August 2008 proved to be a monumental month in the history of the Green Bay Packers and an unreconcilable month between the franchise and their legendary quarterback Brett Favre. After retiring and unretiring, Favre finally made a trip up to Green Bay to visit the team. Excitement among fans about a positive resolution never came to fruition - instead they were subject to open dialogue between both sides in the media that only tarnished the relationship further.
Within days, Favre was traded out of Green Bay and the Aaron Rodgers era commenced.
As the new saga between the Packers and Rodgers continues on this summer, the hope is that this August, looming less than two months away, will be one remembered for entirely different circumstances. Yet, the history behind Favre’s arrival back in Green Bay proves that communication between the two sides must remain as confidential as possible.
Although silence, particularly on Rodgers’ side, has been frustrating for fans seeking answers this offseason, it has been a rather commendable attribute of both parties thus far. On draft day, Rodgers was radio silent when the “breaking news” was released, and even when pressed by Kenny Mayne on ESPN, he remained politically correct in his voicing of dissent. While general manager Brian Gutekunst has been the assumed subject of Rodgers’ displeasure, there were no names and no particular situations publicly discussed. By keeping it this way, Rodgers has left his window to return open without unrepairable damage on the back end.
The Packers, likewise, have been been careful to admit their own mistakes in previous communication with Rodgers while remaining steadfast in their public desire to bring him back into the fold. They have also disclosed their trips to see Rodgers throughout the offseason without divulging the details. While the team can be internally frustrated by the situation, the entire organization must walk a fine line with its words and phrasings with the press. However, Mark Murphy recently tested that line with comments about the rift dividing the fan base in a column, while echoing the sentiment that feelings should be kept to themselves in the same breath:
“We are working to resolve the situation and realize that the less both sides say publicly, the better.”
The issue with this is that Murphy (and the Packers) must heed his own advice. In the past week, Murphy continued down a slippery slope, calling Rodgers “a complicated fella” and it will be imperative that these type of remarks end as training camp nears and the situation approaches an inevitable tipping point. Going back in time, it was a lack of control that drove a wedge between Green Bay and Favre around that same time.
In a New York Times article recapping the narrative in real-time that fateful August, a pair of comments from both sides about communication stood out.
“They want to know if I’m committed, but I want to know if they’re 100 percent committed. The problem is that there’s been a lot of damage done, and I can’t forget it. Stuff has been said, stories planted, that just aren’t true. Can I get over all that? I doubt it. So they can say they welcome me back but, come on, the way they’ve treated me tells you the truth. They don’t want me back, so let’s move on.” ~ Brett Favre
“The he-said, she-said thing definitely took a toll on Brett, there’s no doubt about it. We both agreed on this: We both wish things had been handled differently. But that’s the spot that we’re in.” ~ Mike McCarthy
While the Packers and Rodgers may or may not be able to come to an agreement that keeps the All-Pro in a green and gold uniform, these quotes offer a lesson that trust, based heavily on communication, will go a long way in finding a solution. Both sides find themselves in an eerily similar position as the one with Favre in searching for the commitment level of the other and it would be wise for the closed-door conversations to stay that way. Clearly in the case of Favre, words could not be unsaid and actions could not be undone, especially if the team itself was to move forward without a season-long, tense distraction.
Perhaps an old adage accurately sums up the situation for both sides in finding a happy ending: if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all. While each party has been mostly successful in doing so thus far, the true test is yet to come as the summer comes to a close.