Thompson will never win this showdown with Favre. If Favre does retire, then Thompson will forever be known as the guy who drove a legend out of Green Bay. He will be remembered like Sal Bando will be remembered in Milwaukee. Bando allowed Paul Molitor to leave the Brewers for the Toronto Blue Jays. Bando did a lot of good things in Milwaukee, both as a player and in the front office, but that decision will be the one that epitomizes his legacy in Brew City.
Thompson is already under fire. His first year in Green Bay as the new General Manager of the Packers was disappointing to say the least. The team finished 4-12. The team also lost some very key free agents before the 2005 season like guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, plus safety Darren Sharper. Then after the season, Thompson fired head coach Mike Sherman.
Favre had a very tough 2005 season. People talk about the 29 interceptions, but Favre was actually on his way to a typical Favre year statistically, when injuries decimated the offense about six games into the season. The team was never able to replace Rivera and Wahle, and some of the other talent surrounding Favre was "NFL Europe" caliber talent, according to former Packer GM Ron Wolf. Favre forced some throws to be sure, but he also was getting hit a lot before he could go though all of his reads.
Favre does not want to go through another season like 2005 again. Nor do the fans. Nor should Ted Thompson. Thompson has done some good things up to this point. He has re-signed running backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, fullback William Henderson, wide receiver Rod Gardner, defensive end Aaron Kampman and others on defense. He has also signed a few unrestricted free agents like safety Marquand Manuel, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, linebacker Ben Taylor, kicker Billy Cundiff and wide receiver Marc Boerigter. Thompson has also allowed some free agents to leave like the all-time leading scorer in Packer history, kicker Ryan Longwell.
But Thompson hasn't really made a big splash yet in free agency. The Packers are still about $20 million under the salary cap. Favre is telling Thompson to start spending some of that money as he hems and haws about his decision to come back. Favre is not playing games with the minds of those in the Packer organization, or the fans with his inability to make a firm decision regarding his future. But he is sending a clear message to Thompson that he hasn't done enough to upgrade the talent on the roster.
Except for last season, Brett Favre has always been a winning quarterback. He is only 10 wins away from becoming the all-time winningest quarterback in NFL history. He is also a strong leader, and 221 consecutive starts prove that along with the other incredible career stats. Favre wants to be a winner again. That's why he is playing this game of duel with Thompson. In other words, he is telling Thompson to pry open his wallet and start bringing in players that can be difference-makers in Green Bay. Favre alluded to this at his press conference Saturday when he brought up the signing of Reggie White.
The two biggest UFAs still out there are DB Charles Woodson and LB LaVar Arrington. Woodson met with Green Bay last Monday, but left without a contract. He supposedly is mulling over a decision between the Packers and the Tampa Bay Bucs. Thompson needs to send a clear message to Favre and the other players on the team by being AGGRESSIVE in his pursuit of Woodson. And why hasn't Arrington at least come in for a visit when the Packers have the most money to spend in free agency and linebacker is one of the weakest positions on the team?
These are questions I ask. These are questions that Brett Favre is asking. And what about the offensive line? Wahle and Rivera left last year. Starting center Mike Flanagan left for the Houston Texans this year. Except for re-signing Kevin Barry, what have the Packers done to improve the O-line? It appears Thompson is counting on young players like Scott Wells, Junius Coston, Will Whitticker and Chris White to fill the void in the middle of the line. That approach didn't work too well last year.
The showdown between Favre and Thompson will be resolved soon enough. There might not have to be a showdown if Thompson would just address the Packers' needs more aggressively. Thompson doesn't need to throw money in the wind. But in the same vein, sometimes it takes more than market value to close a deal. Thompson had a similar chance when he tried to sign K Adam Vinatieri. He didn't close the deal and Vinatieri signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Thompson needs to start closing some deals soon. Big deals. Or the Favre era will be the one that will be closing. And Thompson will have lost the showdown. Just like Lee Van Cleef.
Note: Bob Fox is a longtime Packers fan and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.