I hope my column on Friday explaining some of the issues behind the divorce between the Packers and Brett Favre gave insight to readers. After reading the comments, I’m reminded of the intelligence, knowledge and passion of our readers. Through his desire to return to play — which should have been no surprise to anyone, especially the Packers — Brett put the team in a difficult position that was exacerbated by his popularity and previous treatment in Green Bay. The Packers handled it in a way that was best for them, leading to a messy divorce. The latest chapter of the story ensued Sunday, with Brett doing an admirable job of maintaining control of his emotions and his game in leading the Vikings to a win.
During the Fox telecast, Troy Aikman said with some certainty that perhaps Brett never really wanted to play for the Packers again after his brief retirement last year. That meshes with some of the issues discussed here Friday, knowing the parties involved. Hearing it from Troy gives it added credence. I will explain.
Brett and the TV guys
There’s a reason so many of the national television broadcasters speak in reverential terms about Favre beyond his accomplishments on the field. They’ve come to know him so well from the generous amounts of time they have with him, for reasons that may not appear so obvious.
In my time with the Packers, when we arrived in a city as the visiting team on the afternoon before the game, our public relations staff would immediately meet the crew working the game for Fox, CBS, ESPN, ABC or NBC. Their producers typically gave our staff their list of three or four players they wanted to interview in preparation for the broadcast. The other names on the list would change week to week, but it always included Brett, no matter what our record, where our game was, etc. And Brett was usually the last one to be interviewed by the broadcast team.
While most of the requested players went for their 10-15-minute interviews and were off to do other things, Brett would stay and talk to the analysts sometimes for an hour, or two or three or four, even to the point where the broadcasters would kick him out so they could go get some dinner.
There were a couple of reasons Brett hung around so long. First and foremost, Brett had nowhere to go but back to his hotel room. It’s not like he could walk around the streets of a city and grab dinner somewhere. It’s not like he could hang out in the lobby and chat up memorabilia-toting fans. And after his longtime roommate, Frank Winters, retired, Brett just stayed in a single room (under an alias, of course, and there were some good ones).
The other reason Brett hung out in the broadcast meetings so long is that he just loved talking football with those guys. He especially reveled in sitting back and telling stories with people like John Madden, Matt Millen, Phil Simms and Troy Aikman. Some of the meetings with Madden are legendary for their candor and bawdy humor.
I remember seeing Brett walk out of a meeting three hours after he went in, and he was laughing to himself. I asked what it was about and he said he was just laughing with Madden and telling him about his Uncle Rube (I’ll spare you the details). Sure enough, in the latter stages of the broadcast the next night, there’s Madden talking about how Brett gets some of his toughness from his Uncle Rube.
So if Aikman said something enlightening about Favre, which he did, it came from Favre on Saturday night in the Vikings hotel, with Brett ensconced in a production meeting as always, talking football with the broadcast team.
Didn’t want to be a Packer
Aikman’s comment jibes with the feelings about the discussions with the Vikings that riled Packers management so much. As detailed here Friday, Brett never warmed to the management style of GM Ted Thompson. Beyond the stilted communication, Brett felt he received lip service from Ted about the team making runs at veteran players but didn’t actually pursue them, as that was certainly not his preferred style for building a team.
Brett had no business making personnel decisions for the team but felt his suggestions had merit. He would bend my ear for hours about getting Randy Moss or other veteran players who became available. Whenever Brett would make these comments, I would tell him to trust the young guys we had such as Greg Jennings. Brett replied that he didn’t have time to wait; I would tell him he didn’t have to wait.
After so many tirades about how we weren’t going after this guy or that guy in free agency or trade, I would say to Brett, “What part of Ted Thompson’s philosophy do you not understand?” He would just shrug and walk away.
Brett wanted a ready-made veteran team for the longest time. That’s what the Jets sold him last year, and that’s what the Vikings were selling this (and last?) year. Now he’s where he has wanted to be for 16 months and, at the moment, thriving.
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