Take a look back at the strange moment the Brett Favre era officially ended with the Green Bay Packers

JR Radcliffe
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
View Comments

Is this Brett Favre 2.0?

It's been nearly 15 years since the Brett Favre Era ended in Green Bay with a strange sequence of events that culminated Aug. 7, 2008, when the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets. Packers fans who recall the circumstances may be feeling déjà vu as the team contemplates whether to move on from current star quarterback Aaron Rodgers — and how to best do it. And would the Jets again be involved?

Few things will match the drama of the Favre departure, however. 

Brett Favre acknowledges fans as he gets off a private jet at Austin Straubel International Airport on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008, in Green Bay.

In 2018,'s Rich Cimini produced a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the deal. Highlights include another team that expected to trade for Favre (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), a change in team dress code that helped convince Favre to report to New York (Favre had joked he still wanted to wear camo on road trips) and a mysterious text to Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum that changed the course of history.

RELATED:Old School Packers: A look back at Brett Favre's first training camp in GB; trade to Jets

The acrimonious divorce between Favre and the Packers polarized the fan base. It did usher in the Aaron Rodgers Era, a sequel that has at least lived up to the original, if not surpassed it. The organization and player have since mended fences, Favre is in the Hall of Fame and Rodgers became a four-time MVP, though both their legacies remain complicated.

But at the time, it was still jarring to see a new quarterback at the helm after 16 seasons with Favre.

Though Favre had waffled for multiple seasons between retirement and continuing his career, it was stunning that the club had elected to move on. He met with coach Mike McCarthy after he made the decision in early August to return to football, and despite long discussions, it did not appear they could continue working together. The team was simply ready to give the keys to Rodgers.

"All I can say is I’ve always wanted to be a Packer; I think I always will be a Packer," Favre said the day after the trade. "I’m not a traitor. Never will be. It’s business; that’s the way it works."

Seven takeaways from that moment in time:

Point blank: the Packers were ready to move on

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is surrounded by media asking about Brett Favre who signed and faxed his reinstatement papers on July 29, 2008.

From Bob McGinn's Journal Sentinel story in the days before the trade:

"Just about everyone who counted in the football department reached the conclusion that Favre could never win another championship. His dismal playoff record in the past decade couldn’t be overlooked. And the Packers concluded that it would be the mother of all mistakes if Aaron Rodgers got away without being properly evaluated as a starter."Favre had one chance, and one chance only, to salvage his career in Green Bay. He had to commit wholeheartedly for another season by early March."One could argue that the Packers erred by asking Favre for an answer that early. But having been hung out to dry by Favre too often in the past, they were in no mood for drama. Their days of mollycoddling were over."

This, obviously, sounds eerily similar to what Packers fans are experiencing in 2023, though it was a different tune last year when team officials were open about a desire to continue their partnership with Rodgers.

Favre had a quality age-38 season in 2007, and Rodgers' age-38 season in 2021 marked a second consecutive NFL MVP. But Rodgers' 2022 season might be his worst in a Packers uniform.

A controversial marketing offer became part of the equation

From Tom Silverstein's story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on August 8, 2008.

"Questions about how the Packers handled this mess date all the way to the weeks after the 2007 season, when Favre was deciding whether to retire. But there’s no question the move that damaged the Packers’ credibility the most was (team President Mark) Murphy’s choice to meet with Favre on July 30 in Hattiesburg, Miss., and offer the quarterback a $20 million marketing agreement."Before Murphy even arrived back home, word of the offer had been leaked. Almost immediately the offer was viewed nationally as a bribe to get Favre to stay retired. Even if Favre thought the offer was sincere, the timing made it seem otherwise and made the Packers look desperate."Two NFL sources agreed that the timing of Murphy’s visit — the day after Favre filed for reinstatement with Commissioner Roger Goodell — was terrible. One called the move embarrassing and another said it never should have been made because, no matter what, it was going to be perceived as an attempted payoff."

It was a worse version of the "complicated fella" episode years later when Murphy's descriptor of Rodgers came at a time when the situation was fraught between the franchise and quarterback.

With Favre, general manager Ted Thompson also admitted that communication between the two camps wasn't great, and when Favre decided in March that he was leaning toward playing, the organization wasn't quick toward embracing him. That played into a strained relationship.

Favre famously hinted at retirement far more regularly than Rodgers has, including after the 2005 and 2006 seasons before formally announcing he was walking away after the 2007 campaign ... and then, of course, walking that back.

The Vikings looked more and more like the destination

Brett Favre talks with reporters on Aug. 6, 2008 as trade rumors swirled.

It became clear that the Packers were in a desperate spot to move Favre, and there weren't many suitors lining up to give away top assets. The Minnesota Vikings, a team badly needing a quarterback, was probably the best fit — but the Packers obviously didn't want to deal Favre to a division opponent.

The Buccaneers, led by former Packers quarterback coach Jon Gruden, were also involved. The ESPN story by Cimini indicated that Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum received a text (he never revealed the sender) that the Buccaneers were in hot pursuit of Favre, prompting Tannenbaum to skip the flight he was about to board and return to the business of closing the deal.

For the Packers, the Jets were a best-case scenario, a team in the AFC that wasn't on the schedule in 2008 or 2009. 

Of course, Favre later wound up with the Vikings in 2009, anyway, and helped Minnesota beat the Packers twice and win the NFC North. The Vikings reached the NFC championship game (you may recall how that ended), and Green Bay topped the Vikings twice in 2010 with Favre still at the helm.

Favre's plane landing made for breaking news during Family Night saga

Packers fans show their support for Brett Favre on Aug. 3, 2008, at Lambeau Field prior to the team's Family Night Scrimmage. The NFL had announced he was reinstated from retirement and was added to the Packers roster earlier in the day.

More than 56,000 people attended the annual Family Night scrimmage on Aug. 3, but still other fans were a few miles west waiting at Austin Straubel Airport, where Favre's plane landed at 7 p.m. His plane's taxi to the gate was broadcast live on television, and his Cadillac Escalade ride was followed by news helicopters.

The unretired quarterback, having made up his mind to play again, ended up in one of the luxury boxes by the end of the night to take in the remainder of the proceedings.

'Madden' had to switch gears

Brett Favre holds up his new New York Jets jersey at Cleveland Browns Stadium before an exhibition game between the Jets and Browns on Aug. 7, 2008

The popular EA Sports video game Madden NFL initially portrayed Favre in his Packers jersey for its NFL '09 installment. EA announced it would release a downloadable update to make Favre a Jet, as well as new cover art.

The draft pick became Clay Matthews, kind of

In the trade with the Jets, the Packers acquired a conditional draft pick, one that would have been a first-rounder if the Jets had made the playoffs in the 2008 season. They did not, and so the Packers received a third-round pick (83rd overall).

That pick, along with another third- and second-round pick, were dealt to the New England Patriots for a first-rounder and fifth-rounder. The Packers, who had drafted BJ Raji with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, used that second first-round pick on Clay Matthews.

Ari Fleischer joined the staff in the midst of PR whirlwind

From Packers Plus in 2008: "As the Favre saga continues to take unexpected twists and turns, the Packers apparently are turning to an expert in crisis management: former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer."Fleischer gave a lecture to Packer players last week about media relations — an event that was scheduled before Favre got the so-called 'itch' to play again — but the team apparently thought highly enough of Fleischer’s advice that they decided to keep him around."

View Comments