Brett Favre and Why the Packers So Deserved Him

Dick ButkusCorrespondent IJune 25, 2008

At least this season we finally get to stop seeing the list.

You know the one I'm talking about, the "Starting QBs for the Bears since Brett Favre took over the Packers" list. The Peter Tom Willis list.

No matter how many times the TV broadcasters showed that list during Bears-Packers telecasts (every single game since at least 2000), the announcers couldn't help making a crack about poor Peter Tom Willis.

Willis was a third-round draft pick out of Florida State in 1990 who carried a clipboard for the Bears for a few years and only made three starts in his entire career.

Unfortunately for him, the combination of those few spot starts for an injured Jim Harbaugh and his country bumpkin name cursed him to a decade of derision from the likes of Matt Millen and Brian Baldinger.

Peter Tom Willis is probably not even the worst guy on the infamous list that will finally end at 20 men when Aaron Rodgers starts his first game in week one next season. That is probably Rick Mirer. Or Moses Moreno. Or Steve Stenstrom. Or Craig Krenzel.

On second thought, it has to be Henry Burris (so long as it isn't the guy he replaced: the decimated corpse of once-decent Chris Chandler).

Anyway, none of that is important anymore. Brett Favre is gone and both the Packers and the Bears are left to ponder his legacy. As a Bears fan, I can say that there has always been a sense in Chicago that the Packers got lucky with Favre.

He was not only a once in a generation talent behind center, but also an injury-proof warhorse in an era when starting all 16 games has become a rarity. Bears fans feel that they deserved such a player, that we should have fallen into a similar bit of luck when we acquired Mirer, or drafted Cade McNown, or kept waiting for Rex Grossman to get healthy.

Certainly their trade with Atlanta to acquire Favre just as Don Majkowski was breaking down was one fraught with good fortune. But even as a lifelong, die-hard Bears fan, I must tell you that Green Bay thoroughly deserved Favre, and conversely the Bears have only themselves to blame for their revolving door of mediocrity behind center.

Why? Because the Packers care about having a good quarterback, and the Bears don't.

You see, if you look at it in retrospect, the Packers shouldn't have needed to worry about the QB position since 1992. They could have sat on Favre and spent all of their resources on other positions.

The Bears, on the other hand, should have been dedicating themselves to finding a better quarterback, drafting every talented young signal caller they could possibly get their hands on.

But that's the exact opposite of what happened.

In 1992 the Packers traded for Brett Favre as insurance for the aging Majkowski, but they also drafted Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer in the ninth round to develop him.

In '92 Favre took hold of their QB job and looked like a star of the future. Nevertheless, in the 1993 draft Green Bay took Mark Brunell in the fifth round.

From 1995-1997 Brett Favre won three consecutive MVPs while never missing a start. However, the Packers lost their ace backup Brunell to the expansion draft in 1995. Therefore, despite the fact that they were gunning for Super Bowls (and winning one), they spent second-day picks on quarterbacks Jay Barker, Kyle Wachholz, and Ron McAda in each of those three years.

It turned out that none of those guys were any good, so the Packers spent a '98 sixth rounder on Boston College's Matt Hasselbeck.

Unsatisfied with a pair of Pro Bowlers, the Packers added Aaron Brooks in the fourth round of the 1999 Draft. The Packers had now selected a quarterback in five consecutive drafts despite having the best and most durable starter in the league.

Mike Holmgren stole Hasselbeck away to Seattle in 2001, so in the next year's draft the Packers took Craig Nall in the fifth round. Unimpressed with Nall after a few seasons, the Packers realized that it was time for the aging Favre to have a named successor.

They took Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005 and began grooming him as their next starter. Even with their succession plan in place, they still took a flyer on Ingle Martin in the fifth round the next year.

And once Favre retired this offseason, the Packers did not rest upon well-groomed Rodgers as their guy. They took Brian Brohm in the second round and Matt Flynn in the seventh.

For those of you scoring at home, that's 12 quarterbacks taken during a span in which the Packers have had an indestructible Hall-of-Famer at quarterback. But that is all in retrospect.

In the moment, the Packers' leadership always recognized that a team in the modern NFL needed a quality quarterback to have any hope of succeeding and that the Favre fairy tale was always a play away from ending.

By consistently seeking out new talent at quarterback, they unearthed quality players like Brunell, Hasselbeck, and Brooks who could have filled in capably for Favre at a moment's notice. Of course, with a bit of bad luck, they might have been forced to put Jay Barker or Craig Nall in the lineup for half a season.

However, in my estimation, by always placing a priority on the quarterback position the Packers deserved the longevity and excellence of Brett Favre.

The Bears on the other hand?

They have drafted five quarterbacks since Brett Favre took over in Green Bay. Only two of them on the draft's first day. Only one with their first pick, and that was Cade McNown who they traded down for because they weren't sure Daunte Culpepper was worth the money.

All this in an era in which they have never sniffed the top of the passing charts.

In an era in which great Chicago defensive performances have repeatedly been undone by offensive ineptitude.

In an era in which Sid Luckman's ownership of the Bears all-time passing mark (not Luckman's fault, he was a great player when teams didn't throw much) became an increasing joke.

In an era in which every time they play their rivals to the north they are forced to hear the legend of poor Peter Tom Willis.

In an era in which never ONCE did they appear to have a long-term solution at quarterback.

Don't ever let anyone in Chicago tell you the Bears have never been able to find a good quarterback. The Bears have never tried to find a good quarterback.

So as the new season approaches, the beat goes on at Soldier Field. Bears GM Jerry Angelo has said this offseason that he is perfectly satisfied with the quarterback situation, so much so that he neglected to draft one despite only having two left on the roster.

Once again, heading into training camp the question in Chicago is what the Bears are going to get out of their fatally-flawed gunslinger Rex Grossman. And once again, we already know the answer: not enough, and that's exactly what they deserve.


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