The Brett Favre years in Green Bay had seen tremendous success. Since his arrival in 1992, the Packers had made the playoffs ten times, won six division crowns, went to the Super Bowl twice and won it all in 1996. Even the three years they were out of the money for the postseason, the Pack still finished .500 or better. The 2005 Green Bay Packers season brought that all to a crashing halt. The Packers collapsed and began a rebuild, with Favre’s future now in doubt.
It was following the 2004 division title run that Favre began the public discussion of retirement which eventually turned into a national soap opera and caused Green Bay to use a first-round draft pick on a quarterback from Cal named Aaron Rodgers.
What happened on the field in ’05 only furthered that speculation. While his 61 percent completion rate was still good, it was no longer in the league’s elite, ranking 13th among starting quarterbacks. Favre’s yards-per-attempt, usually a strength, slipped to 6.4 and was 25th. And his 29 interceptions were off the charts awful. Being intercepted on nearly five percent of his throws put Favre 34th—dead last among quarterbacks with enough throws to qualify.
To make matters worse, versatile running back Ahman Green was limited by injuries to five games. Samkon Gado ended up as the leading rusher. Tony Fisher tried to replace Green’s production as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and caught 48 passes. But the combo wasn’t nearly as good as a healthy Green.
There were new faces at other spots. Antonio Chatman replaced Javon Walker at one wide receiver spot. Chatman’s 49 catches for 549 yards were a big dip from the Pro Bowler Walker. Donald Lee replaced a Pro Bowl tight end in Bubba Franks. Lee caught 33 balls, but for less than 300 yards.
To make matters worse, the team’s best offensive lineman, Marco Rivera, had left via free agency. So even though Donald Driver had a good year at receiver, catching 86 passes for over 1,200 yards, the Packer offense was unusually bad. They only ranked 22nd in the league in points scored.
And the Green Bay defense, bereft of elite talent for several years now, wasn’t going to make up the gap. They had some good pass rushers in Kabeer Gbajala-Biamilia and Aaron Kampman, who combined for 14 ½ sacks off the edges. But that was nowhere near enough and the Packer defense was 19th in the NFL in points allowed.
Week 1 provided a clue as to what lie ahead. Green Bay was in Detroit. The Lions weren’t any good, but the Packers only rushed for 46 yards and allowed four sacks. Favre threw a couple picks and the result was a 17-3 loss.
A home game with another bad team in Cleveland provided a chance to get back on track. Favre got dialed in with some big plays, going 32/44 for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Driver caught six balls for 105 yards. But Favre also threw a couple picks, the defense didn’t force any turnovers and a touchdown with four seconds left handed the Packers a 26-24 loss.
Losing to two bad teams wasn’t good preparation for facing a genuinely good one in playoff-bound Tampa Bay. Green Bay was pounded up front, losing rush yardage 161-75 and Favre threw three more interceptions. It was another close game, but also another loss, this one 17-16.
Carolina was another playoff-bound team out of the NFC South and that’s where Green Bay was headed for a Monday Night visit. In a must-win game, the Pack dug themselves a 26-7 hole. Favre dug deep and went 28/47 for 347 yards and four touchdowns. He rallied the Packers to within 32-29 at the three-minute mark. But that’s where the comeback bid ended. Green Bay was 0-4.
New Orleans was on their way to an atrocious season, one that put them into position to draft USC’s Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush. The Saints came to Lambeau. The Pack spotted the visitors a field goal and then took over. Favre went 19/27 for 215 yards. The defense brought back two interceptions for touchdowns. The result was a cathartic 52-3 rout that at least got Green Bay in the win column going into the bye.
For the historical record, something else happened on that October 9 day in Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers threw and completed his first NFL pass.
Optimists could point out that Green Bay had started 1-4 in 2004 and rallied to win the NFC North. Any such comeback this year would have to begin at Minnesota on the far side of the bye. Favre played a good game, going 28/36 for 315 yards. Driver caught eight of those passes for 114 of those yards. The Packers led 17-10 in the fourth quarter. But they couldn’t run the ball, the Vikings rallied and Green Bay lost 23-20.
A road trip to Cincinnati, the eventual AFC North champs, saw the defense play much better, but Favre threw five interceptions. That ended in a 21-14 loss. Pittsburgh, bound for the playoffs and eventually a Super Bowl title run from the 6-seed, came to Lambeau for a late Sunday afternoon game. Green Bay, trailing 6-3 in the second quarter, was driving. They fumbled and it went back the other way for a touchdown. With another poor running game performance, the Packers lost 20-10.
The record was down to 1-7 and everyone knew this was a lost season by the halfway point. Green Bay still went to mediocre Atlanta and played with some pride. Gado ran for one touchdown and caught another. Driver snagged ten catches for 114 yards. The Packers pulled out a 33-28 win.
Time for a rematch with Minnesota, who would stay on the fringe of playoff contention all year. On the Monday Night stage, Favre hit Driver on a couple long TD passes from 51 and 53 yards. But Favre also threw a Pick-6. The Packers were outrushed 160-21. And they were beaten on a last-play field goal, 20-17.
Green Bay went on to Philadelphia. The Eagles, like the Packers, were having a down year after four consecutive seasons of success. Green Bay took a 14-10 lead at halftime, but an erratic Favre threw a couple interceptions and Philly eventually won 19-14.
The calendar turned to December. Green Bay still had both games ahead with archrival Chicago. The Bears were setting the pace in the NFC North and the Packers could at least hope to play spoiler. Not on this day in Soldier Field. Even though the defense played well and Gado ground out 75 yards, Favre went to the air 58 times. He completed 31 and got 277 yards, but it was inefficient yardage. He also threw two interceptions, one a late fourth quarter Pick-6 that sealed Green Bay’s 19-7 loss.
A Sunday Night home date with Detroit provided an opportunity to get a win. It was hairy, as two bad teams played a competitive game. But Gado’s 171 yards rushing were the difference in the 16-13 overtime triumph.
Any good feels were short-lived. The worst performance of a putrid year was coming up on Monday Night in Baltimore. Facing a bad Ravens team, Favre threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. He was pulled and Rodgers got his first taste of extended playing time. The rookie went 8/15 for 65 yards and an interception. Nothing to cheer about for Green Bay fans in the 48-3 humiliation.
At 3-11, Green Bay’s final two home games were against Chicago and Seattle. These were the teams headed for the top two seed positions in the NFC playoffs. One was the Packers’ historic rival, the other was led by Favre’s first coach, Mike Holmgren. Surely this could be a motivating moment for the Pack.
If it was, it didn’t show on the field on Christmas Day afternoon against the Bears. Green Bay fell behind 24-7. Favre put it up 51 times and threw four interceptions, including a Pick-6 in his own end zone. The 24-17 final was only cosmetically competitive.
Seattle had the top seed wrapped up and eventually made the Super Bowl. Against an opponent that was mailing it in, Green Bay finally got another win. Driver caught six passes for 118 yards and the Pack beat the Seahawk second string 23-17.
A long year was over. So was the tenure of Mike Sherman, who had coached the team since 2000 and been the general manager since 2001. He was fired from both roles. Ted Thompson came in as GM and he hired Mike McCarthy as the new coach. The final tumultuous chapter of Brett Favre’s time in Green Bay was at hand.