For those trying to read the tea leaves and determine whether Brett Favre will return in 2006, one line on new Head Coach Mike McCarthy's bio may have stood out.
McCarthy served as No. 4's quarterbacks coach in 1999, indicating the strong relationship between the two.
General Manager Ted Thompson, however, did not hire McCarthy as the team's 14th head coach for that reason.
"Mike worked with Brett. So there is some familiarity," Thompson said. "Everybody here wants Brett to come back, but don't think I made the decision in terms of hiring Mike as a head coach based on that."
As of Thursday night, McCarthy had not spoken to Favre but hoped to do so "very soon." Thompson talked to Favre on Wednesday morning and said the quarterback is still mulling his decision.
"He's working through that," Thompson said. "He's getting there."
Add McCarthy to the throngs of Green Bay residents who want Favre to return for his 16th NFL season.
"I don't think there's a coach in the National Football League who wouldn't love an opportunity to work with Brett Favre," McCarthy said. "We had a very positive working relationship in 1999, and I'm definitely looking forward to working with him again."
During his year under McCarthy's tutelage, Favre had an uneven season. Although he threw for 4,091 yards and 22 touchdowns and led the Packers to last-minute comeback wins in three of their first four games, a sprained thumb bothered him the entire season. Favre threw 23 interceptions and completed 57.3 percent of his passes for a quarterback rating of 74.7.
If Favre does return, McCarthy plans to take a hands-on approach. Some media outlets speculated that former coaches have given Favre too much leeway and not reined in the gunslinger's risk-taking style. Emphasizing that Favre's father was a high school coach, McCarthy said Favre would respond to his instruction.
"I don't think it would be delicate at all," McCarthy said. "Brett Favre was one of the most coachable quarterbacks I've ever had."
McCarthy would want to reduce the NFL-leading 29 interceptions thrown by Favre in 2005. The new head coach indicated Favre tried to carry an injury-plagued offense on his shoulders last season and forced too many passes.
"Brett Favre doesn't need to go out and win every single football game," McCarthy said. "I would never in my whole career ask my quarterback to do that. That's why you have 11 guys on the field."
Whether Favre returns or not, the 36-year-old has obviously entered the latter stage of his career. The Packers signed McCarthy to a three-year deal, and one of his major responsibilities will involve developing 2005 first-round draft pick Aaron Rodgers. During his previous coaching stints, McCarthy has coached stars such as Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Favre, Rich Gannon, Matt Hasselbeck and Joe Montana.
McCarthy already knows Rodgers. As last year's offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers -- the team which owned the top pick in the 2005 draft -- he intensely scouted the California-Berkeley quarterback and attended several of his games. McCarthy thinks highly of the 22-year-old.
"We considered Aaron Rodgers to be the No. 1 pick in last year's draft," McCarthy said. "That in itself tells what we thought about Aaron."
McCarthy does not plan on changing Rodgers' much scrutinized delivery. He holds the ball higher and closer to his helmet's earhole than most quarterbacks.
"There's nothing in the way that Aaron threw the football that is a concern," he said.
Instead of Rodgers the 49ers drafted Alex Smith No. 1 overall. Tutoring that young quarterback added to McCarthy's already impressive quarterback coaching resume. The talented Smith, however, struggled in 2005 while playing on one of the youngest offenses in the league. With as many as six rookies playing alongside him, he threw one touchdown, 11 interceptions and completed 50.9 percent of his passes.
"Statistics don't support the progress that the young man has made," McCarthy said. "Alex Smith is going to be an excellent quarterback in the National Football League. He got off to a rough start ... He's got brighter days ahead of him."
In the days ahead, McCarthy hopes to learn that Favre will return for the 2006 season. To no one's surprise, every head coaching candidate interviewed in the last week-and-a-half expressed the same wish. Thompson noted that facetiously.
"Actually all seven people I interviewed wanted Brett Favre to come back and play quarterback for them," he said.