It's been a tough week in Packer Nation. Last Friday's final preseason game was thankfully played at three in the afternoon, saving most fans the anguish of watching their team negate an impressive early touchdown by giving up 28 unanswered points to the Tennessee Titans in a 35-21 loss.
On Saturday, the Packers' final round of roster cuts included rookie wide receiver Cory Rodgers, a fourth-round draft choice who snared more than $400,000 in bonuses. That same day, details surfaced regarding Bob Costas' interview with Brett Favre, wherein the Packers' quarterback admitted he might look to finish his career somewhere other than in Green Bay.
"I can't say it wouldn't happen," Favre told Costas for his weekly HBO show. "If it comes to a point where they do start over and I feel like I can play and they say, 'Brett, if you want to go somewhere else, go ahead, but we've got to start over. It's time for us to rebuild. It just doesn't make sense, so do what you want.' If I got the itch at some point, I can't say no."
By itself, that's a completely reasonable response to a hypothetical question. But when combined with Favre's grumpy comments at a press conference last week, it signals a significant departure from his upbeat mood of a few weeks ago. Then, Favre called his team the most talented group he'd ever played with. Now, he sounds as though dealing with the Packers' youth is grating on him.
"It's kind of like being on a camping trip and you're waiting for someone to lead you on a hike or a fishing trip," Favre said in his final training camp meeting with reporters. "Where do we go next? What do we do? Not that someone in that group couldn't do it themselves. It's kind of like, Is it my place to do it? Let's wait for this person to show us where we're going on a horseback ride or whatever. How do we saddle the horse? That's kind of what it seems like to me."
Is Brett Favre really questioning his role as the undisputed leader of this team? With the exception of fullback William Henderson, he's the only player left from the 1996-97 Super Bowl championship squad. Where else in the organization are these youngsters going to look for guidance? I mean, there's one guy in that locker room who has played himself in a major motion picture (There's Something About Mary), and it's not long snapper Rob Davis.
And why the reluctance to lead this particular group of young players? The receiving corps in particular, if it stays healthy, shows a lot of potential. Rookie Greg Jennings, who caught an 89-yard strike from Favre in the Tennessee game, was just named a starter opposite veteran Donald Driver; and number three is dangerously fast Robert Ferguson.
In the backfield, veteran All-Pro Ahman Green returns and unreliable Najeh Davenport is gone, which puts a lot of pressure on back-up tailbacks Samkon Gado and Noah Herron. But both have earned kudos for their hard work in the off-season, particularly in learning the new zone blocking scheme installed by first-year coach Mike McCarthy.
The scheme calls for the backs to pick their own running lanes behind a line that is moving horizontally. The offense's ability to effectively adapt to the system will be the biggest determinant of success for the Packers this year. Early season struggles might make it tough for players to buy in, another area where veteran leadership will be important.
Nobody's picking the Packers to make the Super Bowl and many, including myself, predict a 7-9 season. An 8-8 record is possible if they can beat Detroit twice and split with Minnesota or Chicago. That would be a pretty respectable season and competitive in the struggling NFC North, especially after last year's 4-12 debacle.
But for anything good to happen, Favre needs to drop his reluctant-leader shtick and set a positive tone for his team and his fans.
Predictions for a 7-9 season
9/10 Chicago L
9/17 New Orleans W
9/24 @ Detroit W
10/2 @ Philadelphia L
10/8 St. Louis W
10/22 @ Miami L
10/29 Arizona W
11/5 @ Buffalo L
11/12 @ Minnesota L
11/19 New England L
11/27 @ Seattle L
12/3 New York Jets W
12/10 @ San Francisco W
12/17 Detroit W
12/21 Minnesota L
12/31 @ Chicago L