Coming to grips with Favre-less season

W. Keith Roerdink, a 16-year veteran of the Packers beat, provides the last word on the saga that led to Brett Favre being traded to the Jets and Aaron Rodgers becoming quarterback of a team that almost made the Super Bowl.

Over the last few weeks, I've been hearing the same question: Are you a Brett Favre fan or a Green Bay Packers fan?

Maybe it's that Jets cap that's throwing them. I bought it in protest after the Packers traded one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, choosing to go with a potentially good — but likely not great — and largely untested player whose resume highlight is one pretty good half in a loss at Dallas last season. I also bought that cap to needle my dad, who like many other fans, seems to think this was the right move for the team. But to me, there are only two groups of fans: Those who think the Packers totally screwed this up and those who eventually will think that.

Don't get me wrong, I like Aaron Rodgers. I really, really do. When Green Bay drafted him in 2005, I thought they had to, being that he was the rumored No. 1 overall pick just hours before the draft. Green Bay grabbed him at No. 24 during his free-fall down the first round. And let's be honest, if Favre hadn't been contemplating retirement at that time, the Packers probably wouldn't have picked him.

I think Rodgers has the physical tools and mental make-up to succeed in this league. I want him to do well. I think he's handled himself with class and professionalism through an ordeal that's unprecedented in NFL history. And when he's had decent blocking and receivers that hung onto the ball this preseason, he's looked good.

 But not "Brett Favre" good. And that drop-off will show up in the win-loss column.

 This whole thing always has boiled down to one question: Which quarterback helps you win more games this season? It's mostly a rhetorical question, because the answer is obvious. Of course, it's Favre.

There might be things a younger, more mobile Rodgers does better than Favre, but the total package doesn't compare. This might not be the case in 2009 and it's hard to imagine it would be in 2010, but in 2008? Absolutely.

It's mystifying to me, and I realize I do need to get over this eventually, but how in the world do you let Favre go? How do you let Brett Favre become Jet Favre? This wasn't some aging star hanging onto the last strands of glory. This was a player who just led his team to a 13-3 mark and an NFC championship game appearance. This was a player who put up one of the best statistical years of his entire career. This was a player who was runner-up in the league's MVP voting. This was a player who has started every game since Bill Clinton was making his run at the White House. And you don't take him back? Are you kidding me?

The Packers have a talented, young nucleus of players, and Rodgers, if he stays healthy, should put up decent numbers. But he won't operate at the level Favre would have and he won't elevate the team the way Favre did. It's unrealistic and unfair to think any first-year starter could do that.

This divorce has plenty of blame to go around. There was plenty of he said/he said that led to hurt feelings and irreconcilable differences. Favre could've handled things much better, and I often wondered why someone like a Mike Holmgren or Ron Wolf, a father-figure whom Favre might respect and listen to, didn't reach out to him and tell him he was going about this the wrong way.

Anyone other than agent James "Bus" Cook, who looks a little too much like Dr. Phil for my tastes.

You don't send a text message to general manger Ted Thompson when you're thinking about coming back. You don't go on national TV to air your grievances. You don't throw your friend/offensive line coach under the bus, and you don't get sidetracked on topics like why the Packers didn't sign Randy Moss in free agency and what coaches you wanted them to hire instead of Mike McCarthy. Oh, and you don't flirt with the Packers' division rivals.

Favre's yearly indecision about retiring has bordered on the ridiculous. It reached its pinnacle this offseason with his tearful goodbye, followed by not one, not two, but three (that we know of) changes of heart that ultimately had him wanting to play again.

But if the worst thing you can say about a player that's done everything he's done for your franchise is that he's "wishy-washy," annoying and can't make up his mind, is that really a reason not to bring him back? It's Brett Frickin' Favre! You take him back the night before the season opener, if that's when he calls, and get him ready as quick as you can.

His decision to retire obviously was rushed. He thought he was doing the team a favor by making a quick decision. This time, he should've waited, because it seemed like Thompson and McCarthy couldn't plan his retirement party, ship his locker to Mississippi and draft a couple quarterbacks quick enough.

Players aren't the only ones with big egos, and fresh off of five-year extensions — which they certainly earned and deserved — Thompson and McCarthy decided to make this their team and not Favre's team. When Favre called them three weeks after his retirement and said he wanted to come back, only to quickly change his mind again, the GM and coach had to know that wouldn't be the last time they'd hear from him. But it wouldn't matter. They had made up their minds.

 Speaking of that, can someone tell me just how the "train has left the station," as McCarthy stated? Seriously. Did we change the offensive scheme or terminology? Did we hire a new offensive coordinator? Are there different receivers? No, no and no. There really was no good reason not to back up the train and let Favre hop onboard. There were at least two teams that were more than happy to do just that.

Would that be fair to Rodgers? Not at all. But this isn't about being fair. It's about winning. I can't help but think we'll see less of that in Green Bay with No. 4 gone. Ironically, under terms of the trade that sent him away, the better the Jets and Favre do, the greater the compensation Green Bay receives. Though Thompson and McCarthy might be willing to sacrifice a higher draft pick for the backlash they'll receive if Favre and the Jets outperform Rodgers and the Packers.

I've heard it said that when you make up your mind to retire, you stick to it. That the Packers can't be held hostage and had to move on. That no player is bigger than the team. But I say unless you're one of the top five people in the history of your profession, you can't know what it's like to retire when you're on the top of your game.

I'll allow Favre the indecision after all he's given to the franchise and the game of football. And I hardly think he held the team hostage or held them back. And Favre isn't bigger than the team, but he's got a pretty big impact on the success of the team. This didn't have to go down like it did. Rodgers simply had to prepare to be ready the same way he has the previous seasons. He wouldn't have been happy, but it's not like he was going anywhere this season.

No one forced Favre to retire, but no one went out of his way to suggest he come back, either. Because in the end, Thompson and McCarthy were ready to move on. I'll just never understand what the rush was to close the book on the Favre era. Was it because of that interception in January's title game? A horrible pass to be sure, but I seem to recall Pro Bowl corner Al Harris getting toasted by Plaixco Burress for 151 yards and Ryan Grant rushing for a mere 29.

Did they think this was a player who could get it done in the regular season but tightened up the postseason? Certainly, there's been some mind-numbing throws in their previous playoff losses. But there have been plenty of spectacular plays as well, like that 90-yarder to Donald Driver early in the Giants matchup.

Green Bay was an overtime field goal away from the Super Bowl, and Favre should've been under center for another run this season. There's a reason Green Bay is not considered a contender for the NFC crown this year, let alone the NFC North. It's Favre. He's the difference maker. Now, it's up to Rodgers to prove he can be. He'll have his work cut out for him.

So, am I a Favre fan or a Packers fan? I'm both. Equally. I just can't imagine not rooting for a player who gave so much to his team, a city and his fans. But that said, I can't imagine not rooting for the team that I grew up loving and have had the privilege of covering for the past 16 years. A team that has Rodgers as its starting quarterback.

W. Keith Roerdink began covering the Packers as an intern with WBAY Channel 2 in Green Bay in 1992, Favre's first year with the Packers. He interned with the Packers Public Relations Department in 1993 and 1994 and has covered the team for the Packer Report since 1995. E-mail him at

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