Brett Favre was booed robustly when he played at Lambeau Field in 2009.
As he should have been.
No matter how many thrills and victories Favre generated during his 16 memorable seasons with the Green Bay Packers, he was the enemy then. A year removed from his messy divorce with the Packers in the summer of 2008, Favre was quarterbacking the hated Minnesota Vikings. Although some abstained, many Packers fans reacted accordingly, showing their displeasure with one of the true giants in their team’s history.
That fan reaction, while justified in 2009, is no longer appropriate. Favre had only one great year after he left Green Bay and has been retired from the NFL for three full seasons, which should be ample time for a reconciliation involving him, the Packers and the fans.
Even though some fans still mistakenly place 100 percent of the blame for his contentious departure on Favre, even though he was involved in an unseemly texting scandal during his one season with the New York Jets that quietly (and perhaps wrongly) went away, and even though he is considered a traitor by some after finding his way to Minnesota, Favre left a remarkable legacy in Green Bay. He should get a chance to rejoin the Packers family and deserves a warm reception when it happens.
I know Favre is a polarizing figure in Wisconsin and some will never forgive him for one or all of the transgressions described above. That’s fine. It’s your prerogative. My email address is at the bottom of this column, so feel free to tell me you disagree.
But you had better get used to seeing Favre’s unshaven face because, based on his remarks in a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview last week, his number will be retired in a ceremony sometime this fall at Lambeau. Once that happens, he’ll be back in the family and you can hold a grudge or you can celebrate the fact the Packers, doormats from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, have had more than two decades of sustained success due in large part to Favre and his successor, Aaron Rodgers.
Favre hasn’t stepped foot in Green Bay since the Packers beat the Vikings in 2010, his 20th and final NFL season. But the relationship between Favre and the organization has mellowed with time. In the radio interview, Favre confirmed what team president Mark Murphy said in April, that the Packers wanted him to return to Lambeau for a game late last season but the timing didn’t work because he was coaching a high school team that won a state championship in Mississippi.
Still, Favre’s reconciliation with the franchise is now a matter of when, not if. I say the sooner the better.
Favre almost certainly will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 and he needs to be comfortably in the Packers fold before then. It’s where he belongs anyway, though one can certainly understand why time was needed for everyone involved to find peace with the entire episode.
“Time heals a lot of things, and I think in this case, you’re playing for the rival team, things are going to change,” Favre said of the fan reaction to his two years with the Vikings. “There’s no better history than there is in Green Bay — the tradition, and people love their team there, and they usually hate the other team. So when you join their opponent, that’s going to happen. Again, time heals a lot of things. In fact, I had planned on going up to a game the latter part of the season last year, but my high school team played into December and it just was a conflict.
“But the relationship is much better. It’s going to happen, I’ll be back up there. Again, my career in Green Bay, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was awesome. The people were awesome, and I just think everything’s going to be fine, and in my opinion it is now. It’s just a matter of getting back up there.”
Actually, it’s more a matter of getting the fans on board than anything else. The Packers indicated long ago they wanted Favre back in the fold and Favre, while admitting he held a grudge against the franchise, said those feelings have dissipated over the years.
A year ago, he admitted in an interview with a Buffalo radio station that he was “at fault” for his acrimonious departure and said “both sides had a part in it.” That was a big step for Favre, and it came after he and Rodgers had appeared together on an NFL awards show and patched up their fractured relationship. At the time, Rodgers graciously extended an olive branch, saying it was “time to heal things up” and “move forward” with their relationship.
Packers fans should take their cue from Rodgers and do the same.
In 2008, it was a perfectly legitimate football decision for the Packers to make a change at quarterback. Favre had tired of playing in frigid conditions and Rodgers was more than ready to step in and perform at a high level. Although the split was clumsy and contentious, it was the equivalent of a trade that worked out for both teams. The Packers got the starter they wanted and Favre got to keep playing football.
So when Favre finally does return to Lambeau this fall, Packers fans should let bygones be bygones and embrace their former idol. He’s too important to their past — and their future — not to.