Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hey Brett, Go Home
By Zach

I'm not a Packers fan. I've never bought into the mystique of the "frozen tundra," or of calling Green Bay "Title Town." For all the hype and attention, the Packers have won a total of three Super Bowls, and one since 1968. Their last Super Bowl was 10 years ago, and it's been nine years since they even reached the title game. I think it's wonderful that a town as small as Green Bay can not only have an NFL franchise, but that their team can get the same kind of attention that teams in much larger cities get.

With all that being said, the Packers have turned into a sad joke of a franchise this offseason. By letting Brett Favre hold them hostage while he read tea leaves, threw bone dice, and conducted a séance to determine whether he wanted to play in 2006, they sabotaged not just this year's team, but perhaps the next two or three as well.

You're all familiar with the 2005 numbers by now. The 20 TDs and 29 INTs, the 70.9 passer rating. Football Outsiders listed him as the 15th best quarterback last year by DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement) and 23rd in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). The drop off has been going on for a while: in 2004, Favre was seventh in DPAR and 10th in DVOA, and in 2003 he was ninth and 12th. 2002 closely resembled last year, as he was 16th and 22nd. 2001 was the last time Favre ranked as one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the league.

It's clear why Green Bay was willing to wait around for Favre to come back. First, he's a local legend and a large part of why people pay to come see the Packers. Cutting or trading a legend always results in a public relations nightmare for the team, because fans never want to believe that their hero has lost it. Second of all, as this situation dragged on and most of the free agent quarterbacks signed elsewhere, the Packers were facing starting the year with either the unproven Aaron Rodgers at quarterback or signing a crappy should-be backup and forcing him into the starting role. There's the belief that even if Favre is washed up, he's still a better quarterback at this point than anyone the Packers could bring in.

The problem for the Packers is this: eventually, they're going to have to being life without Brett. Even if he announces that 2006 is his final season and the team can prepare for his departure, they're going to struggle. After all, they went 4-12 this past year with him.

They should have showed more spine. The Packers could have set a deadline for Favre to make his decision (which they did) and stuck to it (which they didn't). If Brett wants to consult the spirits some more, say "thanks for the great run, we'll see you when we retire your jersey." But no team can afford to let one player hold them hostage, especially when that player is no longer anything but average on the field.

Sure, standing up to Favre might have cost them some short term support, but the fact is, winning will bring fans back. And if the Arizona Cardinals can remain profitable despite the crap they throw on the field, I don't think the Packers ownership would have been in too much financial danger.

Instead, they're faced with the prospect of another losing season in which the development and advancement of their young players is vastly overshadowed by the Brett Favre Retirement Show. God, I can only imagine how many ass-kissing Peter King columns I'll have to read this year.

None of this answers the real question: why did Brett come back? It's not like the Packers will be any good, and it's not much more likely that he'll be anything above average. In fact, he's got a good chance to set the all-time career record for interceptions. Does he really need another year's worth of money? Maybe, but my guess is, it's all about the ego. He wanted to see if he could keep the Packers hanging on, and now he wants to watch the NFL go crazy as they try and make his farewell tour into the must-watch event of the fall and winter.

Well, I'm sick of it already.


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