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Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

All Favred Up

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For those who may not have heard, over the past few weeks there has been some kind of controversy going on between the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre, one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history.

It seems that Favre, who led the Packers to a stunning 13-3 record last year and came within a game of taking the team to the Super Bowl, was threatening to come back to try to do it again.

Ordinarily, any professional football team would be overjoyed to have a great quarterback decide not to retire and instead attempt to lead them to another championship. But in the case of the Green Bay Packers, it messed up all their plans.

See, the Packers had a terrific idea to replace Favre, one of the most durable players in football, with unproven backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the most fragile.

Because Favre was busy setting football's all-time record for consecutive starts by a quarterback, Rodgers seldom got any chances to play, but pretty much every time he did, he got hurt.

Well, when you have an opportunity to replace someone who never gets hurt with someone who gets hurt tying his shoes, you can see how that would make the game a lot more exciting.

Also, Packers General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy had been planning to surround Rodgers with improved players at other positions to make the novice quarterback look good. If a Hall of Fame quarterback like Favre were leading the team, he would get all the credit instead of Thompson and McCarthy.

Since neither Thompson nor McCarthy was around when Favre was rising to greatness in Green Bay, they have always been in Favre's shadow. That's what was really behind Favre's public ambivalence in recent years about whether he would play or retire. Favre tried to use his popularity to prod Thompson into surrounding him with better players.

Favre would hold off announcing whether he would return to try to pressure Thompson into going after top-of-the-line veterans.

When the great receiver Randy Moss became available, Favre went even further. He personally reached out to Moss and offered to restructure his own salary to make money available to bring Moss to Green Bay.

Thompson basically snubbed them both. As general manager of the Packers, Thompson wasn't about to let a couple of Hall of Fame football players tell him how to do his job.

The next time you hear sports talk shows ranting about Favre's ego, consider the enormous, self-defeating ego it takes for a general manager to turn down the kind of spectacular passing combination Tom Brady and Moss put together for the New England Patriots last year.

Why Turn Against Favre?

That explains why Thompson wasn't thrilled to have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time decide to return to Green Bay. But it's harder to explain why so many sports reporters and even some fans turned against Favre during the recent unpleasantness.

It's true many sportswriters take their cues from management. Sports reporters these days often try to prove their independence and professionalism by attacking the players they cover.

That's been of great assistance to millionaire owners whenever they want to collude to hold down salaries or unilaterally institute drug tests and other changes in working conditions without going through all the bother of negotiating with tough unions.

Oh, sure. You'll get your predictable "Fire Ned Yost" blather, but top management really has to run a sports franchise into the ground as the Selig family did before you'll hear a word of criticism.

But why did so much of the sports press and sports talk radio join Thompson in reacting negatively to Favre coming back to Green Bay? Could they really be concerned about shattering the team's "plans" of moving forward with a mediocre work-in-progress who could well be injured shortly after the season starts?

Local sportswriters in Green Bay, Milwaukee and every other state media have never been particularly close to Favre. Whenever Favre wants to put something out, he talks to ESPN, Sports Illustrated or his old friend Al Jones at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.

That should give the state press the luxury of being more objective. But, objectively, there's little question which quarterback gives the Packers the best chance of winning this season, despite all of Thompson's beautiful plans for moving on.

As sportswriter Michael Wilbon of TheWashington Post wrote last week, "Anybody in his right mind knows Favre, even at 38 years old, is 100 times better than Rodgers."

At this writing, Favre is expected to be in Green Bay, competing for the starting quarterback job.

It's unbelievable sports reporters would consider that a problem for Green Bay. Not having Favre would be a problem.

What's your take?

Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com. n

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