Thursday, May 7, 2009
It's time for damage control in Minnesota
By Kevin Seifert
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
I know what I thought when I saw the headline: "Favre rebuffs Vikings, will remain retired." Maybe you thought the same thing: That Brett Favre will remain retired today.
That's all we can safely conclude in the wake of Thursday's Yahoo! Sports story. Reportedly, Favre has informed Minnesota coach Brad Childress that he won't come out of retirement and play for the Vikings in 2009. Favre, after all, twice sent that message to Green Bay officials in the spring of 2008 before asking them in June for reinstatement.
But for the benefit of this post, let's assume Favre's plans are as permanent as they can possibly be. For now, we'll ignore the possibility that he could get the itch to play later this summer. Let's not go there. Yet.
At this time, I think it's more important to measure the impact of this dalliance on Minnesota: the franchise, its players and its fan base.
Here is what I think we can conclude from this brouhaha:
- Not everyone in the organization is sold on its current quarterback configuration, a list that has to include Childress. Upon Favre's release last week, Childress could simply have shipped him a retirement bouquet or a box of chocolates. Instead, he has been widely reported to have sent out feelers to determine whether Favre would come play for him. I realize Favre is a future Hall of Fame quarterback, not just a mere upgrade, but Childress has to understand the implicit message and ramifications of the pursuit. It tells your incumbent quarterbacks -- those whom you will turn to if the gambit fails -- that your confidence level is something short of 100 percent.
- Quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are going to have to grow some thick skin, if they don't have it already. Rosenfels would be especially justified in feeling tossed around. The Vikings acquired him in February, extended his contract and told him he would compete for the starting job. Before he even took a practice snap -- OTAs (organized team activities) don't begin until May 19 -- they were already looking to replace him.
- That confusion doesn't just span to quarterbacks. Receiver Bernard Berrian told ESPN's Rachel Nichols this week that Favre would do "wonders for our team." Berrian also told the Star Tribune that he was trying not to get too excited about the possibility. If you're a player involved with the Vikings' passing game, or even if you're just a veteran with limited time left to pursue a championship, I'm guessing you are going to be at least a little disappointed and/or disenchanted with this news.
- This news cycle also has illustrated the way Minnesota continues to address its quarterback position by the seat of its pants. It acquired Rosenfels in February and started pursuing Favre less than two months later. Overall, it has devoted a total of eight draft choices to acquiring six different quarterbacks since Daunte Culpepper blew out his knee in 2005. In the past three seasons, five different quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Vikings. Even if Favre had agreed to return, they likely would have been in the same situation again next offseason.
- I wouldn't say Vikings fans were 100 percent united in this pursuit, but its anticlimactic conclusion will create more disappointment than relief. Whatever the proportion, it's an unhealthy detour for a team that -- like many in the economic environment -- has its work cut out to sell tickets.
I also wonder if this episode has impacted Favre's long-term relationship with the Green Bay organization and its fans. Already, you figured it would take some time for wounds to heal and for Favre to take his place as a revered alumnus of the Packers. Will his flirtation with Minnesota represent just a blip on that path? Or has it set back the reunion even further?
And it appears that's that. So at this time, we'll take a step back from Favre2009. At least for today.