Was the Brett Favre Saga Hightened By the Team's Ownership?

Craig Garrison SrSenior Analyst IAugust 6, 2008

As everyone knows, there is a bit of a controversy over the "un-retirement" of one Brett Favre. I have no idea where he'll end up playing, if at all. But I do wonder about one simple aspect of this saga.

If the ownership structure of the Green Bay Packers was like every other team in the NFL, would this have happened at all?

One could ask: Would Jerry Jones have allowed this to happen? How about Daniel Snyder, or Robert Kraft, or Al Davis?

I think not.

Most already know that the Packers are the ONLY professional sports franchise in the country that is "publicly" owned. This is in direct violation of NFL rules governing team ownership. But the Packers were "grandfathered" in a long time ago. And most also consider this fact to be "very cool".

The FANS own the team. The people of Green Bay, WI own the team (actually, people from all over the country own shares in the Packers, all the way to Guam).

The Green Bay Packers' Board of Directors is the organization that serves as the owner for the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have been a publicly-owned, non-profit organization since Aug. 18, 1923. The corporation currently has 111,921 stockholders, who collectively own 4,749,925 shares of stock.

None will ever be paid a single penny in dividends. All profits go back into the team, and if anything is left, it goes to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, a charitable organization.

So what does this have to do with Brett Favre? Well...

An owner might have an emotional attachment to the man that is widely credited with bringing his team out of what could only be labeled as failure. An owner might have told Favre to come right back, the job is yours if you want it.

An owner might have understood that letting him go play somewhere else would be sacrilegious. An owner might have told the head coach to do whatever he had to do to make sure Favre could come back.

But a board of directors, a CEO, an executive committee—none of whom will ever answer to the fans of the club—can tell team management to handle the situation like a business. After all, the Packers aren't like every other football team. This is an organization. 

According to statements from both head coach Mike McCarthy and Favre, an agreement was in place for Favre to return and compete for the starting quarterback job with Aaron Rogers, but Favre just couldn't "get over the way he had been treated" early on in this "saga".

Treated by whom? The head coach? The owner? General Manager Ted Thompson? Or the newly appointed President/CEO Mark Murphy? Who do each of these men answer to? No one? Everyone? The shareholders?


A board of directors.

There are as many as 45 directors sitting on the board. They appoint an Executive Committee (currently consisting of seven people) to hire and fire the people to run the organization.

Certainly, it is worth noting that most teams in the NFL are partnerships. But league rules state that there be ONE individual that owns at least 30 percent of the team. Creating the appearance of singular ownership, and therefore, leadership. One person to answer to.

The structure of the Green Bay Packers is actually very much the same as every other team in the NFL. Most teams have a chairman/CEO, a general manager, a head of player personnel, and so on. The big difference is whom these individuals answer to.

I can hear the phone ringing now, the caller ID shows it's Mr. Jones. You think Murphy and Thompson still don't know what to do after that conversation? How about: "Excuse me, Mr. Thompson, it's Mr. Kraft, he'd like to talk to you about Brett". 

That conversation takes place before the Favre circus turns into a circus to begin with, and it is dealt with, one way or the other. And goes no further.

Maybe it would have made no difference if the Packers were owned by one person. Maybe it WOULD have. I don't know what the right way to handle this was.

But I do know what the WRONG WAY was, however. And that's the way it has been handled so far, by Brett Favre, by Mark Murphy, by Ted Thompson, and by the media as a whole. They should all be ashamed of themselves. And Packer fans (you know, the owners) may never forgive them.

Just a few thoughts, but they are my thoughts.