Commentary

Without Favre's magic, the Packers return to NFC pack

The Packers still could be a potential playoff team, but without Brett Favre, they are just part of the pack in the NFC.

Originally Published: March 4, 2008
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Brett FavreTodd Rosenberg/US PresswireWith Favre gone, the Packers will struggle to reach an elite level in the near future.
The Green Bay Packers might be a potential playoff team, loaded with young talent. They won't be the same without Brett Favre.

Favre informed the Packers late Monday night that he is retiring, even though he knew he had more football left in him. Maybe 2008 was going to be his last season. Maybe he would have stayed for 2009. Who knows? This is Favre, who takes life day-by-day, pass-by-pass.

Regardless, it's hard seeing the Packers back at that Super Bowl level this season without him. They are just another NFC team that has a chance. Favre gave management the ultimate key to the Super Bowl door every season.

It didn't matter whether the front office was aggressive or passive in free agency. Favre was the arm and the lightning rod who offered hope every year. His retirement ends the second-greatest era in Packers football, ranking next to the days Vince Lombardi patrolled the sidelines.

Think about what Favre did in 2007. The team was one of the youngest in football. The Packers started the season without any clue as to who would be the starting running back. Except for veteran Donald Driver, Favre had a generation gap with his receivers so vast that he was more like a father than a teammate. In free agency, the Packers brought in only a backup cornerback, Frank Walker.

Change In Draft Status?

The sudden retirement of Brett Favre doesn't affect Green Bay's draft plans. Aaron Rodgers has been groomed for this day. Durability is certainly a question mark, but Rodgers looked good last season against Dallas. The Packers spent a first-round pick on Rodgers for this very reason.

I think the first order of business is to address the immediate backup situation. Right now, if Rodgers goes down, the Packers are relying on Dalton Bell to step in. That's obviously not going to be the case in September. The team either needs to re-sign unrestricted free agent Craig Nall or bring in a mid-level free agent as insurance behind Rodgers, though those options are limited at this point.

The next step is continuing to build around the quarterback The Packers have a young roster with loads of promise. Instead of wasting a high pick on a quarterback, they should continue to upgrade the rest of the team. Green Bay now has three of the top 60 picks following the trade of DT Corey Williams to the Browns. Hypothetically, the team could address its need for a defensive back in the first round with a fast-rising prospect such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State), and then use the pair of second-round picks to select an offensive tackle like Kansas' Anthony Collins and a speedy complement at running back like Texas' Jamaal Charles.

Day 2 is where the Packers should look into finding the right fit in a developmental reserve quarterback. USC's John David Booty could be available in the third round and he enters the league with a great knowledge of the West Coast offense. Other options in the fourth or fifth rounds include San Diego's Josh Johnson, San Diego State's Kevin O'Connell and Hawaii's Colt Brennan.

-- Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay

Because Favre is so good at making everyone around him much better, the Packers won 13 games and had a home game for the NFC title. Without Favre, it's going to be hard for coach Mike McCarthy's bunch to return to that level anytime soon.

Heir apparent to the throne Aaron Rodgers will be a functional quarterback. He has decent command in the huddle. He is reasonably accurate although he won't be able to stretch the field as efficiently as Favre. Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Koren Robinson are a solid receiving corps that gives Rodgers the chance to be a 60 percent thrower.

The Packers have a good defense that should keep them in games, but they won't have Favre's flair for the dramatic to pull out games that were destined to be losses.

On top of that, they are old at the tackle and have questions at guard. What the Packers will miss most about Favre is his ability to make average lines great because of his quick release and knowledge of the passing game.

It's probably no coincidence Favre retired the day after Randy Moss decided to stay with the Patriots, signing a three-year, $27 million contract. As much as Favre loves Driver and his young receivers, it's in his nature to go for the long ball.

He wanted Moss. He wanted him last season, but the Packers wanted a two-year contract, while Moss wanted a one-year deal.

For the past month, Favre has been lamenting the opportunity he and the Packers lost in the NFC title game. Having been to two Super Bowls, he knows how hard it is to get home-field advantage for a title game, and he realized the Packers' chances in 2008 weren't good.

Moss would have been the one piece -- in Favre's eyes -- that might have put the Packers over the top. Sure, he realized it would be tough to get Moss to come to Green Bay, but they share agents, and given the authority by management, he would have made a push. He didn't get that authority.

Since Favre and Mike Holmgren were together in Green Bay, the Packers have been Favre's team. For the past couple of years, he has felt a little estranged because of the Packers' youth and the team's emphasis on drafting players instead of chasing them in free agency. He was a short-timer and knew it, but the thrill of competing for a championship and his love for the game kept him coming back.

Moss stayed with Tom Brady. Favre was left with a young Packers roster and decided to hang it up. The Pack still can be back, but without Favre, it's just part of the pack in the NFC.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com..

John Clayton

NFL senior writer