Nightmare in Green Bay (cont.)
One: Say they accept Favre back, then try to trade him. They're going to get, what, a third-round pick from Tampa Bay or the New York Jets or Washington for him? They'll forever be known as the men who sent the greatest Packer packing. And there's no guarantee Favre would agree to go to just any team if he chooses to come back. Don't put it past him and agent Bus Cook to refuse to report to a team Favre doesn't want to play for.
Two: Say the Packers allow Favre his freedom, which I think ultimately is what Favre wants if he doesn't get his starting job back in Green Bay. Overwhelmingly the team that makes the most sense to sign Favre for a couple of years is Minnesota. The Vikings are training Tarvaris Jackson to be their quarterback of the future, but he's an unproven commodity with promise at best. Their offensive coordinator is Darrell Bevell, who was Favre's quarterback coach for three years, from 2003-05. They have a close relationship. Not Steve Mariucci-Favre close, but Favre has a lot of respect for him. Imagine Favre in purple. It's an absolutely vomitous scenario for the Packers, imagining Favre playing for their arch-rivals -- and imagining Favre charging out of the tunnel at Lambeau Field for the opening game of the 2008 season. Lambeau Field, Monday Night Football, the night Favre was supposed to have his number retired for the Packers.
Which is why I believe the Packers, even though they desperately want Favre to stay retired, will take him back if he presses the issue. They'll try to mollify Rodgers somehow, which I think will be difficult. Impossible, maybe. They'll hope Favre changes his mind and goes back into retirement sometime in August ... which, if he shows up for the first day of camp, I will guarantee you he will not do. But they'll grit their teeth and smile for the cameras when he returns, all the while cursing his flip-flopness.
The smartest thing for the Packers to do right now, if Favre continues to charge ahead and insist he wants to play, would be for McCarthy and Thompson to meet with Favre in the next 10 days and try to convince him not to play. I don't think it would work, particularly because I don't sense Favre is feeling all warm and fuzzy about Packer brass right now. But Favre's an emotional sort.
One story that's never been fully told is why Favre returned in 2006, after he was convinced he'd thrown his last pass. A good part of the reason was a visit Thompson made to Hattiesburg, urging Favre to play one more year and to give then-rookie coach McCarthy a chance. The Packers, Thompson told Favre, really needed him. And on that spring day in 2006, Favre decided he'd return. If they can't convince him to stay retired, I believe they'd have a chance -- a chance -- to convince him to accept a trade, which I think would be best for all parties. Favre and Cook could list a slew of teams that would be agreeable to him, and the Packers could tell him, "We're not trading you to a team in the division.''
That seems fair. The Packers want to get on with their lives. What isn't fair to them is for Favre to be able to say he wants to pick up and go play for Minnesota or Chicago, both quarterback-needy teams.
But I don't expect that to happen. I'm told Thompson is not returning Cook's calls -- and what possible benefit would that have, other than Thompson fearing Cook would leak their conversations to favored friends in the media? -- and the Packers recently sent an intermediary to Mississippi to try to talk some sense into him. All that does is alienate Favre from the franchise further.
Final point: I keep hearing Favre was pushed into retirement by the Packers demanding an early decision this off-season, or by Thompson not showing him enough love. He might feel that way, but I think it's nonsense. Favre stood up in front of the world six weeks after he played his last game and said he was finished. If he's not, the Packers are not to blame. He is. He'll have to take the consequences for returning, either in Green Bay (where he shouldn't expect a hug from Rodgers) or elsewhere. But right now, I believe the heart is telling Favre to play, and what the heart wants, the heart usually gets.