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Thursday, August 7, 2008
Favre's gone for good, but Packers fans shouldn't panic

By Jeffri Chadiha
ESPN.com

Now that Brett Favre is a New York Jet and Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson is the most scrutinized executive in the NFL, let's get one thing straight: The Packers will be fine.

You can talk all you want about how much better the Packers would've been with Favre. You can point out the mistakes Thompson made in handling the longest-running soap opera in recent league history. What you can't do, however, is make a case for the Packers falling apart now that old No. 4 is working in the Big Apple. That one just doesn't fly.

For those people who want to point to all the things Favre has accomplished in his glorious 17-year career, I will steer you to some of the feats Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have pulled off in their brief tenure in Green Bay. They put the league's youngest team on the field last season and watched it win 13 games and an NFC North title.

Mike McCarthy
Coach Mike McCarthy (pictured) and GM Ted Thompson have built a solid foundation in Green Bay.

They've rid themselves of aging, expensive veterans and filled their roster with young playmakers, 40 of whom Thompson acquired since becoming general manager in 2005. And for those who pay attention to the bottom line, the Packers are still $30 million under the cap.

Those are the kinds of facts that don't get mentioned in the media or by fans because they're not as sexy as the fate of a miffed 38-year-old quarterback who's headed for the Hall of Fame. But trust me, they matter far more than most people realize. Those facts mean that Thompson and McCarthy have been quite proficient at their jobs since showing up in Green Bay. They also mean that skeptical Packers fans should be excited about a team that clearly has been built to last.

In fact, all the Favre supporters who castigated Thompson over the past month need to finally realize how much Favre contributed to this controversy in the first place. Favre was the one who chose to retire back in March. He's also the one who said he wanted to return to the Packers a few weeks later, only to tell them he didn't want to come back after all. While I'm on the subject, he's also the same guy who kept this controversy stewing for so long because he wanted to get his way and manipulate the public into believing he was still a star worth loving.

If this past month should've told us anything about Favre, it's that we now understand why Thompson and McCarthy got fed up with the guy in the first place. Favre simply couldn't commit to their plan, either because he didn't feel loved enough or because Thompson wasn't willing to sign Randy Moss, hire Steve Mariucci and kiss Favre's ring all in the same motion.

If you want more proof of how maddening it had to be to deal with Favre, just consider how he handled that reported 10-year, $20 million offer the Packers gave him to stay retired. Last week he supposedly was considering it, then a couple of days ago he was criticizing Green Bay for trying to buy him off.

I'm not making this stuff up, folks. These are actual facts that can be checked simply by clicking on Google. They're also an indication of how confused and conflicted Favre had been this entire offseason. For those who don't know, NFL teams can't afford to deal with the confused and conflicted. They need players who are on the same page from day one, and that belief is exactly what fueled the stubbornness of Thompson and McCarthy.

They had a plan in place, and they believed in it. They also gave Favre a chance to be part of that plan. But Favre apparently couldn't accept working with a general manager he didn't like and a team that was ready to move on without him. That's fine. He gets to play football again -- with a mediocre team that is about to get kicked around the AFC for another season -- and the Packers get to move forward with a squad that should make another run at the Super Bowl.

And please don't tell me how much pressure is on Aaron Rodgers, Favre's successor. If anything, he should have more confidence now that Favre has been shuttled out of town because Rodgers is the best quarterback on the current roster. I'd also give Thompson credit for his ability to find talent. He has built a nice supporting cast for Rodgers because he's been able to pluck playmakers off the free-agent market and out of the draft.

In case you forgot, running back Ryan Grant was mired at the bottom of the New York Giants' depth chart before Thompson traded for him and set him loose on opposing defenses.

These are the kind of accomplishments Packers fans -- along with anybody else who has followed this story -- need to focus on now. There was going to come a day when Favre's career ended in Green Bay, and it just so happened that such a day came twice in the same year. But the game of football doesn't stop moving forward for anybody. Not even for a man with Favre's impeccable credentials.

So when you watch the Packers this season and wait for them to implode without their former starter, remember one thing: This isn't the NBA, in which you can just add a Kevin Garnett and a Ray Allen to a lousy team and win a title. In football, you need 53 men to be focused on the same goal -- instead of one man carrying a team. The Packers have that going for themselves today. And that's reason enough for them not to regret parting ways with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.