Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers are even. He gave them the best years of a stellar career and a Super Bowl title. In return, they gave him a boatload of money, all the help they could afford, and as many chances to make up his mind as any reasonable man could want.
So the dispute isn’t personal, even if it’s been portrayed that way at times. It isn’t about next season, either.
The Packers would probably be better off come September with Favre starting at quarterback instead of Aaron Rodgers. The gray beard is coming off an MVP-caliber season, even though he finished a distant second to New England’s Tom Brady in balloting for the award.
Favre threw 28 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions and compiled a very respectable quarterback rating of 95.7. He led the Packers to the NFC championship game, even though it was his ill-considered pass that New York’s Corey Webster picked off in overtime to book the Giants’ passage to the Super Bowl.
On the other hand, Favre’s totals from the two previous seasons were 47 interceptions and 38 TDs. And he will turn 39 in October. Then there’s the cautionary tale of Steve Young, who spent the better part of four seasons on the sideline in San Francisco backing up Joe Montana. Those were Young’s prime years as an athlete and the only thing he got better at was holding a clipboard.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that Rodgers will turn out to be anywhere near as good as Young was. But after the way Favre has behaved the past few seasons, it’s time for the Packers to find out. And blaming the club for refusing to stop the bus and turn it around every time Favre decides he might want to get back on — considering his record the past few offseasons, isn’t just shortsighted, it’s stupid.
Coach Mike McCarthy repeated one more time Saturday that Rodgers was his choice to play quarterback. Green Bay’s rebuilt defense and solid ground game — assuming the club comes to terms with running back Ryan Grant — should buy him enough time to find out whether that’s the right call, but just barely.
Favre said he agreed with a request from Packers general manager Ted Thompson to miss the opening of camp so as not to be a distraction, even though everything he’s done the past couple of offseasons said otherwise. He talked about retiring year after year, then finally, tearfully, announced his retirement just this past March, then hinted he wanted to come back again.
Yet when the Packers expressed a willingness to take him back at the end of March, Favre changed his mind one more time. But no sooner had the team committed to Rodgers than Favre stage-managed yet another unretirement, selectively leaking his side of the story to the continuing embarrassment of the club.
If just about any other athlete behaved like that, he’d be ridiculed as selfish. Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson are tagged as mercenaries for much less and not too long ago, Favre ripped then-teammate Javon Walker for holding out for a better contract, claiming he was hurting the team.
Yet Favre never hesitated to leverage his own situation to cash in and worse, to force McCarthy — not to mention predecessors Mike Sherman, Ray Rhodes and Mike Holmgren — to let him play despite injuries to keep his consecutive-game streak going. Talk about hurting a team.
For all that, Favre isn’t finished with Green Bay. He plans to force a trade to a team of his liking, whether it fits the Packers’ plans or not. He’s already talked to the division-rival Vikings and enlisted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to smooth things over.
Favre may project an aw-shucks manner, but he’s as calculating as athletes get. He told ESPN.com on Sunday he’s already signed reinstatement papers that would force Green Bay’s hand and that if he’d listened to his wife, Deanna, and his agent, James “Bus” Cook, he would have filed them already.
“Everyone here says, ’You’re so stupid, letting (the Packers) play you like this,” Favre told the site.
If it isn’t already clear who’s playing whom, stay tuned. For all that talk about loyalty, Favre will wind up playing where he wants to next season — even if he has to burn every bridge in Green Bay to get there.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org.