Aaron Rodgers' future with the Green Bay Packers suddenly seems up in the air following the Packers' loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. While his contract suggests he'll at least be in Green Bay for another season, it is very easy to compare this to the end of the Brett Favre era in Wisconsin. In fact, it's been 20 years since Favre signed a deal that was supposed to make him a "Packer for life."
In the winter of 2001, following two straight seasons where the Packers missed the playoffs, Favre restructured his deal to make him the highest-paid player in the NFL. Favre was only 31 years-old and had won a Super Bowl and three MVP awards in Green Bay. The 10-year, $100 million deal moved Favre ahead of Washington Football Team's Stephen Davis. The most important thing was that it ensured Favre would finish his career as a Packer. Via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
""I enjoy it here," Favre told reporters in a conference call announcing his lifetime contract. "I don't want to move. I enjoy the fans. I just want to stay. I couldn't envision myself playing for another team. "If that would ever come up, I'd probably just retire. I've made enough money that I don't need to jump ship and go somewhere else. So it was just important to me to stay here.""
Looking back, this is all pretty hilarious, but at the time it made complete sense. Aaron Rodgers was an under-recruited senior in high school. So there was no heir apparent. And no reason to think Favre would be around that much longer. Via the Chicago Tribune:
"The final few years of the contract include highly inflated salaries that Favre will never earn. The 31-year-old quarterback has said he doesn’t see himself playing beyond 2006. "
The Packers probably had that in their heads when they drafted Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. And Favre did consider retirement. The Packers went 4-12 in 2005. In a January 2006 interview with Chris Mortensen he said, "If I had to pick right now and make a decision, I would say I'm not coming back."
Of course, he did come back. And then he came back again. Until he finally retired in March 2008. By July he had "the itch" according to Al Harris. Favre initially shot down the rumors, but by the time training camp began, he was on the New York Jets. Then it was two seasons in Minnesota before he finally retired at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
Does Rodgers have that kind of drama in him? Will he start playing the retire/maybe retire/unretire game? Will he stick around past the time the Packers expect him to leave? Will he get traded or end up with a division rival? Or will he forgo all that to become the one thing Brett Favre wasn't: a Packer for life.