Favre needs to be a game manager

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay explains why it is imperitive that Brett Favre adapt to the talent that surrounds him.

Brett Favre is a declining quarterback. Not sure that's a bold statement, but after watching 15 of 16 regular-season games this season, it is evident the former three-time MVP isn't what he used to be. However, what quarterback is at the age of 37?

Favre has 17 touchdown passes and 17 intercptions this season, and a 72.9 passer rating, making his season the definition of mediocre. He's been good, he's been bad. He's had help, he hasn't.

Thursday's game against Minnesota encompassed what Favre has gone through most of this season:

-- He throws an interception for a touchdown, only because Greg Jennings misread the Vikings' defense, which blitzed. Instead of cutting off his pattern, Jennings ran down the sideline, never having a chance to catch the ball.

-- Favre hits Bubba Franks inside the 5-yard line and as Franks struggles to reach the end zone, he fumbles the ball away.

-- Favre throws an interception to Darren Sharper. Favre's fault. He also sees Sharper drop another would-be interception.

-- Favre hits Ruvell Martin on a beautiful throw down the right sideline for 36 yards, setting up the eventual game-winning field goal.

-- Favre has receivers drop five passes.

This has been a common theme over the last two seasons in which Favre has tossed 37 touchdown passes and 46 interceptions. Favre seems to have the physical skills to make almost any throw, but at times he makes bad decisions, and other times his receivers let him down. Favre didn't address the media after Thursday's 9-7 win (yawn), probably because he didn't want to talk about his future. However, his future will be talked about until he makes a decision during the off-season.

Most believe Favre will return. With a 7-8 team, and a roster younger than some college teams, it appears Favre and Co. are headed in the right direction. Notwithstanding, if Favre returns he needs to change.

Prior to Favre's two-year decline, he was playing quarterback as well as anybody. From 2003-04, Favre threw 62 touchdowns and 38 interceptions, and he led the NFL with 32 TDs in 2003. The last two seasons Favre has been hot and cold. If he wasn't a Hall of Fame quarterback in waiting, he would've been pulled at some point last season when he threw an absurd 29 INTs.

But the decline isn't all on Favre. There are some obvious reasons.

In 2003 and 2004, Favre had Javon Walker as a target. Walker came on strong in 2003 and became a Pro Bowler in 2004.

At 6-foot-4, with speed to get downfield, Favre could throw his jump balls and Walker would snatch them out of the air. Possible interceptions turned into catches or TDs. But when Walker suffered a season-ending knee injury at the start of 2005, Favre lost his go-to guy. Donald Driver stepped up, but beyond him there hasn't been much. Robert Ferguson is nothing but an injury waiting to happen, Koren Robinson is a question mark, Greg Jennings is banged up and the rest of the receivers are just "guys."

Meanwhile, at tight end, the offense has steered away from throwing to Franks and David Martin, and after the last two weeks we see why. Both are so inconsistent, and it seems the offense has lost confidence in making them anything but a fifth option.

Furthermore, Ahman Green gained a club record 1,883 yards in 2003. Since then, he hasn't been as explosive, mainly due to wear and tear, and the quadriceps injury he suffered in 2005. He's not bad, but he's not a difference-maker anymore.

Finally, the offensive line. Last year was a disaster as the Packers played without guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera and replaced them with versions of Beavis and Butt-head. The offensive line's play was about as pretty as Gilbert Brown in a Speedo.

This year, the Packers added three competent rookies and changed to a zone-blocking scheme. Gradually, the line has improved, but it's nowhere near the group of 2003 or 2004, which was as good as any in the NFL. Because the Packers have been undergoing a facelift on almost every position on offense for two seasons, Favre has needed to play different, but he hasn't all the time. He needs to become Chad Pennington. Don't make the bone-headed throw or "ginormous" mistake, which he got away with when the talent around him was better. Take what the defense gives you and live with it. It may not be exiciting, but until the Packers' offensive talent matures, it's the only way Favre should play.

A 5-yard pass on third and 11 is better than an interception. Favre's play hasn't just hurt the offense, it has put the defense in tough spots, at times.

If Favre can cure that problem and become a game manager, he will be a better quarterback in 2007, no doubt. The only question is, will Favre be 100 percent convinced this is how he has to play? If he isn't, just show him clips of his last two seasons. That should convince him a change needs to be made.


Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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