Message to Green Bay Packers: Just Say No!

RBCCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2008

While I was on my two-year church mission in Taiwan, there wasn’t one thing about American culture that I missed more than the NFL. So when I got back, it was great to be able to watch football games again. But something was different. It just didn’t feel the same. No, not because the Seahawks had all of a sudden become a powerhouse, although that was plenty shocking.
No, there was something else about what I saw in the 2005 season that just didn’t seem right. And to be honest, it made me, one of the biggest sports enthusiasts you’ll ever meet, sort of angry.

That was looking down at the ESPN sports ticker every Sunday evening, or watching an episode of NFL Primetime, and seeing the Green Bay Packers had just lost another game. The Packers were horrible. They were below the Chicago Bears. Below the Minnesota Vikings. EVEN below the Detroit Lions. What shocked me even more? Brett Favre was still their quarterback. How could Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers be on the bottom of the worst division in the NFL?
Well, it just didn’t sit right with me. So even though the Packers went 13-3 and defeated the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoffs last year, I could sort of breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they were where they were supposed to be.

I’m by no means a Packer fan. But I’ve always had a soft spot for Favre. How can you not? The guy is ageless. It seems that no matter how old he gets, he isn’t affected. So when I saw him limping off of Lambeau Field in 2006 while his team was getting ripped to shreds by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, I felt bad for him.

Oh, how a single off-season can change your entire opinion on someone.

If you have even watched so much as five minutes of ESPN the last couple weeks, you’ll surely have seen all the drama relating to Favre and his apparent desire to come out of retirement. Favre retired at the end of last season. In March, he started having second thoughts. So the Packers got ready to fly out to his residence in Mississippi and formally invite him back. Favre said no. He said he thought staying retired was the best idea. So the Packers moved on. They went ahead and named Aaron Rodgers their starting quarterback for 2008. Now Favre wants back in, and not only that, he wants his starting job back. If he doesn’t get it? He wants to be released or traded. Favre’s argument? “Everybody knew I was going to have second thoughts about retiring. Now I am. And so it’s only fair that I should get to start. If not Green Bay, then somewhere else.”

On the surface, this seems to be pretty harmless. Countless players have come out of retirement or just been traded to other teams so they could continue to play. Joe Montana went to the Kansas City Chiefs. Michael Jordan went to the Washington Wizards. The Packers have committed to Rodgers, and that’s fine, according to Favre. He just wants to play somewhere else then.

Right? Well … not so fast. The Packers don’t think it’s such a good idea. They told him they would be willing to let him back on the team, but not as a starter. And they refused to release him or trade him.

If you listen to Favre’s side of the story, you’d think the Packers organization hates him. You’d think they just want him to suffer. No, they don’t. But there’s something about this situation that Favre either doesn’t realize, or doesn’t want to realize. That is, the NFL, just like any other professional sports league, is a business. It’s about winning. It’s not about doing people favors. Favre thinks he’s earned the right to just be released and go wherever he wants. Yeah, and the Sonics fans who watched their team for 41 years, play in three NBA Championships (even winning one) deserved a lot better than watching their team get ripped away and sent packing to Oklahoma City. But that’s life in professional sports. It’s a business. If Favre thinks he should be held above everybody else, he’s wrong. Let’s draw this out. Let’s say the Packers comply and release Favre. Then let’s say Favre decides he wants to go play in Minnesota. The Vikings, who are in the same conference AND division as the Packers, are arguably just a quarterback short of being in the playoffs. Is that smart for the Packers? Is it smart for them to release Favre and let him then come back and beat them? That’s just plain stupid. You don’t release a guy to a team where he could potentially come back and haunt you. That’s insane. If Favre thinks that’s what the Packers should do, he’s stupid.

So what do the Packers do? Well, to me it’s simple. Do nothing. Favre has the option of coming back and reporting to training camp. In fact, he’s even contemplating such an option, thinking that if he did so, the Packers would not be able to keep themselves from naming him the starter. But in this situation, Favre has zero leverage. His leverage was gone when he chose to retire. If Favre comes to training camp, let him sit there with a clipboard. Don’t cave him and release him. Don’t trade him. Just let him sit. Eventually he’ll just leave on his own. What’s he going to do? Wreak havoc in the Packers locker room until he gets to start? Throw little tantrums and cry? I don’t know about you, but I would rather quit than start on a team that doesn’t want me. Will it be a tough situation? Yes. But unfortunately, it’s what Favre has created. The Packers just have to live with it and ride it through.

Favre’s contract goes for another two years. So if in two years he wants to come back and play for someone else, he can do that. He can play for any team that will have him.

Now, there is another option here. The Packers could continue to refuse releasing Favre and just trade him to somewhere where he won’t come back to haunt them. Like the Baltimore Ravens, a trade which has been widely speculated. Originally, I would actually go along with this. At first I thought, well, just trade him to some team out of the conference and call it good. But after listening to Favre’s comments last night and the night before on national television, I think that would be too gracious. Favre has done nothing the last two days but blast the Packers organization. I think if that’s the road Favre wants to take, to heck with him. Let him suffer for two more years. He obviously doesn’t care about the organization, he just cares about himself and making himself look good. So move on and forget about him. But don’t do him any favors.

Favre says that he was pushed into retirement. That he didn’t really want to but because the Packers wanted an immediate decision, he chose retirement. Well boo-hoo. By Favre’s own admission, the Packers would have waited as long as needed for Favre to make his decision. But he didn’t say he wanted more time. He just said he wanted to retire.

This whole situation is crazy. And to be honest, sad. It’s sad that someone with the legacy of Brett Favre has to become so immature and childish about a situation he created himself. It’s sad that he didn’t make this decision earlier, when he still had a chance to start for the Packers. It’s sad that he cares so little about Rodgers, who has been nothing but the epitome of patience the last three years, for his chance to start. It’s sad that he thinks he’s greater than the Packers organization, the organization that made him what he is today. Remember, Favre wasn’t even drafted by the Packers. He was traded to them by the Atlanta Falcons, who obviously didn’t know what kind of a player he was. But he got to Green Bay and was given a chance he wasn’t given in Atlanta. And this is how he’s repaying them? It’s sad that he has spent so much time criticizing the Packers management, even though that same management was responsible for putting teammates around him last year who could do a good job.

But once again, this is professional sports. At the end of the day, it’s still a business. And if that business decision means Favre has to sit at home or carry a clipboard, so be it. Suddenly, seeing Favre suffer isn’t so unappealing.