One by one, the principal players are falling into line and the movement to bring retired quarterback Brett Favre back into the Green Bay Packers’ fold is gaining momentum.
Team president Mark Murphy has said several times, most recently in May, that the Packers are making it a priority to mend fences with Favre, whose always-entertaining 16-year career in Green Bay ended in acrimony with a hastily arranged trade to the New York Jets in the summer of 2008.
Current Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was snubbed by Favre after general manager Ted Thompson made him the team’s first-round draft pick in 2005, has graciously extended an olive branch to Favre as well. He appeared with Favre in a funny bit onstage at the NFL Honors show and also told radio talker Jim Rome the Packers needed to retire Favre’s No. 4 jersey before Favre enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, likely as a first-ballot pick in 2016.
The latest development came last week when Favre told a Buffalo radio station he at least shares the blame for the split with the Packers, an admission that shows he is coming to grips with his departure from Green Bay. I have always said Favre’s exit was a two-way street, that he overplayed his hand with his premature retirement followed by his 11th-hour return and that the Packers, who were ready to move on to Rodgers anyway, took advantage of the opening to make the transition at quarterback.
Of course, there is still one more party to weigh in on the matter: Packers fans. The messy divorce polarized the team’s fan base and in many ways it remains divided five years later.
Some fans think Favre was the best thing that ever happened to a franchise that had lost its relevance in the 1970s and ’80s. Others think he’s a traitor for retiring after one year in New York, then unretiring and playing his final two seasons with the team he wanted Thompson to trade him to all along, the hated Minnesota Vikings.
But now that Favre has accepted some responsibility for what transpired in 2008, it changes everything.
For one thing, history has shown that the divorce was the best thing for both parties. Yes, Favre beat the Packers twice in 2009, but Green Bay had the last laugh when it won the Super Bowl with Rodgers a year later. And because he played three additional seasons, it is clear that Favre, retirement announcement or not, wasn’t through playing in 2008 and that sticking it to the Packers wasn’t his sole motivation.
Now, the time has come for those Packers fans who still harbor ill will toward Favre to join the movement toward reconciliation so that his place in the franchise’s history, a history he helped write, is secure.
“It is what it is,” Favre told the radio station. “It’s over and done with. I was at fault. I feel that both sides had a part in it. If you could go back, would I or they have done things differently? I’m sure both sides would. But you can’t. And I think, I don’t know for certain, but I think the situation with Peyton (Manning) and the (Indianapolis) Colts almost looked like our situation. But then, maybe they thought twice about it and maybe they learned from our situation and they handled it correctly.
“So I hate it, that it happened that way. And I tried to go on and play my best football in spite of those things. I had a great year my first year in Minnesota and up until my bicep was torn in New York, I really felt we were having a great year. So I look back and have fond memories of all those years. In 20 years of football, really I don’t hold any regrets. I know I gave it my all. Had 16 great, wonderful years in Green Bay. Had a lot of success, played with a lot of great teammates, was part of some teams that had some great coaches who have all branched out, (Mike) McCarthy being one of those. Again, it happened. It’s over and done with. I think things will be fine in due time.”
They should be fine now. Look, the Packers are going to retire Favre’s jersey, as they should. It’s a matter of when, not if. Do fans really want to boo Favre when his number is retired or do they want to celebrate 16 seasons that were filled with thrills and spills, including a Super Bowl title in 1996?
Every year, when the former Packers return for alumni weekend, the largest ovation is reserved for Bart Starr. In doing so, fans are saluting not the failed Packers coach of the 1970s and ’80s but the cerebral quarterback who led the franchise to five NFL titles in the ’60s.
Surely, Packers fans can set aside their animosities and embrace Favre as well, especially now that the passage of time is easing tensions on both sides. Favre admitted there was “bad blood,” but said he has talked to Murphy on numerous occasions and is “over it.” He also said he and Rodgers have developed a good relationship since the awards show.
Trust me, if Rodgers can let bygones be bygones, the fans certainly can.