While I’m currently writing this column from the perspective of Scout.com’s new NFL analyst, which I “officially” become Tuesday of Super Bowl week, for five years I covered the Bears as the publisher of Bear Report and BearReport.com.
As most sophisticated fans have come to know by now, Wednesdays during the regular season are when conference calls are conducted between the teams and that week’s opposing media. One player is requested by each collection of reporters, usually the quarterback, and the head coach is also made available.
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One of the low points this season at Halas Hall came in Week 3, with the Bears scheduled to host the Packers on Monday Night Football. Chicago was going to wear its throwback uniforms for the first time, paying tribute to those championship teams of the 1940s, which only added to the buildup of what was already going to be a great prime-time battle. Not that the oldest rivalry in NFL history needs any additional buildup, of course.
Our conversation with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was going swimmingly, with dialogue revolving around the Bears now having Julius Peppers and what it’s been like trying to replace an injured Ryan Grant, that is until one schmuck in particular threw a grenade on the proceedings by asking him the following question:
“How much did having a player like Brett Favre as a mentor help make you the player you are today?”
The other end of the phone went dead silent. Eyes in the media room -- especially mine -- began to roll. Not a whisper for five seconds, although it felt like five minutes.
“Say again?” Rodgers finally muttered, hoping a certain schmuck was being beaten with a bag of oranges and couldn’t repeat his clueless query.
Sadly, there was no bag of oranges available. Señor Schmuck was all too ready to ask again. He spoke in the clearest possible tone this time:
“How much did having someone like Brett Favre as a mentor help turn you into the player you are today?”
The answer Rodgers gave isn’t important. It was a rambling 10 seconds about watching someone play at a high level, incorporating things into his own game, the intricacies of footwork -- blah, blah, frickin’ blah.
What’s important is another in a long line of dense reporters failing to understand what has been painfully obvious to everyone even remotely near the game of football for years now: Rodgers was no protégé because Favre made no effort whatsoever to be a mentor. Bret Michaels probably did more mentoring of Kurt Cobain circa 1991, just as Poison and other hair-metal bands were being blown off the charts by Nirvana and the Seattle scene.
Unfortunately for Rodgers, Favre’s shadow still looms large more than three years since he threw his last pass in a Green Bay uniform -- you know, the what-was-he-thinking? interception that lost the NFC title game at home to the eventual-champion Giants.
Upon his arrival Monday in Dallas, one reporter asked Rodgers how he overcame the adversity he faced with the Favre situation. Then on Tuesday, another reporter asked Rodgers if he called Favre -- or if Favre called him -- to talk Super Bowl at any point.
With any luck, Rodgers’ curt response to that last question would have put an end to this line of questioning once and for all: “No.”
So much for luck. Yet another reporter asked Wednesday what Rodgers thought was the biggest thing he learned from Favre. Credit No. 12 for giving a stock answer about “consistency” and not choking the life out of him like Darth Vader did Admiral Ozzel.
I have been to Lambeau Field many times to cover games, but I have never attended a Packers practice. Nevertheless, I can assure you that Favre taught me just as much about playing quarterback in the NFL, the West Coast offense and where to find a good steak in Green Bay on a Friday night as he did Rodgers. The fact that Rodgers has still developed into one of the league’s elite passers is all the more impressive since Favre likely did more to stunt his growth than nurture it.
And if you think I’ve had enough of the Rodgers-Favre story line, imagine how one of my Scout.com colleagues, poor Bill Huber, feels.
“Rodgers has been asked the same questions again and again and again since the Favre-Packers divorce in August 2008,” said Huber, the publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. “Let it go, people. There’s no new ground to break. They don’t exchange Christmas cards, OK? I frankly don’t understand the infatuation with the topic. I realize any headline with ‘Favre’ in it will get a bunch of clicks online. I get that. But to constantly bring it up is simply lazy reporting.”
If there is one positive the Packers got out of the Rodgers-Favre soap opera, aside from making the right personnel decision and finally cutting ties with one of the biggest divas in sports history, it’s the harmonious state of their QB depth chart nowadays.
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“When Rodgers was drafted, Favre felt threatened,” Huber said. “That’s not a knock on Favre. It’s just human nature. So, Favre wasn’t a mentor to Rodgers. The best thing Favre probably did for Rodgers’ career was consistently skip most of the voluntary offseason practices, giving Rodgers all of those valuable first-team reps. In the end, the icy relationship between the two quarterbacks probably is why there’s such a strong relationship between Rodgers and his backup, Matt Flynn. When Flynn got the start against New England, Rodgers compared it to watching his little brother.”
Should Rodgers defeat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, not only will his own legend grow, but perhaps Favre’s will shrink. After all, they'll have brought the same number of Vince Lombardi Trophies home to Titletown: one.
But if anybody asks Rodgers after the game if he’s gotten a congratulatory text message from Favre yet, I may do the Vader honors myself.
|John Crist is an NFL Analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|