NEW ORLEANS -- It was the NFL version of that 2002 tour with Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth on the same bill, only much shorter and far less annoying. To present Peyton Manning with the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year award at the NFL Honors awards, the league managed to cobble an interesting twosome together: Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. We don't know what (if anything) was said in the green room, but courtesy of ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde, here's the teleprompted conversation before the award was presented.
Rodgers: We’re here to present the award for best comeback player.
Favre: You know Aaron, everyone loves it when a great player makes a comeback.
Rodgers: (smirking) Yeah, well, not always. Some people wish great players would just retire and stay retired.
Favre: Good to see you, too, Aaron.
Rodgers: You too, man.
(Handshake, followed by awkward, possibly scripted quasi-hug)
Rodgers: That was awkward.
In his acceptance speech, Manning said, "What a tremendous honor to receive this award from two of the best quarterbacks of all-time, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. It sure is great to see the two of them up here together. It’s great for football. I feel pretty confident me and Andrew Luck will be up here one day presenting this award together."
Nice dig to Luck, who was in the audience. Of course, just as Luck replaced Manning in Indianapolis, Rodgers replaced Favre in Green Bay -- through Rodgers had a far tougher time of it. Selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft (23 picks behind current Super Bowl backup quarterback Alex Smith), Rodgers had to wait three long years before Favre retired in march, 2008, then unretired, then tried to get back with the Packers, was then rejected, then ... well, blah blah blah. We won't subject you to that whole thing again.
Anyway, the tension between Favre and Rodgers was pretty steep for a while. Favre famously said that it wasn't his job to tutor Rodgers, and his attempt to come back to the Pack after he retired for the first of many times made things tougher for his replacement. After the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Favre said that he was surprised it took Rodgers so long to grab a Lombardi Trophy.
“I’m going to be honest, I was not surprised," Favre told a Atlanta radio station in October, 2011. "The biggest surprise to me would be that he didn’t do it sooner ... And I’d like to think that he watched, he learned, and then when he got a chance to play, he brought in his ability which is obviously very good or they wouldn’t have drafted him in the first round. He’s got tremendous talent, he’s very bright and he got a chance to watch and see successful teams do it right. And so he just kind of fell into a good situation. On top of that, he’s a good player. I don’t think anyone would question now the talent around him is even better."
Yeah. The quote about the talent around Rodgers, which Favre referred to several times in that interview, seemed to be a clear implication that Rodgers needed that much talent to do what Favre did. Rodgers has said all the right things about Favre, mostly by saying very little.
"I thought we were [close], I really did," Rodgers told ESPN in 2011 about the relationship. You know, the first year was a tough year. I'm sure there were some feelings of frustration that they picked his potential successor in the first found. But then in '06 and '07 I thought our relationship really got strong, and he realized that I was in his corner ... I was the guy caught in the middle of the struggle, and it was out of my control."
One would assume that Rodgers had to quite a bit of dancing to stay on the right side of Favre's ego and competitiveness, which he generally did a good job of hiding behind the "aw, shucks" demeanor he perfected over time. In Favre's defense, you don't become a great quarterback without an edge, and it was much the same when Steve Young sat behind Joe Montana for years.
Favre has had a complicated relationship with the Packers since he was traded to the New York Jets in 2008, and this quick reunion with Rodgers might be a decent olive branch in an attempt to repair the damage.
Favre will appear on the NFL Network as a guest analyst for the network's Super Bowl coverage on Sunday, and then, he'll most likely head back into retirement without too much more of a peep. Rodgers will continue his ascent as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Packers franchise history.
And Bart Starr, who is a fine gentlemen and has as many Super Bowl rings as Rodgers and Favre combined? Well, he'll still be the guy who brought the most titles to Titletown. So there.
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