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Favre staying put, forget conspiracy theories

Sherman's status in the hands of new GM Thompson

MILWAUKEE -- The sudden yet inevitable decline of the Green Bay Packers has supported enough conspiracy theories that you halfway expect Oliver Stone to pilot a blacked-out Apache helicopter with Elvis and Lee Harvey Oswald in the jump seats during the next Lambeau Field flyover.

Most of them involve general manager Ted Thompson and his alleged design on a new world order at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

Thompson got his quarterback with the first pick in the draft at the expense of immediate help, and now he wants his own coach.

Such is the way his mentor, the always-helpful Ron Wolf, more or less began his championship makeover from the smoldering ruins of the Lindy Infante experience.

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The popular conspiracy is that the Packers want Brett Favre and Mike Sherman out of the way as soon as possible so rebuilding can begin in earnest.

That's out there, but so was the insistence by some that NASA faked every moon landing.

As for Favre, Wolf, in his usual delightfully blunt way, was dead-on in his interview this week with Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

If Favre can't win with the "NFL Europe" supporting cast forced on him by injuries, what chance would Aaron Rodgers have if thrown out there in a futile trial-by-fire experiment for what remains of this hopeless season?

You'd do that only if you were intent on trashing Rodgers' confidence and permanently dispatching Favre to Mississippi, so it makes no sense. If you want a conspiracy theory with teeth, why not advance conjecture that the Packers will tank it from here to get a shot at Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart?

And anyway, the feeling here is that Favre is coming back next season.

Favre insists that the Packers' record will have no bearing on his decision, but you've got to believe that he does not want his legacy to include a losing record in his final season. Favre is playing at a level that would have the Packers competitive if he had anything with which to work, and absent a career-threatening injury, there is no reason to believe he will lose his skills any time soon.

And since an NFL team with high draft picks and scads of cap money can turn it around in a year, there would be incentive for Favre to come back if he trusted Thompson's vision. For those who believe that Favre somehow painted the general manager into a corner by predicating his return on Sherman's 2006 status, Favre only seemed to be advocating that he does not want to start over in a new offensive system at age 37.

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As for Sherman, those who insist that he is out-coached every week don't seem to grasp the talent differential facing the Packers. And for those who blast Sherman for his staid, impassive demeanor, that is not a fair criticism, either. Sherman's personality hasn't changed since all those divisional titles, but it has become more conspicuous in the kind of year not salvageable by even Mike Ditka at his 1985-level tempestuousness.

Sherman's major coaching flaw has been his spectacular playoff failures, a reason for dismissal long before it got to this awkward point.

How do you judge him now, on the basis of whether the NFL Europe-type talent, as Wolf accurately called it, plays hard and doesn't quit? That's not a true measuring stick, because players with no job security are by necessity going to play all-out every week.

Favre is likely going nowhere, but if Thompson wants another coach, it will be evident soon enough.

Michael Hunt is a sports writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His column is distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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