29

June

Why the Fall of Brett Favre Started Much Sooner Than You Think

It may be like trying to piece together a train wreck you’d much rather not watch again, but given the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV, I think we fans can revisit this without cringing too much.

It’s time once again to look at the disgraceful downfall of one Brett Lorenzo Favre. Yes, everyone has beaten the topic to death the past few years but one thing that has not truly been discussed was the exact moment when Favre’s downfall began.  Some say it was in 2005 with the hiring of Ted Thompson.  Others argue it happened with the firing of Mike Sherman in 2006.

I’d have to partially agree with those who mention Sherman, except they have it backwards. I’d argue Favre’s meltdown began when Sherman was HIRED in 2000.

Wind the clock back to that year if you will: Ray Rhodes had just been fired and Favre was coming off a 22 TD pass to 23 interceptions season after battling a bad thumb all season.  Keep in mind this was two years removed from the Packers trip to Super Bowl XXXII against the Broncos.  Favre experienced his first non-winning season of his career as well.

More than that, players and coaches from the Super Bowl teams had begun to move on. Mike Holmgren was in Seattle, Reggie White was in Carolina for one last season and best bud former tight end Mark Chmura was on trial for sexual assault.   Favre’s mentors and best friend were all gone.

Enter Mike Sherman.  He came in talking about the great history and tradition of the Packers and wanted to make sure his teams were established in the same mold. This was a theme Sherman constantly revisited during his time in Green Bay.

He also talked about Favre as one of the greatest ever and a true legend despite the quarterback barely being over the age of 30.  The overstuffing of Favre’s ego had begun.  Instead of saying that yes, he is great but he still needs to be smart like Mike McCarthy later did, Sherman only praised his quarterback and when question about Favre’s faults (like those interceptions), he just basically shrugged them off as “That’s just Brett.”

The seeds were planted.

The first few years of the Sherman era were productive with the Packers making the playoffs in 2001 after a two year absence and they won the NFC North in 2002.

23

November

Packers Win Starts the Vikings Dominoes Falling…

Brett Favre and Brad ChildressWriters have already waxed lyrically to death about the collapse of the Minnesota Vikings and the fall from grace of their quarterback Brett Farve.  Since everyone has probably gotten tired of it I won’t say much more about it other than there is a little bit of poetic justice that it was the Packers who ultimately hammered in the last nail in the coffin of Farve’s career.

More importantly I think this is a turning point for the Minnesota Vikings, and the implications of this game are far more reaching than a just a loss or the culmination of failures for the season.  The lynch pin for this is, of course, Brett Farve and Brad Childress, with Brett Farve being the one to push over the first domino.

The firing of Brad Childress was the first domino to fall.  Obviously everyone saw this coming after the drubbing that his team endured in a 31-3 loss to the Packers, their most hated rivals.

During the game, the team was visibly angry, mostly at themselves; DE Ray Edwards attempt to talk to the secondary and ended up in a shouting match with rookie CB Chris Cook, CB Asher Allen threw his helmet into the bench and Darrell Bevell said something to Brett Farve that caused a spat after Farve threw an interception.  Add in the fact that the fans were vocally shouting “fire Childress” during the game while owner Zigi Wilf was livid after the game and dodged reporters, and it was rather apparent that Childress was going to be the first head on the chopping block.

Personally, I don’t think the entire fault lies with Childress, football is a team sport and winning takes a team effort. Conversely losing the way they did to the Packers is also a team effort but they can’t fire the entire team.

The second domino to fall was Leslie Frasier’s promotion to interim head coach.  In his first press conference Frasier adamantly stated that Brett Farve will remain as the starting QB.  While pundits across the country will claim its Farve’s streak of consecutive starts that is the main reason behind this, my feeling is that both Childress and Frasier are telling the truth: Farve still remains the team’s best option for winning.

22

November

Packers Crush the Vikings and the Top 5 Most Satisfying Packers Wins Of The Last Decade

Green Bay Packers 31, Minnesota Vikings 3. AT the  Metrodome. Brett Favre considering early retirement (even if it was in a joking manner). Brad Childress pushed to the brink of unemployment. Vikings fighting amongst themselves and totally humiliated. For Packers fans, does it get any sweeter than this?

Well, let’s find out.

Submitted for your approval (or disapproval), here are my picks for the top five most satisfying Packers victories of the last decade:

5. Packers 42, Seahawks 20, January 12, 2008 NFC Divisional Playoffs

Ah, the “Snow Globe Game.” Also Favre’s final victory as a Packer.

The game started off poorly with two fumbles by Ryan Grant and the Seahawks, led by former Packers coach Mike Holmgren and former Packers backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. It looked like the postseason struggles of the Mike Sherman regime had spilled over to successor Mike McCarthy. Or maybe not.

Favre played his last truly great cold weather game and Packers offense exploded to lead the team to a 42-20 victory. Grant more than made up for his early mistakes and carried the ball very well in a heavy snowstorm.

Unfortunately, we all know how that season ended.

4. Packers 34, Raiders 7, December 22, 2003

No matter how much you may despise Favre right now this game still likely will bring a tear to your eye.

A day after losing his father to a heart attack, No. 4 played the game of his life under the most adverse of circumstances. With the Packers needing a win to keep their division title hopes alive and playing on national television, Favre had a masterful performance throwing for 399 yards and four touchdowns.

Favre’s emotional address to the team as well as postgame interview showed how much the game meant to him. Already a legend in Green Bay, this single performance doubled the size of his legacy. Packers fans knew then that he had their back and they had his. It was a match made in heaven. Little did we know at the time an even sweeter victory was two weeks away.

3. Packers 33, Seahawks 27, January 4, 2004 NFC Wild Card Playoffs

“We want the ball, and we’re gonna score!”

18

November

Packers-Vikings Preview: NFL Week 11: A Nordic Burial Awaits?

After a restful bye week to lick their wounds and run out of saliva in the process, the Green Bay Packers head to Minneapolis on Sunday for their second meeting with the Minnesota Vikings in four weeks.

The last time the Packers played, they got their opposing head coach fired. Could they make it two in a row?

Vikings head coach Brad Childress is in hot water over the team’s 3-6 start and his inability to connect with his players. After his men saved his job in a stirring come from behind win two weeks ago over the Cardinals, the Vikings promptly laid an egg against the Bears last week.

Yet Chilly remains the coach.

How sweet would it be for Mike McCarthy (who has no love lost when it comes to Childress) to be the man who finally pushes Zigy Wilf to pull the plug on his coach? Aaron Rodgers got revenge on his nemesis in Brett Favre so maybe it’s McCarthy’s turn this time.

Breaking down the Vikings

Not much has changed with the Vikings the past four weeks except that one of their drama queens (Randy Moss) was cut to the surprise of everyone in the Vikings organization except Childress.

Even though one drama queen is gone, another (Brett Favre) still remains under center despite taking such brutal beatings each week.  As long as Favre is on the field, the Vikings cannot be underestimated. He showed against the Cardinals that there is still magic left in his right arm. That said, his knack for boneheaded throws remains as strong as ever.

The other weapons on offense to watch out for are Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.  Peterson rushed for over 100 yards four weeks ago and Harvin burned the Packers coming out of the backfield and in the return game as well as his regular receiving duties.

On defense, I would like to welcome Jared Allen back to the party. After a slow start to 2010, Allen has gotten some penetration these past two weeks (albeit against poor offensive lines) and has been able to get to the quarterback much more consistently.

The secondary remains the achilles heel for the Vikings. Rodgers was able to spread the ball around fairly well an there is no reason that should change in this second matchup.

When the Packers have the ball….

14

November

“Unquantifiable Areas” Help Define Packers’ Mike McCarthy

I just finished arguing with my dad about Brad Childress. My dad blames all of the Vikings’ problems on Childress. I am not a Childress defender, but I contend that blaming Childress for all of the Vikings’ problems is a convenient way for the players, many of whom are considered among the best at their respective positions, to not take responsibility for their ineptitude.

My dad says that it is up to the coach to get the most out of his players, and that if the players underperform, it is the coach’s fault and he should be fired. I think that’s letting multi-millionaire players off the hook a little too easy, but both of us are technically right. Of course, the whole argument got me thinking about the Packers and Mike McCarthy.

I’ve taken my shots at McCarthy for his playcalling this season. I was also critical of his decision to go for the touchdown on 4thand goal from the 1-yard line against the Redskins. It is common for people to criticize the coach for his playcalling or in-game decisions. It happens all the time and it comes with the territory for any coach.

Sometimes criticisms are made using rational arguments backed up by research and a deep knowledge of the game of football. Sometimes they are made by rubeshaving emotional overreactions. Second-guessing playcalls and in-game decisions is easy (and fun!). The whole world sees what happens on the field, either in real-time or after the fact, and offers an opinion on whether it was a good or bad decision.

But what about the things a coach does that we don’t get to see with our own eyes every Sunday? A good coach deserves credit for whatever it is he does behind the scenes, even though it is nearly impossible for those of us on the outside to quantify.

The Packers have been through a lot with McCarthy: the Favre divorce, breaking in a new quarterback, a bad start last season and a rash of injuries this season. McCarthy also has always had one of the youngest rosters in the league.

Through it all, the Packers have performed well. Even though we might not be able to pinpoint exactly what McCarthy does behind the scenes to keep the team together and moving forward, he deserves credit for it. After observing McCarthy over the years, I feel he excels in three “unquantifiable areas” that I can say with relative certainty make the Packers better.