Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Here's How Brett Favre Tried to Screw Over the Green Bay Packers

There are a lot of mixed emotions for Green Bay Packer fans who used to idolize Brett Favre heading into his return to Lambeau Field this weekend as the quarterback for their arch rival Minnesota Vikings.

Was Brett Favre screwed over by Ted Thompson and the Green Bay front office? Or did Favre betray his loyal Packer fan base by plotting to force Green Bay to release him?

While a minority of Packer fans who are less educated in the intricacies of the NFL salary cap feel sympathetic towards Favre and blame his departure from Green Bay on Ted Thompson, below I make a case for my firm belief that it was Brett Favre who attempted to screw the Packers over by sabotoging their salary cap so he could play for his friend Brad Childress in Minnesota.

The following timeline not only documents the relevant events in the Favre/Green Bay "unretirement" saga, but I have added my own commentary in italics explaining how it was Favre who forced his way out of Green Bay against the will of the Packers front office.

I would point out that this timeline is not based upon my own reporting, but from various news reports that I found on the internet. While I cannot attest to the veracity of information from those outside news sources, I can make the links to such available upon request:


2/1/05 - Packers wide receiver Donald Driver goes public with his belief that Brett Favre will likely retire instead of playing in the 2005 season.

4/23/05 - Green Bay drafts Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick of the 1st round in the NFL Draft.

Brett Favre became threatened when the Packers drafted Rodgers, believing that Thompson was attempting to force him out of Green Bay. However, with Brett Favre remaining uncommitted for the 2006 season, it is hard to fault Green Bay for drafting an insurance plan in case he was considering retirement. Even if Favre returned, it made perfect sense for Green Bay to secure an understudy to groom as his long-term successor. Of note, Favre was so bitter about Rodgers' presence in Green Bay that he refused to help mentor him as his back-up.

When asked why he refused to mentor Aaron Rodgers as his back-up, Brett Favre bitterly responded by saying, "That's not my job."

1/6/06 - The Minnesota Vikings hire Brad Childress as their head coach, who is close friends with Brett Favre.

1/30/06 - Brett Favre suggests that he may not return for the 2006 season after his friend Mike Sherman was fired as the Packers coach following a 4-12 season in 2005.
4/29/06 - Green Bay drafts WR Greg Jennings in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft. Jennings gives Favre another option at WR, putting up 632 yards and 3 TD's in his rookie year.
Sherman was Favre's last close friend on the Packers in regards to both the coaching staff and the locker room. Ted Thompson's decision to fire Mike Sherman further alienated Favre from the Packers front office.

11/12/06 - Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy indicates that he would like Brett Favre to return to the Packers for the 2007 season, but asks him to make a quick decision.

12/31/06 - Brett Favre indicates that Green Bay's last regular season game could be his last. (Green Bay finishes the 2006 season 8-8 and misses out on the playoffs on the last day of the season).

2/2/07 - Brett Favre commits to return to the Green Bay Packers for the 2007 season.

4/28/07 - Green Bay drafts WR James Jones in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft. Jones gives Favre another deep threat. He catches passes for 676 yards and 2 TD's in his rookie season.

5/14/07 - Brett Favre voices displeasure that Green Bay did not trade for Randy Moss from Oakland and requests to be traded.

By this point it is becoming clear that Brett Favre is going out of his way to voice his dissatisfaction with the Packers front office, and towards Ted Thompson in particular. In addition to using high draft picks on Greg Jennings and James Jones in back to back years, the Packers also have Donald Driver, Ruvell Martin, Donald Lee and Bubba Franks to round out a deep group of pass catching targets. Trading for Randy Moss would have been a pure luxury, and the Packers failure to do so would hardly have been an independent basis to demand a trade. Favre's request to be traded was more of a reflection of his alienation with the locker room and front office after his closest friends (Mark Chmura, Mike Flanagan, and Doug Peterson) gradually left the NFL, and Ted Thompson decided to fire Mike Sherman.
2007 season - Green Bay finishes with a 13-3 record, missing out on going to the Super Bowl after losing to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game due in part to a Brett Favre interception in overtime.4/25/06 - Brett Favre commits to play another season for the Green Bay Packers.

2/22/08 - Ted Thompson calls Brett Favre after hearing that he is upset. Thompson assures Favre that he wants him back as the Packers quarterback, and tells him that they know he can still play in the NFL.

2/29/08 - NFL free agency begins, which was the date Green Bay had asked Brett Favre to make a decision as to whether he was going to return to the Packers for the 2008 season or retire. Nonetheless, Green Bay tells Favre that he is their number one priority and that they are not holding him to any formal deadline.

3/3/08 - When Brett Favre still won't commit to returning for the 2008 season, Mike McCarthy offers him the option of decreased repetitions in practice if he would come back as quarterback for the Packers.

3/4/08 - Brett Favre announces his retirement from the NFL, with a formal retirement conference taking place on 3/6/08.

3/24/08 - Reports surface that Brett Favre is having second thoughts about retiring, and he requests Packer coach Mike McCarthy to call him. Mike McCarthy calls Brett Favre and asks him to return to the team. A plane is chartered for Brett Favre to fly to Green Bay in order to meet with the Packers front office.

3/29/08 - After meeting with the Packers, and in response to their offer to return as starting quarterback, Brett Favre tells Mike McCarthy "thanks, but no thanks."

4/4/08 - Bus Cook, Brett Favre's agent, begins contacting other NFL teams to gauge their interest in his client.

4/9/08 - Brett Favre formally indicates that he would consider returning to the NFL.

4/7/08, 4/14/08, & 4/24/08 - After Mike McCarthy contacts Brett Favre (on each of these three occasions), the Green Bay Packers officially place him on the NFL "retired" list.

5/6/08 - After the NFL Draft, Ted Thompson travels to Mississippi to have lunch with Brett Favre on his porch.

6/20/08 - Brett Favre tells Mike McCarthy that he may play again.

7/8/08 - After several calls with the Packers, Brett Favre declares that he is 100% committed to returning to football, but he requests his release from the Green Bay.

7/11/08 - Brett Favre formally requests to be released from the Green Bay Packers.
Things are getting interesting now. When the Packers went out of their way to try to convince Favre to come back he was non committal. Now he says he wants to play, but with another team.

It is significant to note that when Favre was placed on the NFL "retirement list," the $12 million he was scheduled to earn in 2008 came off of Green Bay's salary cap. It was no coincidence that Favre decided to "unretire" only after Green Bay spent Favre's $12 million base salary for 2008 in free agency and on contract extensions for existing players. This was a calculated move by Favre and Bus Cook to put Green Bay over the salary cap, which they hoped would force Green Bay to give him his unconditional release so he could sign with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent.
7/14/08 - Brett Favre tells Fox News that he wants to play somewhere other than Green Bay in 2008.

7/16/08 - The Green Bay Packers file formal tampering charges with the NFL against the Minnesota Vikings for their alleged contact with Brett Favre.
Even though Favre was technically retired, his contractual rights were still the property of the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay was obviously aware that Favre had been discussing a return to the NFL with his friend Brad Childress. Given that Childress was the head coach for their arch rival Minnesota Vikings, giving Brett Favre his unconditional release and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent was no longer a viable option for Green Bay from a PR standpoint.
Aware that Green Bay was unwilling to voluntarily release him as he had requested (which would have allowed him to sign with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent), Favre tried to force his release by threatening to report to training camp under the guise that he was willing to play fo the Packers. His official return to the Packers would have caused his $12 million base salary to count against the $109 million salary cap for the 2007 season. This left Green Bay with three options to avoid going over the NFL salary cap:

1) Unconditionally release Favre, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent,
2) Trade Favre to another team, forcing the Packers to absorb the remaining pro-rated "signing bonus" from his contract against their salary cap (which in terms of salary cap ramifications would have been the equivilent to Favre having remained retired), or
3) Cut or renegotiate with players on their existing roster in order to create room for Favre's $12 million base salary for the 2007 season.
7/28/08 - The Green Bay Packers open training camp.7/25/08 - Brett Favre says he will formally report to training camp with the Green Bay Packers.

7/29/08 - Brett Favre faxes a request to the NFL to be reinstated from the "retirement" list.

7/31/08 - The Green Bay Packers offer Brett Favre $20 million to stay retired and work for their front office.

As an alternative to having to trade or release Favre, Green Bay essentially offered him the same amount of money that they would have owed him for the remaining two years of his contract to stay retired in order to keep the $12 million they would owe him in 2008 off of their salary cap.
8/3/08 - The NFL officially reinstates Brett Favre from retirement.

8/4/08 - Brett Favre formally reports to training camp with the Green Bay Packers.

Inexplicably, the NFL granted Green Bay a temporary roster exemption for Favre, which temporarily kept his 2008 base salary from counting against their cap upon his arrival at training camp. Not only was this move from the NFL unprecedented, but it allowed Green Bay a window of opportunity to negotiate with Favre so as to avoid having to immediately release him due to salary cap ramifications.
By threatening to create salary cap space for Favre on their roster, Green Bay called Brett Favre's bluff in order to see if his true intent was to report and play for Packers, or whether it was to force his release.
After the Packers called his bluff by inviting him to compete for the starting job and creating salary cap space on their roster, Favre realized that he would be forced to play for the Packers or accept a trade to a team that the two could mutually agree upon.

8/6/08 - The Green Bay Packers trade Brett Favre to the New York Jets.8/5/08 - In spite of showing up for training camp, Brett Favre refuses to practice, stating "this isn't going to work."8/4/08 - The Green Bay Packers announce that they will have an open competition between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers for their starting quarterback position.
Brett Favre chose to accept a trade to the Jets over the opportunity to compete with Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay starting quarterback job.
2/13/09 - After one season with the New York Jets, Brett Favre announces that there is "no way" he'll play another game in the NFL.

4/28/09 - The New York Jets grant Brett Favre his unconditional release.
Why did the Jets release Favre when he was he was retired and his salary was off their cap? What was the potential benefit to the Jets in releasing Favre UNLESS THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that Favre would not return to the NFL with one of their conference rivals? Unless the Jets knew for sure that Favre would only return to the NFL with a non-conference foe like the Vikings, there was absolutely no reason for the Jets to release him instead of keeping him on the NFL "retirement" list. I have no source on this, but I am almost certain that the Jets released Favre knowing full well that he already had a deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
6/15/09 - Brett Favre expresses an interest in returning to the NFL.

8/18/09 - Brett Favre "unretires" and signs with the Minnesota Vikings.


Brett Favre had his feelings hurt when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers even though he wouldn't immediately commit to coming back for the 2006 season. Favre already felt isolated in the Green Bay locker room after some of his closest friends from his earlier playing days left the league. His feelings were further hurt when the Green Bay front office fired his remaining friend, head coach Mike Shermer, following a 4-12 season in 2005.

As time progressed, Favre looked for reasons to get out of Green Bay and play for his friend Brad Childress in Minnesota, as shown by his ridiculous request to be released when the Packers didn't trade for Randy Moss in 2007. Favre later tried to force Green Bay to release him by retiring in March 2008, and then "unretiring" on the eve of the 2008 training camp in order to put the Packers over the salary cap so as to force his release.

When Green Bay offered to let Favre report to camp and compete for the starting quarterback job with Aaron Rodgers by restructuring enough contracts to create room for his 2008 salary, Favre showed his true colors and refused to practice with the Packers. Not surprisingly, having realized that he would not be able to force Green Bay to release him so he could sign with the Vikings as a free agent, Favre reluctantly agreed to a trade the New York Jets just one day later.

Favre's true desire to play for Minnesta was evidenced by his signing a contract with the Vikings after having inexplicably been given his release by the Jets without so much as having even negotiated with any other franchise.


  1. Here are some great quotes from Brett Favre himself in regards to Javon Walker's holdout in 2005:

    “Nowadays you’re seeing more and more guys pulling that stunt. If guys continue to do that and are successful getting away with it, then I’ll be gone, but I think the game will be ruined. My reaction to Javon’s situation was, ‘Here we go again."

    “Javon has tremendous potential. We got to see some of that last year. The sky’s the limit for that guy, and I’d be the first to defend him, but he’s going about it the wrong way. What happened to honoring your contract and saying, ‘Let’s work as a team to see if we can get this done?’ Why not go about it that way?"

    “Maybe I’m old-school, but I always thought you honor a contract.....I sure hope the Packers don’t give in to him.”

    - Brett Favre from May of 2005

  2. Interesting take. It never occured to me that Favre could have been jonsing to leave the Packers as far back as 2006. I've always assumed that he had had enough of the Packers (i.e. TT) heeding his demands for linemen, or coaches, or receivers, and decided to play the game just on the other side of the retirement line, but this coming in 2008. He had shown his displeasure at the front office decisions by hemming and hawwing about retirement and it didn't have an impact, so he actually crossed the line. He assumed that this would cause enough of a stir, and enough consternation with the power structure, that he would get his sense of importance back. But to his shock they moved on without him. I guess I figured it was this juncture point that Favre began to look elsewhere and the rest of the divorce unfolded.

    Your take is more sinister in that he was hatching plots much earlier. I don't know if I fully agree or not yet, I have to let it marinate for a while. But it sure beats the "hey der, Favre retired but he still wanted to play and the stoopid Packers didn't want'im no more, what was he supposed ta do?" sound track. At the very least Favre wanted to dictate the Packers move in certain directions for his benefit, and they just weren't about to do so. Since the twaining of the Packers into two franchises (Packers Central and Packers West (Seattle)), those who went with the West branch office (Holmgren, Thompson, Hasselbeck) fared better than the original home off branch (Favre, Sherman (former Seattle OC), Green). And when Harlan brought back Thompson back to the home office two decisions needed to be made - get rid of Sherman and get Favre back into line. Favre wasn't playing that tune. And one way or another, he saw the Vikings as his last shot to win it all playing Favreball (which was precisely the problem with the Central, home office branch for the early 2000's). It is little wonder by early 2011 the Vikings were driven into the wall on the 240th lap by Favre playing Favreball (and sucking Childress down the drain with it) in 2009 and the Packers, with the West branch and Central branch remerged and reorganized, win it all in 2010.

    I just wonder what would have happened if Favre had been benched back in 1994 in favor of Brunell. Brunell was as bood as Favre from the mid to late 90's and most likely could have done as much if not more. Maybe Holmgren wouldn't have gone off to Seattle, Thompson (with his keen eye for talent) would have stayed too, as well as Hasselbeck taking over for Brunell, and there never was a sundering of the talent pools, front office and field level. Favre had several years, post Holmgren, to have things his way, and the Packers got very little. Favre was King of the 85th Percentile, great within or below that range, usually awful above it. He was in no position to dictate anything as far as I am concerned, and should just have gotten with the program. But he insisted on being able to play Favreball with his people, and the organization wasn't going to let it continue.

    And, without a doubt, the Packers were right and Favre was wrong. I think all we need do is ask Brad Childress his opinion.

  3. Hey Diurnalemissions, thanks for the thoughtful and well-said comment! I think we are pretty much on the same page here.

    I especially agree when you say, "And when Harlan brought back Thompson back to the home office two decisions needed to be made - get rid of Sherman and get Favre back into line." That statement, when coupled with your opinion that "Favre was King of the 85th Percentile" makes perfect sense.

    Favre thought he was the king of the organization and got comfortable riding on cruise control. He got his feelings hurt when Thompson and co. came in and had the audacity to ask a little bit more of him.

    From that point on I think Favre was counting down the days until he could get out of town just so he could show Thompson up. I think the proof of that is in the way he manipulated a hit against the Packers salary cap by orchestrating a bogus retirement, especially in light of his strong desire to play for the Vikings.