Cold gamble

The Baltimore Sun

The current resolution of The Favre Dilemma (soon to be made into a major motion picture) - that Favre will not play for the Packers ever again - creates still another dynamic that will seek its own resolution.

And that dynamic is this: The fates of Packers coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson will hang by the thread that is Aaron Rodgers' right arm.

Regardless of what they say, the actions of McCarthy and Thompson indicate they made a deliberate and irrevocable decision that Rodgers was going to be the team's starting quarterback.

The timing of that decision can be debated and blame assigned based on whether one believes Favre is guilty of acute indecision or the Packers organization has been duplicitous in misrepresenting what's happened the past few months.

However, in the end, McCarthy and Thompson will be judged by how "their guy" performs. The pressure is turned up even more by the expectations placed on the Packers. Observers say it's a young, talented club primed for great things.

Here are McCarthy's own words from Tuesday night: "We're a good football team, and we have an excellent opportunity to be a very good football team in 2008."

With Favre, the Packers went to the NFC championship game last season; anything less this year will be an unflattering reflection of McCarthy and Thompson's judgments.

And no one is going to cut Rodgers slack for inexperience. Tossing aside Favre - especially if the near-certain Hall of Famer goes elsewhere and is successful - means Rodgers has to be ready for prime time right now, and that's a real gamble.

Aside from a solid relief appearance replacing Favre in a Thursday night game against Dallas last year, Rodgers has a thin resume. That night, with Green Bay behind by 17 points and Favre knocked out of the game, Rodgers was 18-for-26 for 201 yards and a touchdown. The Packers got to within a field goal but lost, 37-27.

Aside from those 2 1/2 quarters, Rodgers' remaining career stats are 17-for-33 for 128 yards and an interception. In truth, there's not a lot of data to go on regarding Rodgers' fitness for full-time duty.

But while Favre has started more consecutive games - 275 including playoffs - than any quarterback in pro football history, Rodgers has already been sidelined twice. The week after his shining performance against the Cowboys, he hurt his hamstring - in practice - and was out for the rest of the year. In 2006, he broke his foot in a game in November doing relief work and again, he was out for the year.

As a result, even if Rodgers gets hurt, McCarthy and Thompson will be on the hot seat because they gave up on Mr. Indestructible for a quarterback who has been knocked out for the year twice despite hardly ever being in harm's way.

So, there will be a lot riding on Rodgers for the Packers' leadership team. He'll be competing not just with Favre's legacy, a daunting challenge in itself, but he might be competing against the The Man himself this season. Imagine the reaction around the NFL, and especially in Titletown, if Favre leads another team to the playoffs and the Packers don't get there.

McCarthy and Thompson would find out how cold it really can get in Green Bay.

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