For Packers, it’s all about family

Just one day until Packers Family Night, which means one thing for sure; given the way things have played out with Brett Favre, they may want to change the name to Dysfunctional Family Night. Divorcees get in free!

Yeah, it’s been tough watching this worm turn. To summarize:

Favre tearfully retired on March 6. The Packers moved ahead accordingly through free agency and the draft (picking up QBs Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn on draft day). Then Favre decided sometime in June he might want to play again. By July, that inclination turned stronger and Favre decided that yes he indeed wanted to play.
Problem is, the Packers have moved on, citing the need to see what they have in Aaron Rodgers in order to determine what to do with him as this is his contract year. Rodgers has looked good in spot duty but obviously has never started a game, and actually has had a tough time staying healthy when he has played. (He broke his foot relieving Favre in their 35-0 trouncing at home against the Patriots in 2006, and then even after a much-touted showing against Dallas last November, summarily pulled a hamstring in practice a few days later.)
Many fans, and sports-talking heads, however, are Favre loyalists who insist the veteran is the team’s best chance at reaching the Super Bowl.

There are two games to which I point that tell me the Packers and GM Ted Thompson have made the right decision; the Packers’ last game at the Bears and the NFC Championship game against the Giants. In both games, the weather was very cold and conditions were generally pretty crappy. In both games, Favre looked like he didn’t want to be there, and his play reflected that. In the Bear game, he went 17-of-32 for 153 and two picks, one of which Brian Urlacher returned 85 yards for a score in the 35-7 loss. In the NFC title game, he went 19-of-35 for 236 yards and 2 TDs but also had 2 INTs, one of which famously ended the Packers’ threat in overtime and led directly to Lawrence Tynes’ game-winning field goal in the 23-20 loss.

Aside from the raw numbers, particularly against the Giants, Favre was practically sprinting back to the Hot Seat between series, stuffing handwarmers into his face mask like he’d discovered some new kind of snack. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Eli Manning, who also hails from the balmier climes of Gulf region, BTW, didn’t fair much better statistically. But he DID stand pretty resolutely next to his bare-faced coach on the opposite sideline. So what kind of message does this send to one’s team, when its leader goes 3-and-out and then instead of poring over snapshots of defenses, huddles under a parka until it’s time to underperform again.

These two games tell me this; that Favre may truly want to play. Right now. But what happens if the Packers tear up their plans in order to accommodate his whims, and then when the weather starts to turn in December, Favre suddenly remembers why he retired in the first place? What happens if they go 8-4 into December and then lose 3 of their last 4 and miss the playoffs? Or if they do make the playoffs and either lose their first game or go 1-1? Basically, anything short of what Favre and his acolytes are promising, a full-steam run at the Super Bowl?

I’ll tell you what happens; we’ll find ourselves in the exact same spot as this year. And God forbid Favre would have a Pro Bowl-caliber year, which would only “prove” he can still play. Meanwhile, we’d lose Rodgers to free agency. Granted, that might not mean anything … we simply don’t know.

But the team is young enough, and solvent enough – about $30 million under the salary cap, second best in the NFL – that it can afford to take the chance that one of its three young QBs can be the guy to front this franchise for the next 10 years.

Now if we can just get Rodgers out of that No. 12 and back into the 8 he wore at Cal.


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