Brett Favre will forever be considered royalty in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The quarterback earned the Packers its status as one of the most fearsome teams in the NFL. Favre’s teams seemed almost impossible to top, at least until Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Favre made such a statement that he became the first NFL player to earn $100 million.
The QB’s success obscures how unlikely it was that he landed in Green Bay at all. The fans didn’t want Favre, preferring the in-house heir apparent, Don Majkowski. As the late Packers general manager Ted Thompson revealed in a 2016 interview, the organization nearly passed on Favre not once, but twice.
Ted Thompson says the trade for Brett Favre is one of the best ever
The Packers haven’t quite pulled off what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick did with their 20-year reign in the NFL. But they’ve consistently served as a playoff threat, with Super Bowl appearances and wins never quite out of reach.
Before Favre, though, the team was on the back end of a 20-year slide into irrelevance outside of the friendly confines of Green Bay. Thompson told ESPN that everything changed when the team pulled off what he deems “one of the greatest trades of all time.”
According to Pro Football Reference, Favre went 33rd overall in the second round of the 1991 NFL draft. The Atlanta Falcons believed they had something special on their hands. If then-GM Ron Wolf wanted Favre to defect to the Packers, he’d have to pay dearly for the privilege.
How the Brett Favre trade nearly got nixed — twice!
One major factor went in the Packers’ favor. Then-Falcons head coach, Jerry Glanville, wanted nothing to do with Favre. He didn’t like the young QB’s frat-boy attitude and thought he was too inattentive to learn the Falcons offensive program. Glanville rarely utilized Favre in his first year after his first pass was an immediate pick-six.
In Green Bay, similar criticisms existed about Favre, as ESPN detailed. Team doctors warned of Favre’s surgeries, including a hip injury and a chunk of his intestinal tract being removed. His excessive partying, which persisted to the point of missing several Falcons practices, wouldn’t help him stay healthy.
First, the Packers’ executive committee convened to voice broad disinterest in Favre. Wolf needed to make a strong case for using a first-round pick. Thompson, who spent an evening watching film of Favre, became convinced Wolf was in the right and backed him up at the meeting.
Another roadblock: the Packers’ own team physician. Favre himself thought he bombed the physical. Wolf saw the results but persisted with the trade and told the executive committee he and Thompson could get the young man in line. The Packers dropped a first-round pick into the Falcon’s laps and returned to Green Bay with a future Hall of Fame QB1 in tow — not that they knew it at the time.
Favre ensured the Packers knew they made the right decision
Favre had few opportunities to show his stuff in Atlanta. Each attempt went poorly. With the Packers, some kind of alchemy led to different results. Sports Illustrated reports that after the team went 0-2 in 1992, Favre received his first real shot at a sustained appearance in an NFL game.
The quarterback started looking just like he did with the Falcons. He threw passes that got deflected and fumbling repeatedly. Fans booed their own QB. Then something clicked.
Down 23–17, with 1:07 left on the clock, Favre tapped into the talent that Wolf and Thompson insisted was there. He began a rapid series of drives, including a wild 42-yard completion. Three plays later, with 13 seconds left, Favre threw the game-winning touchdown. He won the starting QB spot soon after. The rest is history.