Wednesday, November 04, 2009

On this Favre issue...

Lots of Emails about my take on Favre vs. Packers. Here are some things to read that might bring it all into some focus. At least through my eye-balls. And that is all you can ask from "Bob's Blog", right?

My Blog at Dallas from Tuesday :

I am not sure what this post has to do with the Dallas Stars, other than a scenario that popped in my head as I watched the Brett Favre return to Lambeau Field on Sunday. What if Mike Modano played against the Stars?

First, some disclosure: I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan (I have a tattoo of the G, and son named Brett). I have loved that team since I was born, and I plan on loving them until I leave this world.

But, they (The Packers' loyal fans) stood for something on Sunday that made me ill. The people in that stadium - not all, but a vocal majority - booed the man they adored for 16 wonderful seasons. It really made me sad. I thought of how he left, which was basically the team telling him he no longer had his job, and how I assume all he ever wanted from his bosses there was to let him stay forever. Not realistic, but surely there is a happy medium for a player between being told when to leave and staying forever.

But, the fans don't know what happened. They know what they have been told. They have been told that since he is a Minnesota Viking now, you should disrespect everything he did for you for 16 years and boo him. He plays for the enemy, right? He is a traitor, right?

I have booed the hated Vikings my entire life. I hope they lose every game. But, just because Favre wants to keep playing and the Vikings offered him a chance doesn't mean that he wouldn't rather play for the Packers. But they told him, "no".

So, we should boo him for not retiring? You want him to retire instead of playing for another Super Bowl?

A few problems with that logic.

A) - He didn't want to leave in the first place. The Packers wanted the shiny, new QB who they have groomed to replace Brett. They chose, and they got their guy. Despite Favre taking them to a 13-3 record, they decided that it was over.

B) - He didn't leave for more money. This isn't like A-Rod when he returned to Seattle and they were throwing money at him. Whether it is his right or not, if a player leaves to get more money elsewhere, I can see the fans feeling like he never loved us - just our money.

C) - He isn't mad at you, the fan. He is mad at the guy (Ted Thompson) who runs your franchise who decided Brett couldn't play. He wants to prove to him that he made a mistake. Who among us wouldn't also want to prove that we aren't garbage that should be taken to the curb.

But there are the fans. Booing him. What disrespect. I don't blame the younger kids in the crowd. But, the adults? Who like me saw how horrid that franchise was before he helped restore the pride in a franchise that had been listless for 25 years? How could they? He is owed a debt of gratitude for everything he did, and he is clearly the greatest Green Bay Packer of our lifetime. Yet, you turn your back on him because he still wants to play football?

What if that ever happened here? What if the Stars said Mike Modano cannot play anymore and they don't offer him a contract or they trade him away. And what if he wants to keep playing and Detroit or San Jose give him a job because they think he can still play.

Would you forget 2 decades of blood, sweat, and tears? Would you boo him? Would you turn your back on a guy who bent over backwards for you at every turn? Would you forget the guy who helped put hockey in Dallas and make this a healthy and successful franchise? Would you support your franchise even if they are clearly wrong?

Believe me, you don't want to ever find out. But, Sunday made me think hard about that scenario, and I wish I could have avoided it. Right now, I am disgusted to associate with that angry mob on Sunday.


It is highly possible that you have 100 more questions on this Favre scenario. Questions like: "Bob, didn't he retire? - Twice?"

For my thoughts on many of your concerns, here is what I wrote in July of 2008:

This one is going to hurt.

This Favre thing is many things to many people; Annoying, Intriguing, Maddening, Disappointing, etc. They all come to mind.

But, of course, I have not written much about this because I was convinced at first that the media was spending too much time speculating. Well, it is now obvious that this is all no longer speculation – but rather fact – Brett Favre wants to continue to play football. So you want to know what I think? Well, despite the disagreements this will start, here you go:

First, a few questions. Why would he ever retire if it seems obvious to most of us that he never wanted to? Why would he spend the better part of the last 3 springs appearing to be one of the biggest drama queens in sports? Why would he risk his image of arguably the most beloved athlete in the nation so much that many people cannot even stand the mention of his name these days? I have my theories…

But first, an email from a Packers fan:

Im still confused. I now feel hatred in my heart toward Favre. I hate his complete sorriness and total lack of respect for his teammates, his managers, coaches and the state of Wisconsin! I feel for Rodgers most of all. Favre disappointed me with his recent display of sorriness. He needs to move to Missisippi and never step foot in WI again! The D-bag needs a hobby or anti-depressants cause he aint all there. I have decided that if The Packers cave and give into Favre's demands, then I will have a cheesehat burning ceremony at my house. 30 years of being a loyal fan and I will turn my back on them as fast as Favre did.

This guy is a hardcore Packers fan, and like many I have heard from, they are sick and tired of Brett. They are sick and tired of his drama, and they want him to go away. Think about that! It is not uncommon for a fan base to turn on a player who isn’t happy with his money or his geography, but the last several springs have so wore down some of his fans that they prefer their most beloved hero goes away rather than returns.

It is amazing how the Favre approval rating has fallen. Honestly, this is an odd story in that Favre has fallen out of favor, but also an altogether familiar story in that 100% of the time, when a fan must choose between his favorite athlete and his favorite team, he will always take the team’s side it would seem.

Not me. This thing has smelled for 3+ years. And now it has gone ugly, and I suggest it has very little to do with how Brett Favre has handled this thing. Rather, I would like to take a look at the 2007 NFL Executive of the year, Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson. Thompson was hired by the Packers in 2005, and he honestly had a tough job ahead of him. Mike Sherman (yes, that one) was inexplicably given both the head coach and general manager roles for the Packers, and was not very good at either in many respects. His record (57-39) will indicate that he was really good, but his in-game strategy was poor, and worst than anything else, his drafting was flat out sad. So, the Pack needed a GM.

Thompson came in and really has turned that around. His drafting has been really solid, and he has stocked this team with plenty of young talent. But, if there are two things that have troubled many (including me), it would be the following:

1) His refusal to use free agency to supplement his team’s talent with “ready” players despite huge amounts of cap room.

2) His inability to handle dealing with Brett Favre.

Let’s examine his work in these two categories.

Free Agency:

In 2005, the Packers payroll was 21 million below the cap, and ranked 31st in the NFL. They signed free agents Adrian Klemm and Matt O’Dwyer in the off-season. Both were minimal signings who did not have any impact on the team. The Packers went 4-12.

In 2006, the Packers were more aggressive, signing Charles Woodsen to a big money deal and Marquand Manuel, Ben Taylor, and Ryan Pickett to contracts as well. Despite 15 million under the cap after all of the signings, they still did not add a single player to the offense.

And in 2007, with a payroll that ranked 24th in the league, and still over 11 million under the cap, Thompson signed but one free agent during the off-season; Frank Walker – a cornerback who hardly played.

In 3 years as General Manager, with a combined 47 million dollars to work with, Thompson did not acquire a single veteran player to aid the offense of the Green Bay Packers. Not one. Heck, Randy Moss practically asked to go to Green Bay, and Thompson would not make a trade with Oakland to acquire him, instead letting Moss put up one of the most prolific years in NFL history with New England.

As a point of comparison, since being hired as the Packers GM, the combined payroll over 3 years has been $259 million. Dallas over the same amount of time has spent $302 million. An average $14 million per season less in player salaries can buy weapons that might help your QB take a final run at glory. Jerry Jones certainly committed to his veteran QB in 1999 with the Joey Galloway deal – but Ted Thompson decided to let Favre twist in the wind with 0 veteran player acquisitions to the offense in 3 years. Which has lead to his 2nd department of short comings….

Dealing with Favre:

There is no “how to” manual for dealing with an icon. Cal Ripken caused Baltimore plenty of awkward moments. Michael Jordan, Dan Marino, and even locally on a lesser scale with Mike Modano has proved that there is no easy way to ease the face of the franchise out of the mix if he is not ready to go. But, if you feel how you feel, then you must commit to it. General Manager is not a position for everyone, and if you think you cannot handle a tough conversation with your star, then perhaps it is not for you.

As I could see it, when Thompson took over the team with a 36 year old Favre, he had 2 choices. Tell Favre to take a hike (especially after the 4-12 season of 2005 when everyone said Favre was washed up – even though nobody except Donald Driver player more than 8 games at the skill positions) or you commit to plug any holes with money and help and build as good a product as possible around your QB. This way, if he is done, he will prove it. And if he is not, you will win.

He did neither. Figuratively, He didn’t marry the girl, and he didn’t break up with her. He merely led her on. That is the worst choice of all.

So, Favre, in Kobe Bryant type fashion got tired of getting his clock cleaned each week, getting blamed for all of the results, and then watching his General Manager preach the virtues of building through the draft. I am not saying the draft isn’t the answer, because it is. But it is seldom the immediate answer. Usually, the kids need plenty of seasoning (Bobby Carpenter, anyone?) and just like Kobe didn’t want to hear about how great Andrew Bynum was going to be, Favre didn’t care to hear how drafting Aaron Rodgers helped the offense.

Kobe claimed he wanted to be traded. Favre claimed he wanted to retire. Neither really meant it, but that was their only play to get their teams to resolve their issues. It might be a sorry idea to try to use your power to tell your bosses what to do, but they both felt it was their only play.

Did it turn the public against both of them? Sure. Did it work for Kobe? You decide. I think it did.

It won’t work for Favre, I don’t think. But, after 3 off-seasons of nothing from his team to help him, and then seeing that they still took all of those kids and went to the NFC title game, he just wanted to hear from Thompson that they were going to do whatever it took to take the final step.

What did Thompson do? Signed nobody this past spring. In fact, cut Bubba Franks and traded DT Corey Williams. That is right, they subtracted. With tons of cap room.

So Favre retired. He retired because since the day Ted Thompson was hired, he was
given no help to move the team in the right direction. Name another team that has gone 42 months without signing a single offensive free agent. I bet you can’t. He had enough of this team not seeming to mind the downward spiral.

But, now he wants to play football, because he knows he still can - at a very high level. Not for Green Bay in my opinion, and I don’t think Ted Thompson wants him back. If the Packers have decided that Aaron Rodgers gives them a better chance, then I say A) they are stupid and B) they should let Favre go.

Should they let him go to Minnesota or Chicago? No, but they should let him go to Tampa Bay, Carolina, or Baltimore. If Green Bay wanted him back, he would still be their QB, and he never would have retired. But, they told him and showed him that they prefer he leaves, so why be so petty as to keep him from playing? That would show very little respect for 16 years of high quality play where Packers fans experienced just 1 losing season.

So, my opinion? Thompson should swallow his pride and welcome Favre back for another run. But, if he doesn’t want Favre back, though it would make me ill, they need to Free Brett Favre. I don’t want to see him in another uniform, but I also don’t want him forever bitter at the franchise. This is certainly ugly.

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