What game should be Favre reunion, and should No. 4 be retired then?
Brett Fare in his last victory as a Packers quarterback, against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoff in January 2008. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The release of the NFL schedule on Wednesday has given Packers fans a chance to consider when a reunion should happen, and when a jersey retirement should happen, for the most simultaneously-loved-and-loathed player in team history.
Yes, we're talking about record-setting quarterback Brett Favre, a lightning rod for emotion among followers of the green and gold.
I can't share in the eagerness to honor a guy who remorselessly forced his way out of Green Bay & sexually harassed women in the workplace.— Brian Carriveau (@BrianCarriveau) April 24, 2014
@BrianCarriveau me either. Lost a lot if respect when it became a revenge tour. Text messages only strengthened that dislike.— Kelly (@ceallaigh_k) April 24, 2014
While it's still quiet on the ol' Tweeter, want to just throw something out there re: why Favre should return to Lambeau Thu night vs MN...— John Rehor (@jrehor) April 24, 2014
Monday Night Football game against the team that drafted him, seems like a decent fit for Favre to get his jersey retired.— cob731 (@ob731) April 24, 2014
There is a lot to consider with a possible Packers/Favre reunion this year, but let's break it down into two areas:
1) Should a Favre comeback visit of any sort in Green Bay happen, and if so, when?
What does Favre bring to the table for a reunion, and possibly a retirement of his jersey?
- Statistically, the finest retired quarterback to ever play in a Packers uniform and a quarterback who re-wrote the NFL record book.
- A signal-caller whose made football more fun to watch, and who used that fun to create an artistic expression of his sense of what the game should be, perhaps better than any quarterback the NFL has ever seen. He arguably brought more fans to the Packers, and to the game, than any player in the annals of the team or sport.
- A quarterback with just one championship compared to five for Bart Starr and four for Arnie Herber, who won that many titles in the 30's but doesn't have his number retired. In seven of 10 Packers playoff losses in his career, Favre threw two or more interceptions.
- A quarterback who, in the eyes of many, chose to leave the franchise and entered into a three-year period of "sticking it" to his former team - a horribly messy divorce.
- A one-year period of detente and, in many cases, forgiveness for the wrongs he was perceived to have committed.
It has been long expressed by Packers president Mark Murphy that he wants a reunion to happen, so it seems like the "if" question has been answered by the organization.
However, Murphy says that a 2013 reunion reportedly didn't happen because of his coaching job as offensive coordinator with Oak Grove High School in Mississippi. The season happily went long enough that it meant a state championship, and a conflict with many Packers home games.
No matter what, two Packers home games could provide the opportunity to avoid such conflicts in 2014:
- Monday, Dec. 8 vs. Atlanta (probably days after the yet-unscheduled Mississippi state football title games)
- Sunday, Dec. 28 vs. Detroit
Yes, that means flying up from the much-warmer Gulf of Mexico to potentially frigid Green Bay - just the kind of weather that provided the setting for many Favre masterpieces at Lambeau Field.
Still, those days potentially preview when Favre might come up for a reunion. The more likely day would be Monday night, so the whole nation could see a halftime speech and other activities connected to the visit.
If it's Detroit, it may just be a regional TV audience for what might be a meaningless late-season game in terms of playoff positioning. However, that Detroit game might give a potentially meaningless game some much bigger meaning.
2) Should that comeback involve a jersey number retirement?
Five Green Bay Packers currently have their numbers on the north facade of the inner bowl of Lambeau Field:
- No. 3: Tony Canadeo
- No. 14: Don Hutson
- No. 15: Bart Starr
- No. 66: Ray Nitschke
- No. 92: Reggie White
Should Favre's jersey be the sixth? If so - and it seems like there's a near-consensus that it should be - should it happen during a comeback visit this year?
There really isn't a precedent for Packers legends and when a jersey retirement should happen.
You might think that since 27 Packers are Pro Football Hall of Famers, but only five men have Packers jerseys retired, it should be a sequential process. Get your Hall of Fame bust, then the Packers will decide whether to give you a number retirement.
I subscribe to that theory, the one which says your jersey retirement should come after you've got your ugly yellow Hall of Fame jacket to commemorate a beautiful career and contribution to the game.
However, consider that three of those jerseys were retired since the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in 1963, and only once did that sequence happen:
- Starr in 1973, four years before his Hall of Fame induction in 1977
- Nitschke in 1981, three years after his Hall of Fame induction in 1981
- White in 2005, months before his posthumous Hall of Fame induction in 2006
Each circumstance was different, and a separate decision was made in each case to retire a jersey number before or after Hall of Fame enshrinement.
If you believe the Packers should follow some sort of formal proper procedure for retiring a jersey before or after a Hall of Fame induction (like I do), you don't have any consistent past history to go by.
It's a case-by-case basis, so we simply have to consider the merits of Favre's situation.
That means not just his record-breaking resume, but his history of perceived past transgression against Packers fans.
Assuming he's genuine in his sense of accountability and apologies for what he's done, I've forgiven him for those. I don't seem to be alone in that status.
There's also the personal character of each athlete with a retired jersey.
Looking at the modern-era jersey retirees, Starr's character seems unquestionable. Nitschke had his drunken and violent transgressions from his early career, but he changed his ways. He became a gentle, kind, charitable man to most anyone who wasn't wearing an opposing jersey on a fall or early winter Sunday.
If you believe Reggie White had no wrongdoing in the controversies involving money donated after a church burned down, and forgive him for his comments to the Wisconsin State Legislatures about people of various ethnic backgrounds, the "Minister of Defense" has a character resume seemingly similar to Starr's near-lily-white history.
Brett Favre? Not so much, but even with painkiller addiction, allegations of marital impropriety and the Jenn Sterger controversy, he has far avoided police blotter and done untold amounts for charity and people in need.
In other words, a mixed bag.
That's a reflection of the entire situation when it comes to Brett Favre, a reunion and a potential jersey retirement.
If it's my call: bring him back for a reunion at that Atlanta game in December. Start making plans for crews to put up a No. 4 on the north facade of Lambeau Field in 2016, when he can wear his gold Hall of Fame jacket with a green polo (do you think he'd really want to wear a tie?) as he watches No. 4 unveiled.
However, the opinions of Packers Planet aren't collectively unified. That brings even more ambiguity to what the right potential decision should be for No. 4.
The flabbergasting Favre conundrum continues. Ultimately, Favre and Packers brass will have to decide the solution.
It won't stop a plethora of opinions from coming - a response to the multi-layered, complicated legacy of the probably-to-be-retired No. 4.