GREEN BAY — Brett Favre would like nothing more than to see his quarterbacking successor and good buddy Aaron Rodgers do something Favre himself couldn’t: Win a second Super Bowl title in a Green Bay Packers uniform.
But given the level of acrimony he sees between the organization and Rodgers — a familiar feeling, having been there himself in 2008 before being traded to the New York Jets — Favre isn’t betting on there being a happy ending here with Rodgers holding another Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft.
Speaking during a 45-minute interview on ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” Wednesday morning, Favre shared that he and Rodgers exchanged text messages after news of Rodgers’ unhappiness with general manager Brian Gutekunst and the organization came to light last Thursday, a few hours before the 2021 NFL draft kicked off.
The iMessage conversation didn’t exactly make Favre optimistic Rodgers and the team will reconcile.
“I think I know Aaron fairly well, and honestly I just don’t see him coming back and just saying, ‘All right, let’s just bury the hatchet, whatever caused the rift, and I’m just going to come back and play because I love the guys, I love the Green Bay fans,’” Favre said. “His rift isn’t with the fans or the players. It’s with the front office. Will he just swallow his pride and come in? Maybe. But I don’t see that happening.
“If there’s not a trade, my gut tells me that he’d rather sit out than play. That’s just my gut. There’s no reason for me to say that other than that’s what my gut’s telling me, and I think you guys know Aaron fairly well enough to sort of feel the same way.”
Later, Favre added: “It’s going to be interesting what takes place here between now and the start of camp. But right now, I’m not very optimistic.”
Favre said he started getting texts from friends and family after ESPN reported what had long been known behind the scenes — that Rodgers had been unhappy the team since even before the Packers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
“I didn’t watch the draft, but I had everybody sending me messages. Within in the first few picks of the first round, people kept sending me messages. ‘Hey, Aaron’s getting ready to be traded.’ I’m thinking, ‘You’re crazy. What’s going on?’” recounted Favre, who lives in Mississippi in retirement but has become close friends with Rodgers in recent years. “I kept getting different people (asking), ‘What’s Aaron going to do? Have you heard anything?’
“I just sent Aaron a message and said, ‘Hey, am I going to see you playing for the (New Orleans) Saints this year?’ Just kind of joking. He sent back, ‘Hey, buddy, I don’t believe that’s going to happen.’
“I said, ‘Hope everything’s OK. I’m getting a lot of messages from people asking me what’s the deal.’ He said, ‘Thanks for checking on me. I’ll touch back with you after all this is over.’ And that was it. We haven’t talked since.
“Everybody thinks that I’m a direct line. I don’t expect Aaron to reach out to me. If he said, ‘You mind if I pick your brain?’ I’d certainly love to talk to him.”
Multiple sources have said that among Rodgers’ frustrations has been Gutekunst’s lack of communication with him and what he perceives to be a lack of respect for him from the GM. That goes back well beyond Gutekunst’s decision to trade up in the first round to take Rodgers’ heir apparent, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love — and doing so without giving Rodgers a courtesy call beforehand to tell him what was about to happen.
Rodgers’ other irritations stem from when the team released wide receiver Jordy Nelson in March 2018; opted not to re-sign wide receiver Randall Cobb following the 2018 season; and Gutekunst cutting former UW-Whitewater receiver Jake Kumerow last September, less than a day after Rodgers had sung Kumerow’s praises in a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview.
None of those moves in and of themselves would have been problematic if they didn’t create a clear pattern that Rodgers’ input and opinion isn’t valued — or even sought — by Gutekunst, though the fourth-year GM said otherwise when the draft wrapped up on Saturday.
Asked then if he’d be open to including Rodgers in such conversations if that was a requisite for Rodgers returning, Gutekunst replied: “Absolutely. Quite frankly, I think over the past three years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve always welcomed that input. I think he has such an experience in this league that that input would always be something vitally important to me, if he’s willing to give it. That’s not new. That’s not unique.”
Certainly, Favre could be a resource for Rodgers, given how Favre left the organization in 2008, getting traded to the New York Jets after unretiring and reporting to training camp. Favre eventually engineered his way to the rival Minnesota Vikings, whom he led to a pair of regular-season victories over the Packers and to within overtime of a Super Bowl berth.
Favre was embraced by most of the Packers’ passionate fan base when he returned in 2015 to be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame, but he admitted Wednesday that might not have been the case had he led the Vikings to their first NFL title.
For his part, Favre is hoping Rodgers doesn’t end up in the same spot. Having led the 1996 Packers to the Super Bowl XXXI championship before taking the 1997 team to Super Bowl XXXII only to lose to John Elway and the Denver Broncos, Favre said Wednesday he wants to see Rodgers get that second ring — while still in a Packers uniform.
He just has his doubts.
“I’d like to see him win a Super Bowl in Green Bay, another one,” Favre said. “But the thing is, life’s too short, I want him to be happy. He’s been there as long as I was there, and I know what that means, and he’s put up unbelievable numbers. Win another Super Bowl and then do what you want to do, whether it’s keep playing, play somewhere else, whatever. But win one more in Green Bay and go out the way you want to go out.
“You don’t want to go out this way, whether it’s sit out or play somewhere else.”