Favre, Packers Need Some Magic

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 19, 2006; 12:51 PM

Offseason Roundup: Green Bay Packers

He threw 29 interceptions last season for a team that went 4-12. But Brett Favre still is a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback and a larger-than-life figure in Green Bay, so the question of whether he would retire produced another offseason of consternation for Packers followers until the team announced that he had informed club officials he would play another season.

Whether that decision will be a good thing for either Favre or the Packers remains up for debate. There's little reason to believe, at this point, that things will turn out much better for the team or its 36-year-old quarterback this time around.

In an offseason filled with curious head-coaching moves around the league, none was more curious than the one made by Packers General Manager Ted Thompson. He fired a coach who had gotten to the playoffs four times in five seasons prior to last season's unraveling, Mike Sherman, to hire the coordinator of the league's last-ranked offense in San Francisco, Mike McCarthy.

McCarthy had a previous stint working with Favre as the Packers' quarterbacks coach in 1999, but their prospects for jump-starting this offense together don't seem particularly promising. Thompson traded wide receiver Javon Walker to the Denver Broncos during the NFL draft, getting a second-round pick in return, after Walker threatened to retire rather than play another season in Green Bay. Walker had failed to land a new contract with the Packers last summer after threatening to hold out from training camp, which drew a public rebuke from Favre. Walker relented and reported to camp on time without a new deal, but had his 2005 season ended by a knee injury suffered in the opening game. In Denver, Walker has gotten the new contract he couldn't get in Green Bay. The Broncos signed him to a five-year extension that, combined with the one season remaining on his existing deal, could pay him about $43 million over six seasons.

The Packers signed holdover wideout Donald Driver to a two-year contract extension to try to keep him happy. He had two years remaining on his previous contract and now is to make about $17.2 million over the next four seasons. The team re-signed tailbacks Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport. But a year after the Packers lost guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle in free agency, center Mike Flanagan departed to sign with the Houston Texans as a free agent. When Thompson had a chance to greatly improve the offense with the fifth overall selection in the draft by taking Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, he went with Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk instead.

That isn't to say that Hawk won't be a very good player, or that the pick was the wrong one. In fact, Hawk gives the Packers a solid defensive player to build around on that side of the ball, and he might have been the safest selection in the entire draft. But Favre again has been left shorthanded on offense, and that perhaps could produce another season of him flinging passes wildly up for grabs when his blockers can't protect him and his receivers can't get open.

Favre's public calls for the Packers to make a high-impact free-agent move or two mostly went unheeded by Thompson. The general manager made a bid to sign LaVar Arrington, but the linebacker went to the New York Giants instead. Thompson did land cornerback Charles Woodson. But it's questionable how much Woodson has left at this point in his career. His other primary suitor, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was contemplating using him at safety.

The Packers had five of the draft's first 75 picks, and many people in the league think that second-round offensive tackle Daryn Colledge will end up being a good player. But by the time most of this draft class is ready to make a big impact, Favre probably will be retired. He has said since his decision to return was announced that next season won't necessarily be his final one, and he has indicated that he won't speak publicly about his retirement ruminations all season because he thinks his frank talk on the subject in the past became a distraction for his teammates.

Virtually everyone who follows the NFL is hoping that Favre can find a way to make his exit a graceful one. The state of the organization around him, though, makes one wonder if that's possible any longer.

Around The League

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Thursday he's uncertain if the league's team owners will choose a stadium site in Los Angeles when they meet next week in Denver.

"I really couldn't say because we're meeting again with our working group on Monday afternoon, I think," Tagliabue said after delivering the commencement address at his alma mater, Georgetown University.

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