A year ago, Favre threw the interception in the closing seconds of regulation to help lose the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans. Two weeks later, the Saints were where Favre should have been. Where he could have retired on top, thumbed his nose at Packers' GM Ted Thompson and kept Jenn Sterger from becoming a household name.
This week has to sting a little, too. Especially if Favre is paying close attention to the verbal man crush his former teammates are handing out to Thompson leading up to Super Bowl XLV on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.
Favre's former teammates haven't been disrespectful to Favre or criticized him. But what they're saying now about Thompson and the team's decision to trade Favre after he tried to return from retirement in 2008 speaks to how they truly felt back in 2008. Those players were put in a difficult position when Favre publicly criticized Thompson while trying to horn back in when Rodgers had spent the offseason preparing to be the starter.
The temptation amongst many NFL pundits and fans is to applaud Thompson for making such a courageous move by letting go of the quarterback who resurrected Titletown, USA. And yes, it's hard to argue the positive results, as Aaron Rodgers has been brilliant his first three years as starting quarterback. And while I thought it was pretty arrogant of Favre to demand he be renamed the starter a mere few months after retiring, Thompson initially didn't handle the Favre-Packers divorce very smoothly.
Just a few weeks after announcing his retirement in February 2008, Favre began to regret his decision. Favre contacted the Packers franchise shortly thereafter to convey his plans of un-retiring. With Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy ready to fly to Mississippi to make plans to welcome Favre back, he got cold feet and decided to stay retired.
But once Summer rolled around, Favre officially un-retired and thus wanted his job back as Packers starting QB. This is where Thompson flubbed the whole affair. Instead of standing firm and telling Favre that his Packers day were over, the organization was going to allow him to return in an open competition for the starter's job. I can't believe that was even considered. Favre proved he could still play at a high level in 2007 and was instrumental in bringing the Lombardi trophy back to Green Bay in 1996. How in the world could there have been an honest assessment of an open competition when the fan-favorite (and future Hall of Famer) would take on a promising upstart in Rodgers, who had never started an NFL game? And with Rodgers nearing the end of his initial contract, he would have almost certainly moved on had he been forced to sit on the bench for a fourth consecutive season.
But Thompson et al dodged a bullet when Favre pitched a fit upon learning that the job as Green Bay Packers QB was not his birthright. As a result, Favre demanded his release so that he could sign with the team of his choice, specifically the Pack's division rival Minnesota Vikings. Of course, Thompson knew Favre still could play, so there's was no way he wanted the Packers to have to oppose Favre twice per season. Instead, Thompson orchestrated a trade of Favre to the AFC's New York Jets. He even inserted a "poison pill" stipulation in which the Jets would have to surrender multiple first round draft choices if they turn around and trade Favre to an NFC North team. Fair or unfair, many surmised Thompson turned the whole saga into a personal vendetta against Favre and his playing career.
Despite the whole Favre soap opera of a few years ago, Thompson will likely be completely vindicated by 9:00 pm CT this Sunday. However, he could have easily avoided such a messy situation in the first place had he politely declined Favre's demand to return to Green Bay. That would have definitely been the more expedient (and courageous) course of action.