take a stroll down memory lane, especially if you are a fan of Wisconsin sports teams. The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship in 1971 behind the brilliant play of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor. Alcindor had help from Oscar Robertson and others to be sure, but it was Alcindor that was the cornerstone of the franchise. The Bucks should have won SEVERAL NBA championships instead of just one. They did come close in 1974 with Jabbar at center, but lost to the Boston Celtics in game seven of the NBA finals. Had the Bucks been completely healthy that series, they most likely would have had their second NBA title. That was as close as the Bucks have ever come to a championship again.
Abdul-Jabbar was a 6 time NBA MVP. He was the best player in the league for many years. So what did the Milwaukee Bucks do? They traded him in 1975. They claimed they made the trade because Kareem wanted out of Milwaukee. Kareem was a native New Yorker that had played his college ball in another big town in Los Angeles at UCLA. Kareem wanted to go to a city that was more appealing to his social needs. The Bucks said trading him was the classy thing to do. It was also the STUPID thing to do. The Bucks traded Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers for a number of players, including Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters. Two pretty good players, but no Jabbar. All Jabbar did with the Lakers was win 5 more NBA titles. Meanwhile, although the Bucks have had some good squads, the team has never made it back to the NBA finals since Jabbar left. I'm sure Jabbar would have been unhappy had the Bucks not traded him. Tough! The Bucks should have found other ways to make Kareem happy. It's called open communication.
General manager Sal Bando of the Milwaukee Brewers didn't communicate very well with Paul Molitor after the 1992 season. Molitor had just come off another stellar season with the Brewers in 1992 as the Brew Crew almost won the American League East title as the squad finished just behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Molitor was the guy who made the Brewers offense go. He was a future Hall of Famer. He was the straw the stirred the Brewers' drink, with apologies to Robin Yount. Yount was superman, but Molly was the igniter. So what does Bando do after the 92 season? He offers Molitor a pay cut. A pay cut! Bando hadn't just slapped Molly across the face with his pay cut offer, he hit him with a two-by-four. Then at the last minute he tried to offer arbitration to Molitor, but the damage was done as Molly joined the Blue Jays as a free agent. All Molitor did was lead the Blue Jays to a World Series title in 1993. Yes, you guessed it. Molly was the World Series MVP. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers have not had a winning season since Molitor left Milwaukee.
Luckily for the Brewers, Yount decided to remain a lifetime Brewer. From 1974-1993, Yount led the Brewers first at shortstop and then in centerfield, winning two league MVPs. Yount and Molitor also led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant. They lost the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Most observers agree that the Brewers would have won the Series had pitcher Rollie Fingers been healthy and available. Fingers wasn't healthy and the Brewers bullpen had issues in the Series. Yount and Molitor did what they could for the team in the Series as Yount hit over .400 and Molly hit .355, including a World Series record 5 hits in one game. Yount had his chances in free agency to leave the Brewers after 1982, but decided to stay in the town that had adopted "Rockin" Robin. Yount's loyalty was and is a rare thing in pro sports. Players and teams part company as often as most people change socks. Where is the loyalty? You just don't see too many Robin Younts out there anymore.
The Packers need to send the same message to the fans of the organization and to Favre. The message is: "Brett, we love you and want you back. But if you decide to retire, then we thank you for your time in Green Bay. You will go down as this proud organization's greatest player ever. One thing is for sure however, you will retire a Green Bay Packer. We cannot and will not allow you to play for another NFL franchise. Yes, we know you played your rookie year for the Atlanta Falcons. So technically you did not spend your entire career in Green Bay. Brett, you are the FACE of the Green Bay Packers. We can't let you move on like the Jets let Namath move on. Or the Colts let Unitas move on. Or the 49ers let Montana move on. If you want to play in the NFL, it will be with the Green Bay Packers. We will do everything in our power to improve the talent surrounding you. We want to win now. We want you to be there with us. We believed in you when few if any did. Now it's time to believe in us. We can still find the glory. We know you have things to sort through on a personal basis. The last few years for you have been very difficult. We have stood by you and we will continue to stand by you. The choice is yours. We will support you in whatever your decision is. If you retire, we will see you in Canton in 5 years. If you decide to come back, we will make your last stand one to remember. We owe it to you and the fans of the Green Bay Packers."
The Packers need to follow this strategy. They need to let Favre know that he is not only wanted, but that the team is committed to excellence. Their adage should be, "Nobody is perfect. But sometimes, by chasing perfection, one can catch excellence." It would be excellent if Ted Thompson can add the talent through free agency and the draft to get the Packers back in playoff contention next year. It would be excellent if Mike McCarthy can help invigorate Favre and make him play like the MVP he once was. It also would be excellent if Favre returned for at least one more run at glory. But that run should be in Green Bay and no where else.
Bob Fox is a longtime Packers fan and freelance writer from the Tampa, Fla., area. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.