Holmgren believes Packers, Favre will make up
GREEN BAY, Wis. — A few hours before Mike Holmgren's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame, the former Green Bay coach preached patience when it comes to the ongoing tension between former quarterback Brett Favre and the organization that the two helped return to prominence in the mid-1990s.
Under Holmgren's leadership, Favre rose from being Don Majkowski's backup in 1992 all the way to the top of the league with a Super Bowl ring and three NFL Most Valuable Player awards by 1997.
Though Favre played nine more seasons with the Packers after Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle in 1999, the NFL's all-time winningest quarterback had his most successful years under Holmgren's coaching.
With Holmgren being honored by the Packers during the same week Favre said he has no relationship with the team, a reunion seems unlikely anytime soon.
However, Holmgren believes it will happen eventually.
"My feeling is, time will heal anything,” Holmgren said. "We're talking about football, but I'm talking about anything. Give it a little time and it should work out just fine.
"I wasn't here (at the end of Favre's career), but I know this: I know the principles involved. Everybody involved, they're all good guys. They're all good men.”
Holmgren added that, though he only hears from Favre "maybe once a year,” he did receive a text message from him earlier in the day.
"He wished me well tonight,” Holmgren said. "Some very nice things, we had a nice exchange.”
When Holmgren, as a rookie head coach, first put Favre on the field in 1992, the results weren't great. Holmgren benched Majkowski in the second half of Week 2 in Tampa Bay, and with the Packers trailing, 17-0, Favre entered the game. Favre completed 8 of 14 passes with no touchdowns and one interception as Green Bay lost, 31-3.
A week later, with the Packers 0-2 and hosting the Cincinnati Bengals, Majkowski injured his ankle and had to be replaced. This was the game in which Favre began building his reputation as a fourth-quarter hero with a game-winning TD pass to Kitrick Taylor, but to Holmgren at the time, it hardly seemed like the beginning of an historic career.
"I remember this: I was on the sideline, we were down 14-0, and I said, ‘I'm never going to win a game in this league,'” Holmgren recalled. "‘I'm going to be the shortest-tenured head coach ever. This is too big for me. This is not working.' Then we won this crazy game at the end.
"The thing that I remember, Majkowski gets hurt, Brett goes in the game, I'm watching the game from the sideline, I know the plays I'm calling, I know what's supposed to happen out there and it's the damndest thing you've ever seen.
"I said (to Favre), ‘Well, where'd that come from?' (It's like) we were at the playground because Brett, in those days, at that time, he was kind of just shooting from the hip.
"And somehow, some way, at the end of that thing, he threw two of the most beautiful passes I've ever seen. That allowed us to do what we did. I remember, ‘Oh, man, what's happening now? We lose our quarterback. This is going to be tough.' And then, the players stepped up and did a great job.”
The next week, Favre had his first career NFL start at age 23. This began one of the most incredible streaks ever, with Favre starting 321 consecutive games.
Twenty years after Favre's debut — and just one year since he's been out of the NFL — there is interest from the Packers organization to give their former gunslinger a similar ceremony to what Holmgren is receiving. Mark Murphy, the Packers' president and CEO, said earlier this offseason that the team would like to retire Favre's number "in a year or two,” but the interest isn't mutual yet.
"I don't know what the future holds," Favre said in a recent interview with NFL Network. "People think I'm crazy, but I don't need to have a day. I don't need to have a retirement — retire your jersey, all that stuff — to solidify my career.
"I'm not gonna sit here and say when that time should be, will be, or that I'm waiting by the phone. I wish them well."
Favre's rise to stardom in the NFL happened quickly, but his exit from Green Bay was contentious. After contemplating retirement for several consecutive offseasons, Favre initially retired in 2008 in a tearful goodbye. Though he later changed his mind and wanted to return, the Packers had already decided to go with Aaron Rodgers, the team's first-round pick three years earlier.
Favre then asked for his release from Green Bay so that he could sign with any team he wanted — with the goal of winding up with the division rival Minnesota Vikings. Packers general manager Ted Thompson would not allow that and instead traded Favre to the New York Jets. After one season in New York, Favre finished his 20-year NFL career with two seasons in Minnesota.
But if Holmgren is right, as more time passes, the wounds should eventually heal and Favre can be given a proper ceremony in Green Bay.
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