Favre pushed McCarthy to boiling point
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If you’re one of those people who’s sick and tired of the Brett Favre Saga, rest assured that Michael John McCarthy is a kindred spirit.
It was the Packers’ third-year coach whose distaste for the drama pushed the situation to its imminent resolution, with a reported trade to the New York Jets late Wednesday night. McCarthy is also responsible for having successfully persuaded the legendary quarterback to give up his dream of playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay’s NFC North rival, in an effort to end the month-long stalemate between Favre and his soon-to-be-former employers.
After the Packers’ training camp practice at Clark Hinkle Field on Wednesday morning, McCarthy smiled broadly when asked about his team, rather than the messy departure of its longtime quarterback.
Naturally, his answer quickly devolved into an assessment of Favre’s three-day sojourn to Green Bay and its effect upon the 79 other players he has been short-changing in terms of attention.
“From the outside of the white lines to the inside, they just want it resolved,” McCarthy said. “They don’t want to answer the questions anymore. They’re a little irritated. Unfortunately, they watch TV, they go home to their families, and everybody is asking them what’s going on. It will be nice to finally have an answer.”
A resolution came Wednesday night, and that was largely because McCarthy demanded it. If Favre wanted to force the Packers’ hand by flying from his Mississippi home to Green Bay on Sunday and reporting to camp the next day, he was ultimately successful. However sloppy his delivery and subsequent sniping at his superiors in the media, the quarterback brought an uncomfortable situation to a pressure point and compelled the Packers to act.
When McCarthy saw the drama and uncertainty negatively impacting his players, specifically in the form of a ragged practice on Tuesday afternoon, he decided he’d had enough.
On Tuesday night, McCarthy addressed the players and told them that the “worst was over” and that it was time for the team to move on. He also apologized for the events of the previous night, when his sit-down with Favre dragged on so long that he was forced to cancel a team meeting and skip a position meeting with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ other quarterbacks.
“At some point, for me, it’s an issue of job-responsibility,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “If you’re doing six hours of this stuff, that takes you away from all of your other duties as a head coach. I know I still gave them a plan going into (Tuesday’s) practice, but when you see it look so lousy, you feel responsible.”
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He was happier after Wednesday morning’s practice, which he said was much crisper. By then, Favre was preparing to fly home to Mississippi (he departed Wednesday afternoon), content that a trade had been fast-tracked and that he’d soon be reporting to another team’s training camp.
If Favre’s return galvanized the franchise, McCarthy and his fellow decision-makers (CEO Mark Murphy and general manager Ted Thompson) nonetheless continued to regard the quarterback’s steadfast desire to play for the Vikings as unacceptable. The animosity between the organizations had increased after the Packers formally accused the Vikings of tampering in conjunction with an effort to obtain Favre, a charge that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell later ruled was unfounded.
McCarthy, for his part, had to convince Favre to let go of his yearning to play for the Vikings. The coach told Favre that it wasn’t going to happen, that the tension between the franchises predated both of them and would outlive each of them.
Once Favre wrapped his head around that, going to Tampa Bay (the Bucs were also heavily involved in trade talks with the Packers) or New York didn’t seem so distasteful.
It wasn’t merely that the Packers wanted to keep Favre away from the Vikings or fellow NFC North foe Chicago. Thompson and McCarthy also had a strong desire not to give away their still capable quarterback for nothing, or close to it.
Most of all, the organization didn’t want to validate Favre’s behavior of the past few months by letting him get his way. Since Favre retired in March – and told McCarthy he’d had a change of heart weeks later, only to change his mind again – McCarthy and Thompson have repeatedly been stung by the critical comments he has made to various reporters about them, including the assertion that they were dishonest. To allow him to go to Minnesota would be catering to the wishes of an employee they felt was borderline insubordinate.
“No way,” one source familiar with the GM’s and coach’s thinking said on Tuesday. “Not with the way he keeps opening his mouth and trashing everybody. We keep biting our tongues and trying to take the high road, and every time he goes into a meeting and they agree to keep it confidential, he goes running to the media and rips them in the press. And now, to give him exactly what he wants and let him go for nothing? Forget about it.”
How blatantly did Favre disregard the wishes of his superiors? In his hours-long meeting with McCarthy on Monday night, one of the coach’s direct complaints to the quarterback was that he was tired of having their supposedly confidential conversations leaked in the press. McCarthy told Favre, point-blank, that he didn’t want to turn on his TV or computer after the meeting ended and see quotes from Favre, anonymous or otherwise, discussing the interaction.
Yet on Tuesday morning, an article turned up on espn.com with numerous quotes from Favre. The quarterback said, among other things, the Packers had “planted” inaccurate stories about him and that “they tried to buy me off to stay retired” – a reference to the reported 10-year, $20-million marketing deal the team offered. Favre also provided specifics of his conversation with McCarthy, in direct violation of the coach’s previously stated wishes.
The Packers believe Favre’s wife, Deanna, and agent, Bus Cook, helped inflame the situation by advising him to speak out and by amplifying the negative rhetoric about the way he was treated by the team. At one point during the meeting with McCarthy on Monday night, Favre fielded a phone call from his wife and had a conversation with her as the coach waited, a source said.
At that point, the coach was already fed up – and he became less inclined to sanitize his thoughts about the situation. As McCarthy mentioned in his news conference Tuesday, when he essentially announced that Favre’s time as a Packer had ended, his role as a team spokesman during the month-long saga had worn on him as well.
“I’m a football coach,” he said Wednesday. “I know (talking to the media) is part of my job description, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have no desire to stand out there and answer all the political questions. I’m going to tell the truth, and that’s that. I’m not going to be politically correct. I’m sick of it.”
He was sick of the whole thing. And because of that, Favre will soon be wearing a Jets uniform.