Well, it's finally over.
The agonizingly tedious saga that was Brett Favre's unretirement has come to an exasperating end. And while debate will continue throughout the season about whether or not the Packers made the right decision, one thing is for sure: The Packers' team and management can finally breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Lost in the mix of all the controversy surrounding Favre is the fact that there's a team of 53 guys in Green Bay that are pretty darn good. And while it will be quite different at Lambeau without No. 4 behind center, the Packers still have a legitimate shot to be contenders in 2008.
The focus, of course, will be on newly anointed quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Every eye will be on Rodgers for every snap of the season, and his play will be highly scrutinized and compared to that of Favre's.
But one thing's for sure—as much as pundits criticize General Manager Ted Thompson for how he handled the Favre situation, he's a great judge of talent.
During his three full seasons as GM in Green Bay, Thompson has built the Packers from a 4-12 season during his first year as GM to 13-3 in 2007. He was honored by Sporting News as the NFL's Executive of the Year after this past season.
Critics of Thompson argue that it was all Favre in 2007 that carried the team to the amazing turnaround. While it's true that Favre was incredibly valuable to the team last season (finishing second in MVP-voting), he can't play defense.
And Thompson's transformation of the Packers' defense from laughingstock to one of the best in the league cannot go unnoticed.
The team ranked second in the NFC in PTS/G allowed and sixth in total-yards allowed. They were also +4 in turnover differential, up from -5 the previous year.
And all their positional upgrades can be credited to Thompson.
More than half of the starters, 32 of the 45 active players, and 40 of the 53 members of the roster during the final game of the 2007 were acquired by Thompson, either by via free agency, trade, or the draft.
Many of the standouts were Thompson-acquired players as well. Emerging linebacker A.J. Hawk, wide receiver Greg Jennings, running back Ryan Grant, and three of the five starting offensive linemen were acquired by Thompson. And all of the aforementioned players, with the exception of Grant, were acquired via the draft.
So, while it's true that the debate won't end until it's answered on the field, critics should wait before bashing Thompson for sticking to Rodgers. Whether or not he did the right thing to get rid of the most beloved player in Packers' history is a whole different debate. And whether or not the Packers will be a better team in 2008 is yet to be answered.
If Thompson believes in Rodgers as his quarterback, he has to have some talent. He wouldn't stick behind the man he drafted just to prove a point to Favre; he's smarter than that. And while it's possible that Rodgers could be a bust, history proves otherwise.
If there's one thing for Packer fans to worry about with Rodgers, it's his injuries. He's seen significant playing time in two games over the past two seasons and suffered serious injuries in both of them. If it happens again in 2008, the Packers are all but dead. But if he stays on the field, there's a good chance he can lead the team back to the playoffs.
Thompson has endured a large amount of criticism for his handling of the Favre situation, and some of it is deserved, but he has shown in the past that he can make the right moves to help his team succeed. Until he proves otherwise, fans should stand behind that.
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