Thompson's decision: Favre or Rodgers

After another cold-weather, big-game failure, is it time for the torch to be passed from iconic Brett Favre to untested Aaron Rodgers?'s Steve Lawrence describes what Ted Thompson must consider.

My wife's idea for a column: Write about the Packers' most valuable player. That would be Brett Favre, of course. But clearing 4 inches of snow when it's minus-11 degrees with 40 mph winds — it's so cold that even my frostbite has frostbite — made me think about Favre's cold-weather play. Then, I went into a chat room and scrolled through a lively discussion about Favre.

This perfect storm of ideas tumbling around my noggin leads to one question that no doubt has been tossed around the bowels of 1265 Lombardi Ave.: Is Favre capable of leading the Packers to the Super Bowl?

It's hard to imagine asking this question about a player who finished second in balloting for NFL MVP. He had arguably his finest season in helping turn a group of young linemen and playmakers into one of the NFL's elite offensive units.

But there's one cold fact you can't ignore: He plays in Green Bay, and to get to a Super Bowl, chances are he's going to have to play well in a big game in the bitter cold.

Favre used to be money in the big games, and he used to be indomitable in the cold. Favre, though, has struggled in big games for the last several years, and you need no reminder about how poorly he played in extreme cold this season.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn suggested Packers general manager Ted Thompson may be wondering if it's time for the Aaron Rodgers era to begin. If that's the case, Thompson has to consider whether the Packers would have even been in this position had Rodgers been quarterback.

Remember, you can't lose an NFC championship game if you go 7-9 and miss the playoffs or finish 11-5 and lose in the wild-card round.

At some point, though, the torch has to be passed. Favre can't play at an MVP level in the regular season until he's 45. OK, if anyone can, it's Favre — whose work ethic and study habits have gotten better with age — but that's beside the point.

Favre very well might be capable of leading the Packers to another 12- or 13-win season in 2008. But what happens if the worst of a Wisconsin January wields its icy teeth again? Judging by Favre's play against the New York Giants — he failed to complete a significant throw after converting a third-and-10 to Donald Driver on the first play of the fourth quarter, and a simple dump-off to Ryan Grant on the crushing overtime interception would have netted 20, 40 or who knows how many yards — the Packers very well will be enduring the bitter taste of playoff defeat again.

So, as has been the case the last couple of years, Thompson faces perhaps the toughest decision any general manager in any sport could face. After a horrible 4-12 season in 2005, there was some sentiment to trade Favre to a contender so the rebuilding process in Green Bay could begin in earnest under Rodgers. There was some sentiment to move on after last season, too, because Favre, while not bad in 2006, hadn't shown the slightest hint he could post such jaw-dropping numbers as he did during his turn-back-the-clock 2007 campaign.

So here we are again. Favre is an icon nationally and merely the most beloved athlete in Wisconsin history. He is coming off a monster season, and while his skills are bound to take a significant and irreparable turn for the worse, there's no reason to assume that time will come in 2008. Then again, there's no reason to assume he'll start handling the cold with the aplomb of an Iditarod sled dog, or even Eli Manning, and there's no reason to assume he'll stop throwing interceptions in overtime of playoff games.

Thompson doesn't seem one to be concerned about what people think of him, but who wants to be known forever as the man who ran the legend out of town? Barring a Super Bowl win or two under Rodgers in the next few years, that would be Thompson's legacy in Green Bay. Then again, nearly every decision Thompson has made has proven to be correct, and if he has a hunch that Rodgers is ready — or Favre simply can't get it done in the biggest of games — he might decide the Packers' future is now.

Maybe Favre, satisfied that he proved his doubters wrong and in no way looking forward to spending another cold January night in Lambeau Field, will make Thompson's decision easy.

The guess, though, is Favre will come back and Thompson will hitch the Packers' wagon to him, hoping Favre can have another big season and the Packers will play the NFC championship game someplace sunny and warm.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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