Ron Wolf pulls the trigger on his master plan
Note: This story was published in the Milwaukee Journal on Feb. 12, 1992.
Green Bay, Wis. - General manager Ron Wolf traded for the hand-picked young quarterback he expects his hand-picked coach to develop as the triggerman of his master plan for rebuilding the Green Bay Packers.
Wolf said he understood fully that his future, as well as that of coach Mike Holmgren, might be linked to the success or failure of Brett Favre. The Packers sent the second of their two first-round draft choices, the 17th pick overall obtained from Philadelphia, to Atlanta Tuesday for Favre, the Falcons' second-round selection (33rd overall) in the draft last year.
"This was not done just to do it," said Wolf. "It was done with a lot of thought. To me the most important thing in professional football is having a person at that position. I think we've got a future here in this guy."
Favre, a feisty 22-year-old from the University of Southern Mississippi, represented the most significant investment Green Bay has made at quarterback since Rich Campbell flopped as the sixth player taken in the 1981 draft. The Packers haven't made a major trade for a quarterback since 1976 with Lynn Dickey, and none involving a first-round pick since Dan Devine mortgaged the future for John Hadl in 1974.
Favre Fills Pressing Need
The Packers were willing to commit the No. 1 pick in a strong draft on Favre that no team in the league would in a weak draft a year ago for several reasons. But probably none was as important as Wolf's personal evaluation of him.
"We've answered what I consider the pressing problem of finding a young quarterback," Wolf said. "I consider him a guy that has a chance in a couple years to be more than just a starter. His talent needs to be harnessed, but we have the best guy to harness it that I've ever known. It's up to us."
Holmgren, whose expertise at nurturing quarterbacks led to his hiring, said Favre fit his offense and was too good to pass up. Don Majkowski, who will turn 28 this month, and Mike Tomczak, 29, provide a blend of ages that Holmgren preferred.
"I wasn't terribly concerned about quarterback, but this gave us a chance to solidify the position," Holmgren said. "If Don is healthy, we have two guys who have won games and played well. Now I've got a young guy I can teach the offense to. Don Majkowski is the starting quarterback. I don't think a guy loses his job because of an injury."
Wolf said he had the trade in mind since Dec. 1, his first day on the job for the Packers. Before the game that afternoon between Green Bay and Atlanta in Atlanta, Wolf studied Favre from the sideline in warm-ups. As a third-stringer behind Chris Miller and Billy Joe Tolliver, Favre played in just two games all season.
Mirer Affected Packers
Then, over the last 2 1/2 months, Wolf weighed his many options. It was no coincidence that the trade was consummated Tuesday, one day after the quarterbacks in the draft this year worked out at the combine in Indianapolis.
In the end, Wolf decided that Favre had greater chances for success than David Klingler of Houston or any other quarterback in this draft, including UCLA underclassman Tommy Maddox, who failed to show at the combine. And he made the determination that the only way a team could be in position to draft Rick Mirer of Notre Dame next year would be to hold the first pick in the draft.
"I really believe (Klingler) is a talented guy," Wolf said. "It's going to take the guy some time."
Holmgren mentioned Klingler and Florida State's Casey Weldon as top players from the crop this year, but indicated Favre was at least as good a prospect as either of them and said he disliked the inherent uncertainty of obtaining players in the draft.
"Obviously, David Klingler is a very good player and Casey Weldon is a good player," said Holmgren. "Although we're up there (with their own 5th pick in the draft), there were rumors of people needing a quarterback trying to leapfrog ahead. This way we could get it done."
Mirer, who apparently was held in high esteem by Wolf and Holmgren, surprised many two weeks ago by deciding not to enter the draft.
"I think Rick Mirer not coming out affected a lot of people's thinking, including ours," Holmgren said.
49ers' Young Was A Possibility
The Packers also had lengthy talks about a trade for Steve Young, the San Francisco left-hander who had his finest seasons under Holmgren at Brigham Young and San Francisco. But Young, with his age (30), base salary ($2.5 million) and history of knee problems, didn't fit as well as Favre.
Also, Young might have cost the Packers a third-to-fifth round pick in addition to a No. 1. That is, if the 49ers would have even considered trading him to Green Bay, which was somewhat questionable with their recent coaching defections to the NFL's smallest city.
Holmgren said he had little interest in acquiring an older player for a season or two of stopgap help.
Favre's contract, which was assumed by Green Bay, contained base salaries of $310,000 this year and $360,000 in 1993, plus a $25,000 roster/workout bonus each year. His original three-year deal averaged $477,000, about one-fourth of Majkowski's $1.7 million contract.
In Atlanta, coach Jerry Glanville saluted the trade but said, "You can't help but like the kid, he's a great kid to be around."
Said vice president Ken Herock: "We traded a good prospect, but a player who might not have played for us several years, for what could turn into a guy who helps us right away. There's nothing he did to disappoint us. This trade isn't Brett's fault. I don't have any doubt he's going to be a solid player in this league."
Leadership Impresses Wolf
The Falcons seriously considered choosing Favre with their 13th pick in the '91 draft, then got him 20 picks later. The New York Jets, for whom Wolf was director of player personnel, then took Louisville quarterback Browning Nagle on the pick after Favre. The Jets, said general manager Dick Steinberg, failed in repeated attempts to trade up for Favre.
What Wolf said impressed him most about Favre was arm strength, leadership and athletic ability. He described Favre as a fierce competitor with the capability to run, although without the speed of Chicago's Jim Harbaugh or Minnesota's Rich Gannon.
He said Favre would have to improve his accuracy, and indicated he didn't know when he would be ready to play.
"He does not have any easy situation of being able to walk right in and play, which is probably good," Wolf said. "He is not being handed anything."