Favre wins this ugly contest

Brett Favre has proven that he is a bigger force in Green Bay than Packers management.

Backed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- who delayed reinstating Favre for a week to let the Packers and the quarterback come to a resolution -- Favre will return to Green Bay on Monday with a chance to compete for the starting job. That's what Favre wanted June 20 when he called Packers coach Mike McCarthy and told him he had the itch to play. McCarthy said then that the Packers had moved on, and GM Ted Thompson wasn't going to alter his plans to hand the offense to Aaron Rodgers.

Goodell sided with Favre in the sense that the commissioner wants Favre in the league as a quarterback instead of a franchise marketer. For now, Favre has won, and Packers management looks embarrassed.

For weeks, football analysts asked why the Packers didn't simply accept Favre back and let him compete against Rodgers. Egos seemed to get in the way of logic. Last season, Favre had one of his best seasons, throwing for 4,155 yards and leading the Packers to the NFC Championship Game. But Favre's offseason of indecision convinced Thompson and McCarthy to not bring Favre back.

The key concession Sunday was the Packers' willingness to let him compete against Rodgers. That's what Favre wanted all along, although he probably figured 16 years of quarterbacking excellence should have allowed him to waltz into the camp as the starter.

This story still could take many bad turns. Favre returns knowing his bosses would prefer he fail so it would validate their decision to move on. It's not out of the question for the team to keep him as a backup. Favre can barge his way back onto the Packers' roster, but management still decides who plays. It's not out of the question for the team to ask him to take a pay cut from his $12 million salary, but all Favre would have to say to that is "cut me.''

By rejecting a $20 million-plus offer to be a Packers marketer, Favre showed this tantrum wasn't about money. It was about playing. He made a mistake announcing his retirement in March, and he continued to fail to convince Thompson and McCarthy he was fully committed to football when he discussed his itch to play.

It's sad to see that Goodell wanted Favre back on the field more than his bosses. It's sad that Rodgers could be heartbroken if he loses the chance to start in 2008. This whole saga has been ugly, ridiculous and poorly handled by Favre and the Packers. To make matters worse, four weeks of quarterback competition could tear up the franchise.

So let the competition begin, but put your money on Favre. He'll come to camp with a chip on his shoulder.

John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.