Just a little over a year ago, Brett Favre had an opportunity to cement his legacy and prove to Ted Thompson, Mark Murphy, Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Green Bay Packers organization that they had made a colossal mistake by moving on without him after the 2007 NFC Championship loss at Lambeau Field. With one of his characteristic late career big-game moments, a poor decision on his part led to a season's and his revenge tour's abrupt end. A remarkable year in the regular season was once again capped off with a gut-wrenching postseason.
Flash forward to Super Bowl XLV, riding the momentum of five straight victories - three of them road playoff wins - Aaron Rodgers was on the very stage Brett Favre failed to reach a year earlier. He looked every bit as poised and talented as Ted Thompson could have hoped for when he made the decision three years ago that would define him as an NFL general manager. In what are becoming characteristic big-game moments for him, he established himself as one of the best in the game. Time after time he made throws into tight windows with little room for error. Still, there were times where he missed an opportunity. Not all were his fault. There were numerous drops in big situations. Both James Jones and Jordy Nelson left yards and potential points on the field. And there was that one play that sticks in my head where Rodgers was forced up into the pocket and rolled slightly left and didn't see a wide open Andrew Quarless standing all alone in the right corner of the end zone.
All he did, though, was put up another 110+ QB rating, throw for 300+ yards and 3 TDs. Oh, and win a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP award. The one thing he didn't do: throw an interception.
14 years ago, Brett Favre had his finest season as a pro and led the Green Bay Packers to their third Super Bowl victory. A year later, he led them back to the big game and Mike Holmgren's insistence on not running the football and Fritz Shurmur's insistence on not stopping the opposing running game sealed the Packers' fate in a loss that still stings. There are striking similarities between Favre in his heyday and Rodgers now: both 27 years of age when they won their first Super Bowl, playing on teams that had big play offenses, remarkable defenses and seem(ed) poised for multiple runs at Lombardi. The difference between the teams is age. While the window wound up being small for the Favre-led Packers, the opportunity to get back for the Rodgers-led Packers seems wider.
In the run-up to XLV, I was glued to TV, Facebook and Twitter. NFL Network was in near-constant rotation. This week they ran the episode of "America's Game: The Story of the 1996 Green Bay Packers." A funny thing happened while I watched it. I got nostalgic about Brett Favre.
That magic year and the years now sandwiched in between Super Bowl victories have given me a different perspective on a lot of things. It's not all about football. In fact, there's very little of it about football. But football - more specifically, the Green Bay Packers - have been there. As a father of a daughter with health issues, many of those recent moments have led me to be quieter about the less important things.
But I was reminded how great it felt to be a Packer fan, and how meteoric this year's rise, fall and rise again of the Packers mirrored that 1996 team. I've been more focused on embracing the moment and not looking too far forward or too far back. I think that's the thing I was so angered at by Favre. He changed from the "bet against me" larger-than-life persona into simply a persona. He relied more on name than on play, more on his arm than his team, more on himself than his coaching. Was he good? Yes, he was good. At times damn good. You don't throw for 500 TDs and 70,000 yards without being good. But he was never great again. Yet, he insisted with more and more frequency on being considered great: private locker rooms, preening for the camera, playing GM. I won't get into the divorce with the Packers and the nonsense that consumed him off the field this year.
Now, it's time for a shift in the conversation. It's time to move past this ugly interlude in Packer history and bring Brett Favre back into the fold. This team, Aaron Rodgers first and foremost, deserves their own place in the team's lore. They deserve to not have to answer Brett Favre questions anymore. It won't happen today. It won't happen next month or next year, but it's interesting to know that Mark Murphy took a moment during the Super Bowl week of hype to drop the first notion that it will happen. Good for him.
And good for Brett Favre. I hope he was watching last night and felt that strange tinge of nostalgia, too. I'm done turning my back on Brett Favre and ready to bury the hatchet.