Commentary

Speak up, Packers, if you don't want Favre

Updated: July 9, 2008, 1:54 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Did Green Bay Packers management get dropped on its head as an infant? Tumble down a long row of Lambeau Field concrete steps? Suffer a series of second-degree concussions?

If not, there needs to be a shareholders meeting of the only fan-owned team in the NFL. Somebody needs to ask general manager Ted Thompson why he's gone underground on this Brett Favre un-retirement thing.

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre and Aaron Rodgers
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesWhich quarterback are the Packers better with: Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers?
So far, the Packers' PR department has issued a "The Packers have no reaction." And Thompson, who wouldn't interrupt his vacation to comment, has been as useful as a grand piano in a marching band. But, of course, his silence says everything.

Thompson doesn't want Favre back. Not now. Not after Favre's official "It's over" announcement. Not after backup Aaron Rodgers was handed the car keys for the minicamps and OTAs (organized team activities). And not after Thompson dropped Favre from the 80-man roster and then drafted two other quarterbacks.

It all makes sense until you ask a simple, essential question: "Is my team better or worse with Brett Favre at quarterback?"

That's it. Nothing else should matter. Thompson's job is to construct the best possible Packers roster. And if he thinks Rodgers is better than Favre, then Thompson needs to submit his resignation yesterday.

Favre's agent, Bus Cook, called this scenario more than four months ago. He told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Thompson did "nothing" to encourage Favre to continue playing.

That could mean two things: Thompson respected Favre's decision, or Thompson wanted to staple gun Favre's name to the NFL retirement list. I'm going with the staple gun plot.

When it comes to football, Favre is a grown kid. He played like a kid. He retired like a kid, all gooey, tearful and conflicted. He said he was retired, "but I know I can still play."

So the Packers closed the book on the Favre era, even though they should have known better. Check that. Packers coach Mike McCarthy knew better (he predicted Favre's "itch" to return), but Thompson didn't. Or didn't want to.

Thompson ought to be in Hattiesburg, Miss., right now, asking ... no, begging Favre to return. Whatever it takes -- ride shotgun on Favre's tractor, wear Wrangler jeans, spring for the worms at the local bait and tackle store -- Thompson should do it.

This can't be about agendas, egos, strategic plans, salary caps or Rodgers. Had Favre done what everyone expected him to do earlier this year -- announce he was coming back in 2009 -- then Rodgers still would be on the bench.

This can't be about agendas, egos, strategic plans, salary caps or Rodgers. If Favre had done what everyone expected him to do earlier this year -- announce he was coming back in 2009 -- Rodgers still would be on the bench. And anyway, if the Packers are so thrilled with Rodgers' potential, why exactly did they draft Brian Brohm in the second round and Matt Flynn in the seventh?

Favre is a living, breathing soap opera, but in a good way. We all know this. He's playing ... he's retiring. Playing ... retiring. What else is new? He waffles. But when you're just 38, and you can still throw the ball through sheet metal, and your team is good enough to make a long playoff run, well, waffling is an acceptable emotion. He was weary in March, now he's not. It happens.

Ignore for the moment that Favre is a three-time MVP, a nine-time Pro Bowler, owns a Super Bowl ring along with just about every meaningful passing record, and is coming off a 4,000-plus-yard/28-touchdown season. Instead, stay in the present.

The only NFL quarterbacks better than Favre right now are:

Tom Brady. Peyton Manning. And, uh ...

Williamson on Favre

If Brett Favre does return to play in the NFL this season, where would he fit? A breakdown of 32 QB situations, including Green Bay's. Story

See what I mean? There are 32 teams, and Brady and Manning are the only two QBs you can absolutely, positively say are superior to Favre. And just to be polite, I'll add Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Brees and David Garrard to the mix.

That's eight. Maybe.

So there are at least 24 other teams, including the Packers, who have starting quarterbacks less desirable than Favre. Again, nothing against Rodgers, who finds himself between a rock and a legacy, but if the goal is to win as many games as possible, Thompson has to embrace Favre's possible return.

On the flip side, Favre owes it to the Packers to publicly announce his intentions. Back-channeling is nice, but the secret is out on this one. So release a statement, whatever, and tell everyone what you want to do. No more vague, half-denials.

Look, Michael Jordan retired three times before it stuck. It didn't make him any less of a legend, any less of a Chicago Bulls icon. His career was defined by what he did in that uniform, not by what he did with the Birmingham Barons or Washington Wizards.

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/Mike RoemerFavre was emotional when he retired. However, he did say "but I know I can still play."
The same goes for Favre. If the Packers don't want him in 2009, or if Favre doesn't want the Packers, it doesn't lessen the bond between him and Green Bay's fans. That relationship is as tight as a green and gold square knot.

A season or two of Favre in some other team's uni would be weird, but not unprecedented. Joe Montana finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, but in the end, he will forever be known as a San Francisco 49er. Favre and the Packers are also joined at the chin strap.

The Packers' training camp begins July 28. Between now and then, Thompson needs to understand there are worse things than having Favre as Green Bay's starting quarterback.

Like, not having Favre as Green Bay's starting quarterback.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Gene is interested in speaking with Packers shareholders. Please e-mail him at the address above.

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