GREEN BAY, WIS. — The education on this weekend’s first trip to see a Packers game at Lambeau Field began well before the final destination. At a bar in the small town of Thorp, Wis., which is about halfway between Minneapolis and Green Bay but feels much closer to the latter, conversation Saturday turned to the Packers’ last-second loss at Carolina.
“I think Favre should have just run it in,” one of the locals, when it wasn’t his turn at the pool table, said before correcting himself. “I mean Rodgers.”
Maybe when you’ve had a quarter-century of great quarterbacking, the two men blur together. Or maybe there’s more to it.
Inside the stadium for what would become an 18-16 Packers loss to the Lions — a team that hadn’t won at Lambeau since 1991, the year before Favre arrived in Green Bay, which is not a coincidence — the grumbling about Rodgers began early.
As Rodgers danced in the pocket before flipping a pass short of an intended receiver — a scene that would repeat itself many times Sunday — one fan within earshot actually shouted, “Quit making all those commercials and complete a pass.”
At the postgame tailgate, not to be confused with the pregame tailgate where the green and gold fans’ consumption was done under much happier circumstances, rational discussions were nonetheless still possible. There’s a lot of season left, we agreed. And this upcoming game Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium will be a huge affair.
What was particularly fascinating in a lot of these conversations was how on multiple occasions Packers fans again slipped up and said Favre when they meant Rodgers — and how so many of them, even if Rodgers jerseys rival Clay Matthews jerseys as the most popular at Lambeau, still have plenty of complaints about the best quarterback I’ve ever seen (Favre, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning included).
But there’s this: For all his greatness, and for as likable as he is, Rodgers’ style does not resonate like Favre’s did in Wisconsin. Rodgers has caution as both a virtue as a fault. He improvises well, but his real strength is the ruthless efficiency of his precision passes.
Having spent a fresh weekend not only in Wisconsin but specifically Green Bay, I can tell you that caution, efficiency and precision are not the hallmarks of the local culture — not after bearing witness to two drunk female Packers fans running across a freeway and tearing their pants while jumping a fence to get to a bar. (Yes, this really happened.)
Peyton Manning keeps passing Favre in a lot of all-time categories, including passing yards, which just happened Sunday. But nobody is ever going to overtake the ol’ Gunslinger in career interceptions. He has 336. Manning is next-closest at 251. Rodgers has 60.
So Favre, despite how it all ended, despite the good with the bad, is still the identity of Wisconsin and the quarterback on fans’ lips for a simple reason:
He made decisions at quarterback the way Packers fans make decisions in the tailgate lot: coming from the premise of “why not?”