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Packers Will Search For Favre's Successor


Let's stop the rumors before they start. Or, more accurately, before they resume.

Tomorrow the sun is expected to rise, July 4 is predicted to include fireworks and next football season Brett Favre plans to be the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

Reports to the contrary are just plain silly.

But whether Favre's last season in the NFL is 2003 or 2030, this much is also certain: Someday, someone else will quarterback the Green Bay Packers.

For all the times Favre's 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame has appeared indestructible, his passion and talent for the game everlasting, even the three-time MVP himself says so.

"At some point there will be a different quarterback for the Packers," Favre said January 6 at a press conference in which he quashed retirement rumors. "When that will be, I don't know."

No one does. Not exactly.

Throughout the 2002 season the media constantly questioned Favre about his future playing the game. But the only thing Favre's ruminations on retirement suggested with any certainty is that he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

Of course, after 12 years in the league, that would be true even if he played out his existing contract, which runs through 2010.

And that's not very likely.

Heck, even if Favre wanted to play into his 40s, that awkward tangle with LaVar Arrington in October -- in which he was lucky to hobble away with only a sprained lateral collateral ligament -- was a reminder of how quickly an injury could snap the best of intentions.

So the Packers head into the offseason knowing that Favre's term is lengthy, but that his reign could end at any moment, and that the time to start preparing for life without him is now.

For Mike Sherman, 'now' started when he added general manager to his already existing title of head coach in 2001.

"I started planning for it," Sherman said of the post-Favre era at a press conference, January 8.

"When I became general manager I said, 'Okay, we have to be able to keep this thing going when Brett decides it's time to call it quits.' ...

"My understanding is that even when Brett does leave football and leave the Packers, (fans) are still going to expect us to win Super Bowls."

A likely spot to start looking for Favre's successor is this year's NFL Draft, considered by many experts to be quarterback-heavy. Marshall's Byron Leftwich, USC's Carson Palmer and Texas' Chris Simms are just a few of the senior quarterbacks in the pool this year.

It's far too early to guess who would be left for the Packers' taking late in the first round. But over the last two years the Packers have demonstrated a willingness to trade up in the draft, and they probably wouldn't hesitate to do so again, especially if they thought they saw their starting quarterback of the future.

Or even their backup of the present.

"Brett has been fortunate because he hasn't been hurt," Sherman said. "We're saying, one more year or two more years (he might retire), it doesn't matter. We have to have a guy that we think can go in there and win football games for us regardless of whether Brett is here or not here because of the possibility of injury."

This season, Doug Pederson filled in admirably after Favre went down against Washington, but the 10-year veteran obviously isn't the team's quarterback of the future.

A fifth-round draft pick from a year ago, Craig Nall might be, but it will be up to him to demonstrate his grasp of the offense during mini-camps and training camp.

In the meantime, the Packers will always be on the lookout for something better.

If Sherman finds it, he won't be afraid to act.

"We always have to identify quality players," Sherman said.

"Can we afford to use a (first-round) draft pick (on a quarterback)? I think if the right player is there at that point, then we would use it.

"I'll be honest, I would have used it last year. If you can get a quality quarterback on your roster, I would venture that way."

The Packers know they have to venture that way eventually. Favre's career won't be over tomorrow. But it also won't last forever.

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