Monday, October 16, 2006

Favre Smavre

Go out a winner Brett. Leave while you’re on top. Hasten that five-year wait before you’re eligible for the Hall of Fame. The Packers are rebuilding and need to get their young quarterback, Aaron Rodgers’s valuable playing time. Ride your tractor and cut grass full time.

Predictably, Brett Favre is not going out a winner or leaving on top. The Hall of Fame can wait, along with Aaron Rodgers and the grass, as the pushing forty Favre announced his return to the 2006 edition of the Green Bay Packers Football Team. Since the second coming of Bart Starr has not seen fit to go quietly into the sports history books without breaking a few more records, should the Packers have cut or traded the favorite son of Southern Miss?

The Packers should not have retained him. They are obviously in a youth movement, an admission best denied by the Packer Brass for the benefit of season ticket holders and the TV faithful. Sixty-nine dollar tickets and a two-hour ride from Milwaukee to see a non-competitive team isn’t a good sell.

But, Favre has star power and name recognition, something lacking in the rest of the team. The Packers appear to have a chance of winning if Favre plays, so logically he must play. Wrong. The Packers have no chance of winning even half their games whether he plays or not.

Replete with rookie players and coaches hoping to defy the “Peter Principle,” the team is at least four years away from a shot at the championship. It took the venerable former Packer coach Mike Holmgren that long to reach the Super Bowl. There is no reason to believe head coach Mike McCarthy, in his inaugural tour of the NFL, will reach Cheese Head nirvana any sooner.

Favre’s, “gun slinger,” mentality has led to untimely fumbles as in the last minute loss to the Rams this year. Costly interceptions, a career high of twenty-nine last year, continue to plague him. Incomplete passes so badly overthrown that a receiver with a jet backpack couldn’t reach them.

This has been the MO of the three times MVP throughout his career. Ten years ago, with a veteran and accomplished supporting cast, his litany of miscues could be overcome, victories belying ineptitude. The Goodwill’s and St. Vincent de Paul’s around Wisconsin are loaded with number 4 jerseys.

Why is it so hard for the Packers to release Favre? It’s because of the emotional bond Wisconsin fans and fans throughout the country have for him. In a recent PTI sports show story on ESPN, Tony Kornheiser called Favre, “the most beloved football player in America.” He recalled Favre’s overcoming addiction to painkillers, his wife’s battle with breast cancer, his father’s death, his brother-in-law’s death and the loss of his mother’s home to hurricane Katrina.

Life off the field is one thing, but production on the field as accurate passes, good decisions and comeback ability at the end of games is all that counts on Sunday afternoon.

Releasing Favre could turn into a public relations nightmare. The easy way out for the Packers was for him to retire, a thought he mulled over this past off-season. But, he listened to the advice of former Giants quarterback, Phil Simms on a radio program, to play “until they kick you out.” Kick him out is what the Packers should do.

There is precedent for teams in the NFL to part ways with beloved, aged players. In 1993, the San Francisco Forty-niners traded Joe Montana, to the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1967, the Packers lost Paul Hornung to league expansion. In 1973 the Colts sent Johnny Unitas to the San Diego Chargers. The game has told many other, more distinguished players than Favre to pack their bags. The Packers should be able to work out a deal for him, getting at least something in return, as a draft choice or young player.

There is no guarantee Aaron Rodgers will find his way into Packer lore as Favre did, but he disserves a chance. The Packers have three, starting rookie offensive guards along with first round draft choice, A.J.Hawk at outside linebacker. Only two other players on the team have double-digit years of service as Favre does. At 37 years of age, with eroding skills, he just doesn’t fit.

As the name’s on the Super Bowl trophy, Vince Lombardi put it, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” At the professional level, teams, players and coaches are judged by wins and losses. Favre no longer gives the Packers a legitimate chance to win. For the Packers to win in the future he must go. Retaining him for one or two more seasons for sentimental reasons is illogical. Fire up that tractor in Kiln, Brett, or move into the broadcast booth. One Super Bowl victory is all you’re going to get.

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