Lombardi: Set up to fail?

PackerReport.com's John Lombardi explains how Brett Favre's decision to return to the rebuilding Green Bay Packers will come back to haunt him this season. Surrounded by a young offense, Favre's chances of avoiding a major injury, much less leading the Packers to the playoffs, this year are slim to none.

Here are some facts:

Last spring in an interview with Chris Mortensen, Brett Favre said, "I love the game too much and I love my legacy too much to have that just be OK," Favre said, "and I don't want to be just OK. I want to be good, and I don't know if I'm committed enough [right now] to be good on an everyday basis."

He also said in that interview that he is not sure he wants the ball in his hands in the final two minutes with the game on the line.

He will be 37 in October.

As a man who is in Favre's age bracket, it would be difficult for me to relate to guys 15 years younger than me. Brett has a daughter who is a senior in high school, and most of the guys on that team are trying to date girls a year or two older than that … I hope.

He threw a NFL high 29 interceptions last season.

And most damning, an acquaintance of mine who is a defensive coordinator in the NFL told me that it looks like Favre just does not give a whip sometimes. I can ignore it when a Jay Marrioti or Jim Rome questions Favre's ability or heart, but when the guys who make their livings trying to stop him start to wonder, it gives me pause.

Is it disloyal on my part or offensive for me to question whether Brett Favre is good for the organization as a player? Is it insane for me to wonder if the team would be better off if Favre had retired? Is it insulting for me to speculate as to the benefit the Packers receive from Brett Favre as a player on the field? I do not think that this team would have a better chance of winning if Aaron Rodgers starts against the Bears. That is not what I am saying. Favre gives them a better chance to win each game. But does his presence hurt the team? Is it selfish of him to come back and play this year? Follow me on this and give me the benefit of the doubt for a bit. I think I am on to something here.

It is obvious to anyone with two eyes that Ted Thompson is on a youth movement. He drafted Rodgers last year to replace Favre and has so many rookies and second year players on this team that it is hard for me to keep count. Outside of Rob Davis and William Henderson, the only other adult on this team seems to be Donald Driver. Thompson and Coach McCarthy have decided that if they are going to struggle then it is better to do it with players who have potential.

I said it for years now when discussing Mike Sherman and his dual role of Head Coach and GM. The jobs are too diverse and require two people. The head coach needs to worry about winning on game day. The GM needs to worry about game day and next year and the year after. It seems to me that Thompson is only worried about tomorrow. Maybe he has made a determination that the team he inherited is so devoid of talent at so many positions that he has no choice. Maybe he thinks that to try and make the team competitive in the short term could possibly harm the franchise long-term. I do not know.

What I do know is that with one of the game's all time best quarterbacks entering the twilight of his career, this team has gone through two off-seasons under Thompson. He has not made a reasonable move to improve the offensive line. Thompson has drafted a number of linemen, but that does not count. It is too optimistic to think that draft picks will step in and perform at the NFL level. Teams can get by with them as the Packers did last year with William Whitticker, but to expect to win consistently with rookies up front is a pipe dream. It could happen and it has happened, but if it does, it is luck.

Last year, Thompson signed a couple of journeyman and he hoped a holdover or two from the prior regime might step up. It did not turn out as hoped. This game is won on the offensive line and this team has closed its eyes and hoped. As great as Bart Starr and Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor were, the Packers were great in the 1960's because of Thurston and Kramer and Gregg and Skoronski. Ringo and Bowman and Gillingham played their role, too.

Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are solid and they contributed as rookies, but to expect that to happen again is hoping against hope. Management hoped that Adrian Klemm could do what he had never done before, and today he was released. Hopefully some of the rookies will step up. Hopefully, Hopefully, Hopefully, Hopefully.

I understand the dynamics of the salary cap and I understand that the last thing this team needs to do is take a chance on a big-time free agent who does not live up to his billing. Bad signings can hamper a team's financial health for years. But why have the Packers not signed a proven veteran or two to play guard since Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle left for greener pastures. Why not do whatever is needed to protect the team MVP? Why not find a guy who can help the running game get back to a semblance of the team that powered over opponents in 2003 for team record 2,558 yards rushing?

If I think like this, is it a stretch to think that Favre has similar thoughts? Is it out of line to think that maybe the team did not want him to return? Brett kept saying that he was waiting to make a decision until he saw what the brass did to improve the team. On offense, they did very little, but Brett still came back. Was this team hoping that Favre would retire, so it could move on? With him on the team, fans and such still hold out hope that this team can be competitive. When he plays like he did in the Falcons preseason game, they have a chance to win. If he plays like he did against the Bengals, the team does not have the talent to compensate.

I will not be the guy to say that Favre has lost it. He has not. He can still play quarterback. He has the physical skills. What he does not have is teammates that have the skill or experience to help him win. That is not a crack at his teammates, but rather reality. It seems like half the team is in its first or second year. What that situation has to breed in a man as competitive as Favre is dejection. He must get incredibly frustrated and I feel that is where the poor decisions emanate from.

Will Brett Favre regret his decision? Will he make it through the season as the starter? Will injury or the future send him to the bench? I do not have the answer to any of those questions. What I do know is that the team around him is a long way from competing for a championship and it happened faster than anyone who punches a clock over at 1265 Lombardi Avenue expected.

The Packers have a favorable schedule and play in a weak division. They could surprise some teams and overachieve. If the youngsters mature quickly and the vets can wring more out of those old bodies, it might all work out, if not this year, then maybe next year. For many of us, we can wait, but for some, like Favre, next year may be too late and that is a shame.


John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.


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