Another golden era of Green Bay Packers football is over.
There were the three consecutive NFL titles from 1929 to 1931; the Don Hutson years, which saw three more championships; the unprecedented Lombardi era, which included five championships in seven seasons; and the revival that had the Packers among the NFL elite from the early 1990s through last season.
With quarterback Brett Favre's retirement Tuesday, the final piece of the quartet that was most responsible for the NFL's most successful team from 1992 to 2007 is no longer with the team.
General Manager Ron Wolf, the architect, has retired. Coach Mike Holmgren left in 1999 to run the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive end Reggie White, who died in 2004, retired after the 1998 season. Now Favre, one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history, has retired.
"I find it sad today that all those folks have moved on," said Bob Harlan, the Packers' chairman emeritus and the man who started the franchise's comeback by hiring Wolf in late 1991.
The Packers knew this day could come any year, because Favre began talking as far back as 2002 about possibly retiring. General Manager Ted Thompson had prepared for it by selecting Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers, with his first draft pick as the team's general manager in 2005.
But Favre, a surefire first-ballot selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years, was such a dominant figure both on and off the field that he leaves a gaping void in the organization. His toughness and will to win were major factors in the Packers' league-leading record since he became their starter (160-93), and his personality in many ways was the team's.
He also crossed two generations of NFL players. He played in an NFC championship game twice in the mid-1990s surrounded by players like him in their 20s, then again last season at 38 with an entirely new group of teammates.
"It's obvious when you lose a player of that magnitude, leadership-wise there's definitely a void," coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers return a roster in 2008 that includes a number of young key players that helped the team go 13-3 and advance deep into the playoffs, so there is talent on the roster. But the Packers haven't started a game without Favre at quarterback since early in the 1992 season, and teams rarely replace Hall of Famers at the critical quarterback position without some pain.
"It's a little bit daunting knowing you're going to be going forward without Brett as your quarterback," Thompson said.
"His first game was the third game of the season in 1992. Since, he's been the starting quarterback in every single game. The time when Coach Holmgren and I were in Seattle, the first three years out there, we'd lose a quarterback after about the third game and we'd put the next one in, and we'd lose another one after about the sixth game, and we're sitting there thinking, 'The same guy is still playing in Green Bay and is still playing up until this time.' So, that's a little bit daunting. At the same time, we understand the task ahead of us."