So once again, everyone's favorite warhorse, Brett Favre, has opted to return to quarterback the Packers next season. How are we, as Packer fans, supposed to feel about this?
The rote response from folks generally ranged from good to great. Is this being overly optimistic? We all know that Favre isn't what he used to be. He's less mobile, less accurate, still throws the ball very hard, but probably has lost a bit of velocity. His knowledge of the game and his ability to change calls and make audibles are still probably quite high, though he may not throw himself into preparation as much as he used to, or was forced to under Holmgren's regime. The valid reason for all the excitement is that Favre is most likely better than Aaron Rodgers and Ingle Martin, and an improvement over any veteran quarterback we could find in free agency (Damon Huard? Jeff Garcia?). Also, though some folks might be loath to admit it, I'm betting a lot of fans are relieved at Favre's return because he's the face of the franchise, and the Packers don't have a modern identity without him. What else does it mean?
First, financially, we won't have Brett's ginormous salary to throw around in free agency. But it doesn't really matter, because with the newly raised cap in effect, we have plenty of money available. The problem may be a lack of decent free agents out there. The best available skill position players seem to be Michael Turner, Tomlinson's back up with the Chargers, or Drew Bennett, the former UCLA quarterback turned wideout with the Titans. For tight ends, Daniel Graham and Jeramy Stevens may both be available. Anyhow, Brett's return shouldn't present us from throwing some money at Ahman, or sliding Al Harris additional cash.
In fact, even if he had left, given the dearth of available talent at positions where we have needs (WR, RB, and TE), we probably wouldn't have run out and spent his salary. Thompson does not seem to be a guy who spends money just for the sake of it. A final note on this subject, it's almost too bad that Al Harris is still playing quite well. We have a lot of money to spend and the best two free agents this year are cornerbacks-- Asante Samuel from the Pats (you may have seen his interception return against the Colts) and Nate Clements of Buffalo (he's the guy who intercepted Favre on the slant to Driver we ran at the Bills one-yard line--basically costing us the playoffs). I'm guessing it'd be anarchy to sign one of those guys and ask Woodson or Harris to be the nickel back. We could trade Harris to a contender that needs secondary help (the Colts? the Seahawks?), along with signing Samuel or Clements. Not sure if Thompson would want to be that adventurous.
Second, barring a disastrous injury or an offensive collapse, Brett will break the records for career touchdowns, wins by a quarterback, and interceptions. That'll give him nearly every meaningful record for QBs, though he'll still trail Marino in total yards. (Marino's more than 4,000 yards ahead.) One thing I admire about Brett is that the only record he's ever admitted to caring about is the record for most wins by a quarterback. He wants to be a winner. Don't get me wrong, he loves throwing touchdowns, but more than anything, he wants to win, even after 16 years in the league, three MVPs, and a Super Bowl win. Remarkable.
Third, all Packer fans can get some temporary relief from their worries. When Favre retires, things are going to be grim, not only because he still appears to be far more talented than the other available QB options, but also because it may coincide with the terminal aging of several of our key players, like Harris, Woodson, Driver and Ahman. Favre's return spares us from confronting questions about the team's long-term future, like what kind of team are we going to be after he's gone? Who are going to be our playmakers? Are any of our young players capable of becoming franchise players? How will we attract free agents to Green Bay? It also postpones, to some extent, worries for expatriate Packer fans, like myself, about watching the team on TV. With Favre, expect us to still be on a bunch of national broadcasts. As soon as he leaves, call the Direct TV guy and invest in Sunday Ticket, because the Packers will be scarcely seen.
Fourth, we may have a chance to make the playoffs if people stay healthy and our old guys don't fall off. Our shot is due to our division's awfulness and the NFC as a whole not being particularly good (thus making the competition for a spot suspect, like this season). Unfortunately, we play the NFC East (perhaps the best division in this poor conference) and the AFC West (Chargers (uh-oh), Broncos (tough), Raiders (no hay problema, although their defense is solid), and Chiefs (tough)) next year. Thankfully, you can still make the playoffs with a losing record, as far as I know.
Fifth and finally, I think Brett is back, in part, because of the Bears. Favre is likely coming back because we owned the Bears on New Year's and they're about to kick off in XLI. His thinking, somewhat rightly, is that if we stomped the NFC champions, we must have the potential to be decent. Of course, that logic may be flawed since the Bears had nothing to play for and thus admitted keeping their offense and defense quite vanilla that whole game. Regardless, the idea that the Bears are responsible for keeping their greatest antagonist from retiring is hysterical. Also, Favre's announcement is a reverse good omen for the Bears, timed right on the start of Super Bowl weekend. I say that because nothing would have brought more joy to Bears fans (and to Viking and Lion fans), than Favre retiring. And if he had announced his retirement right before the Bears played in the Super Bowl, Bear fans would be preemptively ecstatic. But instead, the opposite happened, and it's because of their own success! Wondrous.