Lombardi blog: March edition

Thoughts on salary cap and how it affects Packers in future; Is Favre already having second thoughts about retiring? Why did Packers wait so long on Reggie?

March 31, 2008
The Salary Cap
Everyone knows that Ted Thompson and the Packers have been frugal the past two offseasons when it comes to free agency. One of the arguments for going after some of those eligible players is that any money not spent under the salary cap in a given year cannot be "rolled over". Use it or lose it. This is true, any surpluses not spent in a given salary cap cycle are lost to the team. That is unless you think that there might be a change in the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league. Such a change would forever impact the league and the Packers.

The current agreement runs through 2012. Either side can opt out a year in advance, which would be 2011. Therefore, the 2010 would go ahead without a salary cap (assuming there is not a strike or lockout). There are rumors that some of the league teams think the current system is too generous to the players and want to force a tightening of the purse strings. And the players have said that once the cap goes away, it will never come back.

A labor showdown looks to be brewing.

The Packers are obviously a bit worried about such a development. It would be hard to compete financially without a deep pockets owner in the NFL's smallest media and business market. That was one of the reasons given for the referendum and subsequent remodeling of Lambeau Field. The Packers are better off financially with the new Lambeau, but could easily slide back to where the team struggles to compete with the Giants, Jets, Bears and Cowboys.

Are the Packers accumulating a war chest in the event that they are faced with an uncapped scenario? The money they do not spend cannot be used this year or next year, but can be used if the team needs funds to operate without a favorable labor agreement. And this fund would not be used necessarily to outbid or lure players, just to get by. Who amongst us does not think Jerry Jones or Daniel Snyder will not open it up?

Are Ted Thompson's spendthrift ways a mad attempt at preserving this proud franchise in the event that the system, which has long supported this team, goes AWOL?

Can the Packers survive, much less compete in an environment where the competitive balance swings out of control?

March 25, 2008
Favre - Is he really retired?
I heard that Brett Favre has not filed his retirement papers.

Is he leaving the door open for a comeback? If so, will that comeback be with the Packers or with someone else? Will the Packers take him back? If they do not want him back, will they let him walk or will they demand compensation? Will that compensation be reasonable or will they try and get a team on the brink of success to panic and float the boat to get him?

Maybe Brett is just lazy and has not gotten around to it, but maybe he is not 100 percent sure that hanging it up is what he wants to do? When will he finally be sure? Before the draft? After the draft? June? The start of training camp? Will he wait to see if another team's starter gets hurt in training camp and ride to the rescue?

Who knows, but I love the suspense. What will Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy do if they get a phone call from Brett on July 15, saying he is having second thoughts? They are truly between a rock and a hard place. They appear ready to move on without him, but do they want to be known as the guys who let Brett leave town? No matter what Brett does some fans will blame them for his retirement. What If he has success elsewhere and Aaron Rodgers struggles, it might be career suicide for them.

March 20, 2008
Conspiracy Theory
I was talking to a buddy of mine last night over Perch at a local Green Bay watering hole and the Favre Jersey retirement story came up. I told him what I had written on Packer Report yesterday.

If you remember, I was wondering why Favre's and Reggie's Jersey retirements played out so differently. After some careful reflection, he had this to say.

"It makes sense to me. This is preemptive. By rushing to retire his number, they sort of force his hand. Now it will be harder for him to come out of retirement and play for them or for someone else, especially someone else. They are doing this to call his bluff. If you believe any of the talk about Ted Thompson wanting him to move on, this makes all the sense in the world." The weirder things get the more they seem normal.

March 19, 2008
Retiring the Number 4
I see where the Packers have indicated they will retire Brett Favre's number 4 this year. A very different scenario than how Reggie White's number was retired.

Brett only announced his retirement on March 6. The word leaked out a few days before that, of course, but it only took them 13 days to make it clear they will retire Favre's jersey during the upcoming season.

Reggie White's last season as a Packer was 1998. He did come out of retirement and play for Carolina, but that was in 2000. Whose to say Brett will not reconsider his decision? They had ample time to retire Reggie's number during the 1999 season. I understand that Brett was a Packer longer than Reggie and he is a quarterback and a favorite son, but Reggie's number was not retired until 2005, after he had died.

None of this is meant to take anything away from Favre. He should have his number retired as soon as possible, but why did it take so long to get around to Reggie? The swiftness with which the announcement about Favre's number is striking when compared to Reggie. What was the holdup? Did the Packers know he was going to unretire? Did Reggie say or do something that made it impossible to do it in 1999? Were the Packers embarrassed by him and some of his actions? I guess we will never know for sure. The Packers will undoubtedly not comment on this and Reggie took it to the grave.

Another thing: the names on the facade of Lambeau Field are all Hall of Famers (with the exception of Ron Wolf, whose name is offset from the others). Will the Packers wait until Favre gets elected to the Hall of Fame before putting his name up there?

March 10, 2008
More Favre
I hate to direct traffic away from PackerReport.com, but you have to read this column about Favre:


Why say it?
During FanFest this weekend, Coach McCarthy had this to say about Aaron Rodgers:

"I have zero concerns about Aaron Rodgers. I think his time is now. He's ready to go."

I often wonder why people say things like this. Sure, it is Aaron Rodgers' time and he might be ready to go, but does he really expect us to believe that he has ZERO concerns about the guy? Brett Favre played 17 years in this league and I bet you that on every play, his coaches had concerns. Rodgers has thrown 59 passes as a pro. He relieved Favre twice and got knocked out of the first game with a broken ankle. In the second go around, he hurt himself in practice the next week. He missed substantial time with both injuries. Is he injury prone?

His college coach, Jeff Tedford, has tutored some great college QB's who have been busts in the NFL. Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller are some of his star pupils. Dilfer had a decent career, but the rest...? Rodgers may break the mold, but are you willing to bet the house on it?

Don't get me wrong, I am not here to bust on Aaron Rodgers. I like what I've seen of him in limited exposures, but things will change once he is the man. He has never had to live under the pressure he is about to experience. That is McCarthy's motivation I would assume.

He wants to back up his guy and start to build confidence in the young man. But his statement does not pass the sniff test. It smells bad and it might come back to bite him in the can. If the things he says do not have any credibility, then all is lost.

March 7, 2008
Favre's Replacement
Aaron Rodgers will get the first crack at replacing Brett Favre, but should he be the only one? All reports indicate that the Packers will sign a veteran to back up Rodgers. Mark Brunell, David Carr, Gus Frerotte are some of the names being bandied about. But should the Packers look to find a guy who might challenge Rodgers for the starting job? Should they just hand it to Rodgers, or make him earn it?

Why not go after a guy like Matt Cassel, Tom Brady's backup, or J.P. Losman, or even Brady Quinn? What about a guy like Chris Simms? Or draft a guy with one of those second round picks if they measure up?

Just a thought. I liked what Rodgers did last year in the Dallas game, but the difference between being a spot player and QB1 are vastly different.

March 5, 2008
Favre - The Next Day
Now that the news has begun to sink in, what to make of all this?

Will he come back?

Some folks think he might change his mind. The theories are varied. Some think he is trying to force the Packers to do more to improve the team. Others think he is trying to get them to show him some love. Others think he will realize that he misses the games too much to give up before he can no longer play at a high level. Are any of these scenarios reasonable? I think the first one has some merit. The second is bunk and the third is very reasonable.

I think that Favre would like to see some improvement on the offensive side of the ball. I know that they had a good season and there are some weapons on offense, but that is more by accident than through any action by the team. Greg Jennings, James Jones and Ryan Grant look like they will have good careers, but if anyone predicted they would be this good this quick is crazy. And how much of their success is the result of Brett Favre himself and what he brings to the table. I can see Brett wishing that the team had traded for or traded for Randy Moss or done something a bit more dramatic. And this goes back three years now. I do not think that this offseason was the cause, but rather it was an accumulation of things. He just had enough.

As for this being a temper tantrum, I just cannot see it. Maybe they did not do enough to communicate with him about coming back. I do not know. Ted Thompson does not seem to be a real outgoing guy, but Mike McCarthy is. Maybe Brett thinks that their words said come back, but their actions did not. I can see him thinking, "Don't tell me, show me."

I can see him missing it before the season starts, but will he have the guts to try and come back and will they take him? Will it be too late? What if he calls them on August 1 and says he has the itch? Will he be in shape? If they do not want him, will they let him go somewhere else? Can you see him in a Dolphins uniform or Chiefs uniform?

One thing I do know about Favre is that he says what is on his mind and keeps saying it. He is a talker. This season will be tougher than last year. The schedule is harder. The Packers will not sneak up on anyone. Teams will be prepared for them. They avoided serious injury to their key guys. Their older guys are older. To think they can duplicate last years results without some luck and improvement is a tall order. I guess Brett did not see enough to think he can live with the stress and scrutiny given what he saw as their chances.

March 4, 2008
Who is the Back up?
Now that Brett Favre is riding off to the sunset and Aaron Rodgers is the man, who will be the No. 2 guy?

Daunte Culpepper?
Trent Green?
David Carr?
Chris Simms?
Byron Leftwich?
Craig Nall?

March 4, 2008
Favre Retires
I saw in the news reports that Favre told Coach McCarthy the news. Chris Mortensen of ESPN is reporting that Brett told McCarthy Monday evening. I wonder if that has any meaning to it. Especially since the Packer website goes out of its way to say he informed Ted Thompson.

It has been reported that Favre left Mortensen a voice mail where he said he wanted to come back and win a Super Bowl, but thought that would be a tough road to travel and he was not mentally up to the challenge. Did Brett feel (that in spite of the success the team enjoyed in 2007) that they were not up to task? I do not think it is any secret that Favre was not overjoyed with the moves made by the Packer brass over the past few years. He lobbied for help and even though he got some, I guess he wanted more. I guess Brett did not think the Packers did enough or wanted him to come back.

I got this quote from the article on ESPN.com that spells it out in my mind. It is from his agent Bus Cook.

"I talked to Brett this morning and I told him 'nobody forced you to make this decision to retire, but the flip side is nobody encouraged you to play,'" Cook told Mortensen. "Two years ago, Ted [Thompson, the Packers' GM] encouraged him to play, but there was nothing this time around from them offering encouragement or him to come back."

Let the Aaron Rodgers era begin. I guess Ted Thompson wants it that way. I know that many folks will look at this as Favre retiring because he is not happy or not loved enough by the team. If they had got Randy Moss to come here, would he have come back? Who knows? If they had done something more to convince Brett to come back, would he have come back? Should they have? Who runs the team? Brett or Ted?

I guess time will tell. If the team continues to win, then history will prove Thompson right. If the team struggles, especially at quarterback or on offense, then Thompson will suffer the consequences.

John Lombardi is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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