Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why Favre Saga Merits Continued Attention by Vikings' Fans

Though most football fans probably have had more than enough of the Brett Favre saga by now, there is reason for Minnesota Vikings' fans to continue to follow the unfolding events surrounding the Green Bay Packers' former hallowed leader.

To date, the focus on Favre's request for his outright release from Green Bay has been on speculating where Favre will, can, and cannot go, assuming he returns to the NFL--which appears, as it always has, a near given--and assuming, as well, that the Packers opt not to start Favre over heretofore backup Aaron Rodgers.

For Favre to return to Green Bay, he need only file with the league indicating that he has not retired. Thereafter, the Packers would have a small window in which they would have the choice of either retaining Favre or parting with him, with the latter option involving more options.

To part with Favre, the Packers would have the choice of releasing Favre outright, as Favre has requested, or trading him to another team. Either option makes sense, if, as Packer GM Ted Thompson is now indicating, the Packers have no intention of re-inserting Favre as the starting quarterback in Green Bay in 2008.

As a backup to the unproven Rodgers, there is no reason to believe that Favre would be anything other than a nightmare--a distraction to Rodgers, a thorn in the side of the coaching staff, and a headache for the front office. If the Packers do well under Rodgers, Favre will only more vociferously agitate his release, realizing the dimming nature of his prospects of starting. If the team starts out slowly under Rodgers, it is a near certainty that Packer fans--as well as some teammates and possibly even some members of the Packers' coaching staff--will begin lobbying for Favre's return.

If the Packers were to bring back Favre, they would have another sizeable issue on their hands. Having spent a first-round pick on and second-round pick this year on Brian Brohm, it would make little sense to bring Favre back for what could be more than a one-year swan song. That is, unless the Packers believe that this is their year and that Rodgers is not yet ready to take over as starting quarterback.

Thompson appears to have lost all patience with Favre at this point, offering only a pithy text message response to Favre's most recent texting of his interest in returning to the NFL and publicly stating on Friday that, should Favre return to the Packers in 2008, it would be in an undetermined role. That's not something that is likely to sit well with a quarterback last seen leading his team to the brink of the Super Bowl.

All signals thus seem to suggest that the Packers would prefer that Favre and his hefty salary simply stay retired. That does not appear to be the direction that Favre is inclined to go, however. And since Favre has control over whether he retires and the Packers have control over what to do with the quarterback if and when he announces he has not retired, it seems clear that the Packers will be forced to move Favre--or Rodgers.

If the Packers elect to move Rodgers and retain Favre in the hopes of building around a future with Brohm as starting quarterback, the Packers would be stuck not only with Favre's 2008 contract, but also with an unsettled quarterback situation for at least the next three to four seasons. Rightly or wrongly, Thompson believes that the Packers can compete at the highest level in 2008, with Rodgers at the helm.

That, too, suggests that the Packers will move Favre. But to whom?

The Packers are in more of a bind than they have let on regarding their options for moving Favre, should Favre return. By all accounts, Favre does not have a no-trade clause in his contract. But that would not stop Favre from voiding a trade to a team for whom he did not wish to play--or to a team not willing to turn right around and trade him to a team for whom he wished to play.

Favre's ultimate trump card--what seems to be overlooked in most of the analysis on Favre's possible return--is his ability to walk away. Already close to retirement age for NFL quarterbacks and flush for life with cash, Favre has only his competitive nature driving his return to the NFL. Undoubtedly, such a drive would be ill-paired with the likes of Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Bucanneers.

Other teams would provide a good fit for Favre, however. Minnesota and Washington seem the most likely as each team is operating in a win-now mode and has the other pieces to contend. The most significant unknown for both Washington and Minnesota is the quarterback position. And though both teams have young quarterbacks on their rosters who they otherwise would start in 2008, neither team would look askance at an offer to add Favre as the starter for a season or two.

The rejoinder has been that, while teams like Minnesota and Washington very well might--probably would--court Favre as a free agent, Green Bay would never allow Favre to go to either team.

Unfortunately for Green Bay, the decision as to for whom Favre will play in 2008 is one that remains in Green Bay's control only if Green Bay elects to retain Favre. Given that that appears an unlikely move by Green Bay, there is little that Green Bay can do to control the situation.

The problem that Green Bay faces, of course, is that any team to whom the Packers might trade Favre would retain the right to trade Favre to another team. To be in a position to be traded to a team for whom he preferred to play, Favre would only need to make clear to teams considering trading for him his level of desire to play for that team--or another team. And that would end Green Bay's grand design.

Favre moving from Green Bay seems apocalyptic to some yellow and green fans, but it's not unprecedented. Following an even more hallowed career in San Francisco, former 49er quarterback and Bay Area legend, Joe Montana, moved on to Kansas City. The circumstances were slightly different, but not appreciably. Montana had his moments in KC but never lived up to his prior life in the Bay and fans quickly moved on. Green Bay may need to do the same very soon, if things are as Thompson suggests.

The most puzzling issue, of course, is why Green Bay does not have an interest in Favre. Rodgers has shown little in brief stints for the Packers and Brohm is nowhere near ready to play in the NFL. It is difficult to understand how a team coming off of a close NFC Championship loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions would not be interested in returning the leader of an offense that took off in 2007 and that returns, in 2008, all but the starting quarterback and main cog. Puzzling, that is, unless all of this is just Thompson posturing for a trade of Rodgers.

Up Next: Purple Games.

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