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Monday, July 28, 2008
Packers say one thing, do another as Favre mess lingers

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

So unless he "misremembers" -- to use Roger Clemens' word -- Brett Favre once again confirmed all you need to know about the integrity, or lack of it, of Green Bay Packers management.

First of all, it did the very thing it accuses Favre of doing: It waffled. Actually, general manager Ted Thompson waffled.

A little more than two weeks ago, Thompson said Favre, who mis-retired, could return to the team "as an active member of the Green Bay Packers." Active, as in, on the active roster. But not as the starter.

But the truth is Thompson doesn't want Favre within a Sturgeon Bay of the Packers' training camp. He never did. All that talk of Favre's returning in "some role" was clumsy Thompson propaganda.

The latest proof is in Favre's Sunday interview with ESPN's Chris Mortensen. According to Favre, the quarterback asked Thompson if he'd be "welcome" if he reported to the opening of training camp. A reasonable question.

Thompson, said Favre, "was just about shattered. He said, 'Brett, you can't do that -- you'll get me fired.' I told him I'm not trying to get anybody fired. So Ted asked me to let the guys report and let's try to resolve this over the next two or three days." (On Monday, Thompson told the media that he interpreted the discussion differently.)

Thompson knows what would have happened if Favre had been issued a helmet and a jersey today. Everybody knows. Favre would have been the best quarterback on the field.

Thompson knows what would have happened if Favre had been issued a helmet and a jersey today. Everybody knows. Favre would have been the best quarterback on the field.

Forget the three-ring media circus if Favre had reported. That's the least of Thompson's problems. His backpedaling and then reversal on Favre's supposed "role" with the team is the admission that counts.

Thompson isn't interested in putting the best product on the field. If he were, he'd let Aaron Rodgers, his handpicked successor to Favre, compete for the starting position. Sure, there'd be off-the-charts media and fan scrutiny. Isn't that part of it?

If Rodgers can't handle the pressure of Favre's presence and open competition for the job in July, what makes you think he can handle the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in December? But Thompson doesn't want the best man to win. He wants his man to win. So no quarterback bake-off.

At the very least, Thompson should have told Favre: "You want to come back? Fine. I think you're making a mistake, but it's your life and your legacy. If you do come back, it's going to be an open competition for the starting job. I give you my word we'll judge it as objectively as possible. But if Rodgers wins, you're the backup and you can't bitch about it. Deal?"

And at the very most, Thompson could have said: "You gave us 16 great years. Here's your release."

Instead, the Packers are trying to trade their best quarterback. I repeat, their best quarterback. Of course, Favre isn't good enough for them, but he is good enough that the Packers reportedly want a first-round draft pick in exchange for his rights.

This is what I mean by Packers flip-flopping. In March, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy and assistant coach Tom Clements were telling Favre he could "still play at a high level." But now the Packers don't think he's worth the trouble? Yet they think the negotiations for his rights should start at a first-rounder?

If Thompson can get a second-round pick for Favre, take it. Maybe you add some sort of escalation clause -- if his new team advances to the conference championship game, the second-round pick becomes a first-rounder. I'm just spitballing here.

...Nobody has bungled this situation more than Thompson. From the disingenuous "We Care About Favre's Legacy" stance, to the convenient and false statement that Favre could return to the team, Thompson has written the textbook on mismanagement.

The bottom line is this: If you believe in Rodgers as much as you say you do, you trade Favre. And it shouldn't matter where. If NFC North rival Minnesota offers the most comprehensive package, you trade him to Minnesota. If Chicago comes up with the best deal, then off to the Bears he goes. That way you get Favre's name off the roster and draft picks in your pocket. It's a win-win.

Favre didn't do himself or his image any favors by changing his mind on retirement. And he's taken considerable heat for it -- some of it deserved, some of it bordering on the hysterical.

But nobody has bungled this situation more than Thompson. From the disingenuous "We Care About Favre's Legacy" stance, to the convenient and false statement that Favre could return to the team, Thompson has written the textbook on mismanagement.

Thompson keeps insisting the Packers have moved forward, as if the mere act of saying the words makes it true. But until he does one of three things -- trade Favre, release Favre or welcome Favre back -- the Packers aren't moving anywhere, especially forward.

Time to make a decision, Ted. Now it's your legacy at stake.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.