Maybe, just maybe, Ted Thompson smiled from his office at Lambeau Field on Tuesday afternoon.
The Packers' general manager, who was crucified from Sea to Shining Sea and in the Land of Cheese for moving on without the legendary Brett Favre last year, earned a bit of vindication with Favre's last-minute decision to not come out of retirement to join the Minnesota Vikings.
To review, where exactly did Thompson go wrong?
— Brett Favre retired. As far as we know, he wasn't forced to at gunpoint.
— A couple weeks after making his decision, Favre was having second thoughts. The Packers were prepared to fly to Favre's home in Hattiesburg, Miss., only for Favre to tell them that he was comfortable with his decision. Favre later would tell Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that the Packers were lying, but last month, agent James "Bus" Cook confirmed the Packers' version of the story when told a West Virginia newspaper, "Within a few weeks of announcing his retirement, he told them, ‘I want to come back.'"
With Favre seemingly secure in retirement, Thompson and the Packers moved on. What else were they supposed to do? They tailored the offense for Aaron Rodgers and drafted two quarterbacks. Should Thompson have not used one of those draft picks as a just-in-case scenario?
— When Favre announced he was coming out of retirement, Packers coach Mike McCarthy famously said, "The train has left the station," and several times expressed doubts whether Favre was ready physically and mentally to play.
Turns out that maybe McCarthy was right. Through 11 games, the Jets were 8-3. Favre was a legitimate MVP candidate with 20 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. But in his last five games, Favre threw two touchdowns and nine interceptions while the Jets went 1-4. Chalk it up to an injured arm, which ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski believes happened way back in Week 6 against Cincinnati.
Any chance that injury was a byproduct of not putting in a full offseason's worth of work? Any chance that Favre would have stayed healthy had he taken part in organized team activities and minicamps, just like about 2,600 players do every spring?
"The only thing I've been thinking about throughout this whole situation, is how smart Ted Thompson looks," San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith told the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer on Tuesday.
What would have happened had the Packers bowed to the pressure and let Favre back on the team last August? Obviously, the record probably wouldn't have been any worse, but would the Packers have been appreciably better considering Favre didn't put in the time during the offseason?
And what would have happened this year? We'll never know if everything would have turned out the same, with Favre telling the Packers just before the start of training camp that he didn't have it in him physically to play.
Either way, you can't win in this league with a part-time quarterback, which is what Favre was in 2008 and would have been in 2009. Even if Favre is one of those genetic wunderkinds who can roll out of bed and throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns — and he probably is — what is the message sent when the rules don't apply to everyone? What is the message when one player is allowed to sit home and ceaselessly mull his future while the other 80-some are studying film at Lambeau and sweating through a voluntary practice or a minicamp? How many players would have tuned out McCarthy's preaching about the importance of his offseason program had the team's marquee player been allowed to hang out with his family?
And then there's Rodgers, who would have been a free agent following this season. With Favre under center for 2008, there would have been no reason to give Rodgers a contract extension last year. That would have put the Packers in the difficult situation of having their quarterback-of-the-future heading toward free agency after this season. In a quarterback-starved league, how much would Rodgers have cost? And would there be any way he'd even consider re-signing here had he felt like he had been jerked around by the franchise?
If this is coming off as sounding harsh toward one of the most important people in franchise history, that wasn't its intent. The intent is to show that, one year after last year's circus, Thompson had the good of the franchise in mind and wasn't simply feeding his own ego by moving forward with "his guy."
If you want to go on hating Ted Thompson for having only one winning season in his four with the team or drafting Justin Harrell or being "cheap" in free agency or for how he looks in front of a camera — yes, I get that one a lot — fine. But if you're going to hate Thompson for how he "mistreated" Favre last year, then your blind loyalty to No. 4 isn't allowing you to see the whole picture. Just ask the Chargers' Smith.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.