The Green Bay Packers were determined not to let the Brett Favre fiasco become a distraction to their young team.
So much for their good intentions.
Not only has the situation become a circus, but a traveling one.
Instead of dealing from a position of strength, the Packers buckled. Three days into training camp, team President Mark Murphy flew to Mississippi to plead with the unretiring quarterback not to show up to practice. Murphy even offered Favre at least $20 million to hang it up for good. The quarterback reportedly is giving serious thought to that offer, casting doubt on the notion that his desire to play isn't about the money.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, August 02, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
NFL: A column on the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Brett Favre in Friday's Sports section said that last season the San Diego Chargers got their first postseason victory since 2005. It was the Chargers' first postseason victory since 1995.
Clearly, there are no easy answers. These are the decisions that define careers. But the Packers' brass should never have let it get this far, allowing this debacle to drift past Monday's start of training camp.
Favre has asked the league to reinstate him as an active player, but Thursday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was giving the team and player at least one more day to resolve their standoff before he issued a decision. "The Packers and Brett Favre are continuing their discussions," the league said in a statement.
If Favre does decide to play, the difficulty is this: Once he is reinstated by the NFL, the team has 24 hours to decide whether to a) welcome him back, b) trade him -- and Favre has the right to nix any deal -- or c) cut him loose.
Forget the third option, because Green Bay has said it has no intention of letting him walk. Rule out bringing him back too. The Packers say they're moving forward with Aaron Rodgers as the leader of their offense. Sure, Favre is probably the better option to win games right away, but he's a short-term solution. At 38, he has one, maybe two seasons left. Bring him back and there's no way Rodgers doesn't bolt the first chance he gets -- which would be after the 2009 season.
Ted Thompson, Green Bay's beleaguered general manager, needs to give up the idea of trying to keep Favre out of the NFC North and instead trade him to Minnesota or Chicago for as much as he can get. Yes, there are Packers fans who will forever despise Thompson -- some already do -- but this situation has already forced fans to pick a side. Thompson needs to take a stand, end this, and move forward. With each passing hour, the Packers look weaker and less decisive.
There's talk in some circles that Favre would damage his legacy by playing for another franchise.
Well, that legacy is already dented by the way he and his agent have jerked around the Packers to this point. It was dinged when he admitted he was miffed that the front office had ignored his instructions to interview Steve Mariucci or sign Randy Moss.
Favre was the quarterback, and a phenomenal one. But he wasn't the GM. Those decisions weren't his to make. He wasn't the Green Bay Packers, he was a part of the Green Bay Packers.
Now, Thompson is in an unenviable position, but not a unique one. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was loathed by Dallas fans when he fired Tom Landry, but the team went on to win three more Super Bowls.
In San Diego, Chargers GM A.J. Smith fired Coach Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season, having tired of winning a lot of games during the regular season only to gag when it really counted.
In a move that at the time was a head-scratcher, Smith hired Norv Turner. In Turner's debut as Chargers coach last season, the team collected its first postseason victory since January 2005, and went on to reach the AFC championship game.
Everyone thought New England owner Robert Kraft was crazy for hiring Bill Belichick, whose 36-44 record as Cleveland's coach was as bland as his personality. Everyone knows how Kraft's decision turned out.
And here's a parallel to Green Bay's situation: In a risky move, the Patriots followed their first Super Bowl victory by trading quarterback Drew Bledsoe within the division, to Buffalo, for a first-round pick. New England cast its lot with Tom Brady, the out-of-nowhere phenom who stepped in for an injured Bledsoe the season before and wound up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Well, on the opening Sunday of the 2003 season, Bledsoe's second season in Buffalo, the Bills beat the Patriots, 31-0. (Perhaps coincidentally, the Packers play host to the Vikings during the opening weekend.) In a twist of synchronicity, the Patriots ended that regular season with a 31-0 victory over Buffalo.
With Bledsoe -- a guy who seemed destined to spend his entire career with New England -- watching from afar, the Patriots somehow found the strength to go on. And they have the rings to prove it.