Friday new$ and note$
Greetings from Green Bay, er, Dallas, with winter weather imported to make the Packers and Steelers feel at home....
What if Brett stayed retired as a Packer
As the Packers prepare to take the field as the favored team in the Super Bowl, the 2008 divorce with Brett Favre certainly seems in the rear view mirror. The franchise is well stocked with ascending players and a quarterback already being mentioned in the same breath as the top players in the sport.
I documented the difficult parting of Favre and the Packers last year. I also have been amazed at the fall from grace that Brett has had in the past couple of years, remembering how he was deified by fans and media locally in Wisconsin and nationally. As I have said, Brett was not as perfect as he was made out to be in those years, nor is he the pariah he has been made out to be recently. The truth lies somewhere in between.
The Packers were desperately hoping that when Brett retired in 2008, he would either stay retired or accept a $20 million package from the team to be a goodwill ambassador – in retirement, of course. When he insisted on playing, that set off the chain of events we saw, culminating in Mike McCarthy telling him bluntly “We’ve moved on.”
What if, however, Favre had truly stayed retired and/or served as a continued face of the Packers’ from his honorary position through the past couple of years? Certainly, the nasty divorce between Brett and the Packers would not have ensued, nor his roundabout path to the rival Vikings. However, it may have been a blessing in disguise to the Packers that he moved away the organization.
Had Favre stayed retired and showed up around the team at his discretion, there would have been the constant specter of the signature player of the organization for 15 years hovering over a new quarterback trying to establish himself as the leader of the franchise. Every time Aaron would have a bad game, an injury, a couple interceptions, etc., there would be the prospect raised of ambassador Favre – who still very much wanted to play – coming back on his white horse to reclaim his throne.
Had Brett done what the Packers wanted him to do, it would have created an indefinite cloud of uncertainty over Aaron and the franchise, unable to move into the next generation without the constant tension of its iconic player still lingering around the team.
One day, all sides will smile and hug with a jersey retirement and ceremony at Lambeau Field. It may be fortunate for the Packers that day didn't happen when they wanted it to and Brett didn't take the deal on the table to stay retired. As is the case often, sometimes the best deals are the ones that aren't made.
Mr. Smith addresses the media
On the labor front, yesterday was the DeMaurice Smith press conference and not surprisingly, Smith harped on the same recurring themes that I expected he would -- lack of financial transparency from the NFL and that the players just want to play.
Smith was a bit combative with a few of the questions from the media, especially one that referred to his appearances in Congress as a "photo op", but was still more contrite than his address a year ago. During that address, Smith referred to the $1 billion setoff that the league takes of the top of the revenue number as a "gift" from the union. That term did not sit well with NFL ownership. Now, even though the NFL has asked for an additional $1 billion off the top of the revenue number, Smith refrained from using terms like "gift."
Smith left the impassioned remarks to NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, who closed the press conference with a message to the fans that the players care about them, implying that the NFL does not. The move was strategic in the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of fans about this messy situation.
Today Commissioner Goodell will take his turn in front of the media, and will likely hit the same themes he has been stressing: that the league is working hard on making a deal that will be good for all sides, that will address the inequities of rookie pay, that will address the meaningless preseason (by cutting it in half and making two games count), and that will insure future shared success for both sides. He will stress collective risk and collective sacrifice in making a deal.
Finally, a prediction from icy and frigid Dallas for the Super Bowl. Admitting my bias for the team I worked with for nine years, I have picked them all year and will continue to do so:
Packers 27 Steelers 17
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